Liberia is limping into a crucial 2017 elections with a few lessons from the just-ended process in Nigeria, which saw Army General Muhammadu Buhari win the presidency on his fourth attempt. The two countries share similar political transitions with at least three of the main presidential hopefuls who have not had luck on their side in their quest for the highest office in Liberia, likely to take a page from Buhari’s past quest ahead of 2017.
Monrovia - Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation, the continent’s largest economy and it is known as the political God Father of the West African region. West African countries hold Nigeria in high esteem as the powerful West African nation plays a major role in the region-providing support in terms of economic, military and others for struggling countries including Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mali and others.
All eyes have been on the 2015 general and state elections in Nigeria, an election considered significant for two major reasons, including a race to oust an incumbent from power marking the end of rule by a single political party for over 25 years and also what was believed to be the final push for presidency by one of the candidates, former Army General Muhammadu Buhari who was contesting the highest office for the fourth time.
General Buhari has contested the presidency on three occasions and it was predicted that at the age of 72, losing in the 2015 election could see the former general reaching the age of 77 by the time of the next polling in 2020 meaning it was his last attempt to be democratically elected President of Nigeria.
Thus the 2015 Nigerian election was looking toward two outcomes for the former general -winning the election or eventually retiring from politics after numerous failed attempts. The process was also a turning moment in the history of Nigerian politics, where the PDP of the incumbent Goodluck Jonathan which has been ruling the country since military rule in 1999 was endeavoring to hold onto power.
Buhari offers regional hope
Although the Nigerian election is a little different from Liberia in terms of numbers with Nigeria having over 30 million voters as opposed to Liberia which normally see less than two million registered voters out of its overall population of close to four million but the two countries share some political variables in common.
Several Liberian candidates will have their campaigns boosted by the election of an opposition president and not only that, but also a candidate who is winning after three failed attempts, similar to a number of Liberian politicians. Liberia will hold elections in a little under two years and the country has been watching the Nigerian election eagerly based on the similarities the two countries share in terms of political transition.
At least three of the main presidential hopefuls who have not had luck on their side in their quest for the highest office in Liberia will be looking to gain hope from the performance of Buhari ahead of 2017. One of the presidential hopefuls who has already declared intention to contest the 2017 election will be contesting for the third time while another will be looking to equal the record of now Nigerian President -elect, Buhari, yet still with one more candidate looking for a second tryout.
Tipoteh to equal Buhari
Dr. Togbah Nah Tipoteh who has openly declared that he will be a presidential candidate in two years will be contesting for the fourth time after falling on three separate occasions-1997, 2005 and 2011. After defeats in three successive elections, Dr. Tipoteh will only gain hope of a comeback from the victory of former general Buhari with the pair having the same political records.
Like Buhari whom many Nigerians view as incorruptible, hoping that he will fight corruption which is blamed for the complex problems facing the country, Dr. Tipoteh in his declaration of intent for the presidency said recently that his desire to fight corruption has prompted his fourth bid for the presidency.
Said Dr. Tipoteh: “This worse situation was openly admitted by President Sirleaf when she declared in her 2015 Annual Message that corruption is huge, widespread and uncontrollable to the point that it has become a vampire”. Dr. Tipoteh will be the candidate with the most attempts than any other candidate in 2017 and there is no example of a beacon of hope to the economist other than the election of Buhari.
Many believe that although an old name on the Liberian political scene, Dr. Tipoteh does not have the popularity to match that of his other competitors in Liberia and may also fall short on the campaign financing front, seen as key to the 2017 presidential race.
Brumskine chases Buhari
Another candidate to openly declare intention, Cllr. Charles W. Brumskine will be making his third attempt in 2017 after a good showing in 2005 managing only a third spot followed by a poor performance in 2011 where he finished fourth behind incumbent Sirleaf, Cllr. Winston Tubman and Prince Y. Johnson.
With no incumbent factor as President Sirleaf will be constitutionally ineligible to contest, Cllr. Brumskine now believes that it is an ideal opportunity for him to achieve his long awaited dream of becoming president of Liberia. Cllr. Brumskine who following the 2011 election announced retirement from politics shocked the country when he changed his decision, announcing that he will be a candidate come 2017.
“I look forward to the convention in Lofa, I will be contesting for the Presidential position in Lofa,” said Cllr. Brumskine. He will be looking to make an amend for his failure in 2005 and 2011 with a political comeback and the election of Buhari will also provide the lawyer a glimmer of hope in two years.
George Weah, the most popular politician if elected by his political party as the standard bearer will be contesting the presidency for the second time after coming close in 2005 and running as vice presidential candidate to Cllr. Winston Tubman on the ticket of the Congress for Democratic Change.
While Weah is popular, most Liberians still believe he does not have the high sophistication and level of maturity to become President of a country with a plethora of problems ranging from underdevelopment to employment and others. His recent election as Senator of the most populous Montserrado County has been described by his fanatics as a gateway to building on his experience in politics.
In whatever scenario, the election of Buhari offers hope to opposition political parties in Liberia and a number of candidates who can rightly believe that they too can overcome past disappointments like the case of Buhari. Nigeria has a say in the trend of politics across West Africa as outcomes from the last few presidential elections in countries such as Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone have all followed the same pattern with incumbents holding onto to power.
In Ghana, Vice President John Mahama won election after completing the presidential term of President Jon Atta Mills, who died in office; Ellen Johnson Sirleaf won a second term of office in 2011 after an opposition boycott of the run-off while Ernest B. Koroma of Sierra Leone is now serving a second term of office. Now that an opposition politician has won election in Nigeria, known as the Power House of West Africa, political observers say, it could trigger hope for opposition political parties in the West African region.