A Missed Opportunity for Liberia’s Oval Office-Presidency: The Case of Senator Abe Darius Dillon

Senator Abraham Darius Dillon of Montserrado County.

It is often said that if you bypass your respect, you will bother with your disgrace. That’s exactly what we see happening with Senator Abe Dillon.  I am seeing the entire government lambasting Sen. Dillon and I am here scratching my “todo.”  By this time, the government should have been on its knees if Sen. Dillon had listened. 

Political Analysis:

Sen. Dillon is a typical grassroots. He knows the game of politics and has survived it for decades. It’s undisputed!! He supported Ellen and enjoyed the UP-led government very well. He played the big guys in the UP and maneuvered his way to the top. When things scattered based on ideological reasons, and the center couldn’t hold after UP lost the election, he recalibrated and positioned himself to give another political strike to the CDC.

He was smart to use his social media platform to his advantage and left out certain bad habits, which presented him as a serious political icon. Liberians were disappointed in Weah in 2018, especially when he started building new homes, and reappointing former government officials, who were known thieves under Sirleaf’s administration. Sen. Dillon had significant arguments and persuaded the public to buy his arguments against the CDC. 

Fortunately for him, he massively defeated the CDC in its backyard during a special election in 2019 when Sen. Doe Sheriff of Montserrado died. His victory shocked everyone. Sen. Dillon became Liberia’s newest political star at that moment. He had the young people on his side, including the intellectual class, student movements, and the downtrodden masses.

Knowing he would go for re-election in a short period, he increased his momentum by exposing corruption in the senate and becoming more vocal. While I might not have celebrated his exposure of corruption without calling for the prosecution of those involved, Liberians saw him as a hero for that. 

Reducing his salary was also seen as a boost to his political momentum even though it is yet to be established if it was done with sincerity. But, the bottom line is, that he managed to get the attention of the public to support his political agenda, which prepared him for his re-election. 

During the 2020 senatorial election, Sen. Dillon proved once more to be the political giant of Montserrado county. He defeated the CDC convincingly and even doubled the votes he got in 2019 when he whipped the ruling party candidate, Pauletta. When CDC saw that Sen. Dillon had severely quartered them, they went into hiding. President Weah’s re-election bid was threatened. CDCians know this to be true. President Weah feared Sen. Dillon at that time more than Cummings and JNB. In fact, ANC and UP were hesitant to support Sen. Dillon in 2020, fearing he would steal the show from them should he win.

How Sen. Dillon Screwed up:

After his tsunami victory against the CDC in Montserrado, Sen. Dillon needed to quickly do the following.

1. Set up his presidential exploratory committee

2. Enroll in any Associate/full degree-granting institution

3. Establish the Friends of Dillon across five of the most populated counties 

4. Build his international connections 

5. Get influential people on his team

6. Recruit more media professionals, social media influencers, and activists on his team 

7. and become more robust than ever before at the Liberian Senate.

Presidential Declaration:

By the end of January 2022, Sen. Dillon would announce his presidential bid. This would have shocked the CDC more, and gotten them completely disintegrated. He was the only guy that President Weah and the CDC feared. Abe would have automatically stolen the “show” from JNB and Cummings. These two individuals belong to the old political class, something that many are hesitant about. Sen. Dillon’s team would have mobilized and led a more robust and organized grassroots movement of young people to support his presidential bid.

Sen. Dillon’s Possible Election:

1. Sen. Dillon would have won CDC in Montserrado convincingly for the third time in 2023. CDCians got about 300,000 votes from Montserrado in 2017. Remember, President Weah won the presidency with about 600,000 votes, and half of the votes came from Montserrado. So, Sen. Dillon’s win in Montserrado against the CDC would have been unarguable, because his momentum would have been very high during the campaign. Cummings and JNB would have surrendered, or most of their supporters would have defected to Sen. Dillon because he initially proved to be the elephant killer when he defeated CDC twice. Sen. Dillon’s message of generational change would have eventually manifested also.

2. Grand Bassa, Margibi, and Rivercess counties would have fallen to Sen. Dillon. Bassa and Margibi are two popular counties in Liberia. We can’t rule out tribal politics in Liberia, because it’s in our DNA and only effective civic education can end that stuff. Abe is a Bassa man, and in the absence of Brumskine, Sen. Dillon would have definitely gotten the Bassa votes. The same goes for Margibi and Rivercess, where there are predominantly Bassa-speaking people. 

3. Selecting Edith Gongloe-Weh from Nimba as his running mate could have been a perfect collaboration. Nimba is the second most populated county in Liberia. The votes in Nimba would have been divided. Edith would have secured significant votes from Nimba because PYJ will not run for President in 2023. Edith is a powerful woman when it comes to Nimba politics and Nimbians wouldn’t reject their daughter to become VP.

4. Sen. Dillon could also build strong allies with the people of Bong like former LP Senator, Siakor, fellow senators, and representatives from that region. Given his momentum, there was going to be a possibility for him to get significant votes from Bong. In politics, the individual with the political cloud always attracts support from others. Of course, Sen. Dillon was going to get that political cloud only if he had worked on his ambition and disciplined himself very well to project himself as a President-in-waiting. 

5. He could also cement his relationship with Senator Steve Zargo, who is an LP Senator from Lofa. That could have been a perfect recalibration for the LP. Sen. Zargo is very strong in Lofa, and that could have given Sen. Dillon more votes from Lofa even if the UP wins the county in 2023.

6. For the Southern part of Liberia, he could have recruited new representative candidates and gotten a few senators on his side to push his agenda. That would have played well for him to get significant votes from the southeast.

Deciding Factor: 

The bottom line is, that Sen. Dillon only needed to play his cards well to get 250,000 votes to enter the second round and that’s it. The game would have been over — OVER, and the world would begin congratulating him. In fact, Sen. Dillon was going to get international sympathy from foreign institutions and foreign media to amplify his presidential bid.  

The opposition would have had no choice but to unite behind him during the second round to defeat the CDC. The point is, that Sen. Dillon had the masses on his side from 2018 up to 2020. His political dominance in Montserrado would have spoken well in 2023. It’s said that when the iron is hot, that’s when you beat it. 

But, ayyy!!! Sen. Dillon screwed up big time, and today the CDC that was once on its knees is now kicking him around like a football. I like how the CDC is kicking Sen. Dillon, and the opposition and stepping on their heads. With the ongoing fragmentation within the opposition community, Sen. Dillon would have just been the real DEAL to defeat the CDC in 2023, but he, too, screwed up. There’s no time for his U-turn!! No way! He screwed up!!

Sen. Dillon didn’t see the power he had when defeated CDC in 2020 for the second time in its backyard-Montserrado. Sad! Lack of education? Political sickness? Arrogance? If Sen. Dillon had a bachelor’s degree, by now his thoughts would have been different. First, he was made to believe by people close to him that the international community wouldn’t support his presidential ambition, because of academic limitations — high school dropout. He needed to quickly enroll in college to clear that academic dirt behind him. His thoughts about Weah’s defeat in 2005, owing to the same educational limitation, might have scared the hell out of Sen. Dillon. 

Will Sen. Dillon ever see this opportunity again? Well, only God knows!

About the author:

Vandalark R. Patricks, MPA, is a renowned human rights defender, an Edward S. Mason Fellow, and a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.