Sinoe, one of Liberia’s founding counties, will for the first time since its establishment in 1847 formally ask one of its sons to run for President of Liberia.
The county will petition Dr. Joseph Mills Jones, Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia, to contest the 2017 Presidential Election during the country’s 168th independence celebration expected to be held in the county capital, Greenville on July 26.
According to Mr. Patrick Bolu, the News Director of (VOS) Voice of Sinoe (88.3 FM Sinoe), citizens are planning for the petition, mobilizing over 20,000 people comprising delegations from each of the 15 counties.
Bolu said the petition might be compared to the March 21 triumphant entrance of Dr. Jones into Greenville, where he opened the fourth rural banking institution.
Making the disclosure in front of scores of reporters in his newsroom over the weekend, Bolu indicated that the petitioning of Dr. Jones was thought to be “rumors” but investigations have shown that though the organizers are tight-lipped, there are indications that it would be an elaborate reality. Bolu did not reveal any names.
He said the establishment of the Sinoe Community Rural Finance Institute speaks volumes of Dr. Jones’ priority for the country – moving the people from the valley of poverty – and the multitude of Sinoeans who turned out, broke the barriers of tribe, religion and denomination.
“We have been investigating the so-called rumors, but there are signs on the wall that Sinoe County will ask their son – Dr. Jones to run, like what was done for Vice President Joseph Boakai by the people of Lofa County,” said Bolu.
Another staff of the radio station, who begged not to be named, said the organizers of the county’s Petitioning Ceremony are a group of progressive activists who are also planning a new strategy to convince Governor Jones to accept the petition to run for president.
One of their strategies is to develop a ‘Dr. Jones for President’ website that will solicit the signatures of supporters to a petition, urging the CBL Executive Governor to get in the 2017 race, the VOS reporter divulged.
“They are not saying too much about their exact plans, but they said they will definitely be out in force and support Mills Jones when he accepts the petition,” said the reporter.
Although they haven’t yet decided what shape the campaign will officially take, they plan to step up volunteer efforts, raise funds and make sure that their presence is felt in the county and throughout Liberia.
For his part, Dr. Jones has not officially declared his intension to vie for the country’s top seat, but there are signs that suggest he has not completely closed the door on 2017.
In most of his speeches on the opening of several rural banks, Dr. Jones promised to help alleviate poverty from the country and urged Liberians to reconcile and unite. Furthermore he has always climaxed his visits with Palava Hut meetings. In Sinoe County, he reconciled the Kru and Sarpo communities over the recent Special Senatorial Elections which had enough tribal tension.
In the wake of Dr. Jones’ initiative to grant loans to credit unions, the Legislature passed an Act establishing Rural Banks in the country. There have been political opinions, some to probably discourage Dr. Jones of his unannounced ambition for the presidency.
In some quarters it is perceived that the CBL Governor is not mandated to give out loans as he is doing in the microfinance initiatives and that he is playing politics. Dr. Jones has rebuked what he described as his detractors’ “baseless arguments against financial empowerment of ordinary citizens.” He said there was nothing wrong with using the country’s resources to fight poverty especially when the people are striving to make a living, adding that he was not using the country’s reserves to fight poverty.
If indeed Dr. Jones intends to contest for the presidency, he has other obstacles in his path. One of them is the Legislature’s amendment to the Act creating the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) which restricts, within a specified time-frame, all present and future governors and deputy governors of the CBL from contesting for elected offices as long as they remain officials of the CBL. Furthermore, the Amendment provides that they shall not be qualified to contest any elected office until three years, consecutively, after the end of their tenure at the CBL, or after their resignation therefrom.
The Amendment, which has been passed by the Legislature, and endorsed by the President reads: “The Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia and members of the Board of Governors shall be prohibited from contesting political office(s) while serving in their respective offices and shall not be qualified to contest any electable office within three years consecutively after the expiration of their tenure and in his/her resignation from the Central Bank of Liberia.”
The governor’s other hurdle is also of a Legislative construct. Owing to a letter from Montserrado County Lawmaker Edwin M. Snowe, the Legislature has recently called for the audit of the CBL by the General Auditing Commission (GAC).
There have been widespread public arguments over the required GAC audit. Many people do not believe that the GAC has the prerogative to audit the CBL while others are saying it is constitutional for the GAC to do so and is within the GAC mandate to audit all government institutions including CBL. According to the Act creating the CBL, the bank is required to be audited by a reputable independent firm. To this argument, Governor Jones has contended that CBL is audited by a reputable institution therefore there was no need for people to call for CBL to be audited. CBL is audited by Price Waterhouse.
There has been no news on these presidential speculations emerging from Governor Jones himself and all attempts to contact Governor Jones for his reaction proved futile. There is an assumption that he might run on an independent ticket, and unlikely on a party ticket.
If Dr. Jones accepts Sinoe’s petition, it means he would be one of the four formidable candidates, which include Vice President Joseph Boakai of the ruling Unity Party, Sen. George Weah of the Congress for Democratic Change, (CDC) and Cllr. Charles Brumskine of Liberty Party (LP).
There have been a few sons of Sinoe that have eyed the presidency but have been undercut for one reason or another. One of them who came closest to the presidency was a Speaker of the House of Representatives J. N. Lewis, in 1930. Mr. Lewis, who as Speaker of the House was constitutionally the third in line for the presidency after the President and the Vice President, would have ascended to the presidency following the resignation, first of Vice President Allen Yancy on December 2, 1930 and the next day, of President C.D.B. King, over the Fernando Po crisis, according to the book, Albert Porte, A Lifetime Trying to Save Liberia, by Kenneth Y. Best.
Speaker Lewis was the grandfather of the late former Chief Justice Johnnie N. Lewis who died earlier this year. Speaker Lewis was a descendant of J. N. Lewis, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence in 1847.
The reason he was passed over for the presidency was because, at the time of the resignation of Vice President Yancy and President King, Speaker Lewis, constitutionally the third in line for the presidency, was visiting his native Sinoe County and could not get to Monrovia in time for the succession. There were at the time no airplanes to bring him to Monrovia quickly. He could only have traveled by row-boat over the Atlantic from Greenville to Monrovia, a journey that could have taken several days.
It was for this reason that the Legislature chose Secretary of State Edwin J. Barclay to accede to the presidency in 1930.
One of the great sons of Sinoe County whom the Sinoe people wanted to be president was Senator Harrison Grigsby during the Tubman era. But the tall, stately and towering politician was lied on to President Tubman by a man who himself would become president. So Tubman declined to accept Mr. Grigsby as his running mate.
Had Sen. Grigsby been chosen as Tubman’s running mate in one of his series of re-elections, Grigsby would have become the first Sinoean to enter the Executive Mansion as president.