Buchanan, Grand Bassa County – Representative Gabriel Smith (Grand Bassa County, District Three) may have a fight on his hands in his bid to retain his seat in the upcoming 2017 legislative race for the Port City of Buchanan.
Smith is yet to announce his 3rd term representative pursuit though some of his confidents are hinting that the outspoken former Liberty Party lawmaker is gearing up to contest. But recent murmurings in the vote-rich county suggest Mr. Matthew Joe, an entrepreneur and self-proclaim humanitarian may be contemplating a run. Joe owns a construction firm which has implemented lucrative contracts for steel giant ArcelolMittal Liberia, NGOs and government. His political ambition has drawn interests in some quarters. His supporters say his desire to impact lives of people puts him in the comfort zone. But some critics feel he is still a rookie who may take time to learn the ropes. For constituency like Buchanan District that has witnessed the struggle and downfall of big companies leading to the loss of jobs, the imminent threat of sea erosion and failed projects for locals, the incumbent Smith has a daunting task of re-convincing electorates to give him another term. The newcomer Joe is riding on his popularity which arguably comes out of his humanitarian gestures and job provisions for locals through his construction firm. “Based on those good humanitarian works, we are doing our people deemed it necessary that we be part of the 2017 Presidential and Representative elections,” he told FrontPage Africa. “When the people want you to work for them you will have no other saying.” Joe’s April 27th petitioning by supporters has sent a caveat to his rivals and many supporters were exalted by the turnout, expressing confidence ahead of next year crucial election. A parade of his supporters on Saturday, May 21 widens his popularity as hundreds of his supporters turned out give him a rousing welcome to the city when he recently returned from China. Mr. Joe’s acceptance of the petition is renewing debate in Buchanan about matching his popularity with several other names that are emerging. Former Superintendent Julia Duncan-Cassel, Ex-Information Minister Dr. Lawrence K. Bropleh, new Liberty Party member Daniel Chea and Albert Sabb, the 2011 Congress for Democratic Change candidate in the same race, is making for an appetizing political race in the county. While Joe’s supporters say he may be riding on a wave of public opinion, which may change in the coming months especially as the political field gets crowded. But Joe says he accepted the petition whole heartedly and has promised the district he will contest in 2017 regardless the level of oppositions he faced. “We promised our people that we will stand our ground and we will be able to go for the 2017 elections where we will be one of the candidates,” Joe said confidently. Asked what drives his ambition to participate in politics with a clear eye on a seat at the House of Representatives, despite being a successful entrepreneur in the county, Joe intoned: “The obvious, “The People. And the Change. Our people actually need change. The change our people need is human resource development and they need empowerment. They need community development and what have you.” Joe says community development is his first priority because a lot of communities in the district lack basic social services like roads, essential public facilities. He says many people in the district have recognized his popularity and are determined to support his candidacy. Interestingly, Joe insists he’s an independent aspirant though there are unconfirmed reports that he has solid backing from the Movement for Economic Empowerment (MOVEE). Evidently, Joe served as the Coordinator for the Buchanan chapter of the Liberian Business Association (LIBA) which strongly supports the 2017 candidacy of former Central Bank Governor Dr. J. Mils Jones. “Presently, we are not affiliating with any political party…; I’m working as an independent person – if we will go on any political party that will be known later,” he said; adding that he enjoys cordial relationship with most politicians in the county including members of the county legislative caucus.