The Great Presidential Debate

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6 top presidential candidates (clockwise): VP Joseph N. Boakai (UP), Sen. George M. Weah (CDC), Cllr. Charles W. Brumskine (LP), Alexander B. Cummings (ANC), Dr. J. Mills Jones (MOVEE) and Benoni Urey (ALP)

Today, as key presidential candidates face-off with their visions and ideologies for Liberia, Weah will be absent

The election euphoria that descended on Liberia since the National Elections Commission began the process leading to the October 10 presidential and legislative elections moves into gear today as twenty (20) candidates will attempt to convince electorates why they deserve to be considered for the country’s highest office. Organized by the Deepening Democracy Coalition (DDC), the candidates will provide their platforms to convince Liberians that they have the best alternative to lead the country at the end of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s second and final term of office.

The DDC’s first Presidential Debate will be held at the Paynesville City Hall today, August 17, at 1:00 p.m.

Key players

The DDC comprises the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), Liberia Media Center (LMC), Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL), Center for Media Studies and Peacebuilding (CEMESP), and Liberia Women Media Action Committee (LIWOMAC). The DDC is being supported by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA). The maiden edition of the presidential component will set the leading candidates against each other; and will face-off, telling the Liberian people why each one of them is best suited to replace President Sirleaf. The six participants are: Vice President Joseph Boakai of the Unity Party (UP); Cllr. Charles Brumskine of the Liberty Party (LP); Senator George Weah of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC); Benoni Urey of the All Liberian Party (ALP); Dr. J. Mills Jones of the Movement for Economic Empowerment (MOVEE); and Alexander B. Cummings of the Alternative National Congress (ANC).

Liberians do not want the presidency to be gifted to anyone this time around, but must be earned by a candidate who has the vision and the ability to articulate a well-structured platform, along with the sophistication in executing issues that are essential to the people.
Since the 2017 election campaign began, Liberians have been yearning for leaders who are patriotic enough to speak on issues that are essential for the country’s development. Many believe that the country needs a problem-solver, and their first interactions with the candidates at the debate will give them an opportunity to hear what they are sincerely prepared to do for the country and how they plan to do them.

Attendance issue

However, the issue is whether the candidates will make themselves available for the debate, as there are confirmed reports that some of the candidates may not be available. For example, there are reports that the two arch-rival parties, UP and CDC are claiming that they are not aware of the debate. CDC secretary general Janga Kowo indicated to newsmen that his party’s standard bearer, Senator George M. Weah, is out of the country and therefore won’t be a part of the event. He said the selection of the 6 parties was based on the findings of an opinion poll.

Atty. Lamii Kpargoi, coordinator of the DDC, said MOVEE standard bearer, Dr. Mills Jones has informed them he will not participate because he is on his political tour in Grand Cape Mount County.

And while UP officials confirmed receipt of an invitation to the debate, they also declined same without even consulting their standard bearer, saying that if George Weah was going to be absent, then VP Boakai would not attend.   But VP Boakai told the Daily Observer yesterday that he was never informed about the debate. He however pledged to participate in the debate and dismissed the notion that his attendance would be in any dependent on whether or not Weah is involved.

Compare the candidates

A culture of debate has never existed in Liberia and therefore its absence has deprived citizens the chance to compare candidates’ positions against each other, leaving them no basis upon which to cast their votes.

“For the past 20 years we have had elections and the debate is not only about the election but real issues that affect the country,” Atty. Kpargoi explained. “It is going to provide the Liberian people the clear opportunity as to what, how, and why they want to be president because we will hold them on their commitment.”

The six thematic areas of focus are the economy, agriculture, peace and reconciliation, youth empowerment, security and the rule of law; and the candidates will explain how they will implement their plans.

According to Kpargoi, DDC has written to the Liberia National Police to deploy officers at the debate venue.

The election test: the debate

Tony Wheagar, secretary of the Center for Intellectual Exchange in the Du-Port Road Community told the Daily Observer that the Liberian people need the manifestos of these candidates. “We are hungry for good leadership and good governance, and we need to hear from these people,” he said. “Our problems in this country are not only corruption, bad schools, etc… but the lack of leadership and vision. This is why this election is so important.”

Many Liberians are worried that many of the parties, including the incumbent Unity Party, have not released any serious agenda on how they intend to run the country if elected. Another member of the forum, Emmanuel Jargbo, indicated: “All that they have been saying they are going to do are to build roads, establish a good health care system, fight corruption, strengthen the legal system, establish better agriculture system and sound education system. The people usually do not have the chance to question these candidates at their political rallies, so this is the platform for the people. We are asking them to turn up and answer these questions.”

Jallah Wilson, a sociology student at the University of Liberia, indicated that this is the time for the candidates to face each other and answer questions on how they will accomplish their platforms. “The candidates should face the election test, which is the debate as it is done in the western world. Let us get to know their platforms; not only that, but how well they know about our economic and financial standing, and how they will articulate their views to the international community. It is sad that whenever an election is coming, presidential hopefuls usually boycott it,” he said.

23 COMMENTS

  1. P9cture speaks a thousand words. Seeing the posted pictures above, only Vice President
    Joseph N. Boakai and Mr. Alexander B. Cummings are very clearly seen; whereas, the rest
    of the pictures posted are blur and unclear to sight. What this means?

  2. P. Allison Tarlue, Sr. August 17, 2017 at 2:44 am

    Picture speaks a thousand words! Seeing the posted pictures above, only Vice President
    Joseph N. Boakai and Mr. Alexander B. Cummings are very clearly seen; whereas, the rest
    of the pictures posted are blurred and unclear to sight. What this means?

  3. An anonymous philosopher once said, “Your greatness is measured by your kindness. Your education is measured by your character. Your intellect is measured by your modesty. Your ignorance is betrayed by your suspicions and prejudices. Your real caliber is measured by the consideration and tolerance you have for others.”

    These Presidential debates do not measure the true character of our “want-to-be president of Liberia”. These presidential debates, in as much as they help some voters to decide, these debates only show how well some presidential candidates can articulate complex issues.

    These debates show how some presidential candidates’ communication skills are better than others. These debates show how some presidential candidates have better knowledge of the complex issues facing the Liberian people.

    These debates show how some presidential candidates have good debating skills……especially those with legal backgrounds. These debates show how some presidential candidates have no workable solution to solving Liberia’s massive problems. Last but not least, these debates show how some presidential candidates are just pure “con artists”.

    As the media purported, “The six thematic area of focus are the economy, agriculture, peace and reconciliation, youth empowerment, security and the rule of law.” Some of the biggest problems if solved by any of these potential candidates that could put many worried Liberians at ease are Health Care, Education, Security, “Jobs, Jobs, And Jobs”, Decentralization, Constitution Referendum, Reconciliation, Infrastructure Development and Corruption!

    The moderators could make room for the audience to ask the presidential candidates questions on issues that are pertinent to ordinary Liberians: either by soliciting questions from the audience or let some of the audience members participate by asking each presidential candidate questions.

    As the anonymous philosopher said, “The real caliber of a leader is measured by the consideration and tolerance he/she has for others”. Leadership is not only measured by how well one debates but how well one character is.”

    May God Bless The Republic of Liberia!

  4. Should the debate occurred , the edge goes to Cllr. Brumskine , as a lawyer who is capable of laying and executing his plan in the debate . One thing though , of late, he had blunder in trying to get his point across. If he stays focus on the topic and address them with facts, he gets the win in the debate. Perhaps, bring more attention to him. For now the debate is his to loose .

    • Mr. Davis,I disagreed with your analysis that Brumskine is a lawyer, therefore,he has the upper hand to articulate his visions well than the other candidates.
      On separate occasions, Brumskine held town hall meetings with the Staten Island Liberian community in New York City and he couldn’t articulate his economic and education plans in details. For examples; regarding his economic plan,he mentioned to introduce banking system in the villages without taking into consideration demography and jobs and his education plan,he indicated that Ghana’s education is 25% better than Liberia’s education system. Based on the aforementioned,I questioned him to provide his source and he said it was his own imagination. In addition to his education plan,he stated that he will reintroduce the school feeding system,but he fell short to explain how he will pay for it.

  5. Why should Weah debate anyone?? Weah has a lock on 100 percent of Liberia’s low information voters. These folks are convinced that Manneh (Weah) is their messiah! He will create job for the jobless! He will bring running water to their communities. He will build roads. He will build schools for the poor in PHP! He will even pay your rent when you get evicted! and pay your phone bill when your service is shutdown.

    Keep up the stupidity, folks! But our democracy is doomed if Weah ever becomes president!!

  6. Martin Scott,

    We did not have Weah for the past 11 years TO THE PRESENT! Right? Has our democracy FOR THE PAST 11 YEARS TO THE PRESENT been protected, saved, or successful, WITH A SUPREME COURT WHICH HAS LOST RESPECTABILITY, DIGNITY, AND INTERGRITY, JUXTAPOSING A PRESIDENT WHO IS VIOLATION OF LAW PERSONIFIED, IPSO FACTO HER APPOINTMENT OF A FOREIGNER AS NEC CHAIRMAN???

    AND A LEGILATOR (MORAIS WAYLEE) WHO RAPES AND IMPREGNATES HIS 12 YEARS OLD DAUGHTER AS THE JUSTICE MINISTER ORDERS PUBLIC PROSECUTORS TO HANDS-OFF THE CASE???????????????????????????????????????? IS THIS YOUR DEFINITION OF A CONSTITUTIONAL OR SAVED DEMOCRACY?????????????? IS THIS YOUR DEFINITION OF A CONSTITUTIONAL OR SAVED DEMOCRACY??????????????

    The “stupidity” is the delusion that an excellent or standard national presidential leadership ability is determined By university credentials or government experience, or being a member of the elite.

    And this insanity has doomed “our democracy” as evidenced By those (Supreme Court Justices) who should be the conscience of the nation been now only good for impeachment, conviction, and inmprsonment, as the consequence of their proven misconduct as defined in law!

    Secondly, this assertion of yours is very interesting: Why should Weah debate anyone?? Weah has a lock on 100 percent of Liberia’s low information voters.

    So, Mr. Scott, granted what you have asserted here is the case, CONSIDERING THE TRUTH THAT THE CHOICE OF THE LARGEST MAJORITIES OF THE POOR, THE LOWER MIDDLE CLASS, AND TO SOME EXTENT NEARLY THE ENTIRE MIDDLE CLASS, IS NO OTHER BUT SENATOR WEAH; IS IT NOT DEMOCRATIC ENOUGH TO LET THE BALLOT BOX DECIDE, AS OPPOSED TO LETTING OTHERWISE DECIDE; AN INSANITY WHICH HAS NOW PLACED THE COUNTRY ON THE BRINK OF TOTAL DESTRUCTION?

    • Mr. T. Alexander Tamba, what does “democracy” have to do with the “Supreme Court losing respectability” and the President appointing a “foreigner as NEC Chairman?? Democracy means majority rule. But you can also have majority rule with a dictator as president!–right? So, without further ado, here’s what, I predict, will happen in Weah’s first week as president:

      Day 1: He will party like it’s July 26 day! Day 2, He will shut down any newspaper who dare criticize him! Day 3: He will issue Executive Order # 88a which allows freedom of the press ONLY if it’s in the form of praising President Weah! Day 4, Organized a “National Reconciliation Conference” where ALL Liberians will hold hands– after drinking Club Beer–and sing ♪Weah, Weah, santa claus Weah, yea♪ ! Day 5, he will appoint Gbenzongar Findley as Speaker of Executive Branch. As Speaker Mr. Findley will deliver all Weah’s speeches! Day 6, he will create 150,000 jobs for jobless youths! We will have 75,000 young people digging holes with teaspoons and the other 75,000 will be putting the dirt back in the holes with tablespoons! On day 7, he’ll rest!

      Yes, folks, That’s what you will see in Weah first week. Elections have consequences! Any question. Mr. Taylor A. Tamba??

  7. We say, thank you, Mr. Alpha Conneh, for those very sensible comments.

    These debates are unnecessary and irrelevant; voters would better hold candidates accountable by their published costed political platforms or manifestos. It is in those documents the practical, achievable, and implementable visions of political parties and their nominees ought to appear. (Ellen left a 100 containers filled of visions, by the way) Moreover, debates didn’t determine the outcome of the 2016 presidential elections in the US, and they were nonexistent during the June 2017 general elections held in the UK. Most likely, the intelligentsia – beneficiaries and apologists of her betrayal – want to influence the decisions of an impressionable student voting bloc, a plan which suits a naturally publicity seeking Fourth Estate.

    Obviously, the people of the whole wide world know that education is necessary in a democracy, because an informed electorate knows its rights, expects them, demands them, understands the issues, and can hold political power accountable. Yet a regime led by a graduate of Harvard University with aides who, probably, tote more doctorate degrees than the nation of Sweden is leaving public school education in a bloody mess, and couldn’t even build one public library. It didn’t stop EJS though from paying money to have her portrait taken and hung at that university.

    Talking of egotism, and a leader arrogantly indifferent to citizens’ welfare, there you have it in full display for visitors to see in the year 3030!

    Put another way, our elites had always wanted to perpetuate their kind atop the political and economic ladders of the country, so public school education was neglected while their kids mostly attended private schools then foreign colleges. It is a shame that a society whose best and brightest love to pull the ladder up after them would want poor struggling students to witness and assess skills on articulation, elocution, and oratory (all rhetoric) of presidential hopefuls. Of course, the suffering masses would be too busy moving like zombies fending for food from morning till night to bother with the “big book people thing”.

    The question is, why would we want to act surprise then that the vast majority suck air for sustenance and the country is still stuck in backwardness after 170 years of independence?

  8. Weah will always be absent because he is not a leader but a play boy. Librarians should think twice before voting for weah. Weah is not a serious person to be president of Liberia. When is time for weah to take part in Liberian people interest he’s gone out of the country. Think about it Liberia !!!

    • Why Will you say leave him, when he Weah has a Master Degree in Public Administration. He being at the debate would have been a good day to articulate all of his beauty plan he got for this country and how he will do it. we don’t want president telling us that, my mouth is not the Holy Bible.

  9. The current Vice President Joseph N. Boakai is well educated and qualified to participate in any presidential debate. Therefore, I have no doubts that he will be one of those who will outline a very good road map for development in Liberia when elected. In most presidential debates that I have witnessed in the United States, presidential candidates go after the president and not the Vice president. What I am simply saying is that it will be unfair for anyone to accuse Vice President Boakai for what President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has done. Remember that he is just a vice president and not the president. The best way to evaluate this Vice President is for Liberians to afford him this opportunity to lead by electing him. The late President Tolbert had the best development plan for Liberia when he became president because of the 19 years he served under President Tubman as president.He saw many things that his late boss did that were not right. So when he became president he decided to change them. People should question him on what difference will his presidency be from that of President Allen. The best person to defend this current administration is President Allen Johnson Sirleaf. She is the official spokesperson and not the Vice President. The Vice president do not sign laws passed by both houses. It is the president.

  10. You of all person are silly and stupid, don’t insult other people candidate. Cause Weah is far more better than you are. Your always looking down on people it won’t be surprising if you educated fools goes again to put another elite,dog into the chair with the slogan of you kill my generations and my self I will vote for you. This isn’t a lesson learn yet for your out there with your big big mouth and bust trousers, stealing the poor people money and yet still waiting to tote and come slave in another man country. What a SHAME! Whether your like it or not Weah will be our president.

  11. Never will he outline a very good road map for the country. No matter what kind of educated or qualified he might be he will never succeed. Shame on he and his past regime, they did nothing why in power. They seems to be educated but they do not have the country at heart.Look at the Airport he and his President travel from to go to other people country, all filthy no elcetricity, no road, yet and still they pulled people of the road to go about their business saying they are going to work. Silly National Police all blocking road to get their salary from poor citizens, why your the dumb asses who elected them in office are corrupt and stealing government money to bring abroad. Foreigners are the one taking over your national resources and yet your big mouth is running on poor Weah who has the country at heart and been doing for it since the 90s with out bragging about it. Yes We Know He is Not Educated but he has the country at heart and wil do better things for his Mother Land Liberia. Liberia Will Rise and Shine Again thru CDC. Your elite and bookish people who are more qualified your hear it oooooooooooh.

  12. Let me take this time to acknowledge all Liberian that this election is not by who is more educated but it is about who has this country at heart, some of our candidates are more educated but they don’t have this country we called Mama Liberia at heart, they only want power to in rich then self and family so let shine our eyes and vote for right person who will lead this country appropriately.

  13. I watched the Liberian presidential debate it was so, so. people answered question to the best of their ability. Let us be care the highest office in the nation is not an place. Once you are in that seat you are the leader of that nation. You are the leader and you have to play the role of leadership and leadership doesn’t come easy. The success or failure of any enterprise depends on the quality of its leadership and, more specifically, on the quality of the decisions made by the occupants of the officer. By their actions, as well their inactions, executives can enhance the lives and wealth of their citizens and the business people that are coming to invest in the country. By the same token, they have the power to destroy assets or an entire organization, for that matter.

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