One of the hallmarks of the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf administration over her two terms as President of Liberia will no doubt be her position on free speech. Liberians seem to be enjoying the fruits of democracy and have dared not to return to the past when they were terrorized, brutalized and most often jailed for having their say in the manner in which their country was governed—albeit in ways that did not please the ruling establishment. However, and on an unfortunate note, Liberians could come face to face their brutal past if the ruling Unity Party is given a third shot at the Liberian presidency (wins a third term) in October, information surfacing has indicated.
In a newly published recording, UP’s newly nominated Vice Standard Bearer (VSB) and House Speaker James Emmanuel Nuquay, made threatening remarks against opposition politicians and his critics for their critical stance against the way the country is being governed.
“People are coming and they want our job, but it is not our business to give them job—we will never ever do that. It is our birthright,” he stated.
“They come with a lot of rudeness, but there is one thing that we have said, which I want to reiterate, is that let them bear in mind that whether it takes one, two or three years they will pay the price for their rudeness. I said this and I will say it consistently because I will do it no matter heaven opens,” Nuquay is heard saying in the recording of the nation’s popular radio talk show, “The Henry Costa Show.” The revelation was made on Wednesday by the lead presenter of the early morning show, Henry Costa.
Speaker Nuquay noted that now is the time for these job seekers to exhibit their rudeness, “but after October 11 going forward, will be my time.” October 11 would be the day right after the election. “This will be my time.”
However, opposition leaders, media practitioners, and others have been very critical of the government, especially the National Legislature, which is the first branch of government, accusing it of not working in the interest of the Liberian people. VP Boakai and Nuquay are two of the three most senior political leaders in the Legislature.
Members of the Legislature, especially the Lower House, which Nuquay now controls, continues to be lambasted for what many see as being ingrained in a culture of immaturity and not being serious.
However, since the electioneering process began, many opposition politicians have spoken critically of the UP government—accusing it of corruption, nepotism, and keeping the masses in perpetual poverty and deprivation. There have been other standoffs between the ruling party and other opposition parties.
A few months ago, the political leader of the opposition Liberty Party, Charles Walker Brumskine, referred to a statement made by the standard bearer of the UP as “Nonsense”- a statement that generated a lot of reactions especially from partisans of UP and other opposition leaders, who felt that it was an insult to the elderly VP.
Cllr. Brumskine’s statement was in reference to an earlier statement attributed to the VP that President Sirleaf was clandestinely giving support to the LP leader.
“I have heard this for a while from other presidential candidates and their surrogates and even surrogates of the Vice President, but because such nonsense has been reiterated by a presidential candidate, who is the sitting Vice President of the country, I now feel constrained to respond,” Charles Brumskine had said. “It is totally false, and there is not an iota of truth to the insinuation of the Vice President.”
Henry Costa, the lead host of the show, indicated that the threat posed by the new UP vice standard bearer reflects upon every critic of this administration who has consistently accused them of corruption, nepotism and other acts of bad governance.
“This guy is talking to all of us who have the audacity to question the many wrongs of this ruling establishment as it relates to the manner in which our country is governed. He called it rudeness, when he steals millions of dollars in our budget and we tell him that and also criticize him,” Costa said.
Costa also alleged that there is a plan in the camp of the ruling party to make Nuquay president after VP Boakai had served his initial term. In this regard, Nuquay, who would be the new VP at that time, could earn two terms at the presidency.
“If you want the dark days to return you should vote the Boakai-Nuquay team. The corruption, bad governance and secret killings that Harry Greaves and others fell prey to will become the order of the day. No one will say anything here,” he said.
“Our job here is to inform our people so that they make the right decisions and do not give power to monsters who will turn against them (the masses) at the end of the day,” Costa said.
Is Nuquay a Wrong Pick?
The latest revelation, coupled with many integrity issues and others, bring to the fore a barrage of questions as to whether Nuquay is a good pick by Vice President Boakai. The first point of contention is that Nuquay is the founder of the People’s Unification Party (PUP) and not a member of the UP. No merger or political collaboration was announced between both parties, so the decision to choose him has brought a lot of disenchantment within the UP camp.
The selection of Speaker Nuquay also brings into question the level of preparation that the ruling party made for this imminent transition—raising the question whether there is no one qualified within the party to be named a running mate, thereby finally settling on someone who earlier abandoned the UP and didn’t return.
However, prior to this latest pronouncement, no merger or political collaboration was made public between the UP and the PUP. Many would, however, feel that the decision of the VP to favor an outsider against many experienced, distinguished and qualified members of the ruling party is a disservice to these people who have committed their sweet to the causes of the party.
Some pundits are indicating that Speaker Nuquay would never have been the speaker in a better functioning legislature in a country where credibility, trust, experience and innovation count. From all indications, his selection as the speaker is largely based on chance.
“Nuquay lacks the requisite skills and experience to serve the Liberian people as a potential president should the president becomes unable to serve,” said a senior UP partisan who asked not to be named.
This partisan also said Nuquay has no international experience and is not known outside of Liberia, especially Margibi County. “Also, he is leading an institution that is not only despised by the Liberian people but equally condemned by all meaningful stakeholders with interest in Liberia,” he said.