Senjeh District, Bomi County – In his attempt to reinvent the political wheel, Representative Edwin Snowe is defying convention in his quest to drift away from his current constituency, Montserrado County District No. 6 to the obscure Senjeh, one of four districts in Bomi County, miles away from the capital Monrovia.
After serving two-terms as a Representative of District No. 6 in Montserrado County, former Speaker Edwin Snowe is treading unfamiliar territory in his quest to break tradition with an eye on a seat in an obscure Bomi County District – if he can defy the odds, resistance and challenges standing in his way.
As of the 2008 population census, the district recorded only 29,325 people, far below the multitude of people the lawmaker has represented since his election in 2005.
It is a change the lawmaker believes he is up to taking head on.
“The district is currently facing numerous problems from healthcare, education and most importantly job creation.
As of now, we serve as chairman of the board of directors of the hospital board and have brought into the county two 40ft containers of medical supply and drugs. We have also brought into the county on two occasions a surgical that has conducted free surgeries at the hospital.
Regrading education, we paid the examination fees for all 9th and 12th graders in the district.”
Prior to his elections to the National Legislature, he served as Managing Director and Secretary to the Board, Liberia Petroleum Refinery Company (LPRC). Before this, Hon. Snowe served the LPRC as Deputy Managing Director for Operations and Coordinator, Product Storage terminal respectively.
Snowe also served the Liberia Football Association as President, where he lent his administrative expertise to the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) as Match Commissioner and Technical Committee Member.
Snowe holds a Masters in Public Administration from the University of Liberia. He has also benefited from numerous sports administration trainings Committee Membership.
Snowe, 47, who ran as an independent and won the district which was formerly District No. 5, is already ruffling feathers in his new constituency marred by a lengthy legal wrangle over the legitimacy of his political reincarnation.
Senjeh is currently represented by Cllr. Samuel Garha Karmo, but at his petitioning ceremony back in July 2016, Madam Judee Johnson, on behalf of her constituents declared that the citizens of Senjeh were convinced that with the level of development Rep. Snowe continues to undertake in the district and Bomi county in general, Rep Snowe can affect the necessary changes they have over the years been yearning for in the County.
Even before his petitioning, Rep. Snowe made his presence felt in the county with a number of donations including a generator to the Tubmanburg Central Market, Sackie, Kayiah Hill, Beafini and Jomo Town clinics as well as cash donations to several youth groups to carry out clean-up campaigns in the district.
Many of Rep. Snowe’s opponents and rival politicians in the county see him as an outsider stepping into a territory he has no business stepping in.
Saye Dolo, Vice Principal of Student Affairs at the C H Dewey Central High School says he has no problems with the outsider label that has been assigned to Rep. Snowe but is more concerned about what the lawmaker from Montserrado has been able to do for his new constituency.
"We did not have toilet for the students but Mr. Snowe is constructing modern toilets for our students. Rep. Snowe paid all the senior students WAEC fees.
Each student was to pay LD$3,250 but he paid 107 students WAEC fees, which was came in handy for students, who did have to pay fees but used their money to pay for other fees."
But Rep. Karmo, who has not hidden his opposition to Rep. Snowe is not just seeking re-election to the capitol but has sought to prevent Snowe from running while trumpeting what he says are some of his achievements since his election to the lower house.
"As a representative I was able to lobby for the passage of a bill to establish the Bomi Community College, the elevation of its budget from US$150,000 to US$600,000, the construction of Sackie Town Magisterial Court, the County Judicial Complex to host judges."
Rep. Karmo has also trumpeted a couple of bridges on major routes in the county which were in bad conditions have been rebuilt and dedicated.
Rep. Karmo’s major contention in court filing has been that Snowe is an outsider.
"This is only telling me that the moral compass has disappeared from Liberia.
Rep. Snowe who is still receiving salaries and benefits as a lawmaker for another district is jumping an unnecessary gun in another place where he has made no impact except for his personal reasons.”
Pearl Fatu Cooper, a senior Student at C.H. Dewey disagrees. We want to see changes in the county and not to see the county the same every year. If an outsider is bringing the changes we want to see, we have no problem with that.”
Lawoe Goba, a student in the 11th grade is hoping to become a plumber one day and hopes to one day offer free service to the school when drainage and toilet issues emerge.
“I want to be able to build toilet for my school when I am in the position."
Like Fatu, Lawoe says it’s all about who is willing to come to the aid of the residents and not whether it is an outsider or insider.
“I want other lawmakers in our district to come and help us because we are suffering for so many things, like building out toilets as Edwin Snowe is doing for us.
Fatu hopes to reward Rep. Snowe with her vote come October.
"I will vote for Snowe because I am benefitting from his contribution. I am not benefiting from the other people, so why should I give my vote to them?
I will not vote for the other people because they do not care for us, because it is said, where you find success, you should go for it."
Asked by a journalist why would she be wasting her vote on a stranger as many call Snowe, she replied:
"I think the stranger is doing well more than the sons of the county.
If the citizens are sitting and watching the stranger does the work, then I will vote for the stranger because he got us at heart."
"Rep. Snowe has helped students from the school with vacation job to help pay our school fees, because I sell pepper in the market and I was able to improve my business, so I will vote for him. So, let others shine their eyes and vote for Rep. Snowe."
Earlier this month, Washington V. Farmah, Magistrate for the National Elections Commission in Bomi, dismissed the complaint filed by Rep. Karmo although the incumbent Karmo has vowed to appeal and file a bill of exception.
The magistrate concluded that after reviewing the submissions made by the parties and listened to the arguments, the magistrate recorded Saturday that he observed that the law relied upon by the petitioner, Rep. Karmo, could not be applied to the respondent under the circumstances of the case.
Said the Magistrate: “The respondent cannot be barred from registering to vote outside of his district and at a location where he has established a residence.
Wherefore and in view of what I have narrated above, the petitioner's petition objecting to the registration of respondent at the Weakama Public School is hereby denied and dismissed.”
The ruling came as a relief for many of Rep. Snowe’s supporters.
Miatta Monger, who runs most of the lawmaker’s operations in the area says those pushing the outsider line are out of touch with the realities of what is unfolding in Bomi since Rep. Snowe embarked on his quest to shift constituency.
“For us we do not consider him as coming from outside. For the fact that he was born in the western region, he’s part of us, Cape Mount is part of the west so therefore he’s not an outsider.
Maybe other politicians will consider him outsider but he’s not.
There are about 22, 000 registered voters and we hope and pray that all of them will vote for him.”
Monger says contrary to what Rep. Snowe detractors have been charging, his arrival in the district has brought light to Bomi County.
“We have been in the dark for a period of time. Our past leaders maybe they just forgot about us, took themselves and their self-interests above the residents, leaving the people all alone and making between 10 to fifteen thousand dollars a month.
That’s a lot of money but we believe that if they can share that with the people here, it would have helped us a lot.”
She adds: Rep. Snowe has brought job opportunities, vacation jobs for students which has been helpful for those students at C.H. Dewey."
"Right now, he is constructing one of the largest halls in Bajaneh. It is something that has never been done since the establishment of this district."
"That area is over populated, more than four thousand people are living in that area without a seating capacity.
Everywhere you go you will see them in corners having meetings but he has taken the initiative and provided jobs. Look at his farm, a lot of people are here.
Some, because of that farm they have built their own houses, they are living life, sending their children to school, it is a daily thing, earning something for their living. We believe when he has taken power he will do a lot more.”
For Rep. Snowe, the obstacles standing in his way has been anticipated but acknowledges that despite the inroads he has made he is still playing catch-up.
“The competition is good. As you are aware, the political leadership of the county, (Alex Tyler, Sando Johnson, Morris Saytumah and Richard Devine) sponsored those wanting to run in the 2017 polls to present a single candidate against me.
The candidate of the CDC won the process and is now one of three others along with Hon. Karmo and me. I, however, consider myself the underdog and therefore doing all I can to win.”
With less than 90 days to elections, Representative Snowe is quite aware of the criticisms regarding his drift from Montserrado to Bomi amid the views held by many that he is now abandoning them for another part of the country.
“They are so wrong. I am leaving the district with a school system. We built schools in the Rock Hill Community when kids of school going age were crushing rock and parents could not afford to pay their school fees.
We provided safe drinking water in the Rock Hill Community was kids had to walk to ELWA Hospital to get water before going to school in the morning.
We provided scholarships for over 3,000 students from elementary to university level.
During my term, we lobbied to have the S.D. Cooper, GSA Road and Zubah Town Roads paved. Water and electricity is in most parts of the district - Just to name a few.”