Taking the low road to the Executive Mansion- the case of Liberia’s ruling Unity Party

By Wonderr K. Freeman|

Mr. Wonderr K. Freeman

In the Hillary Clinton vs Donald Trump match-up [2016], Michelle Obama made the famous quip that “when they go low, we go high”. Of course, the “low” was a reference to Trump’s bare-knuckle, no-smear-barred style of campaigning.  And the “high” was Clinton sticking’s to the issues and the script. Unfortunately, judging from how the American election went, and the subsequent investigations as to how the election was won, it appears – and that’s a big if – the low road is results-oriented. Like as the military mantra “duty before complaint” goes, so goes the election mantra – take the low road or even use the gutters– so long as the presidency ends up in the bag. And then later, of course, we can always sit around the table and “philosophize” about the merits and demerits of taking the low road to the presidency. As far as I see, the ruling Unity Party (UP), as an intervenor in the case: Liberty Party vs National Election Commission (NEC) has sunk to new lows in its quest to retain the presidency.

The UP’s campaign has always being about the low road to the Liberian presidency. UP’s first low road drift, of course, is their discriminatory campaign strategy of exploiting the native vs congo divide. The UP touted the indigenous ticket, as if this were 1917. Who is indigenous and who isn’t indigenous in a history that dates back 200 years (1822 – 2017)? But the ruling UP had no problems, whatsoever, going “gutter”. It was all about the votes. “Screw national unity”! “We will re-unify after we win”. The second low road (somewhat tied to the first) is their alienation and vilification of the erstwhile standard bearer, Madame Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

I’m [currently] no fan of President Sirleaf, but after twelve years of working hand-in-hand with UP folks, whatever happened to loyalty? I get it if a non-UP supporter rightly disavows President Sirleaf, but how does one explain UP’s disavowal…as in assertions like “JNB was not important”; JNB will fix, what Ma Ellen spoiled”. Again, for the UP partisans, their win-at-all-cost mantra was all that mattered. “Screw twelve years of cordial working relationship”. Hence, speaking of a new low is the UP’s current legal quest to intervene (in the discrediting of NEC), in order to buy time. How does one explain UP’s joining the “sour grapes” chorus against an election commission that has just declared the ruling party winner, i.e., just behind the CDC? The UP’s move to join LP, defies logic and shows the level of narrow-mindedness that has engulfed the UP under the leadership of Sherman & Company.

Where I stand on the issue of “fraud and massive irregularities”

Let me start by stating my bias outright, that (1) I supported the presidential ambition of Oscar Cooper and that (2) I still think that Liberians missed a golden opportunity to be led by someone who truly understands the peculiar case of Liberia. Well, all that is water under the bridge now. Liberians have made their decision and, like it or not, we’re set up to watch UP vs CDC show (season 3).

I also am not one of those persons who believe that there was any serious fraud or significant irregularities, such as to warrant a rerun of the polls. None whatsoever! I believe all parties were (equally) victims of NEC’s incompetence, missteps and/or challenges. My frank view is that all those crying foul are simply sore losers. For any one party to claim that it was specifically victimized in a scenario where all participants were potentially equally harmed is no more than losers declaring that the unreachable “grapes” are sour. As far as I see, that is the case with Liberty Party’s complaint. The learned counsellor still cannot get over that fake prophesy [thing]: that he is Liberia’s “David” and that God Almighty himself had anointed the counsel’s head with oil; hence, the Liberian presidency is rightly his by Divine acclamation. Counsel, how about reading 1 John 4:1 yourself. Check it out, sir!

With the benefit of hindsight, one sees that the George Weah (Jor Weah) /National Patriotic Party collabo is a potent mix. We missed the signpost because, in our sophistication, we were focused on Jor Weah’s campaign platform or lack thereof and/or Jor Weah foreign trips just around debate time. We missed the signpost, because we were focused on Jor Weah’s senate record and the fact that ex-President Taylor currently languishes in a tight British jail, miles and miles from the shores of Liberia. But a little resort to the available records ought to reveal that George Weah, all by himself, earned 28% of the votes in 2005 and 33% in a collabo with Cllr. Winston Tubman [2011] – where Weah was still “the Man”.

By simple arithmetic, the average of 28% and 33% is 30%. So, even before election, ceteris paribus, while other candidates were starting at 0%, George Weah was already starting off at around 30%. Now, add in the NPP 4-5% (ref Dr. Massaquoi and Dr. Paygar’s 2005 performance) and you get 35% already. And by the time you add on CDC’s new found wealth from old and new sources (as a factor) and you can easily see how the CDC hit 38%;  while all the political gurus – including Charles Walker Brumskine – were offside. Of course, the UP didn’t help itself by parading an eighty-three (83) year-old man at the top of the ticket in a country where 75% of the registered voters are 18-42 years. The demographics just doesn’t favor an 83 year-old great grandpa. That’s why the octogenarian won only in “Rofa”. Someone may counter-argue so what’s about Madam Sirleaf performance in 2011? Wasn’t she quite old as well (age 73)?  Well, yeah. But it is equally true that: (1) she was an incumbent with a lot of “goodies” to spare; and (2) her political skills are, indisputably, far superior to grandpa Joe’s. Come on… the old man (JNB) could not even read his own campaign speech on the UP’s capital green day. He was so exhausted! Who wouldn’t be after 45 years of government service? Yet some people question the result! Is it just naivety, narcissism or unbridled cronyism?

What was really unfair about October 2017 and Liberia’s elections generally

If one may note any unfairness in Liberia’s electioneering process, it is the issue of campaign finance. The traditional status quo is that the ruling party has all the government money and logistics to run its [multi-million dollar] campaign – including personalizing the state’s radio ELBC – and everybody else has to “hustle”. This year though was a little different. After great grandpa Joe and Cllr. Sherman faction of the ruling UP decided to ostracize and vilify the President, common sense should have told them that the usual truck-load of cash that is normally available to the ruling party’s for campaign would no longer be forthcoming. Hey man, you can bite the hand that feeds you.

At the time of 2017 campaign kick-off, the “man with the funds” was Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine. Cllr Brumskine can cite all the laws in Liberia, but I bet he will never cite the campaign finance laws of Liberia. If the learned counsel is so enamored of fair elections, let him come clean on exactly how much MONEY he spent on his campaign and say who provided the money, bearing in mind, of course, the campaign finance laws of Liberia. How can Liberia’s election ever be fair, when just one contender – say Unity Party in 2011 or Liberty Party/Charles Walker Brumskine in 2017 – has more money than all the other 18 contenders put together? Cllr. Brumskine is the first beneficiary of the rigged electoral system that he so vehement protests. Let the senior counsel publish the LP’s audited financial summary (expenditures) and the sources of income. Or is it that the LP is simply vex – vex because the main source of its funding had a change of heart, since it was pretty glaring that Brumskine couldn’t deliver anything more than Gbezohn? One doesn’t need Brumskine’s 40 years of legal experience, to acknowledge that “those who come to equity must come with clean hands”. How clean are the hands of Brumskine as regards the campaign finance laws of Liberia? Who provided the millions of US dollars that Cllr. Brumskine spent on LP’s campaign? Who paid for LP’s 99 campaign vehicles? As far as I see, Cllr. Brumskine hands are soiled with questionable campaign finance, yet he has the audacity and the temerity to cry foul. What kind of “dryface” is this?

The Last Word to the Cllr Brumskine and the Unity Party

To Cllr Brumskine: Thank you for helping us see the defects in our election statutes and in our constitutional provisions on elections. We take note and we will rectify the defects very soon. Please have your seat now. It’s over! The Presidential seat is rewarded on the basis of votes and you never had it even at your third trial. Senior counsel, my layman advice is: in order not to lose entirely, try suing all those false prophets for breach of contract. At least “da your area”! You will win that one.

To grandpa JNB and the Unity Party: Please knock-off the rust from that colonial racing car, grease it and put it back on the track. If you say: Tamba can play; Tamba can play; let Tamba play in all parts of Liberia, not just in Foya. Your entire campaign has been about taking the lowest possible road to the Mansion. Now let’s see how far this strategy can carry you. The Supreme Court can’t help you in this [LP] case. Lest you forget, there can be no legal victory to a political contest. This [contest] is and will always be a contest of votes. The time for delay is up, UP! Let’s switch on CDC vs UP (season 3).

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About Cholo Brooks 5295 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists.