— Tough Political Battles Pending, with Montserrado, Grand Bassa, Bomi and Margibi at the center of the debate on who gets a seat in each of the counties
While the general public’s attention might be hugely focused on who wins Montserrado County in the pending December 8 Senatorial election, there is sufficient evidence that there will be a no easy ride for any politician in many of the 15 political subdivisions.
Montserrado is at the heart of Liberia’s Legislative and Presidential elections, mainly since the coming into office of Abraham Darius Dillon, a staunch executive member of the Liberty Party (LP), a component of the collaborating political parties (CPP).
Dillon, who was elected in a by-election to replace fallen Senator Geraldine Doe-Sheriff, has established himself as “the light,” of the Senate and consolidated a strong base already.
The Daily Observer has criss-crossed a few counties ahead of the December Special Senatorial Election and discovered that there would be intense political struggle, mainly in Bomi and Grand Bassa Counties where the incumbent Senators, Nyonblee Karnga Lawrence and Sando Dazoe Johnson of the opposition Liberty Party (LP) and the All Liberia Party (ALP) have tough names to contest against.
In Bomi, Senator Johnson has Edwin Melvin Snowe to contend with and from records, Snowe has lost no Legislative election since entering politics.
Recently on Spoon Talk, a night time Spoon Online TV show, Johnson boasted of being the most popular and favored candidate in Bomi due to his direct involvement with his people.
“I am not a millionaire. I don’t have money because I use all my money in helping to improve the living conditions of my people in Bomi. I built roads, provided educational assistance to many young people in the county and now building schools,” he told his panel discussants.
Johnson added that he has neither a record of buying votes, nor sharing rice or money among the electorates simply to get him elected at any election before and he will continue to remain truthful to them.
“Forget about names. I am not afraid of any name in Bomi when it comes to elections. I know I will beat anyone who stands against me in the race,” he boasted.
Edwin Snowe, Bomi County Electoral Distict #1 Representative, initially announced his support for former Bomi Senator, Lahai G. Lasanah but, for some indifference with Johnson and his fear that Johnson’s continuity at the Senate might cost him (Snowe) politically, he has accepted petitions including the one stage managed by Lasanah to run for the Senate on December 8.
Snowe, too, in an interview with Spoon Online TV show recently, said he has nothing personal against Senator Johnson but there are lots of missteps he has discovered for which he thinks Johnson is no longer fit to continue serving as one of the two Senators of Bomi.
“I respect Senator Johnson and we have been working together, but I think now it is time for him to retire. The mandate is with the people of Bomi and they are the ones that have already spoken ahead of the December Senate election,” Snowe said.
Representative Snowe, a two-term of six years Representative of Montserrado County Electoral District #6, crossed over to Bomi and contested in the 2017 Legislative and Presidential elections while still answering ‘present”in chambers for Montserrado District #6.
Sen. Johnson and former Representative Gaya Karmo challenged the legality of Snowe’s political move in Bomi.
There were a series of quasi litigations beginning with the National Elections Commission’s (NEC) election hearing offices and later on, the Supreme Court, but in the end, Snowe emerged victorious due to the lack of a law to stop him.
The Daily Observer has discovered that Sando Johnson boasts of having two farms, rubber and palm, as well as a commercial water production company and a hotel, while Snowe boasts of having the largest individual palm farm in Bomi and the country in general, with more employees than Johnson and any other politician.
Both Snowe and Johnson were close confidants of ex-President Charles Taylor, but with Snowe having managed the Liberia Football Association (LFA), the Liberia Petroleum Refinery Corporation (LPRC) and subsequently ascending to the Legislative office he holds now, he could arguably be the richest Legislative politician.
There are speculations that Snowe is a millionaire in United States Dollars, even though an open declaration of all of his assets and savings is yet to be made public; something not uncommon to Liberian politicians, including Presidents.
Johnson, meanwhile, has called on the NEC to deploy some of its staffers at the borders of the various counties in order to track down the issue of voters trucking into certain counties by some politicians in order to amass their votes for possible wins in election.
“That is one of our biggest challenges in this country. Our people are weak in their minds. They don’t think critically and so they will give them money again to sell their votes,” Sen. Johnson said, adding, “but I am not afraid, be it Snowe or whoever, I will beat them flat.”
In Grand Bassa, Senator Nyonblee Karnga Lawrence, political leader of the opposition Liberty Party (LP), has Representative Thomas Goshua of Grand Bassa Electoral District #5 to defend her position against.
Also in the race is former Senator, now Foreign Affairs Minister, Gbehzohngar M. Findley.
There are also speculations that former Information Minister, now an adviser to President George Weah, Laurence K. Bropleh and former Grand Bassa District #3 Representative, Gabriel Buchanan Smith are contemplating on running against Senator Lawrence.
Ahead of the December election, Senator Lawrence has begun providing electricity to residents of Buchanan and its adjacent communities in order to win their sympathy to reelect her to the office she currently holds.
In Margibi, tough-talking Senator, Oscar Cooper will be in hot water with J. Emmanuel Nuquay, former Speaker of the House of Representatives and Ivar Kokulo Jones, Representative of Margibi District #2.
Sen. Cooper, who many believe will have no force in the political journey in December is said to be doing well in chambers at the Legislature but poorly performing back home in terms of deliverables as expected by the typical Liberian voters.
Nuquay, another financially stable politician, served as the Vice Standard Bearer of the former ruling Unity Party (UP) alongside former Vice President Joseph Boakai, in the 2017 Presidential elections.
He currently heads the Liberia Aviation Authority (LAA) and has a number of business interests in Margibi and Montserrado.
In Montserrado County, the heart of Liberia’s politics due to its population and hosting of the country’s Capital, Monrovia, where all of the nation’s offices are headquartered, Dillon, the man who overwhelmingly won the Senatorial by-election in July 2019, has Montserrado District #5 Representative, Thomas Fallah, to contend with.
Fallah, who carries the entire hope of the ruling party in the upcoming election, has won three Representative elections in Montserrado District #5, since 2005. His six-year term at the Lower House continues until 2023 but, with the CDC finding it difficult to bring forward a record political giant against Dillon, Fallah is the one chosen to try and reclaim Montserrado for the party.
Fallah has built himself a sprawling tertiary facility known as ‘T-5 University’, as well as a high school called T-5 Academy and a host of other structures, including a a storey building for a nursing school and a clinic for the future students of the school to practice.
However, District #5 is yet to own a town hall or an elementary public school for poor people’s children since Fallah became its direct eye at the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill in Monrovia in nearly 15 years.
Dillon won a landslide vote for the senatorial seat, even beating President Weah’s record when he ran for the Senate in Montserrado in 2014. Dillon won 102,549 votes or 55.74 percent in the 2019 Senate by-election with more contestants in the race than Weah’s 2014 record number of 99,226 votes or 78 percent.
Even though the NEC is yet to give guidelines about the pending mid-term election, what could be considered as pre-campaigning has begun with Fallah touring communities in Monrovia donating bags of rice, motorcycles and money, and information is filtering that President George Weah has held a meeting with top officials of government to ensure that the Coalition for Democratic Change reclaims Montserrado.