Liberia: ‘Ambitious’ Nyonblee Anticipating VP Nomination?

Grand Bassa County Senator, Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence

"I am confident that the Liberty Party will be the biggest influencer in electing the next president of the Republic of Liberia," Senator Lawrence said.

The embattled political leader of the Liberty Party and influential Grand Bassa County Senator, Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence, is anxiously awaiting a gracious opportunity to become Liberia’s second female vice president—that is, if fate sides with her. 

And after months of silence since the political heat began building up, the Senator has finally spoken, disclosing that she would accept to be a running mate to the standard bearer of the Unity Party (UP), Joseph Nyuma Boakai, if preferred for the post. 

The VP post for the UP ticket has somehow become a hot commodity, considering that the party and its standard bearer have high ratings in the opposition community.

She noted, in a more clever way, that she is deserving of the post considering the level of work she has put in at the Senate, in her native Grand Bassa, and that she has represented women well in and out of her country.

“I am aware of the many discussions surrounding me as a potential Vice Presidential candidate. I have chosen to remain silent on the topic because I remain focused on my work as a Senator of Grand Bassa and on solving issues within our beloved Liberty Party,” she said when she delivered her New Year message at a press conference on Wednesday. ‘

 “I am confident in what I have done in the Senate, what I have done in Grand Bassa and how I have represented women well in and out of our country. Regardless of what the future holds for me, and our Party, I am blessed to serve my County, my Party and my Country.

She expressed confidence that the Liberty Party, whose morale has dwindled after months of power struggle between her and the party’s Chairman Musa Bility, will be the biggest influencer in electing the next President of the Republic of Liberia.

“We are confident because, over the last decade and a half, our party has positioned itself as an institution that was established to contribute significantly to the democratization of our country and to institutionalize the rule of law,” she said. “We have continued to maintain a visible party structure, playing the role of a loyal and constructive opposition, even in the face of questionable electoral outcomes.”

It is against these backdrops, the Senator noted, that respect for the party continues to “stand tall for the founding father of the party, Cllr.  Charles Walker Brumskine, and the patriotic men and women who stood with him.” 

From these perspectives, Karnga-Lawrence believes the party is well positioned to claim such a top spot as VP. Though a few names, such as Karnga-Lawrence, the political leader of the All Liberian Party (ALP), Benoni Urey, and Bong County Senator Prince Moye, have been popping up, the former vice president faces yet another critical decision in his political career when it comes to picking a running mate ahead of the presidential elections in 2023. 

It is more critical in that UP members as well as some sympathizers are divided between Urey and the Grand Bassa Senator, two political heavyweights who are not only loyal to the UP standard bearer, but have since formed political alliances with the former ruling party strongman. 

Last month, VP Boakai stated that his decision to pick a running mate would not be done in a hurry as he would have to make some careful observations before making a choice. He said anyone to be considered should come with the criteria of passion for country, and believes in honest service to country and must be imbued with integrity.

 “A vice president is the heartbeat of the presidency,” he said at a year-end roundtable discussion with media executives a few weeks ago.  “That means a vice president can be president anytime. My vice president should be someone who shares my vision about Liberia. It is a decision people make personally, because he or she assists the President.”

“People can speculate what they want, but it is not a decision that anybody can push me into because we want the best for this country. It is not about name and prestige. A vice president should be someone who understands the country and knows the issues. He or she must know what the people are going through. My vice president should believe in honest service to the country like I have always believed.”

Despite his personal choices, the former VP still faces pressure on multiple fronts as he has to consider the people that he would collaborate with, considering their loyalty and support during and after the breakup of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP).

Liberty Party a King-maker? 

Karnga-Lawrence at her Wednesday press conference said that, despite the internal challenges her political institution is enduring, the LP will become the ultimate kingmaker come October, noting that “the Liberty Party is the most formidable institution to determine who becomes president after the polls.”

Elections are slated for October 10 this year, and President George Weah will be seeking reelection, but the battle may not be an easy-going thing as opposition political parties are using the high cost of living in the country, coupled with allegations of corruption and mysterious deaths of people, as campaign weapons against his (Weah's) reelection bid.

She intimated that the LP is the second largest opposition political party, and, as such, it will play a pivotal role in determining who gets inaugurated as president of Liberia in January 2024.

"My attention has been drawn to the support from the public, expressed through different opinion polls, showing that we have earned the trust and confidence of the Liberian population. I am humbled by your recognition of my works, both for our people and our nation at large.”

“I assure you that, by the special grace of God, my presence will continue to be felt as we travel the long road of nation building. Through the eye of faith, I am confident that 2023 marks the beginning of the rescue mission for our country," she said.

Karnga-Lawrence is not vying for the presidency but is deeply associated with and firmly supporting Boakai's presidential bid.

She noted that the decision at the polls will ensure whether or not there will be "better healthcare for all, better education, job creation, as well as youth employment, rehabilitation, and reintegration."

It is well known that the Liberty Party is entangled in its own internal strife, which has led to its factionalism between Karnga-Lawrence and Bility, but the senator expressed hope that the crisis will be resolved and that the party will continue to function as one institution with the singular mission of massively contributing to the decision of who becomes Liberia's president following the elections. 

But with Bility supporting Alexander Cummings, another key opposition leader, it remains to be seen how she can unify the Liberty Party and move it in the direction of Boakai. 

"I am confident that the Liberty Party will be the biggest influencer in electing the next president of the Republic of Liberia," Senator Lawrence said, adding, "Yes, we are confident because over the last decade and a half, our party has positioned itself as an institution that was established to significantly contribute to the democratization of our country and to institutionalize the rule of law."