Liberia: “Boakai, A Beacon of Hope”

— Thousands gather at UP rally, chanting message of change

Overwhelming excitement. Sheer euphoria mixed with anger. Ecstatic frenzy sustained by passionate commitment. These are the emotions that occasioned a historic mass rally that overwhelmed Monrovia on Sunday, when a sea of Unity Party supporters and sympathizers from every nook and cranny of Monrovia, and even beyond converged at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium (ATS), trumpeting the message of change.

Under a heavy downpour on Sunday, September 17, they were in their hundreds of thousands, their voices filling the air with joyous shouts, songs, waving white handkerchiefs and palm branches, and celebrating the rave of the moment, Joseph Nyuma Boakai, whom many see as a beacon of hope.  The atmosphere along the campaign route and at the main venue resembled a nation celebrating its freedom from oppressive rule. The event was characterized by organization and orderliness.

It didn’t matter that Arsenal, Chelsea, and Real Madrid, European football clubs with an intoxicating, maniacal following, were all playing on Sunday. It also didn’t matter that Big Brother Naija, the TV reality show that activates the interest of thousands of young people, especially young women, was at its critical point for viewing. But to those football and reality show fanatics, there was something more important to attend — a rally of hope and renaissance. For many of them, there is something divine about the new awakening — the Rescue Mission. Remarkably, the fact that the rally fell on a Sunday added a touch of divinity for some, leading them to believe that there is a higher power guiding the event.

They have resolved to rally behind the former VP to dislodge the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change, which they said has done little to address their plights.

“The level of enthusiasm in this 2023 election is a proof that we are in a warfare, and our turnout under this heavy downpour is a massive message to [George] Weah as we battle for the soul of this nation,” Montserrado County District Representative, Yekeh Kolubah told supporters as he headed to the rally venue. “We must rescue this nation from Weah and his gangs.”

Liberians’ quest for change, according to Montserrado County Senator Abraham Darius Dillon, has grown stronger as a result of years of mismanagement, corruption, and incompetence that are affecting their daily lives, leading to a desire for capable leadership to emerge.

“It is out of these frustrations that Boakai has emerged as a beacon of hope for a disillusioned population. The masses see in him potential for a brighter future, and competent governance,” Dillon said in an interview. “Liberians have been yearning for capable leaders who can steer the country towards a more promising future. In no one do they see such capability, but Boakai has emerged as the man of the moment, as his messages are resonating with the masses that are seeking an end to the kleptocratic regime.”

An experienced statesman with a reputation for being principled-minded and an enviable proponent of fiscal discipline, the former VP has emerged not just as a powerful force ahead of October’s presidential election but as its forerunner.

He is energizing voters with messages of prudence and accountability that are amplified by an army of strong-willed, independent-minded and those contemptuous of the status quo, who, they say, have done little to improve on the “foundations of good governance and economic growth left by the Unity Party.” 

In a country that seems to always be on the lookout for a messiah to solve its myriad problems, the population, as Dillon noted, is rallying behind Amb. Boakai against a regime led by a footballing President who has failed miserably.

The way the former VP is attracting supporters is bordering on what some term as an emancipation revolution, as evidenced by the catchword of his campaign — The Rescue Mission.

Liberians’ desire for change, according to Eugene Smith, a prominent UP stalwart in District #10, has pushed VP Boakai, with his impeccable record of integrity, capability, and a track record of public service, as the forerunner in the elections — capturing the attention and admiration of the masses.

“He connects with the people on a deeply emotional level, addressing their concerns, and giving voice to their collective frustrations,” Smith said.

Smith added that the Rescue Mission has been providing glimmers of hope amidst the dark clouds of economic hardship and incompetence — symbolizing a departure from the status quo and embodying the potential for positive change.

“Boakai’s competence, ethical values, and commitment to serving the people are the sources of the magnetic attraction that he currently enjoys,” Smith noted. “With concrete plans and solutions to address the societal challenges, ‘Rescue-1’ offers a roadmap towards a more prosperous and inclusive Liberia.”

Many of JNB’s supporters view his presidential candidacy as emblematic of the aspirations and dreams of countless Liberians longing for a better and revitalized Liberia. It is undeniable that a significant number of Liberians, particularly the enlightened youth, have lost hope in the future of their country. 

Years of ineffective governance, they said, have eroded their trust in the political leadership of the country, and the upcoming October 10 polls provide an opportunity for them to express their discontent, frustration, and dissatisfaction with the current economic and political situation.

Boakai’s support base cut across ethnic and religious backgrounds, as they say that they are united by a shared goal: to bring an end to what US Senator Chris Smith has described as a “kleptocratic regime”.

“We are fed up with the massive corruption and unrivaled level of incompetence that our country has endured for the past six years,” Elijah Teah, a resident of Sinkor said. “It is time for this rogue regime to go.”

While millions of Liberians are determined to save their country, through the Rescue Mission, from all the “spiraling contradictions of suffering and hardship,” the human “principalities” responsible for these conditions are also fighting back. 

Thus the war rages.

Supporters of the ruling party believe that the Unity Party and its sympathizers do not deserve a chance at the presidency — terming them as a bunch of old thieves who are doing everything to regain access to state coffers.

Boakai and Jeremiah Koung, his running mate, have faced strong verbal attacks from those who feel threatened by what their supporters termed their rising popularity and symbolic significance. For instance, Koung has been unjustly accused of involvement in ritualistic practices, falsely labeled as someone who sells human body parts for personal gain. Similarly, Boakai has been called derogatory names, like “Dead man walking,” by individuals who oppose his bid for the presidency.

Nevertheless, the race for the presidency seems to be a tough one. However, those on the Rescue Train say that given the prevalence of corruption, incompetence, and poor governance, Liberia is in dire need of vibrant and visionary leadership. But the question that arises is whether the capable, well-to-do, noble, patriotic statesmen, and ordinary citizens across the country coalesce around the Rescue Mission and provide the necessary impetus for its success. For Senator Dillon, it is a resounding YES.

So as Liberians trooped into the ATS and other streets’ corners, their faces were filled with hope, reflecting their desire for a fresh start and a transformed country. For years, they have endured what they regarded as an oppressive, insecure, and economically challenging environment. But September 17 has now, in their words, etched its place in history as a day when despair gave way to hope, weariness triggered a revival, and laziness was transformed into energy. This historic event stands as a powerful symbol of the collective aspiration for a better Liberia, they said.