Exactly eleven days before the presidential runoff, Nimba County Senator Prince Y. Johnson yesterday, at a momentous press conference, endorsed the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) presidential candidate, George M. Weah.
The endorsement followed Johnson and Weah’s recent visit to Nigeria, where they met with Reverend T.B. Joshua of the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos.
Senator Johnson’s endorsement followed the first round of the October 10 presidential election that gave George Weah 38.4% of the total valide votes cast, compared to Vice President and Unity Party (UP) standard bearer Joseph Nyumah Boakai’s 28.8%.
As in past elections, Senator Johnson, the influential “political godfather” of vote-rich Nimba County, remains on the minds of many people as a key player in deciding who wins the presidential runoff election.
Since he accrued his 7.1% share of the first round of the October 10 election, the public has been wondering where Senator Johnson would land between the two parties in the runoff.
The public believes, rightly or wrongly, that the party to which he declares support would probably be the party in whose favor Nimbaians would cast their votes. This belief came true in 2011 when Prince Johnson first contested the presidential election and got not less than 11% of the total votes, placing him third among candidates that participated.
During the runoff that was held between George Weah and President Sirleaf, the Nimba County Senator, weighing the two sides, pledged his support to Madam Sirleaf.
However, many political pundits at the time believed that Nimbaians’ support to Madam Sirleaf was not based primarily on Johnson’s declaration of support, but on Sirleaf’s own achievements in the county and at the national level.
Primary among her achievements in Nimba was the construction of the 100-bed Jackson F. Doe Memorial Hospital in Tappita. Some Nimba citizens at the time reasoned that they supported Senator Johnson in the first round because he is their “political godfather,” but since he was not in the runoff race, they were supporting the side they wanted.
Prior to Senator Johnson’s declaration yesterday, he told a radio station in Monrovia that the people of Nimba should not vote for George Weah because members of CDC, in a tussle with those of the Liberty Party (LP), wounded a Nimbaian.
Senator Johnson also made headlines in the print media when he declared that if Weah were elected President of Liberia, the country would return to war.
But before making that statement, the Senator had already months ago declared his support to UP standard bearer Joseph Boakai, a support PYJ withdrew a few days later.
Now that he has finally endorsed George Weah in the runoff to be held in 11 days, eyes are on Nimbaians to see whether or not they will follow their godfather/Senator in the direction he has chosen.
But contrary to Senator Johnson’s declaration of support to the CDC, bringing jubilation to its partisans, the elders of Nimba are of a totally different mind. On the very same Thursday; that is, yesterday, that he pledged his support to CDC’s George Weah, the Nimba elders found their way to Vice President Joseph Boakai’s home and gave him their full support to be the next President of Liberia.
Our Reporter Gloria Tamba, in her story on that meeting, quoted the Nimba elders in today’s Daily Observer edition as saying that Prince Johnson’s endorsement of George Weah was by his own volition (preference) and not based on a consensus between him and the Nimba people.
Reporter Tamba further quoted the Nimba elders as pledging that they will “go from door to door throughout Nimba to ensure that the people of the county vote for Vice President Boakai.”
This decision by Nimba elders is not to be taken lightly.
Remember in the first round of the 2005 election, when Grand Gedeh County gave George Weah over 99% of their votes? What was the reaction of the Nimba elders? It turned out that Grand Gedeh, by their overwhelming vote for CDC, had given Weah the kiss of death. For the Nimba elders went from door to door telling their people that if Weah won, the Grand Gedeans would return to Nimba and “finish” what Samuel Doe tried to do to Nimbaians in 1990—wipe them out.
In the 2005 runoff that followed, UP’s Ellen Sirleaf won Nimba by a landslide, and went on to become the elected President of Liberia.
That was a classic testimony to the well-known Chinese proverb: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend. The friend of my enemy is my enemy.”
Thankfully relations have significantly improved between the peoples of Nimba and Grand Gedeh counties, with reconciliation well in effect, we believe. However, is becoming clear that Senator Johnson’s erratic and often self-contradicting remarks bearing threats of war serve no other good than for himself. And though some voters will follow him down his dangerously uncertain ways, others have seen the light: that this is neither about Prince Y. Johnson, nor George M. Weah, nor Joseph N. Boakai. It is about the peaceful and progressive future of Liberia. And come November 7, time will tell.