Over the past few days the public has painfully observed a serious rift within the ruling Unity Party (UP), with most of the members in support of the presidential bid of Vice President Joseph Boakai going against the standard bearer emeritus and President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
In all honesty, the Liberian public should not be surprised at these divisive developments in the ruling party. Why? That is indeed to be expected because the UP’s own former standard bearer, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, whom the party successfully backed twice for the presidency, has departed from her own party and from all indications is backing an opposition party in the 2017 elections.
Some time ago, for reasons no one could understand, President Sirleaf started playing a game of political dribble. At one time she seemed to have been flirting with Charles Brumskine’s Liberty Party (LP); and later, with George Weah’s Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), with convicted criminal Charles Taylor’s former wife as Weah’s running mate.
All of this immediately set the stage for what is now unfolding. Many, including this newspaper, the Daily Observer, have become bewildered (confused, befuddled) by President Sirleaf’s refusal to back the presidential aspirations of her own party that twice made her President.
Early this week, UP and other parties issued a statement accusing President Sirleaf of interfering with the election in which her Vice President, who has humbly served her for the past twelve years, is contesting to succeed her.
In their joint statement, the UP, Liberty Party and All Liberian Party accused the President of having had secret meetings with the magistrates of the National Elections Commission (NEC) and then the Commissioners; something the parties claimed directed the results of the October 10 poll to the detriment of their respective standard bearers.
This is despite the President’s public declaration earlier that she was supporting Vice President Boakai’s presidential bid.
A stalwart of the Unity Party appearing on the Costa Talk Show yesterday bluntly accused President Sirleaf of supporting George Weah for two reasons: to have a leadership that she will be in full gear to control, and to create the impression that her leadership will be missed.
In response to these allegations, Presidential Press Secretary Jerolinmek Piah spoke on behalf of the President, describing the UP and other parties protesting against the October 10 result as “agent provocateurs.” Piah said the allegations are completely baseless, and are an unfortunate attempt by the parties to undermine Liberia’s democratic process.
He defended the President’s meetings with NEC magistrates and commissioners, saying they were “in line with her constitutional duties.”
The very name “Unity Party” denotes a sense of unity, cohesiveness and maturity among members of that group.
But given the gravity of the commotion that has rocked UP, the party has publicly demonstrated anything but unity, cohesiveness and maturity. Now, party members and even the general public have come to the most unfortunate conclusion that the President does not love the party, but used it to achieve her personal political goal, contrary to its philosophy, and to the detriment of the country.
It may be recalled that when the 2011 presidential election was approaching, there was a complete togetherness in the ruling party as others, including the Liberia Action Party (LAP), joined UP in a coalition.
At the time, we can remember UP former chairman, now Grand Cape Mount Senator Varney Sherman, calling on partisans to go from house to house to campaign for President Sirleaf and victory for the party.
Senator Sherman also urged partisans to give their financial support to the party, starting himself with an initial US$1,000 contribution.
UP and CDC have always faced runoffs since 2005, and UP has always boasted of its maturity and intellectual ability to conduct itself, unlike the CDC, which the UP says has many immature members.
Having made the public, over the past years, to believe in its unity and maturity, today party members, because they have expressed serious misgivings about the alleged questionable conduct of the October 10 election, are now being labeled as “agents provocateurs” by their own standard bearer emeritus and President of Liberia.
Just in case UP is unable to retain the presidency, and some real “provocateurs” and Machiavellians are doing everything to ensure that UP does not, how will the party look in the eyes of the Liberian public and the world going out of office?
Should UP not win, it will go out not as the Unity Party, but as the shamefully and woefully Divided Party.
On whose head will the blame for this primarily lay?