Boakai Eyes Rematch with Weah

 Joseph M. Boakai, former Vice President and political leader of the opposition Unity Party 

“…Reclaim Liberia from bad governance,” says the former Vice President

The former ruling Unity Party has officially endorsed former Vice President Joseph Boakai’s ambition to head the ticket of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) for the 2023 presidential election. 

The endorsement of Mr. Boakai’s candidacy for the CPP’s highest political office took place at a scaled-down gathering of delegates at its headquarters in Congo Town. Mr. Boakai emerged in 2017 as the party’s political leader and standard-bearer during the presidential elections that year, in a bid to succeed his predecessor, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, whose second term was drawing to a close. 

That election was lost to former football star George Manneh Weah, standard bearer of the Coalition for Democratic Change. 

However, in order to relish the chance to re-match against the now-incumbent President Weah, Boakia must first outperform his immediate challenger, Alexander B. Cummings, whose party, the Alternative National Congress, is also a member of the CPP.  No doubt, the choice of standard-bearer will be the main event in the CPP primaries, slated for December this year, apart from the choice of legislative aspirants that the CPP will field alongside their chosen headliner in the 2023 election.

Members of the CPP are now left with the task of choosing between Boakai, an experienced politician with a proven track record in public service, and Cummings, a successful former corporate executive who has never held any political office but was second-in-command for Coca-Cola, one of the world’s leading brands.

Ambassador Boakai’s endorsement program brought together the political leaders of the CPP’s constituent parties, including the Liberty Party’s political leader and chairperson of the CPP, Senator Nyonblee Karnga Lawrence; political leader of the opposition All Liberian Party, Benoni W. Urey; and stalwarts of the Unity Party as well as partisan lawmakers.

Mr. Cummings, who was conspicuously absent from the program, had sent a letter to the UP chairman Amin Modad, explaining the reason for his decision to not attend the ceremony.

Mr. Boakai, who appeared confident of winning the CPP primary, wasted no time attacking President George Weah. In his speech, Mr. Boakai said given what Liberians have gone through in the past three years under President Weah, the CPP must reclaim Liberia and free Liberians from the shackles of corruption, impunity, and economic misery by electing him (Boakai) as President.

“You will agree with me that the vital democratic institutions from our economy to the Rule of Law, have all hit an all-time low due to mismanagement of the nation’s resources, both natural and financial,” he said. “They have shown complete disregard for the cries of the people.  It therefore has become clear that the responsibility to change the course is desperately needed.”

“I consider this a great honor and a privilege to serve my people and Liberia. As I accept this challenge with humility today, I call on all Liberians, those at home and in the diaspora, to join in the political struggle to put the nation back on track,” Boakai added.

Although Boakai lost the 2017 presidential election catastrophically to Weah, he seems to have been patiently biding his time for the 2023 rematch against the now incumbent President. And, with little appetite from other CPP members to challenge him except Cummings, it is highly possible that such a rematch could take place.

The former Vice President still remains one of the most influential and formidable opposition politicians in the country, but it is yet to be seen if he can draw more voters in his favor this time around to win the presidency. 

Meanwhile, leaders of two of the four institutional members of the CPP, including Senator Karnga Lawrence and Mr. Urey, have also endorsed Boakai as the best and most qualified person to represent the CPP. Boakai argued that his election to the presidency could put Liberians in charge of their economy, set livable salaries for them, and make all social services functional to restore dignity to the nation and the Liberian people.

And that it would “Liberate” Liberia from the woes of hardship and lack of direction and bring the motherland back on the true path of peace, harmony, and development. Boakai then confidently noted that Liberians remain resolute in their confidence in the CPP.  As such, its leaders must not disappoint the people. 

“We must put the interest of the Liberian people first,” he said. “The task of nation-building is a task of sacrifice, a task in which all Liberians must be involved and make sure that all of our people, no matter their political backgrounds, religious affiliation, economic status, are involved in the fight against corruption, gross disregard for the rule of law and other vices that have undermined our peace and security as a people.”

Cummings Snubs Boakai

Meanwhile, Boakai’s only challenger in the pending primary, Cummings has alleged that the endorsement was a violation of the Framework document of the CPP, and demanded an immediate adherence by his fellow political leaders within the Collaboration to the rule of law, mainly concerning leadership ahead of the much talked about primaries.

His letter, addressed to Amin Modad, Chairman of the UP, said his decision to turn down the invitation for Boakai’s endorsement ceremony is because the UP was acting contrary to the CPP Framework document which has set in place different measures.

“I am constrained to decline your invitation at this time due to a number of concerns with the process which led to the program. In particular, the action to derive an aspirant for the CPP standard bearer position through a process outside of a national convention falls short of the core values of the CPP as stated in Section 3.1.2, “Good governance; including in particular, inclusiveness, participation, accountability and transparency,” Cummings said.

He further said that the selection of Boakai, as done by the Unity Party, runs contrary to the guiding principles of the CPP, which he said provide for the creation of an “enabling environment for upholding the tenets of democracy, including respect for the rule of law and human rights.” 

He added that the contrarian actions of the UP and its collaborators have the potential to expose the CPP to public ridicule. Cummings boasted that his political party, the ANC, a constituent member party within the CPP, is conscious of the legal and moral implications associated with breaking any law, most especially the Framework document that binds the four parties together as a force opting to succeed President George Weah in 2023.

CPP’s problems

Internal wrangling has long been ongoing in the CPP, presenting itself as the only alternative to succeed and correct the alleged ills perpetrated by the Weah led government. It can be recalled that Cummings walked out of a meeting hosted by the CPP leadership when a suggestion was proffered that Senator Nyonblee Karnga Lawrence, current chairperson of the CPP, continues her leadership, even though her term has expired.

Cummings argued that the eight months allotted to any political leader within the collaboration to lead has expired and that it is time for Boakai to succeed, a mandate which Boakai appears to have forfeited. But the UP political leader and Urey said it will be good for Senator Lawrence, the political leader of the Liberty Party, to continue spearheading activities and processes leading to the determination of a standard-bearer for the CPP because she is not contesting the primaries for the role.

Boakai has the backing of Benoni Urey, political leader of the All Liberian Party (ALP), and it appears that the LP leader may also be content with steering the affairs of the CPP in Boakai's stead.  Cummings has condemned their action, terming it as a blatant violation of the rule of law that brought them together as a unit.

UP Chairman

Although the UP has not yet responded to Cummings’ letter, UP Chairman Amin Modad noted that in the party's recent sitting, the National Executive Committee debated for hours and made several decisions on the current state as well as the future of Liberia and the Unity Party.

“These decisions were made in accordance with democratic principles and guided by our belief that we have a far-fetching responsibility, not only as partisans, but as Liberians to put forward the best leadership for our people. We come formally to reconfirm our confidence in Amb. Boakai as our candidate for the CPP process,” Chairman Modad said.

Chairman Modad indicated that the challenges ahead are enormous but resolvable and encouraged Mr. Boakai to ensure that the aspirations of partisans and citizens remain paramount.  Modad added that in 2017, Liberia was robbed of the opportunity to be great, as the country was taken off the progressive course laid over the previous 12 years.