An optimistic Veep Boakai, attending the UN General Assembly, tells FrontPageAfrica of an ‘Inevitable’ second term victory in next month’s Elections; Raps on Nation’s success from ‘Failed State to recovering Nation’, Admits first term missteps, Lessons Liberia can learn from Guinean and Ivorian post-elections episodes, President Sirleaf’s explicit confidence in his retaining of the UP second Partisan status and his party’s second term ambitions in an exclusive interview at the Churchill Hotel in Washington, DC.
Washington, DC - Representing his government for the third time at the United Nations General Assembly being held in New York, Liberia’s Vice President Joseph Nyemah Boakai still has his eyes over his shoulders stretching back home where the political fever is high.
For the man whose second re-nomination seemed clouded with uncertainties, his focus has only been on his job and not fear of losing as it would serve as the judge for retaining it which fell just in place for him. Veep Boakai says he had never lost sleep over his re-nomination as his party’s vice standard bearer and for now even holds no stress over a second term success to be handed another six years in the post-conflict nation. He is confident of the UP’s victory.
In this exclusive Q & A with FPA, the quiet but dedicated Vice President speaks of his current mission to the United States and the United Nations, prospects of his party retaining the ruling status come next month’s elections amidst the highly charged political season, missteps and criticisms of the ruling Unity Party’s first six years vis-à-vis prospects and ambitions of correcting it, his private life after government and more.
“At the United Nations General Assembly, Liberia will express gratitude to the UN for helping us to provide us peace and security which has enabled us to move Liberia from a failed state to a country on the move of development. And we need to also inform the United Nations that we’re at the verge of another (round of) elections. We will invite them to participate as observers and also to share with them some of the things that we have been able to achieve during the time of our joint efforts to restore Liberia to the comity of nations. Then we will touch on some of the international issues, based on some of our advices for the necessities of peace and also not wait for conflict and that peace and reconciliation should be at the forefront burner as in the case of Libya, Somalia. Those are some of the things we will touch on because Liberia as the oldest (African) nation as some experiences to share at the United Nations General Assembly.” Joseph Nyemah Boakai, Vice President, Republic of Liberia
FrontPageAfrica: Mr. Vice President, Welcome to this exclusive interview with FrontPageAfrica.
Vice President Joseph N. Boakai: Thank you, Nat and it’s a pleasure.
FPA: Here you are again visiting the United States. What is the nature of this trip at this crucial political season back home and how has it been going?
Veep Boakai: This trip is purposely to attend the United Nations General Assembly. But the trip has taken us to Houston, Texas. As you may know I have had a long time invitation to visit the Greater Houston Chambers of Commerce and so we thought that we should do this at this time where we were able to have series of meetings with potential investors in the oil and gas industry. We had meetings after meetings, back to back meetings because people now have realized that Liberia has the potential for oil exploration and everybody coming on board now. People on the ground like Chevron and Annadarko came out- all have their offices there-plus other potential investors. That took a lot of our time. From there, we came to Providence (Rhode Island) where actually a two-day’s visit to cool-off was. Then we came here (Washington, DC). We were invited here by the Peace Corps, the former Peace Corps Volunteers who also constitute the Friends of Liberia (FOL) to come and participate in what is called their annual get together. So, here we are just arriving this evening.
FPA: And my understanding is that you will be going to New York on Monday.
Veep Boakai: Yes, in fact, I’m going to speak at the Peace Corps program this evening and after that, we will go to the UN to represent Liberia.
FPA: This will be your third time representing your country at the UN. On the heels of the elections, what will be your message to the world body?
Veep Boakai: At the United Nations General Assembly, Liberia will express gratitude to the UN for helping us to provide us peace and security which has enabled us to move Liberia from a failed state to a country on the move of development. And we need to also inform the United Nations that we’re at the verge of another (round of) elections. We will invite them to participate as observers and also to share with them some of the things that we have been able to achieve during the time of our joint efforts to restore Liberia to the comity of nations. Then we will touch on some of the international issues, based on some of our advices for the necessities of peace and also not wait for conflict and that peace and reconciliation should be at the forefront burner as in the case of Libya, Somalia. Those are some of the things we will touch on because Liberia as the oldest (African) nation has some experiences to share at the United Nations General Assembly.
FPA: You mentioned that you will be sharing with the UN some of those achievements under your government. What are some of them since 2006?
Veep Boakai: First and foremost, we’ve been under the guidance of the United Nations to maintain peace, to maintain law and order, to take the country from a failed state to a path of development. I’m not here to list what sorts of developments have taken place but I think as we move around, people commend us for the levels of development that has taken place in a short time. So, those are the things that we need to share with them.
FPA: Scaring moments, some people may choose to term these elections given that two of our three immediate neighbors have had post-elections violence coupled with other minor pre-election skirmishes back home. How do you see Liberia’s?
Veep Boakai: Well, let me say, it’s not the two of them. The situation in Guinea was one that we were quite concerned about. But they did have a successful election. There were little conflicts here and there but that gave us some courage. Ivory Coast was the worst-case scenario where there was violence. We are very hopeful that we don’t go that path and that we have learned a lesson from the outcome because most often, it is what happened. It is how it ended. And I think we should learn a lesson of what that violence led to-destruction-making the UN and others to take positions they didn’t want to take. I think Liberians can afford to go that route anymore.
FPA: Prior to this political season, there were some skepticism over you being chosen again as the ruling Unity Party’s second partisan amidst rumors that you wouldn’t retain the vice standard bearer-ship of the party. Now, you’ve lived above the fray and here you are again, for the second successive time been chosen to run along incumbent President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. Does that speak to any explicit confidence the party as a whole and the President have in your contribution to the party and probably the entire nation?
Veep Boakai: We heard all of those comments. People are entitled to their own views and opinions. But I was never ever deterred by those things because the President will be first to tell you that not one day she and I sat to ask her whether or not I was going to be her running mate again. My belief in life is that when you have a piece of work to do, do it and let that job be your witness, the testimony to who you are. And let people worry about that. Everybody born young will get old and what is important is what is what you do, what you bring to the job that you have on hand. So, I thank the President for re-nominating me. I wasn’t concerned about that. All my life, I do what I’m supposed to do and leave people to judge me by what I have done.
FPA: Now let’s flip to your chances, I mean the ruling party. Prior to our trip here to the US, we witnessed a massive turn-out of the party’s Saturday’s launch in Central Monrovia of its political campaign opener which could mean an increase in your second term bid chances. Recent report from Central Liberia speaks of similar turn-out. What are your chances? Do you think the ruling party will get its much desired second successive term come next month’s elections?
Veep Boakai: That leads to what I said earlier that one should not be worried about being re-elected. One should be concerned about whether or not what the people put you there for was done. I think that should be able to judge you. Liberians have realized that the Unity Party-led government has delivered under the most difficult conditions. Even the young people are convinced that the Unity Party has the answers to their problems. They know that the Unity Party led government is mature, responsible and is a government that can deliver. So, after they tried to push them here and there and tried to bad-mouth the party, I was very much impressed with the turn-out. And not just the turnout-that’s why I made a release to thank the young people I mean we have great young people-and with all that crowd we didn’t hear of one incident of misconduct. That is over overwhelming. I have never seen that in any gathering. And this speaks to the fact that our young people are more responsible than some of us may think of them.
FPA: When given another chance to lead the country for another six years, where are places you think need touching that weren’t touched for the first term?
Veep Boakai: First and foremost, as a youth concerned person, I want to see how we can improve and build the capacity of our youths and put them in responsible places for them to take over the running of their country. Most people think that leadership means to be president. Leadership is everywhere. Everything that you do, people who take the initiatives-what those young people did during the launching was leadership. They demonstrated that they are leaders in their own rights. Those are things we want to see them do, to build them up to be able to see them move this country.
We want to see our major highways put into place, in the Southeast, the Northwest. I want to see our universities that we are putting up-I consider them buildings at the moment-I want to see them well-equipped, well manned by responsible people. That is why I would like to speak to the Peace Corps gathering here to help us because we are putting up these community colleges but we need to put up a fine foundation so that our young people can be prepared to lead Liberia.
”That leads to what I said earlier that one should not be worried about being re-elected. One should be concerned about whether or not what the people put you was done. I think that should be able to judge you. Liberians have realized that the Unity Party led government has delivered under the most difficult conditions. Even the young people are convinced that the Unity Party has the answers to their problems. They know that the Unity Party led government is mature, responsible and is a government that can deliver. So, after they tried to push them here and there and tried to bad-mouth the party, I was very much impressed with the turn-out. And not just the turnout-that’s why I made a release to thank the young people I mean we have great young people-and with all that crowd we didn’t hear of one incident of misconduct. That is over overwhelming. I have never seen that in any gathering. And this speaks to the fact that our young people are more responsible than some of us may think of them.” Joseph Nyemah Boakai, Vice President, Republic of Liberia
FPA: If you were to correct the wrongs or the missteps of your government for the past six years, where are areas you think you will….?
Veep Boakai: Well, again, I do believe that this initial period was a period of reconciliation; a period of healing wounds, a period of making Liberia begin to realize that we have one thing in common which is our country. So, there were issues that people expected that the government would be dramatic on. They didn’t quite go that way. People think that corruption…that depends on how you interpret it. I know there were eras where people with impunity took government money and used it and nobody…..People are just realizing now that public money belongs to the public. But in those days, they didn’t know that.
So, we are being looked at as compromising corruption simply because they are now aware of what is in the budget. They now know what the budget is about and what it is supposed to benefit. So, those might be shortcomings but also I like the awareness of the Liberians that they need to discuss their governments. They need to discuss and know its shortcomings and that they don’t need to wait until things fall apart until they share the blames.
There were benchmarks that were set. There were quite a number of things that we weren’t able to accomplish in a given time. Somebody outside would say they are failures but we believe that we have set those goals and targets that were not accomplished because there were a lot of things we couldn’t properly engage into like the capacities of the people who would have implemented them and the flow of the resources at the point in time. So, all of these are experiences that have been gathered over the years that we need to improve upon in the coming years. We are in the better position to know that these are situations that we need to improve upon.
FPA: You are from a agricultural background, went to the YMCA and now in government, the second highest political office in your country. Where does Ambassador Joseph N. Boakai hope to go after government?
Veep Boakai: You just said it, Nat. Even as I sit here, I have a farm, a cocoa farm that I’m still trying to improve upon. I will never ever leave and being concerned about the plight of the youths and the improvements of people’s lives. There is nothing in life that pleases me more than to see good things happening to people. So, because Joseph Boakai will not be in government doesn’t mean that he is not going to contribute to the progress of Liberia. You see, all my life, I live in Liberia even during the civil war because I have always believed that this country was meant to be a great country and that it needed committed people who’ll give their time and talent to it. And so, Joseph Boakai will just be equally engaged in and outside government. People who know me know that I’ve made a lot of contributions to the development projects in this country, not just in Lofa. I will continue to do that because I am proud of my country and want to see it become the best it ought to be.
FPA: And finally?
Veep Boakai: Well, the only thing that I want to say to our people we are grateful to them. In all that happens, Liberians normally come back to reality. They know where the good comes from. They know who is capable of leading them properly. They are not confused. And there is one thing you know about Liberians is that they will talk, they will make noise but at the end of the day, they will come back to the reality. So we just want to encourage them that we need to move this country forward. There is no more hiding place for anybody. You home is your home. Let’s be very careful in the decisions we make to ensure that Liberia continues to move progressively and become that country that God wants it to be within Africa. So we just want to say that we should continue. We can have differences but let’s continue to work together in the interest of our young people, in the interest of one Liberia as the prospects for Liberia are so high.
FPA: Thank you, Sir for your time and have a nice day at the UN.
Veep Boakai: Thank you Nat for the interview.