Professed members of the People’s Liberation Party (PLP) hailing from the vote-rich county of Nimba have declared their county as a place that Dr. Daniel E. Cassell can rely on for a substantial number of votes and support in pursuit of the presidency come 2023.
February 20, 2021 saw a huge convergence of partisans at the dedicatory ceremony of the PLP Headquarters and installation of the party’s interim leadership, and one catchy scene was the wide billboard bearing the inscription, “Nimba-LEH-EE-LEH,” a phrase pronounced similarly and understood the same way as “Nimba is for you.”
The Nimba chapter of the PLP is especially delighted because a son of the county, Wilmot J.M. Paye, is the interim chairperson of the party, a position that Paye’s kinsmen see as placing them at the highest height of the newly established party.
Nimba County according to the 2008 Population and Housing Census has 468, 088, making it the most populous county after Montserrado that has 1, 144, 806. Such expression of loyalty by the people of Nimba gives any politician the high impression that he or she can withstand the political competition among the many parties that are now forming coalition or collaboration to reduce the number of parties in the country.
Wilmot Paye is well knowledgeable in the politics of Liberia being the cast-away chairperson of the former ruling Unity Party who served for over five years after serving first as the party’s Secretary-General. His woes began in 2014 when he publicly declared at a press conference that the Unity Party that was in power with former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as its standard-bearer was not supporting President Sirlear’s son, Robert Sirleaf, who joined the mid-term senatorial race for Montserrado County.
Mr. Paye’s problem exacerbated when he came out early last year to withdraw the UP’s support to the Council of Patriots’ organized protest on January 6, which some members of the party refused to heed to. The rift resulted to suspending his membership in the party and subsequently removing him as Chairman.
Meanwhile, as he ascends to a new chairmanship position in the PLP, it may give some certainties to the party that he can carry along with him a large number of members from his vote rich county to solidify the vote base of PLP. However, can the Paye factor substantiate the hope of PLP and Dr. Cassell to feel more certain that Nimba is theirs as inscribed on a flyer during the dedication of the party’s headquarters?
The Prince Johnson Factor
Although Nimba is rich in votes, the county’s Senator and former warlord, Prince Johnson, controls a large segment of the voting population. Sine Senator Johnson won the senatorial seat in 2005 and then 2014, he remains an indisputable influential politician directing people of the county whom to support in presidential and legislative elections.
In the 2011 presidential runoff election, Senator Johnson sided with former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and she won over 90% of the vote that year. In the 2017 election, Senator Johnson, after politically denigrating the CDC candidate George Weah and pledging support to former Vice President Joseph Boakai, made a U-turn and pledged his support to Weah thus leading him to victory. In the just ended mid-term election in December last year, the Senator supported Nimba District #1 Representative Jeremiah Koung and he has been declared by the National Elections Commission (NEC) as the victor, though the case is still challenged by the Edith Gongloe-Weh legal team that filed complaints of fraud and irregularities.
The Boakai Episode (Incident)
Former Vice President Joseph Boakai was one political figure who received the highest endorsement in the 2017 presidential election, and one area expected to have gotten some of the highest votes from was Nimba from where Mr. Paye hails and served as Chairperson of the Unity Party.
However, in the runoff election between Boakai and CDC’s George Weah, Mr. Weah received the highest votes from the county being supported by Prince Johnson. Gbehlay-Geh, the district in Nimba from where Mr. Paye hails, let down the Unity Party that he chaired.
Approach to the Political Battle
Mr. Paye, easy going but vocal talker, has however promised to use ethical approaches in selling PLP to people of his county and the country at large to see reasons to join hands with the.
In his politically motivating speech delivered on February 20, Mr. Paye dwelling on ‘Liberation’ as one of the branding words in the party’s acronym noted politicians have long deceived Liberians, professing to be what “They are really not.”
Cataloguing vices he claims have derailed the image of the country and left its people in an impoverished condition, Mr. Paye said: “My dear fellow Liberians, the elections in 2023 must never be about replacing one failing Government with another led by corrupt elements from the past. The People’s Liberation Party, as our name suggests, is here to emancipate Liberia from the politics of deception—of corruption, nepotism, sectionalism and tribalism. Our Party cannot and will not promote these vices. Patriotism, integrity, accountability and transparency are virtues that are the minimum standards that those in leadership at national, county, district, chiefdom, township, town, village and community levels must meet at all times and under all circumstances. We cannot compromise these.”
Emphasizing further, Mr. Paye indicated that liberating Liberia requires fresh, new ideas, practical and predictable approaches to tackling the problems of corruption, nepotism, sectionalism and tribalism.
“When we liberate Liberia from the conspiring thieves that control and dominate our politics, then we can change, then we can qualify to become a viable alternative to the political bacteria and virus that continue to infect governance. When we stop greed and greedy politicians, then we can generate enough revenue to support farmers, schools, hospitals and clinics, connect our Country with good road networks, attract investors, create more jobs, insulate our courts and judges against political interference, strengthen our army and security agencies,” Paye added.
Liberia in 2020 took 137th place on the World Corruption Index, and impunity has been a hallmark in the governance system. Tribalism, sectionalism, and nepotism are at a higher peak. Even in Chairman Paye’s own Nimba County, the two largest tribes, Gio and Mano, are now in serious tribal feud with a large segment of the Gio contending that “No Mano man will ascend to the Senate seat of Nimba.”
Even though Chairman Paye whom the PLP may rely on for Nimba vote has no blemish public record, the certainty that his people can listen to and reason with him on the vices he mentioned to give support to his new party for a change of the status quo remains the miracle to witness in the few years ahead to the election.