Dillon’s Supporters declare
By Joaquin M. Sendolo
It is very rare for electorates in Africa, yea Liberia, to spend money to support the election of a political candidate. Usually, it is the opposite — the candidate would have to empty his or her pocket into the hands of the electorate. For that, it is often said in Liberia that a poor person does not enter politics because it is a place where politicians spend to show his or her full potential.
Liberians voters have learned to expect political aspirants to splurge on them in cash and kind no matter where the money comes from. And those aspirants who currently hold positions in government are giving away bags of cement, bundles of zinc, opening and rehabilitating roads, in addition to distributing the cash itself.
Nevertheless, there is a strange approach in this particular mid-term senatorial in Montserrado County in particular. While politicians with the cash are visiting their counties and communities distributing things that will appease voters and putting up pictures on wide billboards, Darius Dillon, the main opposition contender and senatorial incumbent for Montserrado County, has been told by his supporters to keep his hands out of his pockets, for they will fund his campaign.
“We don’t want money from you. We will support you with our money and ourselves,” Mulbah K. Yorgbor, Jr., the Secretary-General of the pressure group, Council of Patriots (COP), said in remarks at the Dollar for Dillon Rally on Saturday, October 10.
Though strange in the body politic of Liberia, the decision to bar Dillon from spending his own money on his campaign is precipitated by two factors, according to Yorgbor. Prior to his (Dillon’s) ascendancy to the Senate in 2019 to succeed the late Senator Geraldine Doe-Sheriff, he campaigned with a promise to expose ills that are in the Senate, which he says responsible for the backwardness of the country. Dillon further promised that if his salary is above US$5,000, he would give the amount above the $5,000 to Montserrado County, which he represents in the Senate.
According to Yorgbor and scores of supporters at the Dollar Rally, Dillon has lived up to his promises and is standing by to do more of such in the next nine years, if elected. “This is the only Senator in the history of Liberia who, before taking office, was able to declare his assets. Since his stay in the Senate, he has exposed so many ills that the public could not know, and others are beginning to campaign on his ideology to be the “Light” that Dillon is in the Senate. And so, such a man is there for the Liberian people and we cannot allow him to fall on the way among people who are squandering the country’s resources to campaign. We will support him with the money he needs, and this money will be collected to pay poll workers, print T-shirts, billboards and flyers, and all other election-related issues in this election and we will make sure Dillon is reelected,” said Yorgbor.
Dillon’s supporters also believe that if the people take on the task to support their candidates financially, they will have more power and a strong voice to tell the person what to do and not what he or she will discretionarily choose to do to the detriment of the people.
“This support we are giving Dillon will put us in the position to tell him what to do for us and not what he will want to do to please him, and if he does not do it, we have the power to take him from there,” the COP Secretary-General added.
“We are changing the dynamics. We will support Dillon because when you support a candidate, you make their decision, but when the politician does, he or she makes your decision for you,” said Mo Ali, Secretary-General of Unity Party and an executive of the Collaborating Political Parties.
“If Dillon does not perform, we will drag him from there,” he added.
The Dollar for Dillon rally was planned by Patrick Honnah, a talk show host and former Deputy Director for Broadcast Services at the Liberia Broadcasting System. Honnah, in remarks, said Liberians must show now through their votes that they do not want the current regime, considering all that is unfolding. If they (voters) do not, he warned, it will mean that they are content with the situation. The rally is to continue until the election and a tournament for the general rally is expected by the end of October.
With high enthusiasm to ensure that the agenda to support Dillon is achieved, scores of supporters poured in with cash and pledges during the launch. Besides the cash that supporters put into the transparent plastic bins, individuals and groups made pledges. For instance, Robert Wilson, a businessman, pledged to provide LRD$100,000 to be picked up this week, while the organizing committee for the Friends of Dillon, headed by Cyrus Saygbe, pledged to provide LRD$500,000.
According to supporters, including Mo Ali, those working in the government and partisans of the Coalition for Democratic Change, the ruling party, were also sending in their contributions anonymously, for fear of reprisal, in case the government identifies them. A particular young man, believed to be in his 20s, but without work or a stable source of income, came out to say: “I will walk to go home, but I will put this L$300 in support of you because you are talking in the Senate what we want to hear and see happening.”
The exact amount generated on the first day is yet to be disclosed, but, “We will not be like some who had their dollar rally years back and there is no account,” Yorgbor said. “We are determined to generate US$1 million, and we will account for any cent you put in here.”
Senator Darius Dillon, the man who is between the euphoric support and challenge of performance, drove in later in the day to a rousing welcome from the supporters, as he danced to the Bassa music by popular musician, Sundaygar Dearboy.
“I am not the only person on this ballot paper, but you all,” he told his supporters. “I feel that if we all do what others are doing in the Legislature, I will be taking your last from you while you are suffering. The US$3,000 over the $5,000 is deducted and given to the county, and we told you that we are out for integrity and this is what we will continue to push for always.”
The four collaborating political parties recently raised a concern and went to the Supreme Court and filed in a writ of Mandamus to compel the NEC to clean the voters’ roll as mandated by the court in 2017, but the Supreme Court denied the CPP the writ. Earlier, Dillon had raised a concern that if there is any cheating in the election, the government will feel the anger of the Liberian people.
In a brief interview with the Daily Observer about his confidence in the National Elections Commission, Dillon said, “We will win and there will be no cheating in the election.”