Residents in Margibi County say they are looking for candidates who will address their concerns about education, agriculture, health and bad roads.
Sixty-two (62) candidates comprising 10 women and 42 men are vying for the county’s five electoral district seats. Margibi is the country’s fifth most inhabited county with a population of 199,689.
On Oct. 10, the 63 aspirants will be asking Margibi’s 154,328 registered voters to elect them to a position that pays US$12,000 a month, plus vehicles, gasoline, housing and other amenities.
Political pundits believe that voter turnout will be high in Margibi because of Speaker Emmanuel Nuquay, who is the running mate of Vice President Joseph Boakai of the ruling Unity Party.
“Aspirants are coming now because of our votes, not to help address some of the challenges facing citizens, especially the issue of education,’’ said Lorpu Sayon, a farmer who lives in District 3. “I have four children that will not be in school this year because of the increment of fees in private schools.’’
Sayon said the Hill Town community where she lives needs a public school. She indicated that there is only one public school in the area, the W. Moore Public School, but it also has increased its fees, adding, “The school is so far from us that some of the children can’t afford to go there every day.”
The community’s only private school charges L$2,000 to L$2,500 per year per child in kindergarten, which many parents cannot afford.
Daniel F. Massaquoi, a former teacher and resident of Gbalimu Town in District 4, said education is the main concern for him. The district’s only public school runs from elementary to junior high. Students who finish junior high school either drop out or go to Kakata to complete high school.
Massaquoi said he is not too keen on voting for incumbents because they continue to disappoint voters. They care more about their personal interests than citizens’ concerns, he said.
“We want to see the time when lawmakers will work in the interest of the people by addressing their problems and not focusing on empowering themselves,’’ he said. “It’s unfortunate that you will be voting for someone who does not care or seek your interest.’’
Patrick Dickey, a farmer and resident of Jannita Town in District 5 said he wants new local and national leaders to support small farmers, a move that will increase food production and security.
“We need farming equipment that will help us to increase production,’’ he said. “Also the issue of roads to enable farmers to transport their produce to markets remains a serious challenge for farmers.’’
According to him, making promises to voters, which are often unfulfilled, is becoming a normal thing in Liberia.
Politicians don’t want to speak to the issues that affect citizens; since the campaign, only two of the nine candidates running for the District’s 5 seats have engaged voters, he said.
Joseph Mulbah, a former Firestone employee who is now a farmer, said aspirants and current lawmakers do not address agriculture.
Officials, he said, need to engage farmers to identify their challenges and provide them the support that will help to increase food production. Without government support, farmers cannot do large farming activities or huge production, he said.
“We want government to identify places in the county or the various counties where all farmers will plant and can have someone playing the supervisory role and providing equipment that will reduce physical work,” Mulbah added.
Bendu Buttoe, a resident of Valley-Ta in District #4, said 80 percent of the people in the area are cassava farmers. Gari or farina is a major produce in the area. Madam Buttoe indicated that she farms rice and cassava since she moved to the area with her family. “I only do the farming business for living and taking care of the children,” she stated.
Farmers usually sell a 5 pound bucket of gari for L$120, but during the rainy season it sells for L$100. According to her, many of the candidates are yet to discuss any investment in the agriculture sector, which she noted is not really high on the platform of candidates.
The lack of adequate drinking water is another issue facing residents in Valley–Ta. Residents use nearby creeks for drinking water and to bathe, cook and wash their clothes, Buttoe said. The town’s only hand pump is not functioning.
Residents asked the only public school in town, Valley-Ta Public School, for permission to use their hand pump to get safe drinking water.
“This is the only hand-pump that is helping us to get safe drinking water,” she said. “People have gotten ill on many occasions from drinking the water from the creek, and have to spend money that could be used for other things, on their health. We have informed our aspirants about these situations every time they come, but they continue to promise us that they will address these problems only when elected.’’