In spite of what some considered as the dismal performance of the Unity Party led government under President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf; her successor to the political leadership of the party seems to be the choice of many neutrals that are very skeptical of the intents of the plethora of presidential aspirants, many of whom are new on the political landscape.
Now at the helm of the party, Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai also appears to be the melting point for those who consider themselves as indigenous Liberians, especially those who are proponents of the ‘Americo-Liberians versus Indigenous’ politics. These are Liberians who want power shift in the political and economic spheres of the country.
These two factors seem to be giving the UP’s newly elected political leader leverage as the 2017 general and presidential elections approach.
This is aside from the massive support that the ‘Boakai Movement’ and other related organizations are receiving from every corner of the country since the VP declared his intention to contest the presidency. The pull of support was clearly evident at the UP convention in Gbarnga, Bong County.
Minutes before President Sirleaf cast a white ballot that eventually confirmed Boakai as the elected standard bearer of the party, some influential opposition political figures from the former ruling National Patriotic Party (NPP) and Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), publicly declared support to the candidacy of VP Boakai.
The influential and high ranking members of the Liberian Senate included NPP’s Dan Morais, CDC’s Peter Coleman and former Chair of the CDC Geraldine Doe-Sheriff who, though left the party years ago under an acrimonious circumstance, appeared somewhat conservative in her remarks.
Sen. Morias publicly declared his membership of the “Joseph Nyumah Boakai (JNB) Movement,” saying, “We are with you,” adding that, the fact that he (Sen. Morias) had been embraced by the UP and was witnessing the ushering in of a new democratic dispensation, that was enough to send home the message.
He was in Gbarnga to form part of the history that was at the verge of taking place in that provincial city. “This is the kind of development that Liberians need,” he said, pledging his full support to the VP.
Sen. Coleman said whatever UP decided in the convention hall would be responsible for Liberia’s destiny for the next six years, and expressed his desire to be part of that process. “I traveled the length and breadth of this country, and I see, I’m a witness to the transformation this country is undergoing,” he noted, and told President Sirleaf that it was why he wanted to be at the convention, to ensure that the transformation continued. He said he will be in support of whatever the UP would have decided upon.
Sen. Sheriff noted that, as a Liberian, she was concerned about the forward march of the nation and, “about who takes the gavel of authority to build upon what was started,” by President Sirleaf.
“So we have come to observe, Madam President, where you have stopped; those good legacies that you are leaving, whoever becomes the president should follow. I have come to make sure that what happens here should represent the supreme interest of the Liberian people,” Sen. Doe-Sheriff said.
“We have come because we have a stake; we have come because we are decision makers. And as such, as Liberians, it is our responsibility and obligation to ensure that the next leader of this country is someone that has a heart; is someone that understands the dynamics; is someone that understands that we are to build the human resource capacity of our people,” she added.
It doesn’t matter which political party one comes from, she said but it is about Liberians coming together to make a critical decision to elect a leader that understands that Liberia must progress in unity.
Though the “Congo-Native” politics is less talked about publicly, it is still entrenched in the hearts and minds of many “indigenous” Liberians who feel that they have been marginalized for too long, and as such they need someone to emancipate them from the ‘Americo-Liberians’ who make up a minute portion of the country’s population.
The “marginalized” Liberians initially saw the political leader of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) as that redeemer. This led to the massive support that the CDC has received since its emergence, though George Weah has fallen short of living up to such expectation in the past few years—giving room to Boakai, who it appears, these group of Liberians are looking up to.
However, it remains to be seen whether this sectional politics will have a fruitful result this time if Boakai is elected because this is not the first time this type of politics has been preached. The last time such politics surfaced, it resulted into a tyrannical government that eventually brought the country to its knees—plunging it into a decade long political unrest and subsequently into another decade and a half of war.
At the 2017 elections, UP will be seeking a third term victory that will have to cross three immediate hurdles: the party’s caustic internal politics; an embattled public perception; and the dozens of presidential aspirants. As a result, President Sirleaf said UP partisans should do all they can to reach beyond every political divide, while charging to work as a team, to help to heal the wounds, and bring everyone together to ensure that the party will continue to grow from strength to strength as it prepares for the third term.
She urged Boakai to be his own man, have his own vision, “which you would set for us to follow,” adding that he should be strong in the defense for what the party stands for and to be bold when he starts constitutional reforms to ensure that he deepens the democracy which encompasses the principle of freedom of choice.
“As the new leader of the party and as a continuing leader of the government, you should make sure that we are all one family, one nation, one country, indivisible to claim the rightful place that we have worked so hard for,” she said.
Meanwhile, the President also announced that former Senate Pro-Tempore Gbezohngar Findley has officially joined UP.