Liberia: ‘Ellen Isn’t My Problem,’ Says Boakai
…. “If she supports me, that’s it, and if she doesn’t, that’s it. I am here, I have made myself available and because I know that the Liberian people are looking for credible leadership,” Boakai told journalists recently.
Former Vice Joseph Boakai has dismissed the commonly held notion that his chance of becoming president hangs on the relationship he cultivated with former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who remains a powerful figure in Liberian politics.
Boakai, who served for 12 years as Vice President to Sirleaf, claimed that Liberian voters are the ones who will determine whether or not he ascends to the presidency.
“If she supports me, that’s it, and if she doesn’t, that’s it. I am here, I have made myself available and because I know that the Liberian people are looking for credible leadership,” Boakai told the Daily Observer at a recent roundtable with journalists at his home in Rehab, Paynesville City.
“I served the Liberian people with credit, and from Vice President, you will want to be President, so I am contesting. And the same way we supported her, if she doesn’t support me, it is left with the Liberian people to decide,” Boakia added.
It is no secret that former President Sirleaf did not support Boakai's bid for the presidency, a situation that many construed to be the result of an alleged strained relationship between the two. However, both have denied such.
Sirleaf's reported ditching of Boakai in the 2017 election led to some UP supporters ganging against their former standard bearer for not publicly endorsing her VP.
Sirleaf was accused of encouraging people to vote against her vice-president, while allegedly supporting the top opposition leader, George Weah — as evidenced by her invitation to Weah joined her at the groundbreaking ceremony of the Gbarnga-Mendikorma highway, a project that the VP reportedly lobbied for.
A pronouncement Ellen made at a UN General Assembly in New York that it was time for generational change, turning over the baton of leadership to the younger generation, where the younger people, seemed to confirm public suspicions of where her support, during the 2017 election, was directed.
The feud was further exacerbated, leading to the expulsion of the former President from the party on her birthday — a move that was seen by some as an ideal birthday gift. The expulsion was reportedly an orchestration of the then UP National Chairman, Wilmot Paye, as well as party stalwart, Cllr. Varney Sherman, who all were close allies of Boakai.
Paye at the time said seeing Sirleaf campaigning with Weah was a violation of the UP constitution which, he said, qualified her for expulsion. However, Sirleaf has since returned to the UP even though she is not seen playing a major role in the party but remains a respected figure in Liberian politics.
Boakai, considering what happened during the last election, noted that despite his desire for his former boss's support, he is not overly concerned if that does not materialize.
According to Boakai, Sirleaf is not his problem, and the decision she made not to support him in 2017 is something that he respects, saying Liberians will decide who they want come the October poll and not the relationship he builds with Sirleaf.
“She knows why she did so. Madam Sirleaf and I worked together for years and there was not a time we had a dispute,” Boakai said. But, you know history is history. For some reason, maybe something went wrong. I respect her and her rights.
“And the same way we supported her, if she does not support me, she knows the reason but now, it is left with the Liberian people to decide, he said. “But to clarify, there is no fuss between us. If anything, you will ask her, but she will never tell you that we have fought.”
Boakai's remarks about Sirleaf with the Daily Observer are similar to what he told Arise TV during his visit to Nigeria last year.
When quizzed whether some fundamental issues that led to Sirleaf's not supporting his 2017 presidential bid, the former VP stated: “The fact that she went the way she went was her decision. She knows better than me why she did that.”
He noted that there is a lot that he can offer the Liberian people and, when given the chance, would put the country on the right trajectory for future prosperity. “There is a lot that I can offer this country and I have not been allowed to do that.”