Gbarnga, Bong County – When the former Vice Standard Bearer of the Alternative National Congress (ANC) Jeremiah Sulunteh pledged support to the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) during the runoff election in 2017, it was a widely held political belief that the CDC would return the favor to Sulunteh by supporting him for the vacant senatorial seat should the CDC emerge victorious.
Sulunteh was upbeat about his endorsement of the CDC and following the inauguration of President George M. Weah, the appointment of Augustus Flomo to the Ministry of Finance, whom many believed could fight for the CDC slot to replace Madam Jewel Howard-Taylor, gave Sulunteh more relief that the Coalition slot was something possible.
But that wishful thinking of Sulunteh serving as CDC senatorial candidate for a County which the party won both during the first and second rounds of voting is now under threat following the pronouncement by District #3 lawmaker Marvin Cole that he would contest the senatorial position.
Representative Cole’s declaration has been followed by action when President Weah endorsed his candidacy recently in Gbarnga. To add more weight to Cole’s political ambition, he is a long time confidante of Vice President Taylor and it is highly unlikely for the Vice President to support any other candidate against Cole.
The District #3 lawmaker is the current Chairman of the National Patriotic Party (NPP), Bong County Chapter. The NPP as one of the three political parties making up the CDC and an individual in such high profile position, his quest to contest on the CDC ticket is already protected.
Aided by Vice President Taylor, the pair succeeded in making one of the original founders of the NPP, former Representative George S. Mulbah to find new political home in the People’s Unification Party (PUP), lending Cole’s the CDC ticket for District#3.
Sulunteh heading to CDC?
There are strong indications in Bong County that Sulunteh is weighing his political options and planning to join the CDC to serve as a conduit of making him to become the party’s senatorial candidate.
The odds are many against Sulunteh should he take such decision to join the CDC, as political observers see at least four major variables might not work in Sulunteh’s favor.
President Weah’s early endorsement of the senatorial bid of Representative Cole, the District #3 long standing ties with Vice President Taylor, his current position as Chairman of the NPP Bong County Chapter and his recent showing in the October 2017 Representative election where he upset incumbent George Mulbah.
Should Sulunteh make the political gamble to join the CDC, facing off with Cole at the party primary would be an uphill task for him to accomplish.
President Weah might not turn back on his endorsement of Representative Cole and so too Vice President Taylor might not be willing to give a political slap to somebody that she has taken from the level of office staffer to lawmaker.
She might opt for her political package (Cole) to reach the highest level in Bong County politics.
The odds are high against Sulunteh using the CDC to clinch the senatorial seat of Bong County especially coming against Cole.
Any compromise for Sulunteh?
There is one major political compromise that could help Sulunteh at the level of the CDC should his speculated decision to the join the party become a reality.
First, he will have to scout party stalwarts to negotiate with Representative Cole given that Cole already has a Representative seat that has duration of six (6) years, which is the same as the unexpired term of former Senator Taylor.
Holding all things constant, Representative Cole will remain a lawmaker until 2023, the same year as the unexpired term of the current vacant senatorial seat of Bong County.
Due to this major variable, appealing to Cole to give way to a veteran diplomat and politician could yield some results.
On the other side of the coin, the CDC might be very keen on retaining the seat and Sulunteh coming up against a very formidable Dr. Henrique Tokpa might give the CDC huge headache in the political process.
Dr. Tokpa might be slightly a favorite candidate over Sulunteh given that Dr. Tokpah has been actively engaged in the county over the last few years, far better than Sulunteh who was on diplomatic mission in the United States of America.
The CDC could also take some risk by making Sulunteh its senatorial candidate to line up against Dr. Tokpah.
For Rep. Cole, his recent election is still fresh and it could help the CDC push Tokpa to the finish line.
Dr. Tokpa came up very strong against Madam Taylor in the 2014 Senatorial election, as the margin was very encouraging to make Dr. Tokpa believe that without Madam Taylor, the senatorial seat is within his reach.
The Sulunteh, CDC politics will be very interesting in the weeks ahead of the senatorial by-election in Bong County.