Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor’s remarks that “This is our time to eat. We will eat but we are going to do it in a way that everybody will be able to eat” to District Commissioners in Bong County has, without doubt, struck a very sour note given the avalanche of public criticisms which have since attended them.
Moreover her suggestion that service in government is open only to those who have taken membership in her Coalition for Democratic Change appears to have confirmed the public’s worst fears about the resurgence of the Charles Taylor agenda as she promised during the run-up to the 2017 elections which saw her ascendancy to power as Vice President of Liberia.
According to political observers, the Taylor agenda as many Liberians would recall, was one of plunder, rape, pillage, murder, conscription of child soldiers and unbridled looting of the country’s resources. Although questions yet loom about how much Vice President Howard Taylor knew of her husband’s crimes before he was elected President of Liberia, observers say she was a regular visitor to Taylor’s Gbarnga headquarters at a time when Taylor’s bloody footprints were visible all over the country.
Whatever the case, her recent remarks threatening dismissal for those District Commissioners in Bong County who do not hold membership in her ruling Coalition, as well as her “this is our time to eat” remarks do suggest that she may be tracing her jailed former husband’s footsteps and taking her cue from Taylor’s playbook. Moreover, according to political observers, her utterances that it is now her “time to eat” conveys the unmistaken impression that Vice President Howard Taylor appears predisposed to theft of the nation’s resources under whatever guises.
They cite for example the case of the Bong Community College whose construction has virtually grounded to a halt. It may be recalled that President Sirleaf in 2010 broke grounds for the construction of the college. About 4 million US dollars was budgeted for the college however the amount was later raised by 2 million dollars and it was scheduled to be completed by the contractors, China Investment Group within a year following groundbreaking ceremonies.
This, however, did not happen apparently for financial reasons. It may also be recalled that at one point the contractors threatened to stop work on the college because the Project Management Committee under the guidance of the Bong County Legislative caucus was not meeting its obligations.
In 2015, according to sources, the county’s leadership including its then Superintendent Selena Polson Mappy, Senator Henry Yallah and former representative, George Mulbah amended the contract to provide an additional 1.8 million US dollars to complete just the basement of the college. Although the money was paid the work was not done leading county officials to begin trading blame for its failure.
At the time the construction came to a halt in October 2016, only 60 percent of the work had been completed thus leaving students with no alternative but to attend classes in the uncompleted structure which did not even include laboratory facilities. The resultant situation stirred public anger and led to street protests in Gbarnga with protesters charging county officials for receiving kickbacks which in their opinion led to the project stalling.
Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor was at the time a leading figure involved with the project and she ws accused of having written the MNG Gold Mining Company requesting scholarships for students to the tune of 10,000 US dollars. The former senator and now Vice President is alleged to have written the mining outfit directing that the funds be paid into her personal account at the Bank of Scotland bearing account number #12198967.
This was even reported in some local dailies. However Senator Howard Taylor denied the allegation describing the account number as fake because she did not own such an account as was reported. She claimed instead of depositing the requested amount into the college’s account.
She further said that all communications with the company was done on paper and not by email. “So for someone to raise some US$10,000 issue that Senator Taylor gave one account and say you must transfer it in some foreign country somewhere is farfetched. Someone is trying a game,” she said. Meanwhile, public reaction to Vice President Howard Taylor’s remarks aired on various radio stations yesterday were all unequivocal in their condemnation of the Vice President for her stance demanding that all District Commissioners join the CDC in order to maintain their jobs.
“To show you all that some people who are sitting here are not members of the Coalition, you know we don’t have nothing in our hearts against you all because I would have said remove everybody. What would you have done to me? Nothing! This is my time. Nothing you will do to me. This is my time. We are not coming to give our birthrights to other people. This is our time to eat. We will eat but we are going to eat in a way that everybody will be able to eat, too,” she stated.
Meanwhile, against the ensuing public outcry, President George Weah has maintained a stony silence over what some of his supporters say are divisive remarks by the vice president which they say runs counter to President Weah’s inaugural pledge to run an inclusive government.
At this point it remains unclear where President Weah stands on this issue. However, given the recent strain between the President and his Vice President over her unauthorized frequent foreign travels which became public, it appears unlikely that President Weah will openly upbraid his second in command in a similar fashion which may have led to her tendering of public apology to President Weah.