In an apparent public confession here, President George Manneh Weah says while he was still campaign for the presidency in 2017, former President Ellen Johnson - Sirleaf called him to participate in an official groundbreaking ceremony in Bong County, contrary to Mrs. Sirleaf’s clarification that she was hijacked into jointly breaking grounds along with Mr. Weah.
“You know this was meant to be; this was meant to be because I was not part of this whole Bong County and Lofa road until one morning I was in the hotel and Madam Sirleaf called me, asked me where I was and I told her I was right at the junction. This is how I participated in the ground breaking,” says President Weah in Gbarnga this week during a two-county tour.
The event, which was widely reported in the press, left many Liberians raising eyebrows and asking why Madam Sirleaf would leave her Vice President, Joseph Boakai, who was also in the race for the presidency, and invited a then key opposition leader (Weah) to break grounds with her.
“So you see, it was meant for me to continue this project. So I’m happy,” Mr. Weah adds, noting that “We have” to thank Madam Sirleaf because she started the road, wishing she would have been present because arrangements are being finalized to start the actual construction.
President Weah’s shocking revelation is reminiscent of Mrs. Sirleaf’s 2005 post-election confession while attending the U.N. General Assembly in New York, allegedly telling a forum at a public school in New York’s Harlem community that she was aware that women who supported her during the 2005 elections confiscated their children’s voting cards, for fears that if they did not do so, their children would had voted for rival Weah, who lost polls.
She was reported to have said women told her that they did some unorthodox things.
But the most recent drama between Mrs. Sirleaf and Mr. Weah in Gbarnga, ahead of the December 26, 2017 runoff presidential poll intensified a longstanding bitterness within her former ruling Unity Party that had already accused her of supporting opposition candidate Weah against her Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai.
Few days to the 26 December 2017 runoff election, former President Sirleaf and then opposition presidential candidate Weah were seen breaking ground in Gbarnga.
Images of the event went viral on social media, sparking debate here that it justified claims of Mrs. Sirleaf’s support to the opposition against her own ruling UP’s candidate, Boakai.
She, however, told journalists in Gbarnga that Mr. Weah’s running mate, now Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor, had handed him a shovel intended for her.
“Just truly, truly as a matter of fact … Minister Eugene Nagbe will recall as soon as I left that program I sent him a message that said I’m just leaving this place, I had been hijacked, Mrs. Sirleaf said Thursday, 21 December 2017.
She argued that at the groundbreaking ceremony for the road project leading from Gbarnga to Salayea, there were three shovels of which one was intended for her use, another for then Senator Jewel Taylor, also Weah’s running mate, and the last for the contractor.
As they went to break the ground, President Sirleaf said in Sen. Taylor’s wisdom, she wanted her political leader Sen. Weah to be the one to perform the groundbreaking ceremony, so she passed her shovel over to him.
Mrs. Sirleaf therefore clarified that she had nothing to do with what went on between the both that led to her giving him the shovel. “People will even recall when I made the statement, I said that I was sorry that the Vice President (Boakai) was not there because that’s his road and frankly, I had hoped he had been there, but I also said that I believe that the Minister of Defense was representing him,” she said last year.
Mrs. Sirleaf argued that she had every right to campaign for “Joe Boakai, for George Weah or for any other candidate, presidential or otherwise.”
By Winston W. Parley-Editing by Jonathan Browne