The official launch of the ruling Unity Party campaign is on the horizon, and many Liberians, especially UP partisans and supporters, cannot wait to lock-down Monrovia tomorrow, Saturday September 16. But the much anticipated moment of the launch would be the arrival, or not, of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf—a moment, it is believed, that would serve as a maker or breaker of the VP’s presidential quest.
The ruling party and its standard bearer emeritus seem to be caught between the scissors, and many are predicting that such being the case, the President’s absence would deal a harsh blow to Boakai’s candidacy, while her presence would create much noise.
Unsubstantiated reports indicate that the members of the party’s hierarchy are divided over whether the President should be allowed at the VP’s campaign launch tomorrow, as she is yet to be seen with him on the campaign trail. Many top officials of the party and government who were contacted by the Daily Observer to find out whether or not the President will be present at the launch declined to comment, begging that they do not want to be embroiled in an unnecessary conflict.
However, every partisan of the Unity Party should be aware that the success of Vice President Boakai at the polls on October 10 hinges on the action or inaction of the President—and many see the Saturday launch as the most ideal time and platform for President Sirleaf to make that all important statement on whether or not she truly supports the presidential bid of her chief lieutenant, who has stood by her for the past twelve years.
Although they are saving face, it is no secret that the Unity Party has been in serious disarray. The party is divided into two factions: the President Sirleaf faction on one hand, and the Vice President Boakai and Varney Sherman faction on the other. This rift has resulted in the President seeming to not be in support of VP Boakai, but rather some members of the opposition bloc, specifically the Liberty Party, and lately the Coalition for Democratic Change.
The President’s recent visit to the UP campaign headquarters to attend an executive meeting created additional rifts within the party as some top officials who had not approved her attendance walked out of the meeting. In recent times, staunch members of the UP, especially former chairman, Senator Varney Sherman, and the assistant secretary general for public affairs, Mohammed Ali, have stated publicly that since Boakai made his intention known for the presidency, they are yet to see any support coming from the President, though that was rebuffed by the office of the President at a press conference in Monrovia.
The President’s absence from tomorrow’s launch will send a clear signal that her courting of the CDC or Liberty Party is clearly a reality. While it is true that politics is about interest, many UP partisans have complained that the President’s alleged treatment of the VP is unfair. “This was the party that elected you to two terms with VP Boakai by your side, why can’t you reciprocate this gesture?” cried some partisans.
While some partisans and observers believe that President Sirleaf’s support to the VP will boost his quest for the presidency, especially with regards to her international connections, there are several partisans who also believe that the alleged shunning of the VP by the President is putting him at a vintage point, because the president has lost her popularity with the electorates.
“We don’t want her to be at the launch. She has not been supportive, and we no longer want her support. It is better she stays away so we can get our votes,” James Garlea, a staunch UP supporter in Montserrado County District#3, said. Garlea said the President is doing VP Boakai a favor by not supporting him, because her support would not have given Boakai’s presidential quest the present momentum that he believes is gradually taking him to the Executive Mansion.
But another partisan, Elijah Jacobs, said VP Boakai is running on President Sirleaf’s legacy, and as such it is weird for some partisans to demonize her at this critical juncture. “I’m looking forward to seeing President Sirleaf at the UP launch tomorrow. She has done well for this country and she must be respected,” Mr. Jacobs said.
Partisans of other parties are also equally concerned about the friction within the UP. One such person is Faluku Freeman, a supporter of Dr. H. Boima Fahnbulleh, the standard bearer of the Liberia People’s Party (LPP). Mr. Freeman noted on his Facebook page, “Madam President, Saturday will be your party’s launch of campaign and the biggest festival of your own party as witnessed in 2005 and 2011, where you paraded the nook and cranny of the principal streets of Monrovia with Oldman Joe Boakai as your able and trusted running mate. Your slogan was ‘It will hold, it will surely hold.’
My concern here is, are you going to partake in this big jamboree of your party come Saturday in order to break the silence or end all of the negative speculations about you? Remember that I’m not a member or supporter of the Unity Party, but I will love to see you at such a political jamboree. And my admiration has its root from the 2011 jamboree where you happily looked in the face of Oldman Joe Boakai,” he said.
Since the clock began ticking towards the 2017 presidential and legislative elections, the party has been rocked by a series of resignations, even in the midst of preparations for D-day (election day). Several key members who worked hard and vigorously campaigned to ensure the victory of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in the 2011 elections left the party, leaving it all up to her Vice President Joseph Boakai, now standard bearer, to fight for the presidency alone. Some of them include Information Minister Lenn Eugene Nagbe, who resigned his post as Secretary General; former Grand Bassa County Senator Gbehzongar Findley; and many others. But others such as former Gender and Children Protection Minister, Julia Duncan Cassell; head of the National Bureau of Concession, Ciatta Bishop; former Superintendent of Bong County, Selena Mappy-Polson among others, registered to run for legislative seats, but on the tickets of opposition parties, after the interpretation of the Code of Conduct by the Supreme Court. However, the party’s spokesman, Mohammed Ali, said although they registered on different tickets, they remain committed members of the party and have been lending their support to Boakai’s presidential bid.
Saturday will be a defining moment for VP Boakai, who the president has always demanded that he prove his manly worth by capturing the presidency on his own merits. This launch is a moment of two resounding outcomes: The VP stands on his own, or he gets the backing of his boss.