Monrovia – President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and her Vice President, Joseph Boakai, have often denied having vinegary relationship as their tenure comes to end with VP Boakai fighting his way to succeed her.
This year, the pair failed to attend one another’s birthday party – a rare posture that broke 11 years of tradition they’re noted for.
In fact, on President Sirleaf’s birthday on October 29 this year, the ruling party which the VP Boakai is now standard-bearer accused the President of rigging the October 10 elections in a press conference presided over by the party’s chairman, Wilmot Paye.
In that press conference, without mincing his words, Chairman Paye accused President Sirleaf of breeding corruption, waste, mismanagement and selective justice over the 12-year period she led the country.
Vice President Boakai remained quiet while Presidential Press Secretary, Jerolinmek M. Piah, debunked the allegations.
Paye is certainly one of VP Boakai’s problems – a major hurdle in gaining President’s Sirleaf’s support in the presidential elections.
But he’s not the only one, the Chairman emeritus, Cllr. Varney Sherman, who pulled resources together for President Sirleaf’s 2011 campaign, is part of the problem.
VP Boakai admitted to this Monday when he spoke on the famous Costa Show, which broadcasts on online but is relayed on Shaita 102.5 FM in Monrovia.
“I am guilty by association; that is the only crime I have committed against my long-time friend Ellen Johnson Sirleaf."
"My association with Cllr. Sherman and Party Chairman Wilmot Paye, who won the chairmanship on white ballot, is the only crime I have committed,” he said.
He told the Costa Show host, Henry Costa and Liberians, that it was former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who told him that his association with the pair is the cause of President Sirleaf’s cold shoulder towards his presidential bid.
Unconfirmed reports indicate that President Sirleaf has once requested Vice President Boakai to shun his affiliation with Sherman and Paye if he wanted her support.
However, in a tone that suggests that Paye and Sherman are necessary evils in his political sojourn at this point in time, VP Boakai iterated that Paye was elected as Chairman of the Unity Party on white ballot.
Cllr. Sherman’s bad blood with President Sirleaf heightened when she ordered his and other top past and current officials of government’s investigation and prosecution due to their linkage to a Global Witness Report that they received bribes to alter the Public Procurement Concession Commission (PPCC).
On the first day Court Sheriffs attempted arresting Sherman, Paye and a group of UP partisans gathered in their numbers in front of Sherman’s gate and obstructed the arrest – with Sherman claiming that the arrest was politically motivated.
The bitterness between Sherman and the woman he fought so hard as party chairman at the time to get her reelected has since been getting more soured.
In one of his recent press conferences, Sherman said, “I was sitting down doing my thing as standard bearer of the Liberian Action Party when President Ellen Johnson Silrleaf invited me into a merger.
I raised money, millions of dollars for President Sirleaf’s campaign, and I worked through the nooks and crannies of this country campaigning for her and she eventually became President. Is that the way to pay back somebody who worked like that for you?”
Sherman is a major financier of VP Boakai’s campaign. It can be recalled that upon his return from the United States of America where he underwent a surgery, Sherman donated US$50,000 to his campaign with a pledge to do more.
But this relationship is going a far way hurting VP Boakai’s bid to become President Sirleaf’s successor.
President Sirleaf is on record for saying she supports her Vice President, yet throughout the campaign season of the first round of election, she was never seen wearing of the UP’s paraphernalia.
Worst of all, she never attended any of his campaign activities neither did she attend the campaign lunch, nor his birthday, which is the last day of November.
Explaining her decision for not attending the VP Boakai’s campaign in October, President Sirleaf said, “Thousands of people go to rally, thousands of partisans go to rallies, not many people spend their time going way to a rural village to break ground for a clinic for a community that has never had it."
"If that’s a wrong priority in the views of some, I accept their view, I respect their view,” Pres. Sirleaf said in an interview with the Cyrus/Pat Fame Show.
VP Boakai, on the other hand, has been jittery while speaking on his boss’ support to his presidential ambition – perhaps in a trick not to further hurt an already sour relationship.
At one point in time, he said, “Fellow Liberians, contrary to the assumption and expectations since the start of the formal campaign process for the 2017 Presidential and representative, neither my campaign nor the Standard Bearer Emeritus - all attempts by me or individual operating upon my instructions to extend a hand of cooperation to the Standard Bearer Emeritus have yielded little or no success.
Instead, the Standard Bearer Emeritus is on record for making statements to the international media that, wittingly or unwittingly, have the net effect of detracting us from our quest for the presidency.”
The President’s cold attitude towards the party ignited several comments – some derogatory – from members of the party, but VP Boakai remained silent until recent.
In a press statement read last Wednesday, VP Boakai in a somewhat late call, urged members of the party to show respect to President Sirleaf as he recognizes her as his sister and friend.
He said, “My life has been one of humility, discipline and respect for others, no matter their position or station in life."
"Anyone who has followed my relationship with President Sirleaf over the past twelve years will know that not one day have we had any occasion to be disrespectful to each other.
“Accordingly, I wish to admonish all UP partisans, our collaborators and well-wishers to continue to exercise deference and to accord due courtesies and respect to party and national leaders, especially our Standard Bearer Emeritus, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.”