Popular Political Slogans and Their Impact on Presidential Elections in Liberia

Flashback: Supporters of  President George Wea at a campaign rally in 2017.

.... Elections in Liberia have been marked by political slogans and different messages that have been most effective and resounding for political parties and their candidates. In the 1997 Special Presidential Election, ordinary Liberians backed former President and Head of the defunct National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), Charles G. Taylor, Sr., as their favorite choice by singing loudly, “You killed my Ma, you killed my Pa, I will vote for you.

Bill McGill Jones

Political slogans are the cornerstone of every political campaign and are developed to further particular political objectives. They are some of the most well-known and frequently used political jargon. They focus on a certain social or economic problem and convey their viewpoint as slogans because they believe this is more powerful and effective.

A campaign poster or advertising banner may have space restrictions, and the amount of time allotted for a television commercial or message broadcast during the nightly news may have an impact on what may be said. However, by sending a stronger and clearer message, a snappy and succinct tagline can get beyond these limitations.

The power of a political slogan can be immense. Slogans have been used to create memorable phrases that are still in use today. A good slogan is a key to a successful political campaign. It can be used as an effective branding technique or to establish the party’s values and goals for voters.

Elections in Liberia have been marked by political slogans and different messages that have been most effective and resounding for political parties and their candidates. In the 1997 Special Presidential Election, ordinary Liberians backed former President and Head of the defunct National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), Charles G. Taylor, Sr., as their favorite choice by singing loudly, “You killed my Ma, you killed my Pa, I will vote for you.” Mr. Taylor won the election by obtaining more than 75% of the votes.

Similarly, when the former African, European, and World Best footballer, now serving as President of Liberia, announced his candidacy for the Liberian Presidency in 2005, the Liberian people stood tall and said, “You know book, You na know book, we will vote for you.”

Although Mr. Weah did not win the 2005 Special Presidential and Legislative Elections, he came second to Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who won as President. The results from the 2005 election became a baseline for the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) and Mr. Weah’s victories in the 2014 midterm senatorial election and the 2017 Presidential and Legislative Elections.

 They used the popular support the CDC received from Liberians in its debut election for the country’s highest office to strategize and come back stronger. Furthermore, in the 2017 Presidential and Legislative Elections, Presidential candidates coined campaign messages to express their general themes and attract voters. A few examples during the 2017 elections include: “Liberia and Liberians deserve better: we cannot keep doing the same thing and expecting different results,” by Mr. Alexander B. Cummings, Political Leader of the Alternative National Congress; “Think Liberia, Build Liberia, and Love Liberia,” by Amb. Joseph Nyuma Boakai, Sr., Unity Party Standard Bearer; and “Change for Hope,” by Amb. George M. Weah, CDC Standard Bearer. 

As Liberia approaches the 2023 Presidential and Legislative Elections, Liberians are seeking to change its current government due to a lack of leadership to combat corruption, as evidenced by the U.S. sanctions designations issued on three top officials of the Weah-led government, namely: Nathaniel F. McGill, Former Minister of State for Presidential Affairs and Chief of Staff to the President; Bill Twehway, Former Managing Director of the National Port Authority; and Cyrenius Cephus, Former Solicitor General.  There was, the increase in prices of basic commodities, evidenced by a circular from the Ministry of Commerce & Industry signed by the Minister, dated December 2, 2022, amongst many other pressing national concerns.

The Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), which comprised the Unity Party (UP), the Liberty Party (LP), the All-Liberian Party (ALP) and the Alternative National Congress (ANC), was established in 2018 as the vehicle to unseat the current CDC government led by George M. Weah, Sr. 

Despite its triumph in the 2020 senatorial by-elections, in 2021, the UP and ALP withdrew from the CPP on the allegation of fraud and lack of unity and are now seen working together with a fragment of the LP, with Ambassador Joseph Nyuma Baokai, Sr. as their political leader, while a fragment of the LP and ANC are holding together with Mr. Cummings of the ANC as their political leader. 

Since the CPP’s demise, there have been serious infighting among various opposition political parties over restructuring as they prepare for the presidential and legislative elections in 2023. Each of the above-mentioned political parties has been working separately for the country’s highest governance seat, thus influencing the decision of the Liberian people in terms of their support. The collapse has created some level of relief for the Weah-led administration, as they have been pushing from all corners to correct some of the lapses and governance issues presently.

While there is a lot of disunity amongst the opposition political parties in Liberia, top radio stations in the country like OK FM, Spoon FM & TV, and Prime FM have all been conducting opinion polls in the country’s capital and surrounding counties like Grand Bassa, Margibi, and Bong, respectively, in an effort to hear from the Liberians as we approach the 2023 Presidential and Legislative Elections. 

Throughout these unannounced polls in the counties mentioned, two things have emerged: First, the former Vice President and Standard Bearer of the Unity Party has been winning cumulatively, with the current president of Liberia, George M. Weah, Sr., coming in second. Interestingly, but not surprising, a new political slogan has emerged: “He’s old or not, we will vote for him;” a reference to Amb. Joseph N. Boakai, Sr. 

Voters of all age groups calling on radio talk shows and during interviews, without an iota of fear, express support for the JNB’s “Think Liberia, Build Liberia, and Love Liberia” slogan. They are transforming it to say, “We will vote for Joseph Nyuma Baokai, Sr.,” famously known as JNB, “whether He’s old or not, we will vote for him.”

Could this be a replica of the popular political slogan victory of 1997 for JNB or the opposition in 2023?

Political actors and independent voters are closely watching the political landscape. Liberians are eager to change the current CDC regime, but one big question that still lingers is, “with whom”?  Members of the opposition parties in Liberia continue to make their individual cases, but Liberians are concerned about disunity in the opposition, thus creating a huge problem regarding who they would be supporting. 

The CDC government is positive about getting reelected based on the opposition's disunity and the current public sector investment projects being carried out by the government.

Former Coca-Cola executive and businessman Alex Cummings, who continues to argue that “we cannot keep doing the same thing and expecting different results,” has been heavily criticized in recent days for the appointment of old political actors who are considered by Liberians as “old wine” on his first appointed committee to manage his campaign based on his current political argument.

 For JNB, he continues to appeal to a broad base of Liberians to support him because of his more than 40 years of experience in the public sector, which has no suspicions about him mismanaging public dollars or misusing public trust for his personal gain, while other voters are very concerned about JNB's age, 78. 

As other voters worry about age, most Liberians who are openly expressing their views through public opinion polls are eager to find someone with strong public and private sector leadership experience who can lead Liberia out of its current state of bad governance and lack of leadership to lead the country’s post-war rebuilding processes.

 With these massive public outpourings of support, JNB stands to gain votes for his service to the country, commitment to protecting public funds, and use of his exemplary life as a model for those seeking to serve in the public sector.

With these results coming from unannounced polls, if the past is anything to go by, JNB could be in a strong position to win the upcoming presidential election, holding all factors constant as the current realities of hardship and mismanagement of the country by the current administration continue. 

JNB’s campaign slogans, "Think Liberia, Build Liberia, and Love Liberia," are currently conveying a clearer message to the Liberian people based on the current state of affairs in Liberia under the CDC-led government. The slogan is intended to concisely communicate with all voting groups while simultaneously appealing to undecided voters who may not have strong feelings either way about his candidacy but would like some clarity before they cast their vote.

About the Author:

Bill McGill Jones is a project manager by training with more than 13 years of experience in international development, project and program management, public sector reform, and financial advisory work with senior-level executives and decision-makers in the public and private sectors in Africa and the USA. 

Bill holds a Master of Science Degree in Project Management from Morgan State University in Baltimore, USA, a Master of Science Degree in Environment and International Development from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, the United Kingdom, in 2018, and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Economics from Cuttington University in Liberia in 2011, plus a host of executive certificates in leadership from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government in the USA and the Public Administration International in the United Kingdom, amongst others. His email address is billmcgillj@gmail.com.