“Ladies and gentlemen of the press, the Progressive will take state power in 2017; the progressive will win the elections!” - Sando Wayne, Spokesperson, Progressive Coordinating Group

Monrovia - Known as the Progressives, a group of Liberians with similar ideology have been active in the body politics of the country for years. Liberians view the group with mixed feelings, some blaming them for some of the problems the country has been encountering beginning with the rice riot of 1979, a point in time when protest against increment in the price of the country’s staple rice turned violent and led to deaths and destruction of properties.

For other Liberians, the Progressives set the stage for the political redemption of the country from a one party state where only the Grand True Whig Party was the one ruling political party to multi-party democracy.

Some segments of the Liberian population brand the progressives as failure and group of troublemakers since no member of the group has successfully won presidential election after failed attempts by key members of the group including Dr. Togbah Nat Tipoteh, Alaric Tokpah, Dr. Marcus Dahn and others. During almost every presidential election, key members of the progressives square up against each other, all fighting for the most powerful seat.

With the 2017 general and presidential elections nearing, the group appears to be preparing to form a common front instead of splinter groupings in its quest for another push for the presidency. On Tuesday, the Progressives announced that they are ready to succeed President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the next president will come from the ranks of the organization. “Ladies and gentlemen of the press, the Progressive will take state power in 2017; the progressive will win the elections!” Sando Wayne, Spokesperson of the Progressive Coordinating Group said.

Common front

Wayne said, the progressives will not be fragmented like the past adding that they will form a common front for the Presidency. “We the progressives have changed our strategy; we have begun to work against what we know could ultimately divide our rank and file and dash our hopes into despair,” Wayne added. “We the Progressives will form a ring of fire around the entire Progressives to keep everyone inside and go through the 2017 elections together,” Wayne continued.

Wayne said the uncertainty of the presidency will be settled within twenty nine months, adding that the group is aware of the stress the election will have on all progressives. The progressives named corruption, bad governance, unemployment and a messy educational system as vices in the current government that need to be corrected.

Wayne said, after twelve years since the end of the civil war and return to democratic rule in Liberia the situation in the country is still “precarious”. “There is an endemic proportion of corruption in high places compared to the past; the educational proportion of corruption in high places compared to the past, the education is a “Mess”, Wayne said.

He continued “Sixty-two percent of Liberian youths are enrolled in school ahead of Ghana, Ivory Coast, Rwanda yet eight-two percent never complete twelfth grade; the state of impunity continues to undermine peace building, national healing and reconciliation”. Wayne said with the increased in economic activities in Liberia, it is painful to note that the government has not balance their budget for the last three years.

“Poverty remains pervasive, particularly among the youth, who comprise 70 percent of the under 35 population and 88 percent of the unemployed,” Wayne said. The Progressives spokesperson averred that eight percent of Liberians are living on less than US$1.00 a day while the government spent 280 million USD on public relations without legislative approval as required by law.

“We've secured US$19 billion in Foreign Direct Investment from sixty-eighty concession agreements, but only two meets international standards,” Wayne lamented. Wayne said, those progressives who are electable would be encouraged to run for office, adding that those who are not will be accommodated in other positions.

Wayne asserted, the progressives will form alliance coalition, adding the political grouping comprising; the National Democratic Coalition, New Democratic Party of Liberia Movement-New DEAL, Free Democratic Party, Alliance for Peace and Democracy, Liberian People’s Party, United People Party, Action for Democracy and Development.

“And we encourage other progressive parties and interest groups to join us, the progressives will win the elections in 2017,” Wayne said. The statement by the progressives comes thirty five years after the group led the famous April 12 1979 Rice Riot in which they played a major role. The Progressives unarguably can be accredited for the multi-party democracy that Liberia has enjoyed since the end of the long time one party rule.

Political Pundits argue that the coming together of the progressives under one umbrella to win the presidency come 2017 is far from reality. Pundits say the division amongst the progressives is dates far back as the 1970s, adding that they were divided into two groups the Progressive Alliance of Liberia led by Bacchus Mathews and the Movement for Justice and Peace in Africa led by Dr. Togbah-Nah Tipoteh.

Recently, Dr. Tipoteh was amongst the first politicians to publicly announce his quest for the presidency in 2017 thus making it his fourth attempt. It is not clear whether the progressives will rally their support for Dr. Tipoteh presidential quest or it could see him relinquishing his lifelong presidential ambition. Wayne disclosed that the coalition and alliance to be formed has not made any determination to support any candidate for the presidency.

“We are not forming this group to support Dr. Tipoteh but he’s an honorable man and an eminent citizen so he has to inspire for anything,” Wayne added. Many believe that the Liberty Party Charles Brumskine and Congress for Democratic Change George Weah, Mills Jones, are potential politicians that could take state power as opposed to the progressives.