As the Ja’neh impeachment trial becomes more imminent, news have begun filtering into the offices of the Daily Observer suggesting that the days of House Speaker Bhofal Chambers’ reign are numbered. It is being widely speculated that Speaker Chambers has incurred the displeasure of his colleagues over the allegedly dysfunctional manner in which he is handling the affairs of the House of Representatives.
The New Dawn newspaper, in its Thursday August 30, 2018 edition, reported a story by Nathaniel Daygbor alluding to plans currently underway by some members of the House to have Speaker Chambers replaced. The story attributes probable reasons for this to growing estrangement between the Speaker and President Weah over what the story says is Speaker Chambers persistent attacks on former President Sirleaf, accusing her of a host of past ills, some of which now plague the current government.
Further, according to the story, the individual being tipped to replace Speaker Chambers is none other than Jonathan Fonati Koffa a former Liberty Party stalwart and recent convert to the cause of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC). His conversion to the CDC’s cause was widely trumpeted in the local media and he was hailed as a hero by CDC Chairman, Mulbah Morlu. But Koffa’s conversion to the CDC came in the wake of a series of conversions of members of other parties to the CDC’s cause.
And Koffa’s move as well as those before him have raised public speculations and fears that Liberia is headed for a one-party state under President George Weah. But more than that, these conversions appear to follow a familiar pattern of political opportunism, by seekers of fame and fortune, witnessed in the past under previous regimes. In the opinion of this newspaper, such a trend and practice tend to undermine political plurality and the growth and development of a healthy democratic culture.
In the case of Rep. Jonathan Fonati Koffa, this newspaper, the Daily Observer, finds it fit to subject his character to intense public scrutiny as is the case with all others already in or are stepping into the public space. That his name is being mulled as a possible replacement to Speaker Chambers speaks volumes, particularly considering his criminal past and his role, until most recently, as a diehard supporter of Liberty Party leader and former Presidential candidate, Charles Walker Brumskine.
At his trial, in the United States, in 2006, on a range of criminal charges including embezzlement, Koffa claimed that he had embezzled the money of his clients to build roads and bridges in Liberia. He had served as Town Manager of Zebulon Town in North Carolina where he was accused of and pleaded guilty to embezzling money valued at approximately US$500,000. He was at the time a close confidant and supporter of Liberty Party leader, Charles Walker Brumskine.
Commenting at the time on Koffa’s predicament, Brumskine said, “With regrets, I have accepted the resignation of Counselor Jonathan Fonati Koffa, as legal advisor to my campaign.” Describing him as a “friend and brother,” he said, “My prayer is also with Cllr. Koffa and his family.” When, according to sources, news emerged of Koffa’s involvement in criminal activities, he fled to Liberia from Zebulon, North Carolina but later returned to the United States to face charges and a subsequent jail term.
Upon serving jail time, he returned to Liberia where he successfully reinvented himself by worming his way into the good graces and confidence of President Sirleaf. He was later appointed by President Sirleaf to lead prosecutorial efforts against Senator Varney Sherman, former Speaker Alex Tyler and others accused by Global Witness in the Sable Mining Bribery case, for which he is said to have received well over half a million U.S. dollars to prosecute the defendants. Cllr. Koffa later launched a bid to occupy a seat in the House of Representatives for Grand Kru County, which he won.
Now it is being widely speculated that he is being touted to replace Speaker Bhofal Chambers as head of the Legislature. And this is just where the Daily Observer interposes objections to plans, for purely moral and ethical reasons, to have Koffa, an individual with a criminal past, to replace Bhofal Chambers as Speaker of the House of Representatives. Already alarm bells are ringing charging that the co-optation, into the CDC, of politicians from various political parties is part and parcel of a grand plan allegedly hatched by President Weah to ensure dominance of the state apparatus by individuals from southeastern Liberia.
The Daily Observer does not subscribe to this notion. However, the Daily Observer cannot help but warn of the grave dangers associated with a tendency to return to tribalism which often results and grows from a culture of impunity. The mere fact that most local dailies have generally omitted, from their coverage of Jonathan Fonati Koffa’s “exploits” and involvement in local politics, facts associated with his jail sentence served in the United States of America for stealing.
The public has a right to know all there is to know about their officials and media entities have a corresponding responsibility to duly inform the public accordingly. Without realizing it, this is how the media becomes unwitting accomplices to repression and consequently victims of manipulation with dangerous implications for freedom and democracy in a fragile society such as ours.
President Weah is clearly a neophyte in politics and should he not wise up to such political tricks and artifice, he runs the risk of isolating himself from world opinion but most importantly alienation from his own people. In 2005 and 2011, both Weah and Brumskine were candidates for the presidency.
The question is, what did Koffa see in Brumskine that he did not see in Weah, until recently, such that he was prepared to steal people’s money to support Brumskine and go to jail as a consequence thereof? The answer is simple. It is POWER, of course, and it can often be a deadly double-edge sword. President Weah has to beware of the dangers of the Politics of Opportunism.