Amid row over secret recording involving suspended Superintendent
President George Weah on Friday, February 15, 2019, suspended Bong County Superintendent Esther Walker following a leaked audio believed to be the voice of the superintendent. And because of the President’s decision, many of the residents in the county are feeling uneasy as to what next will be the county’s fate under the Weah administration. A survey conducted by this newspaper on Monday, February 18, in Gbarnga, the county’s political capital regarding the leaked audio, showed there were mixed reactions among the residents, some of who spoke on local radio stations phone-in programs.
Some have described the secret recording of Superintendent Walker as “criminal and devilish,” while others have blamed the Superintendent for being ‘self-confident’ and open with all those who worked with her.
Since the startling revelation by Superintendent Walker, which landed her in hot water with President Weah, many residents of Gbarnga, have called on the President to rescind his action since this is the first offense committed by the superintendent.
Madam Walker has been a staunch supporter of Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor, dating back to 2005, when Madam Howard-Taylor, the former first lady, declared her intention to contest the senate race in the county. According to sources, the relationship became edgy recently when the Superintendent became uncooperative with the conferrer of the “Darkpannah” title to honor VP Howard-Taylor in the county, a program Superintendent Walker did not attend.
Supporters of the Vice President said the absence of the Superintendent at the traditional honoring ceremony of the Vice President sent a clear message that the split was visible, and therefore called on Walker to “act.”
Although the honor was bestowed on VP Howard-Taylor but in less than a week after the honor, Darkpannah Moses Suakollie and the traditional superintendent of the county, Arthur Coaline were relieved of their posts by President Weah.
“The Vice President recommended Esther Walker to the superintendent position, but with the sour relationship between she and her political ‘God-Mother,’ her chance of retaining the superintendent position is very slim,” Attorney James Saybay told a community radio station in Gbarnga.
“In all fairness, the individual who did the recording and the intent of recording the voice of Superintendent Walker did not do well to the woman,” Saybay continued.
The survey revealed that the relationship between Walker and VP Taylor degenerated when Walker took the decision to form a strong bond with opposition lawmakers in the county in a bid to foster development, a decision which allegedly angered the Vice President.
How will this affect Bong County?
Many residents who spoke to the Daily Observer believe that with the recently leaked audio, coupled with other attenuating situations between Walker and VP Taylor on one hand, and the VP and President Weah on the other, development initiatives in the county might likely get stalled.
“For example, the Gbarnga Broad Street pavement, since that project came to a standstill a couple of months ago, we have not heard anything about when the work will resume. Additionally, this government also promised to complete construction work of the Bong County Technical College (BCTC), but again, we are yet to see the work ongoing,” Mrs. Sarah Nyanquoi, a middle-aged market woman recalled.
“There have been existing family ties between Madam Walker and VP Taylor before the leaked audio, but since VP Taylor noticed that Madam Walker did not fully support Representative Marvin Cole in last year’s senatorial by-election, there seemed to have been a growing sense of trickery and infighting between the VP and Walker,” said Anthony Sumo, one of Gbarnga’s prominent residents.
“If we are not careful, Bong County will be denied a lot of development opportunities, because of the rift between the Vice President and the President. I am afraid that this situation should not lead to the replication of the Nimba situation between Nimbaians and former President Samuel K. Doe (deceased),” commented Jefferson Flomo, also of Gbanga City.
“Light cannot be hidden”
The growing rift started recently when the people of Bong County bestowed another, but highest distinguished traditional title upon the Vice President, who they said is their ‘daughter.’
By the new title, VP Howard-Taylor became known as Chief, Ponofalo, Dr. Jewel Howard-Taylor.
According to the Chief Dakpanah of Liberia, Chief Moses Suakollie (who was recently dismissed), the title, “Ponofalo”, meaning “light cannot be hidden”, is the highest traditional title in the Kpelleh tribe. The title, according to a release from the VP’s office, was conferred on her at an elaborate program held on Thursday, January 24, 2019 in Gbarnga City in continuation of celebrations of her 56th birth anniversary.
Conferring the traditional title, Chief Suakollie said, the people of Bong County chose the first female Vice President, “because of her numerous contributions to the development of the county as well as the dictates of the Kpelleh tradition.”
Jewel Cianeh Howard Taylor (born January 17, 1963) is a Liberian politician. She was married to convicted war criminal and former president Charles Ghankay Taylor (whom she married in 1997, but later divorced in 2006) and was First Lady of Liberia during his presidency. In 2005, Jewel Taylor was elected to the Senate in Bong County as a member of the former ruling National Patriotic Party. She was the chairperson of the Senate Health and Social Welfare Committee on Gender, Women and Children.