A new episode of an old feud between old foes
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Grand Cape Mount County Senator Varney Sherman’s long hostile relationship shows no signs of abating anytime soon. As a matter of fact, it is on the verge of entering into another episode during these crucial presidential and legislative elections.
Information reaching the Daily Observer, however, indicates that the ruling Unity Party is at the center of what appears to be a renewed battle to punish Senator Sherman.
Presently, there seems to be an orchestrated smear campaign against the former Unity Party national chairman to make him unattractive on the campaign trail to potential voters during the remaining period of the campaign process. The investigation has revealed that the origin of the smear campaign, allegedly orchestrated from the Executive, among others, might use the claims of the Global Witness Report against Sherman.
It is no secret that one of the fiercest political rivalries in Liberia’s recent history is the one that exists between President Sirleaf and Senator Varney Sherman. The two, as presidential candidates in 2005, had one of their most bitter episodes at a presidential debate when President Sirleaf, mockingly, questioned the contribution of the learned counselor to the Liberian state. Senator Sherman’s response that he was not one of those who brought mayhem on the country brought the entire hall into disarray and that episode many believed, substantially elevated the bad blood that has existed between the two.
A robust negative media campaign is reported to have been launched in Monrovia last week against Sherman in order to bring him to public scorn in the face of his vigorous campaign in support of the presidential bid of Vice President Joseph Nyuma Boakai, according to a stalwart of the ruling party who asked not to be identified. “This campaign is being funded by critics of the Senator and it is also aimed at weakening his quest to support the presidential bid of VP Boakai,” he said.
This latest development seemed to have been planned by some members of the Executive Branch of Government, making reference to Sherman’s recent political speech to partisans of the ruling Unity Party at Buzzy Quarters in Monrovia, where he called on them to support the presidential bid of the Vice President.
A report indicated that a huge sum of money has been dished out to some unscrupulous individuals to carry out this negative media campaign against the Senator. “I heard the information; and this is very unfortunate. But let me say that this will have no impact because we will ensure that VP Boakai is elected the next president of this country. Absolutely nothing can stop that,” a source close to Senator Sherman told the Daily Observer yesterday.
“This will not stop him from wearing his shorts and boots and do what he is supposed to do for Boakai and the UP in these elections. We will win, I can tell you that,” he added.
With this newest chapter, it is obvious that Boakai’s presidential odyssey and the ruling Unity Party stand to suffer unless Ambassador Boakai can change the trend.
Varney Sherman fired several salvos at President Sirleaf when he spoke to reporters last week indicating that VP Boakai did not need her support to win the 2017 election. He said the President’s support will not have any impact, with reference to his 2014 experience when he ran for a senatorial position in Grand Cape Mount County.
“In 2014, though I was the chairman of the UP and was contesting in my county, the President thought it wise to support other candidates and didn’t support me, yet I won by 60%. So we don’t necessarily need her support at this new UP. I’m not seeing any support from her for the party,” he said.
“This party stands a very good chance in these elections and our candidate will win irrespective of her support. Our candidate is the tested and most proven in these elections,” he added.
“I’m not vindictive so I have never had anything against anyone. I got no grudge against anyone in this country,” Sen. Sherman said.
The former UP chairman’s hostile relationship with the president has a long history but the latest episode resurrected following the resignation of former Justice Minister, Cllr. Benedict Sannoh, who stepped down in the wake of what he described as the poor handling of the investigation into the death of Harry A. Greaves, the former Managing Director of the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company. It was widely speculated that the preferred replacement was the then Liberty Party chairman Cllr. J. Fonati Koffa.
According to Sherman, this was the very first time that the President ever called him, as the national chairman of the ruling party, to have a discussion about an appointee. “I refused her preferment on grounds that Cllr. Koffa had a criminal record in the United States and that he could not be a good choice. And secondly, he had not practiced law in Liberia for more than ten years so he could not be our Justice Minister.”
He claimed that Madam Sirleaf planted the seed of discord between him and Koffa and when she told Koffa that “I had objected to his appointment. This was just a consultation that I had my take on and she went about telling Koffa what I had discussed with her. In my mind, I don’t think that is leadership.”
After abandoning the quest to make Cllr. Koffa Justice Minister, the President turned her attention to another direction that made the situation between the two gloomier. She wanted to have appointed Cllr. Johnny Momoh, who was considered a Sherman nemesis after being expelled from the Sherman and Sherman Law Firm as a partner, to be Sannoh’s replacement.
Momoh later filed a complaint against the firm at the time but later withdrew it. Such an appointment, many believe, would have come at a high cost for the President, further fueling the rift between the Chairman of the ruling party. However, that appointment didn’t materialize.