LIBERIA: The 2017 Presidential Tips: With Already Countless Contenders In Queue

Liberian Politicians both at home and abroad have begun putting their political techniques together in their bid for the 2017 general and presidential elections as usual; with some eyeing the presidency while others are preparing for the national legislature.

The year 2017 is now the issue of discussion at all street corners, entertainment centers, in commercial and private vehicles, and even campuses of the country’s academic institutions including various universities in the country, pondering over as to who can the Liberian people trust with their country’s leadership.

The ruling Unity Party (UP) of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has less than two years to stay in power following nearly ten years of the country’s leadership in the hands of the Unity Party.

Liberians are expressing their weariness of the administration of the UP led Government, with many anxiously opting for the end of Africa’s first female Presidential tenure, to what they described as its failure to meeting the needs of its vast majority who are drowning in abject poverty.

Already, the National Elections Commission (NEC), the institution responsible to conduct national elections has kicked off the process of accrediting political parties aimed paying their role for the upcoming 2017 general and presidential elections.

Dozens of names are coming up with current Unity Party vice Standard Bearer and Vice President of Liberia, Ambassador Joseph N. Boakai been latest to declare his intent for the presidency in 2017.

Other names propping up from various political groupings for the 2017 presidency are: George Weah, Augustine Ngafuan, Charles Brumskine, Mills Jones, Benoni Urey, Kwame Clement, and others who are still watching the game are to be listed shortly.

According to political observers, the leading opposition political party standard bearer, George Weah was considered iconic and a political idol during the 2005 elections. His glory was grossly due to his passionate and resounding statement “love for country” but more importantly, his popularity as a football legend of all times.

However, this glory has faded with changing times including the ages of the voting population. Most of the kids born after 1993 cannot speak much to the legendary characteristics of Manneh (His native name), and this is not their fault simply because politics is present history.

Secondly, he is seemingly been guided by the wrong people. First he started out as a presidential candidate, and six years later became a running mate to the lesser known Winston Tubman. And finally has announced his intentions to contest the senatorial seat for Montserrado County. The implications for all this flip-flopping is that Manneh’s credibility and popularity are by themselves taking a downward slope like his decisions. So it is gradually becoming obvious that Manneh, by nature of his own character, will likely be the king maker of his own dilemma.

At an institutional level, the Congress for Democratic Change represents one of the most disorganized and immature political houses in the country. Few characteristics: the CDC speaks disjointedly on national issues, is quick to suspend members for negligible reasons, expels members that take up issues with the Party and even give ultimatums to associating members. All of these negativities no doubt are the pathways to political failure. Politics is about numbers, reconciliation and respect, but the CDC sees it differently.

Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan, a man of great intelligence and integrity, a former student leader par excellum, and a man of great public service recognition. Ngafuan has good standing within the chambers of the youth population, especially the various universities. His candidacy is a clarion call to rid Liberia of the “old school never die politicians” and replace them with hard working and integrity driven characters. As doyen of the Cabinet, he has managed to extend his tentacles at the international level. Meeting with presidents and diplomats has enabled him to sell his ambition quietly.

However, in spite of the distinctiveness of this emerging leader, the question that begs answer is: “Which party will carry his load and give him that needed support”? Probably if he works hard and wins the confidence of Her Excellency, he could be the next standard bearer of the Unity Party. This task is not impossible, especially in the Unity Party. Mournfully, like in my opening statement, the history of a ruling party winning three successive elections is skewed around the world. However, if the question: “Is the people stupid” is answer in the affirmative, then Like Ellen, Ngafuan would be in the line up to remake history.

Accordingly, Ngafuan is seemingly the craftsman of his woes. Close friends say the comrade is low on interpersonal relationship, and surrounds himself with people he can easily manipulate. There are still others who maintained that Ngafuan has been too slow in helping some of his closest friends from BWI and the UL with jobs based on their qualifications and expertise. If these allegations are true, then it is also very hurtful as well. The best thing to do is to start rebranding himself by seeking reconciliation with his colleagues.

Charles W. Brumskine has carved for himself a legacy as the authoritative voice of the Bassa People. His popularity swelled during the ending days for former president Charles Taylor. Even though he had no party of his own by then, he was hailed as the consensus national alternative to Charles Taylor. But all of that changed when the political playing field became so leveled. More hurtful to the Liberty Party big Whig presidential ambition was the late and unexpected entrance of the CDC into the national political space.

The ghost of the besmearing accusations of Brumskine’s role in the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) is quietly dissipating into the unknown. However, his problems are far from over. Many, mostly those that have not come into close contact with him have accused him of being a proud fellow with branded arrogance. Yet still few others despise him for being too well dressed even during casual engagements. As cheap as the latter may seem, be reminded that in Liberia, politics can sometimes be an art of stupidity.

Brumskine’s poor showing in the 2011 elections due to what partisans attributed to the lack of money may speak decisively to his return on the political Broadway. Importantly, Brumskine’s political career could be in serious jeopardy if Senator Findley wins the senatorial seat in Brumskine’s backyard (Grand Bassa County).

At the Party level, Liberty seems very responsible as compare to CDC. The order of public speaking is uniformed and less aggressive. The Chairman of the Party has been able to carefully maintain an order in policy and analysis of national issues. What remains a greater challenge is how these fine attributes of a well organized and moderate Party can help transform Brumskine into a fine and submissive candidate. But importantly, LP also needs to rebuke the devil of “lack of money” and call on the gods of “more money” if they should make any meaningfully impact in 2017.

Joseph Mills Jones a very good man wanting to move Liberians out of the dungeon of entrapped poverty, and has not expressed his interest for the presidency yet. However, there are signs on the wall that his ambition is gravitating towards that line. His monetary approach at poverty alleviation has earned him a big space in the hearts and minds of the downtrodden masses. In the voters’ paradise, what you see is not always what you get. The recent legislative act calling on officials of government interested in contesting for elected positions to resign is a test of his continuous goodwill to the underprivileged and destitute. If he continues unabated he could be a serious contender in 2017.

To the contrary of his good nature, people allegedly close to him say he is arrogant and boisterous and has flagrant disregard for his fellow men. How true this information is remains uncertain given the fact that people will always have something to say about anyone. Further to this alleged accusation is the question of which party will Mills run on? Will he form a merger with Senator Prince Y Johnson? Will he join the Unity Party or the Congress for Democratic Change in the coming future? Mills may certainly not have the luxury of time on his side, and additionally, rented crowd are all money choppers. Winston Churchill says: “Healthy citizens are the greatest assets any country can have” but do we have healthy citizens or poverty stricken citizens?

Benoni Urey appears to be a quiet man with fewer words. His entrance into the political sphere raises questions about his real intentions. Most Liberians know Benoni for two things: Former Maritime Commissioner, a share holder in the LoneStar Cell communication, and an agriculturalist. So his pronouncement came as a surprise to many. Urey chances are great, especially as he has announced his intentions sooner than expected. His trailblazing all over the country is gaining traction gradually.

The Friends of Urey, most of whom are members of the National Patriotic Party are working overnight to sell him quickly to the Liberian people. Selling Urey is less difficult in the less conscious parts of the country that once enjoyed and still reminisces the days of former president Charles Taylor. Urey has not mentioned or does not have a political homestead; whether it is with the NPP or the CDC. Fresh from sanction, Urey could put sand in the eyes of old timer politicians.

Kwame Clement a former news reporter and currently a Washington D.C based super lawyer is speculatively in the running for the Liberian presidency as well. History been told, Kwame was the first and possibly the only candidate that defeated the Student Unification Party in an ULSU elections in the early 80s.

Politically, not much is known about him, and as a matter of fact he has been out of the country for a long time. His appearance on the political stage will be rather strange for both his name and his social or political standing. Tina Fey could be correct when she states: “Politics and prostitution have to be the only jobs where inexperience is considered a virtue.”

In terms of institutional affiliation, Kwame is said to the progenitor of the Alternative National Congress (ANC). The Party itself is riddled with political leftovers from the CDC, including the curly Chairman. As a recently registered political party, the ANC will have to work overtime to create an image based on trust, credibility and integrity.

Finally, though speculatively a Liberian but with a ‘Kwame’ (Ghanaian name) at the center stage of this newly break-away Party, many Liberians will be wondering whether the country is so much politically bankrupt as to look the “Ghanaian way.” But like I said, anything is possible in Liberia because the question: “Is the Liberian people stupid” has not been answered to the contrary, overtime.

Joseph N. Boakai may not be the tiresome old man that many Liberians think he is. While the President has not out rightly announced her support for a two-term vice president, there are signals that he may be the “Jose Mourino” of UP.  Joe Boakai has a commanding authority within the rank and file of UP with a right hand of support from its chairman, Varney Sherman. Furthermore, Joe Boakia, it is rumored has more support in the Lofa and Margibi (Firestone Belt). Importantly, his base in Monrovia is gradually swelling in the Kissi Community, including the Chicken Soup Factory area.

Jones Nhson Williams considered by many Liberians both at home and abroad as one of the few Liberians who cares for the growth and development of his country. Many Liberians believe his ascendency to the nation's highest office will be make the difference, due to his nationalistic services to his people over the years. He stands a better chance for this job as compare to others Liberians who are opting for the presidency.

The flip side of Joe Boakai is that his successes may turn into failure if the UP government shows nothing for its 12-year rule. Secondly, age may be another impeding factor, though he looks weary and overwhelmed by fatigue, there are rumors that JB will be 69 years of age come 2017.

So if JB decides to run, Ngafuan will have to make way for his uncle. But even if JB is the Ellen-anointed, Liberians may not want to see one Party taking up 18 years of their precious time. And more noticeably, it is only rumored that JB is likely to be chosen by Ellen, and as a matter of fact the implication could be more devastating for his campaign. Remember Bill Clinton and Al Gore?

There are more names like Kofi Woods, John Morlu, Prince Johnson, Simeon Freeman, Alex Tyler and the list of political jugglers. Ruling them out of the package may as well be a bias approach. After all, Ronald Reagan says: Politics is not a bad profession. If you succeed there are many rewards; ft you disgrace yourself you can always write a book.” In Liberia, if you disgrace yourself as a presidential candidate, you can further disgrace yourself by hustling for a superintendent or an assistant ministerial position.

So those that are unelected should not just consider themselves as total failures even though most of them already know their potential and outcomes of their participation in the coming elections. And like Chris Hedges said: A society without the means to detect lies and theft soon squanders its liberty and freedom.”

We can only hope that the right decision is made by simply electing the right people into power. For redeeming the time requires characters with trust and credibility. Characters that will lead us down the road to redemption, and not characters that will lead us down the road to perdition.

Credit: The Liberian Dialogue

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