– Senator Geraldine Doe Retorts
Montserrado County Senator Geraldine Doe Sheriff has reacted sharply to a front page story carried in the January 4th edition of the Daily Observer stating that the Senate had derived a consensus in support of Grand Kru Senator Albert Chie’s bid to succeed Gbarpolu Senator Armah Jallah as President Pro Tempore of that body.
In response to questions about her chances of success considering that she is the lone female candidate in the race, Senator Sheriff stated that she does enjoy the support of some of her colleagues although some have been dismissive of her stated intention to contest.
She said some Senators have argued, howbeit erroneously, that she is unqualified to contest because she has only 3 years left to the expiration of her 9 year tenure, a claim which she said has no legal or constitutional basis.
Reacting to concerns that her bid may not be supported by her former colleague and now President-elect George Weah, Senator Sheriff said that she has no personal problem with her former colleague as they have both worked well together in the Senate since 2014 without recrimination.
She said her detractors (names withheld) are attempting to drive a wedge between her and President-elect Weah for no other reason than the fact that she stands opposed to machinations and attempts to reduce legislators especially senators to cringing servants of the Executive and thereby weakening their independence.
Senator Sheriff observed that the country is faced with great economic and other challenges which, in her opinion, requires an all-hands-on-deck approach to foster inclusion and reconciliation, noting that President-elect Weah cannot do it all alone.
Meanwhile, sources say that intense lobbying has begun among lawmakers of the Lower House to have Representative-elect Jonathan Fonati Koffa secure the position of Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Sources say that outgoing President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is also supporting Representative-elect Koffa and that tidy sums are being dished out to help influence the vote when the House convenes in session to elect a new Speaker.
The drawback for Fonati Koffa, according to some legislators, is that he comes with substantial excess baggage as an ex-convict who served jail time in the United States after having been convicted for the embezzlement of US$500,000.
He was charged with stealing government money, committing mail fraud and two counts of wire fraud. However, it remains to be seen whether Koffa’s criminal history will prove sufficient to dissuade his colleagues from supporting his candidacy.
Informed sources say, however, that prominent figures in the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) are reported to have rejected alleged overtures from President Sirleaf to mobilize support for Koffa’s candidacy.
Sources also say that influential CDCians have instead thrown their support to the candidacy of Representative Bhofal Chambers for House Speaker. It is not clear at this point whether the CDC, currently enjoying a majority in the new configuration, is going to throw its weight behind Chambers.
He has been a fierce critic of outgoing President Sirleaf who sources say is in the President-elect’s good books. But observers say with Vice President-elect Jewel Howard Taylor allegedly leaning towards Fonati Koffa, President-elect Weah may find himself hard-pressed to cave to the wishes of his Vice President-elect and the known Koffa supporter, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Thus Chambers could very well find himself left in the cold.
It should, however, be noted that the CDC is no longer the monolith it once was before the formation of the Coalition which now includes the National Patriotic Party (NPP) founded by convicted and jailed war criminal Charles Taylor. Aside from the NPP the CDC also includes ousted and indicted House Speaker Alex Tyler.
They are also reported to be jostling for positions of influence in the new Weah led government. Tyler is under criminal indictment but it will not be surprising should he land a top slot in the new configuration. Be what it may, there could be room for compromise, according to observers, with a quid pro quo solution which sees Senator Albert Chie being elected as President Pro Tempore of the Senate and Representative Chambers as Speaker of the House.
Senator Chie is reported to enjoy very warm relations with former NOCAL Board Chairman Robert Sirleaf. Their relationship is reported to have started when Senator Chie served as a technical focal point at NOCAL at the time when Robert Sirleaf was serving as that entity’s Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors.
Under Sirleaf’s watch millions of dollars were virtually stolen, but President Sirleaf, when pressed about the missing funds, replied, “I take responsibility,” whatever that meant. Senator Chie could however face tough opposition from the lone female candidate, Geraldine Doe Sheriff, in whose favor gender considerations may weigh heavily.
Senator Chie is also likely to face formidable opposition from Lofa County Senator Steve Zargo, who has also thrown his hat into the race. Senator Zargo contends that the leaders of both Houses cannot come from the same county or region, a factor which he claims would be disruptive of the unwritten rule of geographical balance.
This means in other words that because both Senator Chie and Representative-elect Fonati Koffa hail from the Southeastern county of Grand Kru and with President elect George Weah originally hailing from Grand Kru, the so called geographic balance would be tilted to the disadvantage of other regions with much larger populations such as the Western, South, North and Central regions.
For now, everything appears up for grabs; and as the coin tosses, who knows whether it will be heads or tail, winners or losers. Only time will tell!