HERE WE GO AGAIN - TWELVE YEARS after the ruling Unity Party assumed command of post-war Liberia, the incumbent government is embarking on a third quest for power.
IN HER FINAL ANNUAL message in January, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf conceded that her administration has all but lost the war against corruption, while trumpeting a laundry list of achievements it has been able to undertake over the past two terms.
AS LIBERIANS HEAD to the polls next week to elect the next president, the days leading to the elections are being eclipsed by numerous reports of friction between the incumbent President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and her vice president Joseph Boakai.
AT THE CRUX of the matter is what started as allegations from the Boakai camp that the President was not supporting his candidacy both politically and financially.
PRESIDENT SIRLEAF’S OFFICE through Press Secretary Jerelinmek Piah came out to defend the President, declaring that the President had in fact notified members of the African Union and ECOWAS that she was supporting the presidential bid of her vice president, telling reporters in August that President Sirleaf had made it clear and known her support for the bid of her Vice President and comrade for many years.
THE PRESS SECRETARY went on to say that the President’s opened declaration of support toward the Presidential bid of the Vice President and Standard Bearer of the Unity Party had been renewed and re-echoed several times. "We have thought that these re-echoed and renewed messages were enough to clear the minds of those who question the President's commitment to support her Vice President, but the unfolding trend of events is suggesting otherwise. The insinuations and rumor mongering about not supporting the Vice President is continuing unabated. This is really really sad to say the least," Mr. Piah said at the time.
BUT DESPITE ASSURANCES, the friction between the pair has heightened amid innuendos from both sides suggesting that the tension was beyond the point of being repaired.
ALL THIS WAS amplified last month when Cllr. H. Varney G. Sherman, the former chair of the party declared that the party did not need the President’s support in the upcoming elections. “In 2014 she did not support me when I was contesting in Cape Mount to become Senator, but yet I won by 60% and more, so it’s possible that Joe Boakai could win by more than 60 percent. I cannot confirm or deny whether she supports the Party” , Cllr. Sherman averred.
Cllr. Sherman, who is currently being prosecuted for his alleged role in the Sable Mining Bribery saga has had a long-running feud with President Sirleaf, and many believe those old wounds were dug into after Cllr. Sherman trumpeted the President’s failure to commit to fighting corruption in an oration delivered by him on Liberia’s 166th Independence Celebrations in Bomi County, a few years ago. Cllr. Sherman slammed the President for what he described as a dismal presidency, citing the president’s lack of effective public relations as the reasons her accomplishments are not known.
SOME BOAKAI SUPPORTERS, have also made negative public utterances against Sirleaf in recent times on social media as many look to cement their foot with Boakai in case his presidential bid is successful.
THE FEUD HAS SLICED a wedge between officials still loyal to Sirleaf and those leaning with Boakai in hopes that his election will guarantee that they have a job in the next government.
THE LIKES of Lenn Eugene Nagbe, the former Secretary General of the party and current Minister of Information, Minister of Commerce Axel Addy and Education Minister George Werner are among a handful of ministers still in Sirleaf corner while many of the other ministers have sided with Boakai.
IN FACT, WERNER, in a Facebook post Wednesday, slammed the vice President in a post that is generating a lot of buzz on social media. The minister quipped: “What race car? No sensible person parks a race car that long. It was probably not roadworthy, or it was too old to maintain. Get the director of Transport to send it to GSA for retirement. Bad analogy.”
THE MINISTER was making an apparent reference to a statement VP Boakai made during the first debate when addressing the baggage of the incumbent government, suggesting that he could not do much because he had been parked in the garage for twelve years.
WHILE THERE MAY BE a lot of blame to go around as to who or what is responsible for the demise of the once fond relationship between the President and her vice president of the past twelve years, sources within the presidency say, the President has been unhappy that Mr. Boakai has allowed people in his circle to publicly attack the President without putting those attacks in check. Cllr. Sherman’s utterances also added fuel to the fire, sources say, making it even complicated for the likes of former Nigerian President Olesugun Obasanjo and Ivorian President Alhassan Outtarra to salvage.
WITH SO MUCH brewing, the ruling party is being rocked by reports this week that the Ministry of Internal Affairs has dismissed some local chiefs for allegedly supporting opposition political parties. Some 20 town and clan chiefs in Maryland County have been threatened with dismissal, should they get involved with any political activities of the opposition parties.
FRONTPAGEAFRICA this week published a dismissal letter of the Acting Chairman of the Council of Chiefs in Maryland County, Mr. Nelson Neal, who was sacked for the “unauthorized visit of 38 Chiefs and Elders from Nimba County in north-eastern Liberia and other parts of the southeast in Maryland County, which contravened the policies of this Government…”
ON THURSDAY, the Alternative National Congress(ANC) in a statement accused the ruling party of suppressing Liberians’ democratic rights and using its power of incumbency to stop citizens from freely associating with the political parties of their choice.
WHEN ASKED in a recent interview regarding the lack of control of utterances by some within his circle against the President, VP Boakai said he and his campaign aides were trying to put a stop to it. But despite those assurances the utterances, the feud and the relationship appear to be over.
MORE IMPORTANTLY, we feel strongly that by allowing so many disjointed voices to speak for his campaign and engage in actions including the dismissal and issuing of threats against county officials does not supporting the Boakai Presidential bid, in the same vein that perceptions about the tribal tone of the candidacy has raised concerns from many circles unhappy that a large section of the country are being wrongly targeted by some individuals who are pushing the indigenous card for the Boakai candidacy.
IT IS NO secret that Liberia has a long history of a patronage system where leaders reigned with iron fists and kept citizens at bay; where the majority lived in fear while a bunch of Yes Men and women sang praises to the leaders of the day; a nation where no one is bold enough to stand up to leaders and tell them when to stop the buck.
THIS IS WHAT IS UNFOLDING around the Boakai campaign. Key aides and associates are going on radio stations and some media issuing threats against journalists and critics when stories or arguments do not go their way.
LIBERIA HAS BEEN HERE many times before. The current administration, whose time is running out, went through this for the past twelve years and many of those who are now looking to hang on to jobs and power are the very ones resorting to issuing threats and taking matters into their own hands.
SADLY, SOME who have been in the forefront of advocacy and civil rights in Liberia are remaining mute while all this is going on, just as others did over the course of the past twelve years.
LIBERIANS HAVE ALWAYS REJECTED tyranny and will always do; Liberians have always rejected sycophancy and will always do. We hope and pray that Mr. Boakai will see beyond what lies beneath many of the praise singers now singing his praises and taking him on a ride of political endorsements and possibly within striking distance of the presidency.
THE SIRLEAF government which Mr. Boakai has been part of, had its share.
ONE NEEDS to look no further than the level of deceptions now taking place around the Sirleaf circle in her final days, to understand that what goes around comes around. Sadly, all this is happening when Mr. Boakai should be doing all he can to show leadership and avoid the pitfalls of the past twelve years.
WE HAVE NO REASON to believe that Mr. Boakai embraces what is unfolding around him. But this is always the case with leaders and rulers throughout history, they never really start out that way, they only become victims in a sad game of political hegemony that most often leads them down a spiral slope of bad governance, corruption and dictatorship.
A HINT TO THE WISE!