Liberia: Last Word — For Money or for Mama Liberia?

Dr. Toga G. McIntosh has become the first major ruling party stalwart to publicly back one of the President's rivals.   

Political opportunism, according to Wikipedia,  “is a political tendency seeking to make political capital out of situations with the main aim being of gaining more influence, prestige, or support instead of truly winning people over to a principled position on improving their political understanding.”

Put into context, Liberia has had its share of power politics and political opportunism in all shades and colors all of which together have conspired to forge a negative and strange kind of political culture in Liberia.  

It is one characterized by deal-making shenanigans and is being more or less accepted as the normal and natural way of doing business/conducting politics in Liberia. This kind of political culture assumed gross proportions during the period of the civil war when deal-making shenanigans characterized the twenty or more failed peace agreements.

But it goes back into history as well. For example, some historians suggest that Tubman’s accession to the Liberian presidency was allegedly enabled by Barclay’s sleight of hand that gave Tubman victory in 1944.

Prior to then, Tubman was an unknown and non-decrepit political character from far off Maryland county venturing into political waters dominated by the Monrovia and St. Paul up-river elite.

According to historians, Barclay had believed that Tubman would have been nothing more than his marionette, but his assumptions proved wrong and instead backfired when he, along with others, was charged with treason in 1955. He and his supporters were tried and sentenced. A number of them, including Boker T. Bracewell, died in the notorious Bella Yella prison.

Fast forward to the present,  is local media has been awash with headlines signaling the move by a leading stalwart of the weah led Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) and head of its governing council, Dr. Toga Gayewea McIntosh, to that of the Alternative National Congress (ANC), led by presidential aspirant Alexander Cummings. 

McIntosh, a highly educated individual (Ph.D.), made his initial foray into Liberian politics as the head of the NPFL delegation to the 1991 all-Liberian peace talks, held in Monrovia at the Unity Conference Center.

Later, he would abandon the NPFL to join the Sawyer-led interim government as policy advisor from 1991-1993, after it had become clear that the Taylor-led NPRAG lacked international legitimacy. Following 14 years of conflict and the signing of the 2003 Accra Peace Agreement, he served as the executive director of the Governance Commission under the leadership of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf from May to August 2005.

Later he would serve as Minister of Planning and Economic Affairs, Vice President of ECOWAS, and then as Foreign Minister, appointed by President Sirleaf. It was at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that he became linked to a scandal involving the awarding of a diplomatic appointment to a foreign national on a pay-to-play basis.

Mads Cortizen, a Danish undercover journalist posing as an advisor to the government of Vanuatu, was issued a diplomatic passport and official commission signed by President Sirleaf. 

And then the scandal broke as the journalist made public disclosure of his engagement with Foreign Minister Toga Gayewea McIntosh.  But recently, when appearing on the spoon radio, he struggled to provide an answer to a question about his alleged involvement in a passport scandal.

Back to the issue, McIntosh would later mount a failed challenge to Joe Boakai for the 2017 UP nomination when it became clear that Boakai was at loggerheads with his former boss, Sirleaf, for control of the party.

Having failed to unseat Boakai, he would then later join the Alex Tyler-led Liberia People’s Democratic Party (LPDP), which entered into a governing coalition with the CDC, where he served as chairman of its governing council.

Now, while still a member of the LPDP, he has announced his intention to join the ANC of Alex Cummings, claiming that the CDC leadership has failed and that Cummings represents the best choice for new leadership for Liberia. The question is just when did McIntosh realize that Cummings was a better candidate for president and what did he not see in Cummings then, which he is now seeing? 

Were his credentials as a former Coca-Cola executive not known to McIntosh long before now, since he now flags it as a major reason prompting his withdrawal from the CDC to join the ANC?

Or is it because it is becoming apparent by the day that President Weah may likely lose the 2023 elections, so now he is opting to jump ship before it is too late? As a principal economic advisor to President Weah, who figured prominently in the preparation of the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD), why is the nation only now being informed of the failure of the Weah government and its PAPD?  

Aside from his impeccable academic credentials, questions are being asked about what added value he brings to the Cummings campaign. Is there a payoff advantage to be gained that outweighs any disadvantages or penalties likely to be incurred from unceremoniously quitting the CDC?

McIntosh says his decision was made in the interest of “Mama Liberia”. But indications from him suggesting that his eyes appear set on becoming campaign chairman speak volumes, according to his critics.

And it is because the chairperson of the campaign committee holds the pursestrings. So is it really for Mama Liberia, or is it for money, they ask?  With elections due just 15 months from now, there promises to be more of such politically driven defections or cross carpeting for opportunistic reasons, according to political analysts.

It is indeed sad but true that power politics and political opportunism, including deal-making shenanigans, together have conspired to forge a negative and strange kind of political culture in Liberia. 

Most disgusting is that it is being more or less accepted as the normal and natural way of doing business and conducting politics in Liberia. This needs to stop. If not, Liberia risks becoming a tool of avaricious speculators, which may lead to its destruction.

Last word — for Mama Liberia, or for money?