Liberia: Is PYJ Leaning Boakai’s Way?
— Political godfather of vote-rich Nimba County pays JNB an unusual visit
Nimba County Senator and political godfather, Prince Yormie Johnson, seems bent on his stance not to support the reelection bid of President George Weah as he is doing everything possible to have the President and his Coalition for Democratic Change unseated at the polls in October.
The support of Senator Johnson, popularly known as PYJ, helped to usher in the CDC administration in 2018 after ensuring an emphatic victory during the 2017 elections.
But a dissatisfied and enraged Johnson told In a Voice of America (VOA) interview last month that there is no way he will collaborate with Weah in the ensuing presidential and legislative elections because the President has failed the Liberian people. He has since, according to reports, started courting other suitors to enter into a political marriage with.
Johnson, who is the founder and standard bearer emeritus of the Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction (MDR), disclosed in the VOA interview that he has been holding talks with other opposition political parties about collaboration.
“We are open to all parties, we are working with the Unity Party, we are working with the ANC, we are working with the newly certified party, the EFCC, all the parties on the ground, and we are working with them. One party cannot win elections without the other,” he said, while acknowledging that no single political party wins elections in the country.
And in his quest for a new collaboration, PYJ on Thursday, met and held talks with former Vice President and UP standard bearer Joseph Nyuma Boakai, at the home-office of the former VP in the Rehab Community, City of Paynesville.
A statement issued by UP late Thursday evening indicated that the two national leaders "held critical discussions on matters of national concern, including the upcoming 2023 Presidential and Legislative Elections".
Another issue of discussions that took center stage, according to the statement, was the "current poor state of National Governance by the CDC-led government and the future of Liberia".
Though much could not be disclosed from the closed-door meeting, the UP noted that the two statesmen agreed that at a later date, they will inform the public of the details of their discussions.
“The former Vice President and Senator Johnson promised they will continue their healthy consultations periodically as political events unfold in the country,” the UP statement noted, adding that, “in the spirit of national reconciliation, Amb. Boakai has held meetings with other political leaders and therefore welcomed the visit of the Nimba Senator.”
However, the political marriage consummated with the CDC in 2017 that helped propel George Weah and his CDC to the helm of nation has gone sour in recent months, with Johnson halting his support for the ruling Coalition.
He recently terminated the political association between his Movement for Development and Reconstruction (MDR) party and the ruling Coalition at a time when the crucial 2023 presidential and legislative elections are on the horizon.
PYJ has since called on Liberians, especially citizens of his native Nimba, not to give the CDC-led government a second chance because they had failed the people. The decision to halt his support for President Weah's reelection bid, he said, is based on the president’s failure to prioritize the interests of the people of Nimba County
“What we expected in the past is not what we see on the ground. We had believed that, being the world's best, the European best, the African best, with his election, he would have attracted investors to Liberia to create jobs and alleviate the suffering of our people through their investments. But since his election, the world has abandoned us in the sense that no investors are coming. And what we are doing in the country is just ratifying loan agreements, and you cannot build a country based on loans,” Sen. Johnson told the VOA.
The main opposition in the country have however seen the strained relationship between Johnson and Weah as an opportunity to strike a collaboration with Senator Johnson.
UP and the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), have since begun courting the sanctioned Nimba County strongman for possible collaboration, despite a caveat from the government of the United States of America that it would be risky for anyone to do business with individuals who have been blacklisted by the US Treasury under the Global Magnitsky Act.
In separate interviews recently, CPP and UP told the Daily Observer that they have begun informal discussions with Johnson and his MDR, though nothing has been crystallized yet.
CPP Chairman Musa Bility said that the CPP has reached out to PYJ's MDR and suggested that they could work together. “We started talking, but it's nothing substantial,” he said via a WhatsApp call. “We are waiting for them to respond.”
UP Secretary General, Amos Tweh, said discussions are ongoing with the Nimba Senator and other leaders of the MDR in an effort to work together as opposition political parties.
“We are not basically in to do a formal collaboration yet. We have not reached that level, but, of course, we are holding discussions with [Senator] Prince Johnson and other leaders of the MDR in making efforts to work together as opposition political parties,” Tweh told the Observer in a telephone conversation.
However, these moves by the leading opposition political parties seem to only be in disregard to the US government’s warning, but they are risky as they, too, stand the risk of being blacklisted as per what the US said it would do to violators of its warning.
Addressing a news conference at the US Embassy in Monrovia on November 14, 2022, Ambassador Michael McCarthy pointed out that financial institutions and others would subject themselves to sanctions if they continued to do business with these sanctioned ex- and current government officials.
The US government on Thursday, December 9, 2021, slammed an “Economic Sanction” on Liberian Senator Johnson, for corruption in what many think are ongoing efforts to enclose the notorious warlord for eventual war crimes charges.
The US said the Nimba Senator has been involved in pay-for-play funding with government ministries and organizations for personal enrichment — while also receiving funding from government ministries and organizations to launder a portion of the funding for the return to the involved participants.
“The alleged pay-for-play funding scheme involves millions of U.S. dollars. Johnson has also offered the sale of votes in multiple Liberian elections in exchange for money.”
PYJ has since stood down as the political leader of the MDR, relinquishing power to his political protégé, Senator Jeremiah Koung. But many see the move as a way of taking the backseat, due to the US sanction, though he is still actually in charge and approving every major decision.