Challenges for VP Boakai as New UP Standard Bearer

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It is a crowning moment for any political party anywhere to elect a new standard bearer to lead the party through the next presidential and general elections.

It is—or is supposed to be—a moment of celebration for two reasons: first, the triumphant crowning of a new leader, who will lead the party in the 2017 presidential and general elections.

Secondly is the challenge of doing his homework—healing and reuniting the party. This challenge is probably more difficult than the first because this is what VP Boakai must do before he steps out to make his first campaign speech tomorrow.

Why? Because the party is in disarray, as openly exhibited at its convention last weekend in Gbarnga, Bong County. The reports portrayed an open conflict between the outgoing standard bearer, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and outgoing UP chairman, Senator Varney Sherman. The feud burst into the open on the stage of the Gbarnga Administration Building when the two leaders engaged in very heated exchanges. Only the civility embedded in each other’s hearts and the realization of their leadership roles prevented things from turning worse.

That was a sad commentary on a political party that twice carried its standard bearer through two successive presidential victories. The moment of spectacular celebration was lost when the longstanding feud between the two party leaders burst into the open as Chairman Varney Sherman delivered his report—a report that was rejected by the standard bearer, President Sirleaf, as being “undemocratic,” or a campaign spree. She demanded that the report be rewritten.

As the tension grew more intense, the convention committee chairman, Representative Prince Moye, had to stop the deliberations, while he respectfully asked the media and all observers, including diplomats and other foreign nationals, to leave the hall so that the convention could take care of some urgent and pressing internal business.

But it was probably already too late. For the press, observers and the partisans themselves witnessed this most unfortunate spectacle of division between the two top party leaders—a display no one wants to see as a ruling party faces the next presidential and general elections.

That in itself is a harbinger of woe, landing VP Boakai his first and most serious challenge—to heal the wounds, reunite the party and ready it for the real battle, the 2017 elections.

Most people who know the Vice President as a calm, even gentle, compassionate and seasoned politician, believe he can reunite the party. His first task will be to heal the rift between the President and UP former chairman. For despite the fact they are no longer in the driving seat, she is still President of
Liberia and he, still a wealthy and powerful lawyer, politician and Liberian Senator from Grand Cape Mount County. Both are esteemed and influential and could play major roles in the party’s 2017 campaign.

But if they must stand together with VP Boakai on the campaign trail, they have to be seen smiling at and being congenial toward each other to show the partisans, voters and the public in general that they are truly united behind the UP candidate for President, Mr. Boakai. Moreover, each has respective followings within the party and these, too, have to be brought aboard the unity train to ensure there will be no behind the scene intraparty bickering.

It remains to be seen whether Mr. Boakai has the faith, optimism and sagacity to make this happen. The reason we mention faith is because with God, all things are possible.

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