“This is a competition, go there and do your best and let the people decide. Look my dear I am saying, I want the primary to take place and I want it to be free and fair, we are going to our partisans, our constituency and the 340 or so of them, we will make our case to them but in making that case we must keep in the back of our minds that holding the primary is not the end of the story, if you come out of that primary you must now defeat the other political parties” - Togar G. McIntosh, Presidential Hopeful, Unity Party
Monrovia - Days after President Ellen Johnson told FrontPageAfrica in an interview that anybody wanting to succeed her will have to fight for the position; the same way she did, a new force has emerged to battle Vice President Joseph N. Boakai, who is viewed as the clear favourite to contest on the Unity Party ticket to succeed President Sirleaf come 2017. McIntosh Says He Has Discussed Plan with EJS Former Minister of Planning, Dr. Togar G. McIntosh who recently represented Liberia at the regional grouping, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has stepped up, declaring that he will contest the primary of the Unity Party to battle Vice President Boakai for the standard bearer position. A confident McIntosh appearing on the Bumper Show on state radio, LBS Monday, once again expressed his vow to challenge Boakai for the Unity Party primary in order to pursue his Presidential ambition; which he said he has been nurturing since 1991. With Boakai already enjoying some public support from Unity Party officials including Cllr. Varney Sherman, President Sirleaf and others, McIntosh says the Unity Party standard bearer position is still up for grabs and says he has discussed his ambition with President Sirleaf and is ready to put up a fight against Vice President Boakai. “As far as I am concerned between now and our primary I have 344 or so people or whatever the number is to concentrate on and get my message to them”, says McIntosh. Privileged discussion with Sirleaf In pushing his political ambition, McIntosh says he has met President Sirleaf where he indicated that the both held privileged discussion and taking cue from the President recent statement indicating that her likely successor without naming any individual will have fight for the position the way she did, he is convinced that beating Boakai is possible. “I have met with the Standard bearer and we discussed; this is privileged information, we had our discussion and I have made efforts to meet the VP to discuss this matter, one occasion he balanced the timing; I was a little bit late but then finally surfaced either he was preoccupied or what was happening I stayed at house for about 45 minutes; and I still did have the opportunity to meet with him because protocol was telling me A, B and C”, said McIntosh. In his discussion with President Sirleaf McIntosh said the two agreed on two key words including democracy and the question of competition which he said served as the major discussion point during their conversation. “Lately, if we want to expand her statement, she did also indicate that anybody who wants the job, they will have to fight for it the same way she fought. That is ascribed to her in the newspaper(FrontPageAfrica) and the statement goes beyond the people in the Unity Party. The fight does not mean physical fight, you must go to the people in the constituency”, he added. President Sirleaf in a recent FPA interview declared unwavering Support for VP Boakai but again stated that anyone wishing to succeed her will have to set their own targets and fight to become President. Said President Sirleaf: “I will support Vice President Boakai in all of his endeavours according to how he sets his program to become President. I will give him the fullest support but he will get it the same way I got it. Anybody who gets it, will get it the way I got it, they will go and they will campaign for it and they will fight for it, they will set their targets and they will get it. Besides, it is very important for Liberia’s political maturity to have a peaceful transition for the first time in three decades. It’s important for us and I will not deny the country that, by not seeing it through.” The President dismissed suggestions of strain ties between she and her vice President. “There has never been any mistrust between me and the vice President”. In fact, Sirleaf said the bond between she and the vice President goes deeper. “He has been a long-time friend with me and my family and my husband, so there is no distrust there. So I was never afraid to give him any limelight for fear that he will want my job, not at all. On the other hand, he is a vice President who is running; the campaign is going to be his campaign. He will have to dictate how he wants it, how much he wants to build on the existing progress to which we have both contributed so much, will be his call, whether he wants to strike off and show that he has a different path that will be his choice and I am going to work with him whichever way he wants”. Long-time ambition McIntosh says his ambition to become President is long overdue discussing that in November 1991 he wrote his ambition in his vision for the Presidency and even before the 2005 general and Presidential elections he met and discussed same with Sirleaf who was also contesting the presidency. According to him he buried his ambition in 2005 for the sake of President Sirleaf and this time he will push to get to the highest level. “In 2005, all the credit given to her, she called me up and, we met in Johannesburg to hold his discussion and she said to me Togar you know so, so and so and I said Madam you will run, you will win and you will serve, that did not happen, this time I still stand by those words, you will run, you will win and you will serve”. He vowed that this time his quest for the presidency is not a charade as anyone taking him for granted will be making a mistake. Threats of pull-out With Vice President Boakai gaining the early support of Unity Party stalwarts, McIntosh says if the Unity Party primary is not free, fair and transparent he will back off from the process. “Let them try it, if it is a charade or not, they will see on that day. If we go into that race, it is free, fair and transparent very simple with 300 people in one room, I have said over and again, I will give my support to the candidate that will be chosen”, he stated. Questioned on whether he would accept any result from the Unity Party primary when it is glaring that the process was manipulated, McIntosh said he will pull out of such process. “If I don’t see it that way my own principle which I do not believe in cheating; if it is done that cheating way, I will voice it out and if I voice it out, I will not associate with it. I can sit down on my farm and keep quiet, I do not have go around with banner canvassing against it”, he continued. According to him he did not tell the President that he wanted to succeed her during their discussion after her tenure because it was not necessary at that time. He says if the process is not free and fair, there is a possibility for him to join another political party but expressed that he is prepared at this juncture to hold a contest within the Unity Party. Lawmaker Edwin M. Snowe who said he is a member of the UP phoned in on the talk show said it was healthy for McIntosh to contest the standard bearer position of the party. Incumbent President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is constitutionally incapable to contest a third term of office, leaving a vacuum within the Unity Party which Vice President Boakai who has served as Vice President during the first and now the second of the Sirleaf’s Presidency is hoping to tap on. Already President Sirleaf has declared her support for Boakai but there are speculations that the President is working behind the scene to support other individuals within the ruling party to put up a competition against Boakai. Other Unity party stalwarts including Jeremiah Sulunteh and others are believed to be harbouring similar ambition to contest for the standard bearership of the party but McIntosh is the first party official to openly declare that he is contesting the Presidency via the Unity Party ticket. McIntosh has served three to positions since the election of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. He first served as Minister of Planning and later as Minister of Foreign Affairs before he was nominated by Liberia to serve ECOWAS. He could put up a good fight against Vice President Boakai for the position of standard bearer of the Unity party especially amid reports of in-house tussle amongst UP hierarchy that Boakai is not the best to replace Sirleaf. Amid the wrangle, some political observers say Boakai might move away from the modus operandi of the ruling Unity Party under Sirleaf and do things differently. Sirleaf expressed in a FPA interview recently that it is left with the VP to decide which way he wants to go whether to continue the path of what the Unity Party has been doing over the last ten years or push his way of doing things. Said Sirleaf “On the other hand, he is a vice President who is running; the campaign is going to be his campaign. He will have to dictate how he wants it, how much he wants to build on the existing progress to which we have both contributed so much, will be his call, whether he wants to strike off and show that he has a different path that will be his choice and I am going to work with him whichever way he wants”.