Bility-The Petrol Dollar Seeking Football Crown
By Julu M. Johnson, Jr.
Following wide media speculations about the desire of Mr. Bility to vie for the football presidency in 2010 at the LFA elections, the latter summoned football gurus comprising clubs, Executive Committee Members, Sub-Committees and Sub-Associations at his luxurious residence located at the remote part of Duport Road on a Sunday afternoon.
At that occasion, Mr. Bility made numerous promises, saying exactly what his audience wanted to hear; by vowing that clubs would participate in the national league without registering with the LFA and that they would not buy jerseys and boots.
“There is a disconnection between the LFA and those who own it. I therefore intend to connect the LFA and its owners,” Bility vowed.
He continued: “We will ensure easy communication. We will have two good Vice Presidents, hardworking Secretary-General and independent Executive Committee members.
“Not only the President, but the Vice Presidents will have to do their own jobs, otherwise the clubs will have to be informed immediately. The Secretariat will have to manage the LFA.
“It is about one’s viability as a person before even thinking about vying for the LFA Presidency.
“Being an Ellen (Johnson-Sirleaf) supporter does not make me a UP (Unity Party) man. My best friends are Lewis Browne, Edwin Snowe and others from different parties.
“If I am not able to get somebody to support me, then it means I am not able to head the LFA. I am working on a platform that some credible people in football are reviewing.”
He vowed to seek and provide sponsorship for a league that relies mainly on gate intakes.
Meanwhile, the celebrated female soccer godfather David Kortie admired the look of Mr. Bility’s residence so much that he was quick to pronounce that the petroleum dealer was already President of the LFA. Mr. Kortie added that with Mr. Bility as President, guests of the LFA like those from FIFA would not have to lodge in hotels but rather at the latter’s residence. Kortie’s assertion may have caused laughter but it appeared childish for him to favor somebody for the LFA’s prestigious post on the basis of the person living in a luxurious palace. His praises for Mr. Bility continue with him stating that the LFA leadership was not for “hungry people”.
The utterances by Mr. Kortie did not surprise those that appeared at the ceremony. Kortie was suspended last year as Executive Committee Member for terming the LFA leadership as being corrupt without providing evidence. No wonder why he was using the occasion to vend out his frustration.
It has become a common thing in the Liberian political setting that when people with good financial powers are vying for positions, they would get all the praises, followings and assurances on the way to elections. Hence, it is not a new thing that Mr. Kortie was giving what many people considered as flatteries to Mr. Bility. The name “5-1-9” Kortie calls himself is a living example of how he applied trickeries and deceits during the last LFA elections to find his way through.
As for the man at the center of attraction, Mr. Bility appears to have all that it takes to win the LFA presidency, considering his huge wealth and political patronage. Mr. Bility owns the Media Empire called the Renaissance Communications Incorporated (RCI). This conglomerate runs the Real TV, Truth FM and Renaissance newspaper.
While serving as Chairman of the National Mandingos Caucus of Liberia, Mr. Bility was instrumental in rallying massive support amongst his kinsmen for the success of Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in the 2005 Presidential Elections. This has made Bility a close ally to the President of Liberia, who firstly rewarded his campaign efforts with the lucrative and influential position of Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Port Authority (NPA). He was later switched to the Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation (LWSC) in similar capacity.
Mr. Bility is the head of the Alpha Old-timers club, a team formed for those having recreation through soccer.
With the aforementioned occupations of the man said to be LFA’s next President, Mr. Bility obviously has the money and influence enough to run a lucrative campaign and amass followers, but his ability to shift football upon winning appears debatable.
There are doubts about his ability to be a good LFA President due to his remoteness from the soccer arena. Many arguments are there to back this view.
For instance, there is a Liberian adage that says: “if your house doesn’t sell you, the street won’t buy you.” This is to say that since Mr. Bility took over as President of the premier league side Watanga, not much has been heard or seen of the team as it relates to transforming the club into one of the best considering the owner’s well-to-do status. Watanga’s activities on the field are still dismal, while materially the club is at a low grade. This raises the question as to whether he would really be in the position to supply Liberian clubs with the materials being promised after winning the elections.
Moreover, those that survived the last elections and still awaiting the pending events fear that Mr. Bility would be dumped by gravy seekers that have led other candidates to similar feats. These are the same figures that have fought since the last elections but failed in their numerous battles to remove Cllr. Wesley. Today, they are now blowing horns, beating drums and singing songs of praises for the ever popular business tycoon.
They were yesterday backing Siaka A. Sheriff because he had enough money while serving as Comptroller of the LPRC. Yet, they could not help the innocent man from falling to Cllr. Wesley during the last elections in Kakata, Margibi County. Most of them are still in the vanguard of ‘changing the LFA’ and form part of the Bility bandwagon.
The decision by Mr. Bility to form such an unholy alliance creates reservations about his sincerity of bringing the changes he aims at. His neutrality in the football feud has also been brought into question. Some observers think Mr. Bility should blend his team of supporters in a way that they will reflect the involvement of all the rival parties in order to convince the football public that he would be the LFA President of all groups, instead of being for those who are on his side. Failure to do so if Mr. Bility takes over will mean more problems rather than problems solving.
At the same time, Mr. Bility has the uphill task of convincing his critics about his ability to lead the football governing body of Liberia. Despite expressing his interest for the LFA leadership post, his active involvement in the game in whatsoever manner or form is not convincing.
Few years ago, Andy Quamie (apparently for financial reasons) conferred the title of President of Watanga FC on Mr. Bility’s shoulders. However, it appears that Mr. Bility only wears the crown as Mr. Quamie remains actively involved with the running of Watanga FC under the pretext of being Senior Vice President. If Mr. Bility has realistically been playing his role as President of Watanga, there is no argument that the club would have been one of the best outfits both on and off the pitch, considering the strong financial backing of its boss. Additionally, many would have used Mr. Bility’s achievements at Watanga to market him during the forthcoming campaign.
But, as we look at things, one can conclude that Mr. Bility simply took over Watanga to gain not only overnight popularity and sympathy but also as a springboard to be qualified as candidate to vie for the LFA presidency. It can be recalled that when some Premier League clubs decided to remove their representatives last year from the LFA Executive Committee, though still fresh on the job at the time, Mr. Bility was the one put forward by the same clique now backing him for the 2010 elections. They did not succeed in this quest, notwithstanding.
The oil tycoon has been quick to distance himself from the membership of the ruling Unity Party (UP), a group he supported highly during the 2005 elections. Yet, there is a school of thought that believes Mr. Bility’s ambition is an extension of the ruling party’s quest of dominating key aspects of the Liberian society, particularly the young people.
There is another version that has it that Mr. Bility’s ambition is geared towards avenging the defeat of his pal Siaka A. Sheriff at the hands of Cllr. Wesley. Take a look at the list of those backing Mr. Bility and you will definitely agree, with the likes of Adolph Lawrence, Andy Quamie, Moustapha Raji, Rodney Wilson, and Henry Yonton are all spearheading the Bility crusade.
The Question: In case Bility wins, who steers the ship of affairs with him at the LFA? The answer: He will still be busy with his numerous duties at Srimex, RCI, Water and Sewer Corporation and the National Mandingoes Caucus. Undoubtedly, the running of the LFA would be left with those who are perceived to be the brains behind the confusion that is plaguing the LFA today. Consequently, the change that all football lovers are yearning for would remain a dream. The game is in a very terrible state such that it needs a quick redeemer. Let it be kept at the back of his mind that being President of the LFA does not imply that he will only be head of those that are blowing horn for him now. There may be those who have their hidden agendas but are looking for means and people through whom they can achieve their selfish objectives. These are people Mr. Bility should fear seriously. Another group comprises people who always sound trumpets for people seeking power just for money making purpose. It is no secret that Mr. Bility has enough money, one good reason why more and more persons are boarding his bandwagon. It was seen in the cases of defeated candidates in previous LFA elections and presently similar events are gradually unfolding as the elections draws nearer.
In sounding the last caveat, let it be made known that instead of calling for change for the sake of removing one common enemy in LFA President Wesley, what should matter most is a change that should be geared towards improving or developing Liberian football. Candidly, Izetta Wesley’s presence at the helm of LFA is arguably not the reason why football has died to the extent that no attention is being paid to such a wonder game in Liberia. One major problem in Liberian football is the failure to institutionalize clubs and the game in general. For example, Andy Quamie founded Watanga because he was in good position yesterday. Later, he could not afford to run the club because the position went away. So, he then turned the club over to Mr. Bility because the latter is wealthy now. What happens if Mr. Bility is not in the position to get money to run Watanga? That’s anybody’s guess. This is to say that Liberian clubs are run from the pockets of privileged individuals from time in memorial. This is why only the likes of Mighty Barrolle, Invincible Eleven (IE), LPRC Oilers, NPA Anchors, Black Stars, Young Survivors and St. Joseph Warriors happen to be the only surviving clubs from post-war Liberia. There also needs to be a huge sponsorship for local football because the gate intakes that clubs often rely on have failed to take them anywhere. Business entities like LPRC and NPA need to amass profits by virtue of operating teams at both football and basketball levels. It is a pity that no club has been able to boast of making a dime in profit annually. If change must be sought, these are some cardinal issues that need to be advocated for, other than having the belief that by only moving a poor woman like Izetta Wesley will bring about everything Liberian football needs. Edwin Snowe was there. He was the President’s son-in-law, yet the game ran in the same fashion as it is presently. The truth is that no one individual’s ascendancy or removal can turn things around. A system is what should be the prayers and dream of all those who want Liberia to be on level terms with successful African soccer nations like Egypt, Morocco, South Africa, Tunisia, Nigeria and Ghana. Let Musa Bility get there and see if problems would not persist. Probably, the clubs and stakeholders believe that he will be there to buy buses, boots, and jerseys and as well settle salaries and per diems for every player or team on any day. Mr. Bility may be promising these things now because he is not up there yet, let the clubs not be fooled in that he has a whole lot of responsibilities to cater to, not only football. They have forgotten that Mr. Bility is a businessman; he will not put his money where profits will not come from at the end of the day. Are they saying that Mr. Bility will sacrifice all of his successful entities in the name of putting the football of Liberia at the same level with the outside world? This is a sad mistake the clubs could be making if these are the reasons behind their big support for Mr. Bility. The challenge is theirs to go back to the drawing board and point out why they need a new LFA leadership. Don’t vote an individual on the basis that he has enough money to throw about but rather vote a better LFA come 2010. Liberian clubs and football stakeholders, the ball is in your court.