The field for the race for Nimba County’s nine representative seats is expected to be congested as the 2017 parliamentary polls draw closer. As of yesterday, 100 people have expressed interest to enter the race.
Electoral District #4, which covers Twah River District and parts of Zoe-Geh District close to Bahn and Saclepea, central Nimba County, leads the field with at least 32 aspirants including the incumbent, Garrison Yealue.
Residents of some of the chiefdoms annexed by Twah River District to form Electoral District #4 have complained of under-representation and marginalization relating to development projects and other initiatives.
During a recent Hott FM talk show, which District #4 incumbent Rep. Yealue failed to honor his promise to attend, inhabitants and residents of the electoral district lashed out at their lawmaker, with some attributing his failure to appear on the talk show to “having nothing to show for his performance.”
Next on the crowded field is Electoral District #5, with 16 aspirants including the incumbent, Samuel Kogar. The district comprises the whole of Buu-Yao Administrative District stretching from the banks of the Cestos River (Nuehn) on the Liberian-Ivorian border to Wealay in upper Zoe-Geh District. This is also the home district of two-time Senator and presidential hopeful, Prince Y. Johnson. But the road condition in this part of Nimba County remains one of the worst, with damaged and dangerous bridges commonplace.
Representative Kogar’s critics point to his sometimes emotional approach to issues, as well as his failure to account for and show tangible impacts from his allotment of more than US$70,000 from the annual Legislative Support Project, as some of his key weaknesses.
True to its designation, Electoral Distrct #3 comes in third place with 12 aspirants, apparently including Rep. Samuel Z. Woleh, who has been in poor health for the last four years.
This district is made up of two administrative districts, Yarmein (including Yekepa) and Gbehlay Geh (Karnplay), and the issue of Woleh’s continuous poor health will be a major factor in determining his chances of retaining his seat.
Taking the fourth place with 11 aspirants is Rep. R. Mantenokay Tingban’s Electoral District #9, which sweeps the entire Yarwin-Mensonnon Statutory District, Doe Administrative District, and Gbi-Doru Administrative District. Representative Tingban’s toughest challenge comes from his home district of Yarwin-Mensonnon, with clan politics appearing to be a factor. Politics in the district has been dominated by people from Mensonnon Clan, including the likes of the late Representative Robert Tingban, Wehyee Dorlea, Counselor Tiawan Gongloe, Edith Gongle Weh, and D.
Dorr Cooper. The people of Zehnla and Bleenohn Clans say they must produce the next Representative. At least this is now the talk of the district as 2017 gets closer.
Critics also say Tingban is power-hungry and overambitious, citing his vice presidential ambition. Also, the continuous cry from the people of Gbi-Doru Administrative District that they are being marginalized is a bone Tingban’s political opponents will pick with him.
Rep. Ricks Toweh’s Electoral District #6, which comprises Boe and Quilla Administrative District and Tappita City, takes fifth place with nine people eyeing the lone seat. Even though Rep. Toweh intends to attempt a second term, the prospects don’t appear good for him with young faces springing up. The electorates, including those from his hometown of Toweh, say he is proud and has failed to pay regular visits to the district. Critics say even though he chairs the House’s Committee on Peace and Reconciliation, he has failed to heal the rift between him and his own brother, Paramount Chief Franklin Toweh.
Rep. Larry Younquio has been graded several times as one of Liberia’s best performing lawmakers, but that does not make him void of challenges. Despite being one of the lawmakers who frequents his district, his seat may be up for grabs by at least eight people, ranking District #8 sixth on the field. Electoral District #8 covers Meinpea-Mahn Administrative District, Lee-Wehypea Administrative District, and a few towns in Wee-Gbehy Administrative District.
Critics are of the opinion that Mr. Younquoi is boastful, often bragging that he is the most educated and experienced lawmaker from Nimba County. While acknowledging his outstanding performance at the national level, the critics hold on to the view that Mr. Younquoi’s inter-personal relationship with the youth, especially the university student community, is poor. Clan and chiefdom politics are also likely to factor in.
Prince O. S. Tokpah’s Electoral District #2 and Worlea Saywah Dunah’s Electoral District #7 are tied with seven aspirants each, and coincidentally in seventh place.
District #2 runs from the Iron-ore mining town of Zolowee to the Ganta suburb of Gbeisehla, and sweeps the entire Yarpea Administrative District. Representative Tokpa has made known his intention to run for a second term as indicated by the recent launch of his “Friendship” club. But his critics say he is one of the worst performing lawmakers from Nimba; that he has mainly focused on himself, and not stretching out a hand to those who voted him into power. They pointed to his construction of two storey buildings and the Prince Tokpah Foundation School in Sanniquillie as examples of his development being self-centered. They also say he is undiplomatic in addressing issues, pointing to an exchange with elders of Yarpea, which he later revealed over local radio stations in Sanniquillie.
Electoral District #7 comprises Zoe-Gbao Administrative District and Wee-Gbehy Administrative District, including both Bahn City and Saclepea City, respectively. Critics in the district say Rep. Dunah is “mean”; that he does not share and has not been in touch with the people – a behavior some blame on his ‘religious’ upbringing.
Even though Representative Dunah is completing his second term, it is not clear whether he will attempt a third or quit. Political analysts say he has been giving mixed signals, with some pointing to his alleged support for one of the aspirants from Saclepea as a strategy to get the potentially hostile Wee-Gbehy votes divided in his favor. They, however, say his wife’s desire to enter the race for District #4 could force him to back off.
“The first shall be the last, and the last shall be the first,” the Bible says; so it is with Nimba County Electoral District #1. Interestingly, this electoral district is the smallest in size (Ganta and the eight surrounding towns of the Bain Clan). The district has attracted the smallest number of aspirants so far. There are five people eyeing Rep. Jeremiah Koung’s seat. The Representative appears to enjoy some level of popularity among the non-indigenous Ganta population, and this received a major boost when he recently dedicated a multipurpose hospital, for which the cost and source of funding remain unknown.
Critics say Representative Koung is one of those lawmakers using their positions to make business deals and enrich themselves. There are some emerging names who could give Representative Koung “a run for his money.”
Mrs. Margaret Korkpor, wife of Chief Justice Francis Korkpor, seems to be working through various women’s groups to spread her political tentacles. She has been seen in Ganta distributing tents to motorcyclists and also identifying with women through a microfinance scheme.
All in all, 100 aspirants may sound a bit much for nine electoral districts, but analysts say as the number of political parties in the country continues to rise, so will the number of aspirants. And in Nimba County, it is predicted that before the end of 2016, the number of representative aspirants may hit 150 or even more.
“Even if I run and don’t win, it will give me recognition for the next election, because those who are there believe that the position is good for them alone,” said one of the aspirants.