President Weah's acceptance of election defeat: The antidote to "Fight for it, grab it, snatch it and run with it" malady.

Kata Kata

Admin | Posted On : 22-11-2023

On a continent where the power of incumbency breeds near omnipotence tendencies and the taste of the seat of power can easily translate to a sit-tight syndrome, the decision of President George Weah of Liberia to accept defeat in last week's heavily contested Presidential election in his country is not only a unique sign of leadership quality. It is a blueprint legacy desperately needed in Africa to inculcate the spirit of good leadership and stamp out impunity.

In his congratulatory speech to the newly elected President Joseph Boakai, the 57-year-old former World-acclaimed football star emphasised, in the spirit of sportsmanship,  the importance of putting the country's interest above aggrandisements. 

"This is a time for graciousness in defeat, a time to place our country above party, and patriotism above personal interest," the former football star, who has served as Liberia's President since 2018, said.

That patriotic speech was what you would expect from a leader of countries like Germany, France, the Netherlands, Japan, or the United Kingdom, where democratic principles are the order of the day and the rule of law is deep-rooted in their culture and political systems. No, that speech was from the President of the tiny West African country of Liberia – a nation that is trying to recover from a brutal civil war which claimed hundreds and

thousands of lives. 


(President-elect Joseph Boakai)

George Weah might not be the best President of Liberia, but his acceptance of election defeat is a rare and respectable act. We must applaud him for that noble deed. He might not know the true impact of his decision to accept the election result. He might be unaware of what it means for a sitting African President to swallow their pride, disregard their enormous power and accept defeat. Did he know that his mere pronouncement and acceptance of defeat on Friday night had saved Liberia from anarchy and lawlessness? President Weah's heroic act is not only a victory for Liberian democracy but a testament to the maturity of democracy in Liberia.

Respect to President George Manneh Oppong Weah!! No history of Liberia, a country with a history of brutal civil conflict, can be told without reference to the patriotism, sportsmanship and respect for the constitution and the rule of law, which President George Weah has demonstrated by accepting defeat.

The same can be said of Ex-President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria, who conceded defeat in 2015 and handed over power to his rival, Muhammadu Buhari. Mr Jonathan retaliated that "Nobody's ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian" and admitted that putting his ambition before the unity of Nigeria would scuttle a democratic system he helped nurture, an act which could lead to a “collective tragedy.”

 “Democracy has to be nurtured to grow. Strong democratic institutions are the backbone and future of our democracy. They must be protected and nurtured. As for me, as a matter of principle, it is always the nation first,” President Jonathan said.

Weah's heroism is echoed worldwide and attracts praise and admiration from every quarter, including former President Jonathan, who led the West African Elders Forum Mediation Mission to the Presidential elections in Liberia. He commended President George Weah for exhibiting an exemplary display of statesmanship and commitment to the peace and progress of his country by accepting defeat in the election.


(Former President Goodluck Jonathan)

"These are great times in Liberia and in Africa because such action on the part of a sitting president is very, very, very rare," Liberian human rights advocate Hassan Bility told the BBC.

Commending the free, fair and autonomously organised poll in Liberia, Omar Alieu Touray, President of the Ecowas Commission, went further:

"Your gracious acceptance of the results of the elections is indicative of your statesmanship and commitment to the consolidation of peace and security in Liberia,"

After the bloody and brutal war in Liberia that claimed hundreds and thousands of lives, up to 12,000 Ecowas soldiers, known as Ecomog, were stationed in Liberia in the 1990s to bring much-needed stability and help nature the country's fragile democratic process. Nigeria has been at the forefront of the Ecomog efforts, contributing most of the troops. Ironically, the presence of the troops has been a stabilising factor after the civil war in Liberia. Today, with his courageous steps, by accepting defeat, President Weah has demonstrated the enormous progress Liberia has made in terms of political stability and the area of the rule of law.

On the other hand, Nigeria, which has been the backbone of the peacekeeping force in Liberia, has seen its democratic dividends shattered and thrown into the dustbin of history in the name of election disenfranchisements, thuggery, lawlessness, voter manipulation and intimidation, with the election commission and judiciary sold to the highest bidders.

While leaders like President George Weah and President Goodluck Jonathan may strive to bring sanity to the African electoral process and good governance, President Bola Tinubu of Nigeria, on the other hand, was eager to encourage his supporters to grab and take power at all costs.


"Fight for it (political power), grab it, snatch it and run with it." Tinubu advised.

(President Bola Tinubu)

Grab it, snatch it and run with it. You might, but you might end up snatching and running away with someone else's mandate. Well, that may only worry leaders with integrity. After all, the right question that might apply to African politicians is: "Is Saul among the prophets?"

Being the giant of Africa is not necessarily determined by the population of the country and its economy; it is judged by obedience to the constitution, respect for the rule of law and democratic principles. Respect for the constitution and choosing patriotism above personal interest are the parts Liberia has taken; other African leaders must do well to borrow a leaf from George Manneh Oppong Weah if they want to end impunity and strengthen democracy and economic progress. The steps will go a long way towards treating Africa – and Africans – with much-deserved respect amongst the rest of the world. Africans deserve better.



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