Monrovia – A lot is going on within the Unity Party, but there’s been no admission. Yet, Vice President Boakai, who now seeks to become President, is arguably moving strong in his own way, perhaps crying in the rain.
The advantages of incumbents in any given election cannot be underestimated. Incumbents, like President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s second term campaign in 2011, have easier access to campaign finances and government resources that are indirectly used to boost campaign.
The case, however, appears to be different for Vice President Boakai who has been a long time buddy of President Sirleaf, spanning over 35 years of friendship.
Some members of the ruling party have been wide-mouth enough to publicly disclose that Mr. Boakai is not enjoying the confidence of the President. Hence, he’s being deprived of the privileges that come with being an incumbent in the race.
Even Mr. Boakai admitted to this once in a FrontPageAfrica interview, but it wasn’t long after when he went back on his words on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) to say the President has been supportive.
“I know what she’s not doing for the Unity Party, but the people probably know what she’s doing for other parties. We’re asking her – the Unity Party is her party – it’s the party that would bear her legacy and she ought to be supporting it,” he told FrontPageAfrica in the latter days of February this year.
Appearing on BBC just a couple of weeks after FrontPage Africa’s exclusive interview, he was quizzed on his relationship with President Sirleaf.
His response was - "Let me say that the President and I have a very good relationship. In every relationship, there are some disagreements – and at some point in time there have been a few of them - that doesn’t mean the President and I are not working together.”
EJS Presence Not Felt
When FrontPage Africa interviewed Vice President Boakai in February, it was widely rumored that President Sirleaf was financially and morally supporting the opposition Liberty Party.
This accusation stemmed from the unprecedented fleet of vehicles that were acquired by the Liberty Party and the cross carpeting of staunch members and supporters of the Unity Party to the Liberty Party, including the high profile resignation of Harrison Karnwea when he still held his position as Managing Director of the Forestry Development Authority.
Then FPA asked the Vice President of the wild speculation of the President’s involvement with the Liberty Party. His response was quite nifty.
“I am not the one saying that President Sirleaf fully supports Brumskine."
"The people are reading the signs and they’re saying that. We live in a society where everybody supposedly is informed about everything that is happening. So the way we go about things, the people are informed and they interpret your movement, your action, your body language and they say, ‘We see certain things happening.’”
“Whether she’s supporting Brumskine wholly and solely I don’t know. The people who are reading the signs are saying ‘This is what we see.’ They have spoken to it publicly, she has heard it. She has given some reactions, but for me what I know is that so far the President is not supporting Unity Party as she should do.”
It is still glaring that President Sirleaf is not lending much to the Unity Party as expected of her, even as the election is getting closer and has not made any appearance at the numerous tours and endorsement ceremonies being held in support of Vice President Boakai’s presidential bid.
“Perhaps, she’s too busy with her functions as President and awaiting the launch of the Unity Party campaign slatted for this Saturday, September 16,” a member of the party said.
Others are of different opinion. A high ranking member who preferred anonymity told FrontPageAfrica, “We cannot buy that excuse,” he said.
“She was President in 2011 when she was running her campaign through the length and breadth of this country. Didn’t she have presidential duties by then? It’s just sheer hypocrisy.”
The Sudden Shift
Like it was said of Brumskine, it is now being said of the soccer legend George Weah of Liberia’s biggest opposition party Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC). Suddenly, there was a letter allegedly written by President Sirleaf to Mr. Weah circulating on social media. This was shortly before Vice President Boakai could name Speaker J. Emmanuel Nuquay as his running mate.
The letter, though debunked by office of the President, made some revelations that in no time came to reality.[FrontPage Africa has not been able to independently verify the source of the letter].
For example, the last but one paragraph of the letter, stated “Finally, Findley has been encouraged to join you and he has accepted and will be joining you in few days.
He will provide you the advisory directly from me. Please listen to him and accord him all due courtesy as he is directly representing my interest.
He will help you greatly from the Grand Bassa front.”
Just few weeks after the circulation of this letter on social media, former Grand Bassa County Senator and President Pro-Tempore of the Senate tendered in his resignation from the Unity Party on grounds that he and the party no longer shared common political interest.
His resignation came just days after Speaker Nuquay was chosen as the running mate when his (Gbehzohngar) hopes were high that he would have been selected by the Vice President.
Not long after he announced his membership with the CDC, he served as the right hand man of Mr. Weah during the launch of their campaign in Monrovia. As stated in the communication, Mr. Findley was named by Senator Weah as the campaign advisor.
FrontPageAfrica has also been reliably informed that at least three cabinet ministers have been asked by the President to either join the CDC or resign their post.
A couple of days ago, the head of Maritime who also served as Deputy Finance Minister for Fiscal Affairs, posted on his Facebook page: “Comrade, don’t let them scare you. No one dies as a result of being a “Former Minister”. I have done the research. #timetoturnover”
Mr. Kollie did not provide details behind the motivation of the post, but to many, it confirms ongoing coercion in government.
In early August, Mr. Lenn Eugene Nagbe suddenly resigned his post as Secretary General of the Unity Party. Mr. Nagbe did not provide tangible reasons for his resignation in his letter and it came as a surprise to the public.
In late August, Mr. Nagbe and Mr. Tornorlah Varpillah, a former campaign manager in the 2011 elections were denied entry into an Executive meeting of the Unity Party at the party headquarters in Congo Town.
Their denial was certainly based on issues bordering trust, as they were told they were not privy to the meeting.
Just when there were speculations of President Sirleaf leaning on the side of the CDC, instead of her own UP, Representative Moses Acarous Gray, a staunch member of the CDC and a well-known critic of Madam Sirleaf posted on his Facebook page a quote from Senator Weah, “Patriot Weah, ‘Unlike Boakai, I will provide security for Ellen, her children and family.”
Rep. Gray’s post was astonishing to many social media users who know how opposed he has been to President Sirleaf. One Facebook user, Alfred Newman, commented under the post, “The deal has been struck. Job well done Robert Sirleaf. Thanks!”
Others commented wild unsubstantiated allegations below the post.
Garmondeh Willie commented, “Joe Boakai promised to fight corruption and correct the excesses of the past has angered the first family.
They have now turned to the CDC for protection, yesterday under the instruction of Robert Sirleaf the first US$275,500 were released to the CDC.
The reality has shown face, CDC is now having a good honeymoon with the Regime, no more Change for Hope…”
A screen shot of an SMS believed to have been sent by former Gender, Children and Social Protection Minister Julia Duncan Cassell which popped up on social media recently, shows the extent to which staunch members of the Unity Party are drifting away.
The message is believed to have been sent to Mr. Bill Davids, the Unity Party Grand Bassa County Chairman.
The screen shot which clearly shows the Orange numbers of Madam Cassell stated verbatim, “Chairman Bill, am really impressed the way you play the game with me.
But you know, I just can’t support JNB, I have send some money which u can collect n the rest will still be giving to you later. We need to use the UP partisans to support me, but in our minds we are not supporting JNB. Bassa will fight him in any way. Just help talk with other top county officials in supporting me but will fight JNB to the end.”
Madam Duncan-Cassell is one of few who was quick to declare support for Vice President Boakai.
She’s contesting the Grand Bassa District #3 seat on the ticket of the Coalition for Democratic Progress instead of the Unity Party.
However, when confronted with the issue a couple of weeks ago, Mr. Mohammed Ali, Deputy Secretary for Press and Propaganda of the Unity Party told FrontPageAfrica that she remains a member and supporter of Unity Party despite contesting on a different ticket.
Madam Duncan Cassell has not come out to distance herself from the purported screenshot SMS that is trending on social media.
Why Was Lahai Lassanah Dismissed?
FrontPageAfrica has been able to obtain a copy of the dismissal letter of Mr. Lahai Lassanah who served as Coordinator on Concession Conflicts with the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
His dismissal was triggered by his unfavorable comments surrounding the President’s relationship the Unity Party. He has been dismissed since August 22, 2017.
The Letter Reads:
Dear Mr. Lassanah,
It has been brought to my attentions that in recent public utterances you have been rude and disrespectful regarding the role in play in the Unity Party.
While I personally advocate a Government Policy of free expression, I will no longer tolerate attempts to undermine my authority, create tension and discord on the basis on of false rumors, especially by those holding political position who must serve at the will and pleasure of the President.
In view of this, you are hereby dismissed from the position of Coordinator on Concession Conflicts, effective immediately. You should also ensure that all government properties including the vehicles are turned over to the General Services Agency to avoid any further embarrassment.
The letter was signed by Madam Sirleaf.