End October 2004 The fight with FOGOW that lasted 5 months

The fight with Friends of George Oppong Weah (FOGOW) dogged us for nearly 5 months (October 2004 to February 2005) and was arguably one of the major reasons, among several others, that slowed us down.

As the talks with Kofi Woods came to the end around the weekend of October 15, it wasn’t long before the fight with the group calling itself FOGOW intensified. Remember that on October 8 these guys had used the opportunity they had to malign us to Amb. Weah causing the Ambassador to treat us with disdain and lack of enthusiasm.

When Dtweah received the call, again, from Amb. Weah that “those guys are coming to Florida” and I want you and Kollie to be here; like soldiers, we were ready to obey the order. We searched again for cheap tickets and this time, due to Dtweah’s work schedule, he could not make the flight on Friday because he had to work late. For me, I called in sick and hopped on the flight that Friday, October 30, 2004. Dtweah would join us on Saturday afternoon. This was a political battle that I wouldn’t miss for anything in the world.

As I got to the Minneapolis St. Paul (MSP) International airport, I saw some of the members of FOGOW at the airport. For some, we were on the same flight and others were on different flight. I remember that Stanley Ford, Ciapha Diggs, Patrick Chea and a few others were at the airport. We were not friends with these but it really didn’t matter. I met Stanley Ford for the time when he moderated our October 9 meeting with Amb. Weah. For George Yuoh, I knew him because we were all AIESCERs from Liberia but we weren’t close.

I am in the airport and my blood is boiling. I am as angry as hell because I felt what these guys were doing to us was horrible. They were the same people who had informed us that the biggest problem with Amb. Weah is that he has “thin skin” and listens to gossips and then rather than try to mitigate these weaknesses they were trying to exploit them to their political advantage? In my mind, I am wondering what kind of friends are these?

It is important to make clear here that both Dtweah and I were not friends with Amb. Weah. I am not sure that point in time Dtweah had ever met Amb. Weah. For me, because lots of Amb. Weah’s friends (Alex Nyenkan, Papie Pearson, etc) went to Zion College with me, I had had the opportunity to bed him to sponsor some on my school projects since I was President of the Student Union. Additionally, because I graduated as Valedictorian of the Class of 95, I had the opportunity to come close to the Ambassador since he was a platform guest and I had to give a speech. That was the closet we had come to Amb. Weah before engaging in the grassroots effort so you can understand our apprehension.

Besides, these very same people were the ones who told us that we were unserious and joking when we indicated to them that we were exploring the possibility of a political future for George Weah and we wanted them to connect us to the Ambassador. I remember Dtweah and I went to meet with them on the ‘Ablaawo’ field in Brooklyn Park. We left from there feeling stupid and confused. Are these really friends of George Weah?

So when I considered what they did to us that October 8 night and then they were on their way to Fort Lauderdale, Florida to outline how they could make George Weah president, I am about to lose my mind. I am exasperated and infuriated; I want to choke some folks with my bare hands.

Anyway, I managed to maintain my cool and calm but did not laugh for a minute with any of them because what I was planning for them required me maintaining a warlike posture so that I wouldn’t change my mind or lower my tempo.

And yes we got to Florida and spend the Friday night to prepare for the big meeting on Saturday, October 31, 2004. The guys had their act together and they brought in a lot of other folks from around the United States. I know that Aaron Davies from New Jersey; Toyuwa Harris (NJ), Eric Daniels (MA), Mr. & Mrs. Greene from Georgia, Dr. Clarence Yaskey, Ciapha Diggs, and Alexander Garley from Minnesota, and off course the usual suspects like George Yuoh,   Patrick Chea, Stanley Ford and several others were in Florida. Oh Yes! Meme Gono and Carica were also there.

It was a beautiful Saturday and we were ready for the meeting but to our surprise and to the discouragement of many, we spend all morning playing soccer, tennis and basketball because the Ambassador wanted us to do. I can remember that Mr. Akex Garley was visibly furious on grounds that he did not fly from Minnesota to come and play sports. He wanted to get to serious business but as usual, the Ambassador carried the day and we spend all morning engaging in extra curricula activities.

It was not until around 2 or 3 p.m. that we convened for the meeting and the FOGOW guys came with their Bye-laws and Constitution,  campaign strategy that included messaging, they had a fund raising plan, they had a prototype of a website, and host of other things to impress the Ambassador and take over the entire operations.

As soon as they started and before it got interesting, I got up and fire the bombshell. I informed the group that what these were attempting to do was equivalent to undermining the legitimate political structure and had the propensity to create parallel power centers and derail our cause. If these guys, who are calling themselves the friends of George, really want to help their friend, I think they should join the political structure and try to strengthen it so that we can have a strong “institution” to guide this process. But to begin to organize ‘quasi-political structures’ to undermine our efforts was wrong and bad. I informed them that those of us who started this enterprise are not friends of George and really don’t care about his friendship but rather want to work to build a strong political institution. I asked what would happened if another group came and said they were the “friends of the friends of George Weah” then what will happen?

I went further and recounted the history and formation of this group that happened on the night of October 8 by folks who had dismissed the idea of any political relevance for George Weah and then I see them here today calling themselves the Friends of George Weah. Are they really his friends? I concluded by requesting that all those who wanted to play a part in the political process should kindly try to join the organization and help strengthen it or they can remain friends of Weah and provide their support privately or through other means but we will not give them political relevance or stature.

Based on my presentation, Amb. Weah decided that we suspend the meeting and let FOGOW and LNC meet to iron out their differences. It was at this time that some of those invited to the meeting as friends of George got this information for the first time and some thought that it was important for us to work together and many of them like Eric Daniels started leading the organizing efforts in Massachusetts and working with St. Tomalin George in Rhode Island.

For all practical purposes, this was the end of the meeting. Many of the guys were surprised that I could disrupt the meeting. They really didn’t know me and saw Dtweah as the talkative person. Little did they know that I am silent weapon: a quite radical who has the capacity of waging intellectual civil war but I usually prefer not to. I love to always be the last but this time Dtweah’s flight was delay and so I had to intervene.

Well, when Dtweah finally got there, the damage was already done and so we all agreed that when we got back to Minnesota, we will convene some meeting to smooth the rough edges. We should have done that long time ago.

And so FOGOW parked everything they had and took them back to Minnesota. The prototype never saw the light of day and all those strategies and messages never left the laptops. Though that was the end of that meeting, the fight with FOGOW was really, truly, just starting because some guys were there saying “what’s wrong these pekins?”

That fight would really continue until February 2005 when Amb. Weah comes back to Minnesota and he and his friends finally fall off.

What was astonishing and absurd about this fight was that it shouldn’t have continued for week or even a day but the Ambassador, though he despised the group (FOGOW), he wouldn’t tell them straight up that we are going the route of the party.

Anyway, that was how the FOGOW’s fight started.

Stay tune…

I am coming back with November 2004

  1. We go Staten Island – I will tell you who all were there
  2. Consultation continued in Philadelphia
  3. George Weah accepts the petition to run for President on the CDC ticket and returns to Monrovia in a hero style

Did you know that

  1. In February 2005 there were whispers about J. Dwalu Beyslow been considered for VP? I will talk about how it started and what the Ambassador said about it.
  2. I will talk about the Washington DC conspiracy to make Carica the Chairman of the CDC and how it was resisted. This will show a major weakness of the decision-making system but seem to have been the only way to get a certain thing done. I will tell you how and why…
  3. In June 2005 we approached Judge Luvenia Ash-Thompson to be VP. Yes the grassroots movement approached Her Honor. I want you to imagine how this would have destroyed the grassroots movement. I will talk about how it died.

I will come back after the elections with more details but for now I have to get back campaigning…

Author: JAMES F. KOLLIE

I am a Liberian professional with passion for pro poor economic development and grassroot political organizing. I have read public policy, corporate finance and accounting at various levels. I have worked in government, private sector and non-profit sector.

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