Delay is EXPENSIVE, Joseph Nyumah Boakai has to be Decisive
Monday, July 10, 2017 was too late for JNB to pick a running mate. It cost him a lot. All eyes are on JNB again. His last litmus is up amid clashing political interests. Public anxiety is running high.
With just 203 more days remaining for voters to queue in at various precincts on October 10, can JNB pass this test? A clear-cut response to this inquiry is dependent on his brazen resolve to pick a winnable and likeable running mate.
This analysis anticipates to divulge head-to-head advantages and disadvantages of four possible tickets/choices but with an emphasis on two frontier tickets: Joe-Nyonblee Ticket and Boakai-Koung.
Tiawan Saye Gongloe cuts across as a poor man’s lawyer whose past is engrained in advocacy and student activism. The U.S. Government honored Gongloe in May 2022 as ‘Person of Integrity’. Even before he could receive this accolade, Liberians almost everywhere considered him as ‘The Integrity Man’ and an anti-corrupt czar. As a former President of LNBA and a son of vote-rich Nimba, Gongloe as a VP candidate is a ‘darling boy’ of ‘The Class of Intelligentsia’.
They would support him both as a presidential candidate and a vice presidential candidate any day. Furthermore, his pro bono legal services overtime adds immense value to his candidature. The mano regions in Nimba would go at every length to push Gongloe up because he is their son. He is likely to also benefit from his sister’s political prominence in Nimba. His role as solicitor general and labor minister emeritus gives him additional edge as an experienced public servant. The anti-corruption messaging of this ‘broom man’ is attracting voters both at home and abroad.
This election will be about popularity and integrity. Gongloe has not been tested in any general and presidential election before (e.g. Representative, Senatorial, Vice Presidential, or Presidential). There is no scientific evidence to prove Gongloe’s numerical strength as an individual. The party that he is now serving as political leader of got only 11,645 votes (0.74%) out of 1,641,922 votes in 2017 presidential election.
With Jeremiah Koung from MDR as a candidate, Gongloe faces a stiff or a hard-to-win contest in Nimba. He is not as lucky as Joseph D. Z. Korto from Liberia Equal Rights Party, the lone Presidential Candidate from Nimba in 2005 election, who got 31,814 votes (3.27%). With Koung garnering huge support from PYJ, The Political Kingmaker of Nimba, Gongloe’s political prospect seems dim/grim. Furthermore, both LPP and Gongloe are short on financial resources, and election is expensive everywhere. But overall, a Boakai-Gongloe Ticket could trigger an end to Weah’s political ambition beyond October 2023 holding other factors constant.
Cummings’s rise to political prominence was so rapid. Coming fifth as a first-time presidential participant with a whopping 112,067 votes (7.21%) in a 20-party race in 2017 propelled him as a major opposition leader to reckon with. As a businessman and a philanthropist, ANC strongman Alexander Cummings brings new flavor from corporate governance to political governance.
His support base cuts across also. His philanthropic initiatives in Liberia seem to outweigh almost all candidates. Cummings also leverages international connects because of his role at Coca-Cola. His financial base which is also underpinned by diaspora Liberians is strong. ANC political leader enjoys huge support from Maryland County.
Cummings is bent on becoming president at all costs. Some Liberians have become suspicious about his intent. His sudden political marriage with Musa Bility robbed him of being an anti-corruption crusader. The popularity of Cummings nose-dived after CPP collapsed. To matter worse, 2020 Senatorial By-Election put a question mark to Cummings’s popularity even in his own ‘stronghold’.
Though Cummings himself physically campaigned, ANC Senatorial Candidate Eric Wlea Giko could only get 3,622 votes (14.82%) out of a total of 26,552 votes. The final collapse of CPP vis-à-vis LP intra-party wrangling coupled with Cummings’s unholy union with pro-Weah Bility has cost him far more than he can imagine. Furthermore, some Liberians believe that Cummings’s U.S.-based supporters are too arrogant and such arrogance is underpropped by elitism. In addendum, Cummings has invested so much in Nimba. With MDR that took fourth place (127,666 votes) ahead of Cummings in 2017 presidential election, Cummings’s investment in Nimba may not yield any substantive political capital. Unfortunately, Maryland is not a vote-rich county.
IMPORTANT NOTE: A Boakai-Gongloe Ticket or a Boakai-Cummings Ticket still remains a formidable, likeable, and winnable ticket. However, if both men remain insistent on contesting as presidential candidate which appears highly likely, then Boakai has to move on to two possible choices.
This brings me to: The Boakai-Nyonblee Ticket and The Boakai-Koung Ticket.
3) Boakai-Nyonblee Ticket
It is a fact that Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence remains a shinning star. She is smart and vocal on pertinent national issues. The lone female face in opposition politics rose to political prominence in 2013 when she was declared as winner of May 7 Senatorial By-Election with a whopping 41.0% (11,000 votes). Nyonblee still enjoys a strong base in vote-rich Bassa County.
Her party, LP, came third in 2017 presidential election with a total of 149,495 (9.65%). LP also enjoys substantive Bassolian support in River Cess and parts of Margibi and Montserrado. With a 50.22% female population as at 2021 according to World Bank Data, Nyonblee is poised to benefit from ‘The Gender Card’ like Jewel and Ellen benefited from it too. Most women are likely to pick Nyonblee over her male counterparts. Bushrod Radio remains a valuable asset to pushing a NKL agenda.
Nyonblee may be regretting why she ever presided over a January 2021 Gbarnga Convention that ushered in Musa Bility as Chairman of LP. She gave rise to her own trouble. The LP strongwoman was too late in reversing such a decision. At this stage, Nyonblee does not preside over any political party. With 203 days to election, LP is still in crisis. This impasse seems far from ending as Bility remains bent creating more brouhaha.
The crisis in LP has placed a question mark to Nyonblee’s ability to lead and manage crisis. How she gets out of this impasse remains a question to ponder over. It is highly like that Bility could sue if LP brand is used by Nyonblee on any political ticket. Truth be told and unlike 2013, Nyonblee struggled to secure a comeback in 2020 Senatorial Election. She won Gbehzohngar Findley with just 3.98% margin (Nyonblee 22,436 votes versus Findley 20,346 votes).
Like Gongloe, Nyonblee does not have a strong financial base. That’s why she thought Bility would have complemented as a ‘financier’ but Bility was on a disruptive mission, and his enablers are well-known. A Boakai-Nyonblee Ticket, though likeable and winnable, but these are potential downsides.
4) Boakai-Koung Ticket
Jeremiah Koung is a household name in Nimba and Maryland. He is a skillful and tough-talking politician from vote-rich Nimba County. Koung has been very consistent in winning with big numbers. With Koung serving as MDR new political leader, he is a major front-liner. His party, MDR, came fourth place in 2017 with 127,666 votes (8.22%). He is also considered a philanthropist in some quarters.
Besides him being a politician, he has huge investments in Nimba and Maryland. His close ties to Prince Johnson and businessman Floyd Tomah made his sailing even smoother in 2020 Senatorial Election. He won with 37,899 vote (36.12%) as a first-time senatorial candidate. Koung is a ‘darling boy’ across vote-rich ‘Gio Regions’ and he has since positioned himself as a kingmaker in Ganta (District #1), Nimba’s most populous city. In 2011 and 2017, Koung also won Ganta bigly. With PJY Backing and Koung’s investments which have employed dozens of Liberians, his political value/worth as MDR political leader has fast increased. It is a fact that Nimba will completely fall to Koung.
Koung cannot run away from PYJ shadow. Though they are distinct in other forms and attributes, but politically, they are inseparable. PYJ, a former warlord, has been sanctioned by the U.S. Government. As a founding father of MDR, Koung has to grapple with PYJ’s atrocious past. A Boakai-Koung Ticket has a huge burden to justify PYJ support like Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf smartly did in 2005 and 2011. At this stage, vote-rich Nimba has become ever more important to pull the trigger against the deluxe, unfit, and corrupt ex-Soccer Star. If Boakai can skillfully manage this, then he has so much to gain like EJS. A Boakai-Koung Ticket, though likeable and winnable, but this is a potential downside.
Note: No one in this race is 100% perfect or complete. JNB has to know this and demonstrate resoluteness. Everyone has his/her unique advantages and disadvantages.
Because of this, JNB has to be decisive. He cannot please everyone’s interest. The utmost interest of Liberia and Liberians is what matters above all interests. Delay is EXPENSIVE. JNB needs a time off to reflect on how ‘DELAY’ cost him 2017. Voters everywhere have a natural tendency of shifting.
As they go to register at various VR centers, they need to know which ticket they return to pick/vote. This is politically psychologically. I love JNB so much as a decent Statesman and a father figure. I don’t want him to undermine his own chances.
He has a perfect opportunity to accomplish his glorious journey from Worsonga to The Liberian Presidency. He must not get distracted by any form of political razzmatazz. The masses are watching.
Liberia first, Liberia forever!
Activist Martin K. N. Kollie writes from exile.