Liberia: Gov’t Offers Assistance to ‘Ailing’ former VP Boakai



Former Vice President Joseph Nyuma Boakai, who was recently discharged from the ELWA hospital after checking in as a result of a medical complication, may be short in health, but not in financial or moral support that would ensure that he recuperates fully. The Weah administration has expressed its willingness to do whatever it takes to help restore the standard bearer of the Unity Party to good health.

“As a statesman and political leader of a national party, his wellbeing is of utmost interest to the country,” a Ministry of Information statement said on Friday.

Reports began emerging late Sunday, January 8, 2023, that the former Vice President had been hospitalized. Some media outlets quoted sources that the UP political leader was not well and that he had have suffered from hemorrhagic stroke.

But in a statement released hours after the news broke, the former ruling party stated that its political leader had been discharged and is in good health and his check-in at a “local hospital in Monrovia on Sunday, January 8, 2023” was only for precautionary observation after he felt minor fever.”

“The UP informs the public that Amb. Boakai is fine and in good health. The Unity Party notes with delight that it’s Standard Bearer sought medical attention at a hospital in Liberia, something which demonstrates his commitment to repose trust and confidence in Liberian institutions.”

Unity Party Chairman, Rev. Luther J. Tarpeh, later told newsmen that the news about the former vice president was both taken out of context and sensationalized.

“I think the news was sensationalized. Former Vice President is more energetic as Unity Party prepares to face President George Weah in the ensuing October 2023 Legislative and Presidential Elections,” he said. “It was nothing serious as been reported. He was advised to take bed rest as part of his regular annual medical routine.”

However, in its Friday statement signed by Information Minister Ledgerhood Rennie, joined in the barrage of best wishes extended to the elderly statesman. “The government wishes to express its concern following reports of the ill health of former Vice President Boakai.”

In view of the forgoing, the government has initiated contacts with family members of the former Vice President and offered to help in whatever way they deem necessary, while also wishing him a speedy recovery.

However, the Unity Party standard bearer has often been criticized for being too frail and old to contest the election — perceptions he has trashed on numerous occasions, noting that he has no medical condition that could hamper his performance if elected President.

“I’m very, very well. I took my Covid-19 vaccination and I’m doing well. I’m discharging my daily responsibility; I go on my farm, come to my office on a daily basis,” he told a VOA interview in 2022. “I know the state of my health; I am very, very well. I can assume the presidency because I haven’t been to any hospital in the last two years.”

When asked whether he would make his health record public ahead of the 2023 presidential elections, Boakai added: “If it’s the requirement of becoming a president of Liberia, then I can do that but I think it’s not a requirement. My doctors know my status of my health; they will tell me whether it’s necessary or not. All I can tell you is that I am healthy.”

Asked about “being too old” to contest the presidency, Boakai replied: “I can’t change my age and I thank God I am as old as I am. Age is about wisdom.”

Is UP Skeptical of Weah’s Gov’t’s Assistance?

Many of the stalwarts of the UP contacted about the government’s offer to their political leader did not take well to the news.

“The last time the President and the government extended an assistance to Mr. Boakai the whole world knew about it so there is no need for the President to be making news of a condition that does not exist, though we all know that he is not being,” a stalwart of the party who asked to not be named as he is not authorized to speak on the issue. He said the party will respond at an appropriate time.

“The UP is not seeking assistance from Weah and his government. We have the financial strength to take care of our businesses. In fact, our standard bearer is well. He is not sick as the government wants to make the public to believe.

The skepticisms of partisans of the former ruling party are borne out of the fact that a huge controversy arose the last time President Weah extended an assistance to their leader. 

A gift of US$2,500 provided to VP Boakai in 2019 after the death of his mother-in-law became too sour for the elderly statesman and his supporters to swallow, after the President accompanied the gesture with some disparaging comments on the airwaves.  

He described the UP political leader as ‘an ingrate,’ while warning him “to behave.” 

The President had narrated how he had sent money to him to facilitate him seek medical attention abroad and that, for such, VP Boakai should have been grateful.

The President’s outburst was as a result of the VP’s decision to pledge his support to a protest that was being planned the Council of Patriots (COP), led by the Weah administration’s fiercest critic, Mr. Henry Costa. Costa is an ardent supporter of the UP leader.

The President had accused the former VP of being in support of the masterminds of the protest against his government.

But this is how Boakai responded to his chiding by the President: “Just yesterday, the leadership of this country took it upon themselves to say all kinds of things about us. But you see the Bible says, ‘Train up a child in a way he should go and when he grows, he can’t depart.’ That’s the way he was brought up and those are the things he was trained to do.”

The President’s disparaging comments were received in poor taste by many Liberians who said that the President was being disrespectful to a man who is more than 20 years his senior. 

Mr. Costa led a fundraising campaign in which US$2,500 was raised and returned to the President through Bomi County Representative Edwin Melvin Snowe, who hand-delivered the initial gesture to the former the Vice President.