Why the CDC Will Lose in 2023
2023 is poised to be a crucial year for our nascent democracy. A year when Liberians, in their droves, will form queues across the country to elect 73 representatives, 15 senators, and most importantly, the president. In many quarters across the country, there seems to be a high level of enthusiasm among voters as well as potential candidates at all levels of the political spectrum. For many, it is a turning point; a time to take inventory of those who were given the commonwealth over the last 6 years.
For others, it will be an assessment of their stewardship and a determination as to whether they are deserving of the nod for a second term, or it is the final goodbye. In recent times, we have seen many political activities around the country, especially in rural areas. We have witnessed public officials making rounds and dishing out direct cash in some instances, while in others, making lofty pledges and awarding scholarships. The massive wave of active political activities bears testament to the fact that we are indeed in the political season. This is a season of interesting happenings.
============================Analysis By: Stephen Johnson====================
Over previous years, this is a time that has been dubbed the “transfer window”; a time when many would trade parties for pecuniary gains, the promise of jobs, or the anticipation of being included soon. Amidst this, the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) finds itself in a political chokehold. It is struggling on one end to mobilize its base, while on the other end, an election is on the horizon. In 2018, after the CDC won, it was believed in many quarters that it was “our time” and that those who wouldn’t join the movement, would be treated as outcasts. Those who would muster the courage to speak against the ills of society were often referred to as “angry losers” and in some instances, “enemies of the state”. For us, we believe that the CDC will lose in 2023, and here is why:
The sudden evaporation of the Pro-Poor Agenda
By 2018, the slogan “Pro-Poor Agenda” became a household one. Everyone and everywhere across the nooks and crannies of the country had heard the slogan. An African attire was named in honor of the agenda and made popular by the president and many of his officials. Chinese rice was re-bagged with the inscription “pro-poor rice” and distributed across many rice depots around the country. At street corners, petty traders would use the phrase to lure customers. By early 2019, the slogan had gained huge traction, and many had thought that the CDC would have championed the cause of the people; the majority being the grassroots.
Unfortunately, the agenda was only meant to cajole the masses into believing that the CDC represented their interest.
The president started to construct his condominiums near the Baptist Seminary. His abandoned 9th street residence soon became a modern home while his residence in the Rehab Community on the Robertsfield highway was also refurbished. As if this wasn’t enough, the McGills, Koijees, and Tweahs also started acquiring luxurious homes worth thousands of dollars. By that time, they began flying Business Class on Emirates airlines and dining at rooftop restaurants around Mamba Point and within the Monrovia suburbs. Acquiring a fleet of luxury cars and making travels to Europe to buy designer brands such as Gucci, Prada, Versace, and Balenciaga became the order of the day.
By mid-2019, the country started to take a downward spiral. The pro-poor agenda was simply used by people seeking CHANCE not CHANGE to hoodwink the masses into believing that they had come to change the objective conditions. Soon, teachers started to go on strike for the failure of the government to pay their salaries. Civil servants became subjects of ridicule due to the government’s inability to pay their wages. A massive protest styled “Save the State” was held with thousands of Liberians taking to the streets over matters relating to corruption, bad governance, an economy in free fall, and the lack of basic social services. By July 2019, the opposition had swept Montserrado county, a place believed to be the stronghold of the CDC, in a by-election.
By 2020 and the preceding years, the pro-poor agenda had been publicly criticized sufficiently by many across the country. It had already lost steam and was practically dead and buried to the extent that even its progenitors can’t be seen discussing it just as the “coastal highway”, “ETON and EBOMAF loans, the “Nigerian teachers” and many other failed plans had suddenly evaporated.
The argument of “it is Our time and no one else”
During the previous administration, the issue of a political party or political affiliation being the prerequisite for public service was practically nonexistent. People were given jobs based on what they could offer and not whether they had filled in a membership form of a political party. We saw many CDCians across government ministries and agencies serving their country. This was a noteworthy endeavor. We witnessed how Liberians from different political persuasions would converge to interact. CDCians would visit the offices of officials of government on Fridays and many other times during the week.
Many officials of the previous government had made a significant impact on the personal lives of many. Sadly, when the CDC took over in 2018, it began with what was dubbed a “rest list”. It was a list of individuals who they believed shouldn’t form a part of whatsoever activity within their government. In short, they needed to rest and find alternative sources of income in the private sector. While many of those listed were civil servants, the CDC felt it was necessary to let them go. Those who wanted to stay on were forced to either resign, be placed in offices without any assignment, or be made frustrated to the point that they would walk away. All of these were meant to punish them. Punish them in unimaginable ways.
Unfortunately, it turned out the opposite since many of those who were targeted had specialized skills that could be utilized to make ends meet for themselves. The CDC failed in this effort, and it is still haunting them.
The callous and inhumane treatment of those who joined the CDC after its victory
After the CDC’s victory in 2018, we witnessed the crossover of many persons. They were compelled to a so-called ritual under the sycamore tree. We watched prominent sons and daughters being humiliated during those many initiation exercises. Water and holy oil were placed on their heads in some instances while others were made to chew leaves. All of these were happening while live podcasts were being shared across social media. The likes of Amb. Jeremiah Solunteh and many others were subjected to wearing red berets like soldier recruits during the heydays of Liberia’s brutal civil war. Amidst such treatment, one reasonably thought that the CDC would’ve appointed them as they anticipated.
They have been left in the cold, abandoned in many instances, and forced to fend for their jobs within the private sector. Many of them would only express their frustration in private while others have returned to other parts of the world where they had initially come from. This story is the same for many of our colleagues! This is a lesson to those who seek to join the CDC in 2023 as it sends a strong message and would be the basis upon which many political decisions will be made.
The tenure nature of every position in government
This is the first time in Liberia’s checkered history that officials of government, though underperforming, have been kept in their positions. It sends a bad message to qualified CDCians, many of whom were hopeful of a chance to serve their country after its ascendency in 2018. Sadly, their hopes were dashed, and it appears that those who started in 2018, will continue up until 2023.
The CDC now finds itself between a rock and hard place. It is struck between whether to risk replacing some of its current actors and the attending issues ahead of an election year or bring on new members that may not have a strong connection with some of its base. This is a particularly strong argument among CDCians at home and in the diaspora, who believe they were hoodwinked into supporting Weah and were promised jobs. Unfortunately, they have witnessed the same actors since 2018 and believe that if the CDC wins in 2023, they will be placed in a similar role as Weah has failed to give them any guarantee. This is an Achilles heel for the CDC as it struggles to redefine itself.
Prince Y. Johnson and the NPP have gone rogue
The coalition seems to be imploding at a time when it should be expanding its base. The recent attacks on the CDC by MDR, NPP, and a very quiet LPDP have undermined to a larger extent the CDC’s ability to consolidate power. The issues raised by these allied parties are testimonies to what many Liberians have said over the last 5 years: no jobs, no FDIs, a failed PAPD, rampant corruption by public officials, an economy in tartars, delayed and reduced salaries, secret killings among others. PYJ continues to speak out loud and while many believe he is erratic and cannot be trusted, the damage he has caused will injure the CDC at the October polls.
Given the strategic importance of Nimba in terms of numbers, it appears that the pathway of the ruling party is like a journey from the wilderness to the cemetery. James Biney of the NPP has also signaled how the government has abandoned the people of the southeast-a traditional stronghold of the CDC. These lingering issues will play a crucial role as Liberians decide in nine (9) months.
The “Nobody Stupid Here” Movement
This new wave of slogans, “Nobody Stupid Here” has taken social media by storm lately. It seems to be the slogan that will lead the political campaign ahead of the 2023 polls. This is a slogan that has a deep interpretation within our body polity. While it is subject to many interpretations, it has found its place to serve as a reminder to the government that indeed “nobody stupid here”.
Many people are of the view that what didn’t happen over the last 5 years, won’t happen in the next 15 months and that the few projects that are popping up lately are only meant to cajole them into re-electing the CDC. Like the “Black Lives Matter” movement in the summer of 2020 in the USA which resulted in a wave across the US, so is the slogan “Nobody Stupid Here” poised to become in Liberia. This slogan will greatly undermine the CDC’s campaign effort in 2023.
To conclude, with all these reasons, we can safely conclude that the CDC will lose in 2023. The damage over the last 5 years is irreparable. Nine (9) months is too short a time to make amends. The proverbial train left the station at 300 mph with absolutely no chance of a comeback. The sad reality is the CDC dashed the hopes of many, especially it’s grassroots base. The colossal failure of the CDC is an embarrassing reality that will haunt them for generations to come. Be that as it May, October 2023 promises to be a year of many twists and turns as Liberians will again go to the polls to elect a new team that will steer the affairs of the country over the next 6 years post-2023.
Stephen Johnson holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics and a master’s degree (MBA, Highest Honors) in Finance. A leadership certificate from the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, and a master’s in public policy from Penn State University. He has over 15 years of experience in finance, governmental administration/policy, special programs business development, account management, process improvement, and team leadership. He can be contacted at email@example.com.