Nimba: Gongloe-Weh or Cooper for Senate?

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Nimba lawmaker gives 3-week ultimatum to District 9, where the two candidates are from, to make a choice

Johnson Gwaikolo, Representative of Nimba County District #9, has given a three-week ultimatum to elders of his district to make a choice between two candidates from the same town expressing interest in contesting the senatorial election.

As crowded as the field becomes in Nimba, a son and a daughter of Glehyee Town, Yarwin Mensonnoh County District, Dorr Cooper and Edith Gongloe-Weh, are vying for the senatorial seat of Nimba among other aspirants, something Representative Gwaikolo said does not send a good signal to others about the district.

In an assertive and imperative tone, Representative Gwaikolo said:  “I give you three weeks; one in the name of the Father, another in the name of the Son, and the other in the name of the Holy Ghost, to make a decision between the two persons from Glehyee Town here that I can take to the county to sell to other people.  Your failure to do so will lead me to making a choice that I can take to others in the county,” said Representative Gwaikolo.

He added: “We have had two Superintendents from this town and the district; we have had two Representatives from this town in the district, and right now we do not need Superintendent or Representative; we need a senator from the district and there should be one candidate I can present to the people of Nimba.”

Making this assertion on July 4 in Glehyee Town during the funeral service of the mother of Edith Gongloe-Weh, who is one of the aspirants, Representative Gwaikolo acknowledged that all of those aspiring for the senatorial post have the constitutional right to contest the seat, but it is also customary that in such a case where two persons from the same town and background are contesting a position in an election, the elders have a role to play by vetting the two to select one who they can all support because election itself brings animosities between and among people.

He said it is better to make this decision soon to get one of the aspirants to know the decision of the district because voting comes with interest of identities in various forms; culture, tribe and social homogeneity.

There are seven aspirants now in Nimba to contest if declared candidates by the National Elections Commission (NEC).  They include the incumbent Thomas Grupee, District #1 Representative Jeremiah Koung, Taa Wongbe, Garrison Yealue, Edith Gongloe-Weh, Dorr Cooper, and A. Saye Taryor Dolo.

Dorr Cooper and Edith Gongloe-Weh, who are at the center of Representative Gwaikolo’s concern, are both former Superintendents of Nimba County.  Madam Gongloe-Weh held the position during the administration of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf but resigned in 2011 to contest the same senatorial seat that was claimed by Thomas Grupee that year.  Dorr Cooper ascended to the position in 2016 and was dismissed by President George Weah this year.

The two, therefore, are public figures in the country and their track records are well known by voters who can critique them.

Edith Gongloe-Weh in 2011 came second to Thomas Grupee, and in 2014 also came second to Senator Prince Johnson.  These instances build public perception that she may have some weight in Nimba politics.  Dorr Cooper began as a City Mayor of Ganta, promoted to Assistant Superintendent for Development and then to the Superintendent position.  During his tenure, which was served at the will and pleasure of the President, Mr. Cooper used it to build his popularity by making donations and building mini bridges in some parts of Nimba.  This has caused his supporters and admirers to name him “The Development King.”

The politics, however, is also taking into account academic credentials to set the pace as to who is more knowledgeable and experienced that can represent the county at the level of the Senate, though the Liberian Constitution has no provision for education for a person who wants to become a Senator.

Even though Mr. Cooper is smart and hardly noticed in his speech to have only a high school background, Gongloe-Weh’s supporters hold the view that Cooper is not advanced in education to take on this task that requires reading voluminous documents to argue on the Senate floor.  They boast of Madam Gongloe-Weh’s high level of education evidenced by her Master’s degree and distinct articulations in the public.

However, Cooper’s supporters point to Montserrado County Senator Darius Dillon, who also has no advanced education (only high school Diploma), but has made a significant impact in the Senate during the one year he has spent there, something they strongly believe that Cooper can also do to bring about change in the Senate.

Representative Gwaikolo has sent out the challenge to the elders to vet the two aspirants and, their failure to do so will lead him to select whoever he feels is politically and competently marketable to run for the Senate.  He, however, did not state what other qualities he will use as his benchmark to select as both aspirants have the constitutional qualifications to contest.

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