Can Unity Party Be Redeemed?

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Three powerful members of the Unity Party (UP) recently resigned from the ruling party. Most prominent among them was the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alex Tyler, who happens to hail from the same county, Bomi, as the President and Standard Bearer, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

The other two are Senator Oscar Cooper of Margibi County, and Lofa County Representative Moses Kollie. All three are executive members of the party.

On the contrary, UP’s Vice Standard Bearer, Vice President Joseph N. Boakai, this week declared that unlike some of his fellow partisans, he will remain with UP “until death.” Following petitions he has received from seven districts in his native Lofa County to seek the presidency in 2017, he has responded positively and declared his candidacy for 2017, when he will turn 73.

UP has been in power for two consecutive terms, 2006 to the present, close to 10 years. Over the decade the party should be able to point to a number of development initiatives that should convince its partisans and the Liberian people as a whole that they were right in giving UP their confidence in electing then re-electing their standard bearer to lead the country.

But why is the party, after two successive presidential electoral victories and an impressive showing in recent Legislative races, experiencing a serious case of attrition (erosion, wearying away)?

There are indications or speculations that more partisans may jump ship; and many politicians are leaning toward the powerful opposition Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), led by the football superstar George Weah, who recently dealt a landslide defeat to the President’s son, Robert Sirleaf, in the race for the Liberian Senate.

It would appear that as the ruling party is losing steam, the CDC, which UP defeated in the past two presidential races, is rapidly gaining momentum, with a growing number of politicians tilting on to its bandwagon.

Everyone is awaiting the response of the UP Standard Bearer, President Sirleaf, to the party’s recent misfortunes. The first thing she needs to do, in our perception, is to give her reaction to the defections UP has suffered, most especially that of Speaker Tyler. He gave the President a double blow, since he hailed from not only the same party as the President, but also from the same county, too—Bomi. Some media reports suggest that Speaker Tyler, too, is leaning toward the CDC.

The President and UP Standard Bearer is expected also to comment on the defection of Senator Oscar Cooper and Rep. Kollie.

But there is an even more urgent item on the UP Standard Bearer’s agenda—that is, announcing her position on the candidacy of Vice President Joseph N. Boakai for the 2017 presidential race.

Mr. Boakai has told the media that he is pretty sure of President Sirleaf’s endorsement. But when asked about this a few weeks ago, she hedged, saying that that was a matter for discussion between her and Mr. Boakai.

We believe that at this point in time, it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the President to deny Vice President Boakai the nod for the succession. Remember, it was her reluctance to support Senator Cooper in the Pro-Tempore race that provoked him to leave UP. Her rejection of Boakai would further split the party and probably seal its fate as a relic (artifact, remnant) of history.

On the other hand, endorsement of Boakai would earn UP and its Standard Bearer a lot of respect and appreciation, and probably popular support, which it so badly needs right now. People will say he deserves nothing less, in return for his loyalty to the Standard Bearer and President and to the party.

Ellen’s endorsement of Joe Boakai’s candidacy for President could well be one of the redeeming factors in the UP’s litany of troubles.

But can he muster the enthusiasm, stamina and vision to lift UP from its current malaise and carry it to victory again? Only time will tell.

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