Liberia: Simulating Boakai’s Running Mate Selection

President Joseph Nyumah Boakai.

In my thinking thoughts, I considered the current anxiety gushing across the political land space of Liberia, where instead of focusing on usual politically charged, and damming discourses around conditions of hardship, abject poverty and corruption, the selection of Ambassador Joe Boakai’s running mate from a list of “Saints” on Friday has taken center stage. Alas, when the Saints go marching in who will be in the number?”  Who will “miss the eyes right” and who will “get it?”

The Anxiety

Since Vice President Boakai delayed the selection of his running mate the solemnity, trepidation and conspiracy theories that obtained can be compared to 1847 when the colony prepared to severe itself from the American Colonization Society (ACS) as an independent Liberian nation. 

Following several covert and overt meetings the freed slaves who had been dumped on these shores in 1822, selected a cadre of adequately vetted, and audacious patriots to affix their signatures to a document that would defy and vote against the ACS’ authority. The ambivalence, fear trepidation and quietude that permeated the air when the communication was eventually presented to the US Government/ACS must have been immense.  

My Brabbies, before I be remiss, let me haste to say that the choice to move away was well thought out and strategic. Firstly, Susannah Lewis and her team had already knit a flag with one star to which patriotic verses would be later ascribed:

“When freedom raised her glowing form on Montserrado’s verdant heights; 

she held within the doom of night, midst lowering skies and thunderstorms, 

the star of Liberty. The Lone Star forever..., Dessert it no never, uphold it forever…”.

Secondly, the severance was envisage as a step to create a mighty powerful nation on the West African Coast, led by Saints; a beacon of hope where kinsmen and their kind would subsist in harmony; where men with spines would rise up and choke hold the vices of debauchery, ineptitude and, foibles as contained in its sacred anthem:

  All hail Liberia hail, this glorious land of Liberty shall long be ours. Thou new 

her name green be her fame and mighty be her powers…

Albeit, that choice gave us a Liberia which has morphed into what we have today; entrenched in massive corruption, infiltrated by drug traffickers and money launderers, desecrated by graveyard dwellers, strangled by deceit, blind loyalty, fanaticism and showmanship. 

The question that hovers is whether the choice to become a free state was in fact necessary. This is the question JNB would have to answer when “his shortlisted Saints go marching in” on Friday, April 28, 2023. Will his choice be commensurate with the ideals of the Unity Party and the nation state or coerced by external wisdom? God forbid as the Saints go marching in on Friday!

Pupu Platoon Saints Will Go Marching In

You see my Brabbies, back in the day at Tubman High school the hymn, “When the Saints go Marching in” was our consolation band music when we went to drill on flag day or our gala day. Tubman High’s population was so huge that those of us who were in 9th and 10th grades fell far away from the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) marching band. Sometimes it was better not to attend, but Tubman High was such a hell hole that “if your Mother did not born you good” then you would dare to be non-compliant to its instructions, hence, 99% of the student population attended parades regularly.

The labeling of platoons started from A to M with A to D the aristocratic platoons and the rest, Pupu platoons or groups that did not march with band music but simply left behind to stroll. When the band was on Broad street and about to bend on Lynch Street, pupu platoons were just approaching B. W. Harris School; when the band was approaching Rally Time Market, pupu platoons were just bending on Lynch street. We did not hear the band at all. I dare you cut. You would feel pain because Tubman High called roll after parades, session by session. 

In our frustration, one of the songs we sang to keep cadence was, “When the Saints, Go Marching in, O Lord I want to be in the Number…”. Mind you, we were all trained ROTC cadets, hence you would have marveled at the adroitness and exactitude of our ranks, files, and steps as we sang our way to the Executive Mansion to give our “eyes right”. Along the way, we selected and dismissed several platoon leaders before finally settling with one person to “take our eyes right”. Parade watchers lined up along the streets would shout at us in a demeaning manner, “Pupu platoon, pupu platoon “. But who cared? We were enjoying ourselves because they eventually clapped for us when we “got the eyes right” while those in the aristocratic platoons “missed the eyes right” and got booed.

Uncle Joe Boakai’s Saints

Finally, on Friday, April 28, Joe Boakai’s Saints will go marching in to give their “eyes right”. Some will be in the pupu platoons. Some will miss it, and others will “get it” but only one person will be selected.      

Alexander B. Cumming’s A-Platoon

From the A - Platoons Alexander B. Cummings (ABC) will approach the eyes right line rather reluctant to give his eyes right salute. Presently, in almost every nook and crania, aspersions have been cast on Cummings that had he agreed to an indefatigable Boakai-Cummings ticket, the bid to make President Weah a one term president would have been 100% settled.  

Unfortunately, Cummings has constantly maintained that he would never settle for second place and continues to flaunt his pedigree; his managerial prowess or how he has successfully managed a multimillion corporation whose budget  was bigger than Liberia’s; how he is not Americo-Liberian but a bona fide son of Maryland who grew up in New Kru town, attended Cuttington and graduated from US schools.  This stance has appeared to have dashed the hopes of thousands of Liberians who subscribed to the Boakai-Cummings magic wand.

When ABC gives the salute on Friday, Liberty Party (LP) Iron Eater, Musa Bility, who gave Dillon and Nyonblee a devastating back kick and nasty elbow will bluff and say, “Ehnen I told y’all? Y’all will learn the hard way”

Tiawan S. Gongloe’s B- Platoon

Of late, there has been a groundswell of opinions that JNB could win Nimba and thousands of voters who subscribe to the ideals of the progressives whose actions birthed multi-party democracy in Liberia. Tipoteh and several other progressive abroad would applaud him.

Tiawan S. Gongloe will lead the B-platoon on Friday to give his eyes right with his symbolic broom and with an expression of angst over the prevailing tradition of corruption and abuse of social rights. To corroborate Gongloe’s gospel, US Ambassador McCarthy recently released a scathing press statement that accused the CDC of gross mismanagement of resources, bad governance and intransigence to the wailing and pain of the population. 

Nevertheless, the choice of Gongloe could be postponed since he could become a better Justice Minister in JNB’s government than the docile coward in the person of Musa Dean as he has been branded by opposition people advocates.

Nyonblee Karnga Lawrence’s C-Company

On Friday, when the iron lady Nyonblee Karnga Lawrence goes marching in to give her eyes right, it will be with much exuberance, vivacity and confidence. There will be an atmosphere of pomp and pageantry that the willing eye would crave to witness. 

Firstly, Bassa people will beat their chest for their successful daughter, while feminists, market women and break away LP partisans hold their breaths in uncertainty. The likes of Darius Dillon will lead supporters with hope that Nyonblee would be selected so that the “Saul to Paul” sigma can be diluted.

The Pupu Platoon D to F

Henry Costa and Jeremiah Koung will be in the pupu platoon because the negative discourses and allegations that surround their characters remain unimaginable. A while ago, Mr. Costa held that Jeremiah Koung could not be a suitable running mate for JNB among other things because “he is a human parts seller” and would be a planted agent of the CDC. Despite the damaging allegations, Koung’s platoon will be applauded by the King maker, Senator Pastor Prince Y. Johnson. Over the last two elections, PYJ proved to be a highly effective king maker because every side he took, won the presidency. Jeremiah Koung will therefore approach the eyes right with confidence and assurance because the Nimba Godfather is in his corner.

Henry Pedro Costa will march to the eyes right line with no band music, but rather singing his own song as we did in our Tubman High pupu platoon. “When the Saints, go marching in, when the saints go marching in. Costa as running mate means baggage for JNB because like Koung, he has challenging characterizations. Some say Costa is a con man and blackmailer who conducts advocacy for cash; today Henry Costa is praising you if you give him money and tomorrow, he is against you if you refuse. 

Albeit, on Friday, all the platoons will approach the final line and JNB will receive their eyes right. The aristocratic platoons will offer the usual royalty but the pupu platoons will only offer the regular flavor. But mind you, do not jump to conclusion to overlook the pupu platoon. When we were Pupu Platoon members back in the day at Tubman High, although people disrespected and booed us as we marched past, we “got the eyes right” every time. The message was that “Do not overlook people in the pupu platoon. 

The Benediction

Well my Brabbies, as Ambassador Boakai’s Saints go marching in on Friday, who will be in the number? Whether it be the two aristocratic Tiawan Gongloe and Alexander Cummings or the pupu platoon gang, Henry Costa, Jeremiah Koung, or Nyonblee Karnga Lawrence, our time will be God’s hands as we petition him for a peaceful event. To those ends please join me in William Freeman Lloyd’s 17th Century hymn, “My Times Are in Thy hands O Lord” (Note the first two stanzas)

1 My times are in Your hand;
my God, I wish them there!
My life, my friends, my soul, I leave
entirely to Your care.

2 My times are in Your hand
whatever they may be,
pleasing or painful, dark or bright,
as You know best for me.

3 My times are in Your hand;
why should I doubt or fear?
My Father's hand will never cause
His child a needless tear.

4 My times are in Your hand:
Jesus, the Crucified;
those hands my cruel sins had pierced
are now my guard and guide.

5 My times are in Your hand;
such faith You give to me
that after death, at Your right hand
I shall for ever be.

Simply Thinking Thoughts

Editor’s note: The views expressed in this commentary are solely of the author and do not necessarily represent that of the Daily Observer newspaper.

About the Author

The Rivercess man, CEO, and founder of the Diversified Educators Empowerment Project (DEEP), Mwalimu-Koh M. Blonkanjay Jackson holds a Master of Education from Harvard University and a Master of Science in Mathematics Education from St. Joseph’s University; he is a Yale University Teachers Initiative Math Fellow and UPENN Teacher Institute Physics Fellow. Mr. Jackson served the government of Liberia diligently for four years and returned to private practice as Development Specialist and Education Engineer.