Liberia’s Election 2017: Grading Opposition Political Parties

Liberia’s Election 2017: Grading Opposition Political Parties

Monrovia – Election 2017 is right around the corner and for all the talk about succession and who will replace Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf when her clock runs out in January 2018 remains shrouded in mystery with every passing day.

The lack of a debate to give constituencies a chance to hear first-hand how their preferred candidate stands on the issues makes the intrigue surrounding the looming ballot and interesting proposition.

Vice President Joseph Boakai is poised to lead the ruling party into an election with a lot of question mark surrounding the performance of an incumbent government facing a skeptical nation unsure what to make of the achievements and accomplishments even as solid completion of the Mount Coffee Hydro plant and the and the looming repair of the runway at the Roberts International Airport and terminal appear to be on the horizon.

Over the past year, some politicians have been coy on addressing the bread and butter issues affecting many Liberians while others have not shied away from controversies but made it their duty to voice their views on some pertinent issues affecting Liberia today.

As we head into the crucial year of elections, FrontPageAfrica gauges the stance of the leading candidates on the issues lingering on the minds of many Liberians.

The gradings are at a curve because the race has not officially started but this gives a sense of how candidates are faring on not just the issues but a gauge of early hits and misses.


GEORGE MANNEH WEAH

POLITICAL AFFILIATION: CONGRESS FOR DEMOCRATIC CHANGE

PLATFORM: Weah works on a platform that believes democracy functions best when it is able to enhance the lives, actions and participation of peoples at grassroots levels. Building consensus for governance at such levels, gauging the level of participation of local peoples and evolving community-based democratic frameworks that localize access to resources and information are vital components of grassroots democracy. 

STANCE ON ISSUES: When President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was expressing her disappointment over the failure of Hillary Clinton to win the U.S. election, the soccer legend was sending congratulatory message to President-elect Donald Trump whose victory he described as tough a challenging. He foresees the victory of Trump replicating itself in 2017 elections.

Recognizing that the Congress for Democratic Change could not win election all on its own, formed a coalition with National Patriotic Party (NPP) and the Liberia People’s Party (LPP) to form what’s now branded as the Coalition for Democratic Change of which he remains the god father.

Weah and his CDC strongly support the reduction in the term of the presidency from 6 years to the four years. This, he believe is in the spirit of democracy.

ACTIVITIES: Weah has been very generous with his scholarship drive which covers several universities and vocational schools in Monrovia and its suburbs with hundreds of beneficiaries. But more visible among his activities are the occasional rallies that the Weah and his party often carryout to test their strength.

THE BIGGEST HIT: The formation of the coalition with the NPP and LPP to give birth to Coalition for Democratic Change was one of the biggest moves by Weah. The new CDC is now a force to reckon with as many political had to go back to the drawing table to re-strategize for 2017.

THE BIGGEST MISS: Liberians are yet to hear Weah’s side of the Allen White’s allegation that the new CDC was formed so as to give Jewel Howard-Taylor the opportunity to come close to the presidency so that her former husband, Charles Taylor, would get some level of control over key decisions.

MEMORABLE QUOTE: “Under my administration, there will be sufficient budgetary allotment to the education sector so as to meet international standards, as well as invite international experts to come and train teachers.”

ODDS: 5-1

GRADE B

2017 PROSPECTS: The future looks bright for Mr. Weah and the new CDC. Having come second in the two previous elections and the fading out of the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s regime, Weah can be thought to say he’s the next best choice of the Liberian people. However, he has over 15 parties – also in the opposition bloc – to deal with in addition to the sitting Vice President, Joseph Boakai is wants to take his grip on power on step further.

ALEXANDER CUMMINGS: POLITICAL AFFILIATION: ALTERNATIVE NATIOINAL CONGRESS

STANCE ON THE ISSUES: Cummings has not been shy about playing to his strengths and has been reminding Liberians in stops across the country that he is more than capable of rescuing the economy and putting Liberia back on track.

He favors a more even-handed revenue collection policy that includes an across-the-board one reasonable fee for clearance of goods at the port and is not coy about his managerial and business sense:  “I tell people that the operating budget I managed prior to retiring from Coca-Cola was a lot bigger than the budget of the Republic of Liberia. You manage all the challenges with people.

Once you have people involved, it is a bit of politics and so there are a lot of similarities to a large degree and my experiences having done it very successfully; will lend itself to managing the Liberian economy and the Liberian people.”

ACTIVITIES (COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENTS): The Cummings Foundation has doled out scores of scholarships and paid WAEC fees for deserving high school students.

PLATFORM: Strongly of the view that infrastructure is the key sector for development to support economic growth and job creation.  Consistent and low cost power, clean and safe drinking water, roads and connectivity (internet) are paramount to Liberia’s economic development and underpins all other priorities.  Aggressively pursuing private sector participation in infrastructure development will be one of the ways a Cummings administration will deliver on this commitment.

BIGGEST HIT: Cummings comes in the race free of any blemish known to the Liberian people. Though a novice, he is quickly winning the hearts of Liberians; especially at the grass root level with several philanthropic assistances to several students and learning institutions and market women. He recently launched a loan scheme which targets local market women.

BIGGEST MISS: Quite interestingly, Cummings while disclosing his hundred days deliverables in Ganta, Nimba County said he would ensure that traffic rules are strictly adhered to. This deliverable is way off the mark and immaterial to the developmental needs of the citizens of Liberia.

GRADE: B+

2017 PROSPECTS: Coming into the game late, Cummings has acknowledged his weaknesses but is always playing to his strengths as an experience executive with a lot of international experience. His foundation has been doing a lot of goodwill in the past few months in a bit to cement his hold in the game and gain as much visibility as possible. Multiple trips to rural Liberia appears to see Cummings gaining traction but whether that traction is sufficient enough to make a strong impact before voting day remains to be seen.

ODDS: 5-1

MEMORABE QUOTE: “Anybody who is associated with Alex Cummings or a Cummings-led government has to understand that there has to be consequences for corruption. You know there are rogues everywhere in the world. At Coca Cola we have a code of business conduct like we do here. The difference is we enforce it and we enforce it for everybody.  So, bad behavior is not unique to us.”  

BENONI UREY: POLITICAL AFFILIATION: ALL LIBERIA PARTY

STANCE ON THE ISSUES: The businessman regarded as one of the wealthiest Liberians, according to Forbes has made job creation and an agro-based economy as the centerpiece of his candidacy. “I will be the agriculture President of Liberia,” he told a gathering recently. Urey, a key critic of the Sirleaf administration’s excessive tax regime has pointed to the regiment as a deterrent to smooth business operations in the post-war nation.

PLATFORM: Intends using agriculture to sustain economy to provide human security. He’s of the view that farm workers should be entitled to the same rights that every other worker in Liberia enjoys. They should not be exempted from labor laws and must receive decent wages and incentives.

ACTIVITIES: Urey has numerous students on scholarships through Urey Humanitarian and Education Foundation.  His youth foundation also undertakes development initiatives in communities across the country. He is known to be the highest donor to Cuttington University and also refurbished the computer laboratory at the Cuttington.

2017 PROSPECTS: Making his first splash onto the Presidential elections scene, Mr. Urey has not shied away from his views on the shortfalls of the Johnson-Sirleaf administration. He has repeatedly stated that it is wrong for vital funds of the national budget to be truncated and declared a shortfall. The businessman-turned politician explained recently that it was evidently clear that Liberians are living without proper heath care, where 1,072 of every 100,000 women died at childbirth and many more lack access to safe drinking water.

“Access to basic primary and or secondary education, he said, remains a privilege for many school-going children, especially those in the interiors.”We live in a country without good schools, where many of our children can't read and write and even the President of Liberia has woefully decried and declared and I quote 'our educational system is a mess", he told a gathering recently.

MEMORABLE QUOTE: “I pray that we will be wise in the future, because I can tell you here today, that when I am elected as President, my first priority will be to create jobs for the young people.”

BIGGEST HIT: Sporting the tag as the candidate with the most assets at his disposal to dispense, many political analysts say if the businessman plays to his strength he could be a strong contender.

BIGGEST MISS: Love him or hate him, Urey is still haunted by his ties to the Taylor era but his supporters believe that voters will see beyond that and look toward his goodwill to the community in giving him a shot at the presidency. Mr. Urey also took a hit during the year under review when he tried to lobby against three-day free calls. n a letter addressed to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf obtained by FrontPageAfrica, Mr. Urey, who is also the Chairman of Lonestar/MTN, informed the President that “the long running and unending promotions, as well as the various freebees, i.e. ”free calls to the USA; $1.00 for 3 days or $1 for 5 days; the free data services; 3GB for $5 for a month; etc.” are negatively impacting revenue generation to the Government of Liberia, the Liberia Telecommunications Authority and Liberian GSM companies.”

ODDS: 5-1

GRADE: B-

CHARLES BRUMSKINE: POLITICAL AFFILIATION: LIBERTY PARTY

STANCE ON THE ISSUES: The Liberty Party political leader says he is committed to change and running for the presidency because he has a vision to lead Liberia and remains committed to serve its people. “Our vision is based on what we call the 4Rs – reconciliation, reform, rebuild, and recovery. These are the four pillars of our platform that will take us into the next stage that Liberia should be in for its development. Brumskine’s Liberty Party despite numerous criticisms has been vocal on issues hitting close to the core of Liberia’s political resurgence.

More recently, the party voiced its frustration over the increasing difficulties being faced by business owners in clearing their goods from the Freeport of Monrovia as it prevailed on government to pay keen immediate attention to the plight of the business people concerned; majority of whom are middle-class Liberians who try to make life in the private sector.

Said the party in a statement: “Contrary to the contract mentioned between the Liberian Government and BIVAC, the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) has decided to have BIVAC conduct on-the-spot inspection at the Freeport of Monrovia.  This is against the existing Contract.”

PLATFORM: Liberty Party’s Plan to Create Jobs, Promote Full Employment, and Improve Livelihoods

MEMORABLE QUOTE: “The Liberian people do not even want us to maintain the status core which Joe Boakai will probably, do. We must now move this country forward with someone who has a vision. Someone who has been tested and proven not to be an appointed official of government but one elected by his people and one who the people he represented still enjoy his trust and he still enjoys their trust. That is what moving forward is about.”

ACTIVITIES: Brumskine Youth Movement has undertaken some projects beginning with carrying pipe-borne water in communities like ELWA Rock Hill and others. BYM has also touched and empowered human resource capacity by providing Scholarships and Financial Aid to more than 200 students in these respective counties. 

BYM has also reached out to communities by providing tools such as wheel barrows, shovels and others materials to help clean up the communities and repair their roads in these counties. 

Other initiatives include working with more than 150 High Schools in these counties and assisted some Schools with projects as well as provided Generators to some to facilitate their night school for adults illiteracy program, paid WAEC and other fees for tutorial classes for some; and purchased sports jerseys for some for sporting purposes, taking into considering sports bring unity among the young people, among others.

2017 PROSPECTS: Making his third quest for the presidency, Cllr. Brumskine, who ran in the 2005 and 2011 Presidential elections and lost has pointed to blame on his failure to effectively communicate his vision for the country.

In his third try, it appears a more organized ground game is putting the LP political leader on course to a more respectable campaign as he is pledging reconciliation, reform, rebuilding and recovery as part of his pitch to voters as he embarks on ending the hegemony of the ruling Unity Party from wining its third consecutive Presidential election.

BIGGEST HIT: Brumskine has been making inroads in rural Liberia with recent mammoth receptions in Nimba, Lofa and Bong as he looks to demonstrate the party’s determination to win the 2017 Presidential election.

BIGGEST MISS: Liberty Party has been consistent in its critique of the government but finds itself in a rather complicated position of trying to allay fears and dismiss suggestions that it is in bed with the ruling party.

ODDS: 2-1

GRADE: B-

SIMEON FREEMAN, MOVEMENT FOR PROGRESSIVE CHANGE

STANCE ON THE ISSUES: Prior to his self-imposed exile, the political leader of the Movement for Progressive Change was inarguably one of the harshest critics of the Sirleaf-led government, holding the administration’s feet to the fire on a variety of issues, including governance, corruption and transparency and accountability.

When lawlessness descended on the facilities of ArcelorMittal in Yekepa, Mr. Freeman took the government to task for signaling out the attackers he said were simply expressing their rage. He declared that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's statement to punish lawless people must not only be limited to the Nimba raid, but to all those accused of participating in - the destructions. Freeman said Justice must be done to all and not a select few adding that Liberia is a country of laws and not men.

When he took the government to task on the economy, he drew and angry response from Presidential Press Secretary Jerolinmek Piah: “Mr. Freeman analyses on the economy are dead wrong. The substantive discussions on the economy is out for a debate and some of our people charged directly with matters concerning the economy at the Executive Mansion are herewith throwing out the challenge to Mr. Freeman on the address in particular, and the State of the Nation’s economy in general. With his consent, we can take advantage of the very platform he used on Monday and any other alternative pleasing and comfortable for him.”

PLATFORM: Freeman intends booming the economy by reducing the government by dissolving some ministers and agencies and prioritizes the private sector – Small government, big economy.

ACTIVITIES: Freeman runs a scholarship fund at the University of Liberia, United Methodist University and African Methodist Zion University with about 350 students benefiting from the scholarship.

MEMORABLE QUOTE: “We have heard very silly questions from sycophants of the administration seeking to create doubts about the prosperity of a post Sirleaf administration that there might be no proper replacement for this ruler. It is truly embarrassing to say the least that people will think in this fashion.”

BIGGEST HIT: Mr. Freemans’ greatest asset remains his hands on the issues and consistent criticism of the administration. But many of his critics say he does not offer solutions.

BIGGEST MISS: Mr. Freeman’s own supporters will be the first to state that his exile sojourn was perhaps the biggest mistake of his political life. Although the charges were eventually dropped against the businessman and political leader of the Movement for Progressive Change (MPC) and he has since returned home, the scars continue to linger.

Freeman’s home was barricaded by riot officers of the Police Support Unit or PSU in Brewerville, suburb of Monrovia barely two days after he had addressed a press conference on February 4, 2016 with claims that an alleged government’s death squad was planning to eliminate him and other prominent politicians, including Senator George Weah of the CDC, and Benoni Urey of the ALP.

2017 PROSPECTS: Returning from nearly a year in exile, Mr. Freeman finds himself on the defensive probably for the first time in his political life. More importantly, political analysts will be keen to see how voters embrace Mr. Freeman’s explanation that he had every legitimate reason to be afraid of the Liberian police because there have been a number of mysterious deaths of high-profile individuals whose killers have yet to be apprehended. Mr. Freeman who says he slipped out of the country with the help of some good friends, fearing that if he turned himself in, he could have been manhandled or ill-treated, has resumed his criticisms of the administration.

ODDS: 10-1

GRADE: C

MACDELLA COOPER: POLITICAL AFFILIATION: UNION OF LIBERIAN DEMOCRAT (ULD)

STANCE ON THE ISSUES: The former fashion model who previously expressed a desire to become a first lady to football legend George Weah caused a firestorm during the year when an earlier-recording released quoted her as claiming that she has enough money to buy any political position in Liberia, including the presidency if she wanted to.

She vowed to build a vibrant educated youthful society if elected President in 2017. She criticized the government for depending on foreign aid to provide education, noting that education should be a primary responsibility of the government. Cooper, 40,  is vowing to build a vibrant economy by empowering local entrepreneurs as a means of boosting local commodities on the local market.

PLATFORM: MacDella runs a five-star platform which encompasses free education, universal health care, electricity, and decentralization and land ownership.

Bringing relief to the poor and giving women equal rights have been cardinal issues in MacDella’s message wherever she speaks.

ACTIVITIES: The MacDella Cooper Foundation works with vulnerable children, disadvantage youth and marginalized women to become active contributors to their nation’s economic, social and political future. It serves as a conduit between international funders, corporations, sponsors and local grassroots organizations, youth groups and individual children. The goal is to help as many as possible to break free from the vicious cycle of poverty.  

MEMORABLE QUOTE: 'I am fearless and able to step into any arena as long as it is to serve my country.'

BIGGEST HIT: She’s so far the only woman who has declared her intention to contest the Liberian presidency.

BIGGEST MISS: Cooper is on record for saying she was never interested in any political seat in Liberia and that she could buy the presidency if she wanted to, because in Liberia, everything is for sale.

2017 PROSPECTS: Trumpeting a mantra dubbed “Stronger Together”, Cooper believes she is led by the call to lead Liberia out economic demise. She says her decision to enter the 2017 Presidential race rests on the backbone of hope and reform. “As a former refugee girl, I bear testimony to the fact that education remains the greatest equalizer for hope and reform. When used constructively, education can transform anybody into somebody.” She adds:

“While I would hasten to acknowledge the significant progress made by this government in terms of socioeconomic transformation; the task to improve the lives of our people is far from completion. And I remain confident that the change our people so desperately crave can only be realized when we ourselves are ready to change. A holistic economic transformation has to completely trickle down to the citizenry if they must feel the ripple effects of development.”

ODDS: 10-1

GRADE: C +

GOVERNOR MILLS JONES

POLITICAL AFFILIATION: Movement for Economic Empowerment (MOVEE)

STANCE ON THE ISSUES: The former governor of the Central Bank of Liberia is pledging to ensure that Liberians become prime actors in the Liberian economy, promising to use fiscal policy, monetary policy, trade policy and investment policy to reinforce each other so that total impact will advance Liberian participation and ensure greater ownership of the Liberian economy at all levels.

Jones who is remembered for pushing a loan scheme for small businesses and marketers during his CBL days suggests that under his watch, small-scale manufacturing and agricultural development will be strongly encouraged while using innovative ways to build and maintain infrastructure. Such multi-pronged approach, he says, will be the basis for dealing with the scourge of unemployment - Business as usual politicians.

Mr. Jones says healthcare must be woven into community development. “Preventative care must actually become the centerpiece of our health care system. We must empower our communities, our local citizens, so they can be part of the overall system of health care and community development.”

On the issue of agriculture, Jones warns in many Economic Management meetings that agriculture is key to national development, especially food production to ensure food security and save foreign exchange. He said agricultural extension services will be made stronger, yield increases will be targeted, storage and processing facilities will be improved and farming communities will receive special attention.

He is also trumpeting himself as a legislative builder and pledging to develop a new and productive partnership with the Legislature, and a different approach to coordination between the Executive and Legislative branches of government.

ACTIVITIES: In addition to his loan scheme, Dr. Jones made donations during Ebola: US$1,500 along with buckets, Clorox and disinfectants to Ebola survivors in Small Ganta and Busie Town, Nimba County as a means of identifying with Ebola survivors.

2017 PROSPECTS: Dr. Mills Jones in his quest to become the President is struggling to remain relevant – long after his CBL loan scheme days.  The former International Monetary Fund and the World Bank analyst, played a key role in managing the Liberian economy, and was an important member of the team that managed the debt relief process for heavily indebted poor countries with the IMF.

MEMORABLE QUOTE: “Jobs that Liberians can do, will be done by Liberians,” he says, amid a thunderous applause from supporters. “Ensuring Liberians become prime actors in the Liberian economy is an idea whose time has come. We will use fiscal policy, monetary policy, trade policy and investment policy to reinforce each other so that their total impact will advance Liberian participation and ensure greater ownership of the Liberian economy at all levels”

ODDS: 7-1

BIGGEST HIT: Won the hearts of rural Liberians with the extension of the SME microloans in rural Liberia. He also established and dedicated several microloan finance institutions across the country.

BIGGEST MISS: Came under heavy criticism by lawmakers for using the loan scheme to run his political agenda. Not much is heard of him since he completed his term as Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia.

GRADE: C

AUGUSTINE NGAFUAN

POLITICAL AFFILIATION: Victory for Change Party (VCP)

STANCE ON THE ISSUES: The former minister of Finance and Economic Affairs; Foreign Affairs and previously the Bureau of the Budget has not been shy about aiming to be a major player in the 2017 Presidential race. His decision to jump into the rugged jungle of Liberia’s political waters he says stems from his numerous contributions to Liberia.

“I have acquired the necessary competence both in leadership position, out of government, in government, from the Central Bank, from the position of budget director of the Republic of Liberia, from the position of finance minister, from the position of foreign affairs minister, I have been delivering for my country and I intend to continue a track record of deliverance for my country at the level of the presidency.”

When elected, he says his primary aim would be to ensure that government entities are adequately funded so that they can recruit many professionals and remunerate them well and to reduce their vulnerability to compromising on any case. Ngafuan is also a strong believer in funding the prosecution arm of the Ministry of Justice so that they can recruit more lawyers and remunerate them very well in the fight against graft. 

MEMORABLE QUOTE: “Let me stress that the building of a robust economy will be at the front and center of our roadmap for positive transformation.  Sound macro-economic management will be critical. 

We believe that the building of a sound and robust  economy paves the way to the achievement of many of our lofty goals in education, health, peace, reconciliation, etc. We will approach the fight against corruption not only with unflagging vigor, but also with honesty and fairness. We will adequately fund all anti-graft institutions in order to strengthen their capacities and reduce their vulnerabilities.

But we will insist on annual audits of all critical government institutions and this will not exclude the Legislature, the Judiciary and the anti-graft institutions themselves. We will adequately fund the Ministry of Justice in order to boost its capacity to expeditiously prosecute cases. As emphasis is placed on prosecution, we will not neglect prevention through very smart measures such as pay increases, value for money procurement, and pension reform that will incentivize good behavior and reduce the fear and risk of life after government service."

ACTIVITIES: Mr. Ngafuan in recent years has contributed to scholarship fund drives, religious, community, and charitable groups; and has been active given inspirational speeches and presentations across the country to various stakeholder groupings.

2017 PROSPECTS: Augustine Ngafuan has never hidden his ambitions for the highest office in Liberia and realizes that he is against insurmountable odds as he battles perceptions that he is biting the hands that fed him in the ruling party. He told FrontPageAfrica in an interview last year: “Though I love the challenge of trying to help my country in the capacity of Foreign Minister, previous in that capacity, Finance Minister, 2017 is like a make or break moment for this country and so I could not allow myself not to play a role.

Mr. Ngafuan who has been engaged in deep conversations and consultations with various stakeholders across Liberia is confident of making a strong charge but finding a political landing pad appears to be his biggest obstacle for now.

ODDS: 10-1

BIGGEST HIT: Minister Ngafuan is on record as being the first official to step down from his post within the two-year required period for public officials aiming to contest public office in line with the Code of Conduct. Under Liberian law, Presidential appointees must resign at least two years before running for public office.

BIGGEST MISS: "The former foreign minister's intention to vie for the presidency on the ticket of the Victory for Change has met resistance from Cllr. Marcus Jones, the 2011 Standard Bearer who is also planning to re-run for the position. Cllr. Jones claims that Ngafuan is not qualified under the Party's constitution to be nominated at its convention to contest any position on the Executive Committee of the party because he has not spent the number of years as a member. "

2017 PROSPECTS: Augustine Ngafuan has never hidden his ambitions for the highest office in Liberia and realizes that he is against insurmountable odds as he battles perceptions that he is biting the hands that fed him in the ruling party. He told FrontPageAfrica in an interview last year:  “Though I love the challenge of trying to help my country in the capacity of Foreign Minister, previous in that capacity, Finance Minister, 2017 is like a make or break moment for this country and so I could not allow myself not to play a role.

Mr. Ngafuan who has been engaged in deep conversations and consultations with various stakeholders across Liberia is confident of making a strong charge but finding a political landing pad appears to be his biggest obstacle for now.

ODDS: 10-1

GRADE: C+

JEWEL HOWARD TAYLOR: POLITICAL AFFILIATION: COALITION FOR DEMOCRATIC CHANGE

STANCE ON THE ISSUES: Jewel, as one of three female lawmakers in the Senate, Jewel Taylor has been a strong voice in proffering women issues at the level of the Legislature. In recent time, she has been pushing for the passage of the Domestic Violence Act of Liberia which seeks to protect women and men from all sorts of domestic violence.

ACTIVITIES: Jewel has shown strong commitment to peace, unity, reconciliation, women and youth empowerment as well as democracy. She has a number of students benefiting from her scholarship drive in several universities and secondary institutions.

2017 PROSPECTS: The lapses dogging the current administration led by Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf will no doubt factor in the former first lady and current Bong County Senator’s bid for the presidency. Are Liberians ready to hand the authority of state to another female in succession? Jewel’s recent marriage with George Weah’s Congress for Democratic Change is being viewed as a means to an end or a probable eye on the VP slot.

Looking to explain her way out of her dilemma, the Bong Senator said recently of her chances and the Sirleaf comparison: "Will someone say to me because over the last 30 years, all of the male Presidents we had, led us to war and all of our citizens were placed in exile; so can you say that every male President after Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will take us to war? I say no, and those are the lenses people should look at."

The senator does pay some homage to Sirleaf who she says has done some good in the last twelve years: "So it is alleged that President Sirleaf has not done well; I'm of the opinion that she came in at a very difficult time and she did the best she could--she has changed the image of Liberia and erased the debt, she called on partners to help in our development initiative, there are lots that she has done."

MEMORABLE QUOTE: "When you look at the issue of the presidency, you must look at all aspects. We have one female President, so can you judge the President that will come 2017 the same? I think every individual should be judged by his own knowledge, what he/ she brings to the table and if all of those things are in that person, then that's a viable candidate."

ODDS: 10-1

BIGGEST HIT: The influential Senator from Bong is one of the architect of the the National Code of Conduct act which requires all Presidential appointees to resign their positions two years before any election.

BIGGEST MISS: Despite a best effort at trying to leave the dust of her ties to her former husband, Charles Taylor behind, the Senator is finding it difficult to shed the haunted ghosts of that era. Despite being removed from both the United Nations travel and assets freeze ban, it appears she is still on the radar of the U.S. government who has denied her visas for travel at least two times. She was granted a visa to travel with President Sirleaf to a UN General Assembly a few years ago but sources say she overstayed her visa and has been on the radar since.

Nevertheless, Jewel told a Voice of America interview in 2012 that she believes that she should be judged on the basis of her character and not on the basis of what her former husband might have done or did not do. She remains confident that the old prejudices that come with her former husband’s name will come to pass, especially as she continues to make what she called "a positive impact on the landscape of Liberia and the international community."

GRADE: C

TOGBA NAH TIPOTEH: POLITICAL AFFILIATION: LIBERIA PEOPLE’S PARTY

STANCE ON THE ISSUES: The veteran economist, educator and politician, who has contested in the past three elections, has been actively involved with democratic activities in promotion of human rights, liberties, constitutional rule and growth with development in Liberia. But it is his insight into the faulty Liberian economy that has kept him ahead of the pact on issues of financial matters. Dr. Tipoteh is a strong advocate that in order for the economy to be strong, it has to be operating in a way that lifts the vast majority of the people of Liberia out of poverty.

ACTIVITIES: Dr. Tipoteh has over the years made contributions toward the construction of Methodist Center in Sinkor, Monrovia as well as resettlement of Internally Displaced People’s in the aftermath of the civil war. He has also made contributions toward the construction and educational items to the Bishop Arthur Kulah School in Virginia, outside Monrovia and the Dayokpo, Sasstown City in Grand Kru County.

MEMORABLE QUOTE: “The government, The World Bank and the IMF are still making the gross mistake by saying that Liberia is experiencing progress because the economic growth rate per capita or per person is rising. Let us consider a situation where there are 10 persons in a group but only one of them is employed, with an income of 10,000 dollars a year. Although the average income of the group of 10 persons is 1,000 dollars a year, only one person earns any money while 9 persons remain unemployed.”

2017 PROSPECTS: After three tries for the presidency, Dr. Tipoteh clearly remains a politician with an outside chance of winning the presidency but his consistency on the issues and pulse on the political discourse makes him by far the most experience and most vetted political

ODDS: 10-1

BIGGEST HIT: The progressive icon, not one to shy from controversial views struck nerves when he declared during the course of the year that Liberians must take charge of their destiny because the government of Liberia has no commitment to the improvement of the living standards of the people sustainably and is not committed to economic growth with economic development.  

BIGGEST MISS: Dr. Tipoteh found himself in the middle of a storm and was forced to clarify his stance on the controversial dual citizenship debate. In a statement during the course of the year, he said any Liberian always deserves to be a Liberian but not to be a Liberian and a citizen of any other country at the same time. He further noted that he continues to support Single Citizenship for all Liberians, as found in the Constitution of Liberia.

Dr. Tipoteh went on to say that the door remains open to any Liberian who went abroad because of any circumstance, became a citizen of another country and wants to return to Liberia and reclaim his or her Liberian citizenship, but he or she only has to put his or her other citizenship aside. If a referendum were to take place in Liberia now or in the near future on the question of Dual Citizenship, asserted Dr. Tipoteh, the vast majority of Liberians would not support Dual Citizenship but they would support Single Citizenship.

GRADE: A-