Boakai Keeps ’Em Guessing: Stomping on Brumskine Turf, VP Running Mate Saga Lingers


Buchanan, Grand Bassa County – The stomp by Vice President Joseph Boakai, Saturday, in what is widely regarded as Liberty Party’s Charles Walker Brumskine’s territory, was preceded by a wave of speculations that the ruling Unity Party’s candidate was closed to naming his running mate as he looks to cement his grip in the final days leading to this year’s Presidential elections.

Report by Rodney D. Sieh, [email protected]

That, he was in Grand Bassa County, one of four traditional vote-rich counties in Liberia, spoke volumes at the boldness and perhaps seriousness the incumbent government attaches to the upcoming Presidential elections.

Preliminary numbers from the recent voter registration have at least five counties with the most votes on the table.

Nimba County Still King of Registered Voters

According to the National Elections Commission, Montserrado County has the highest number of registered voters with some 733, 312.

Nimba County is next in line with 257,780 followed by Bong with the third highest number of registered voters with 195, 407; Lofa County with 149, 902 is fourth; Margibi with 144,604 is fifth; and Grand Bassa with 139,833 is sixth.

In the 2005 elections, 1,012,673 registered voters cast their votes. While in 2011, turnout was recorded at 1,288,716.

Multiple sources confirmed to FrontPageAfrica last week that the vice President, in the past few weeks, has been meeting with elders from Nimba County in a bid to appease them over their concerns that he may not be picking one of their own and will instead be looking toward the southeast.

“People who have those concerns have a right to be but I think he is being very meticulous. From our engagement with him, he is looking at all the factors, trying to balance all the forces and making a decision that represents the best for Liberia.

He talks about victory but he also talks about the best for Liberia.

He wants a vice President who has the credentials as you know; the vice President is only a heartbeat from the presidency, so I think he is nearing that decision now. He will be within the deadline”

– Augustine Ngafuan, Former Foreign Minister, now supporter of Vice President’s Presidential bid

Senator Prince Y. Johnson, who recently pledged his support to the vice President is said to be pushing the idea of the Vice President picking his running mate from the vote-rich county with Senator Thomas S. Grupee (NUDP) and Party Chairman Wilmot Paye being suggested as potential running mates.

But with Brumskine already locked in with Harrison Karnwea and Benoni Urey and Mills Jones said to be courting Edith Gongloe-Weh, who appears to be at odds with the Liberty Party after being left out of the running for the VP slot, the cluttered field noticeable in Bong County, where George Weah’s Coalition for Democratic Change has picked Senator Jewel Howard Taylor, and former Coca Cola Executive Alexander Cummings has picked Jeremiah Sulunteh, has given cause for concern.

This led to speculations Saturday that Boakai was leaning toward former Senate Pro Temp Gbezohnga Findley, a prominent son of Bassa who suffered a shock defeat to Liberty Party’s Jonathan Kaiplay in the 2014 Senatorial elections.

The names of Senators Dan Morias(Maryland and Peter Coleman(Grand Kru) are also being thrown around a sea of speculations as is Samuel Woods, the former Minister of Labor, and later Public Works.

Numbers vs. Momentum

But on Saturday, it was all about the stomp and sticking it to Brumskine and the Liberty Party.

Amid threat of rain, organization gaffes and an initial disoriented preparation, things finally got into gear with Wilmot Paye, Chairman of the ruling Unity Party went the distance and in great length to draw strategic pointers in a bid to suggest that the ruling party was determine to put a dent in Brumskine’s stronghold, just as Brumskine has been trying to do with his flirt of Nimba, viewed by many as Prince Johnson’s stronghold.

Elections in Liberia are all about the numbers and momentum. A party’s show of force and crowd display can be interpreted in a variety of ways.

It didn’t take long for opponents of Boakai, particularly Liberty Party, to begin posting small crowds and gatherings under a soaked and rainy day, on social media in hopes of downplaying Boakai’s attempt at a bold stomp in a county Brumskine is expected to win.

As bus load of cars brought in crowds from Monrovia and other parts of Buchanan, it was time for Boakai’s supporters to turn the tables.

Mr. Findley would later acknowledge to FrontPageAfrica that at least two thousand people were bused from Compound 1 and many more were standing by waiting to show up, long after the program was over.

Numbers aside, Party chair Paye said the show of support was clear and the people of Bassa had given the mandate Boakai as he took subtle jabs at Brumskine – without calling his name.

“Today the people of Grand Bassa County have spoken in no uncertain terms and have spoken very loudly. You were told in the past that this was a no-go area for some politicians.

But today, through the hard working and patriotic people of Grand Bassa, we all will leave this hospitality city with the warm and firm conviction that Grand Bassa, like every other part of the republic of Liberia is no body’s place; but it belongs to the 43,000 square miles that constitutes the territorial confines of the Republic of Liberia.”

Accepting the petition, on behalf of the elders and his supporters in Grand Bassa, VP Boakai said he was proud that the county had produced a lot of well-meaning Liberians who have made immense contributions to Liberia, is wrapping its alms around him.

“Thank you for welcoming me to the county of the legal mind, the county of the indigenous people, the county of the former chief justice, the county of people who have served this country, the county of pro temp, a county of people who are the avow religious people, the county for all people.”

Bassa Deserves Best, Boakai Says

Added Boakai: “We are here by your invitation because you feel that this place is a place for all. So, you told us, nobody should lay claim on Grand Bassa, Grand Bassa is for all, it’s for all Liberians.

So, we are here by your invitation and that’s why all of us in time passed have laid claim here because we believe that this is the county for all of us.

No nation has been built where the people are predominantly native. To the ownership of these people is not just by being born here but by making sure that they are elevated to the level that they can serve their country.”

Thank you for erasing the notion that Bassa is owned by some special people. If anybody owns you, they should show by what they do.

Check the records, we have brought things to the hospital here, we have done so many things here because we believe that you people here deserve the best and we are under obligation to make sure that our youths, our women, our people everywhere are provided here.

He then trumpeted the wave of endorsements he has been getting of late, suggesting that it shows that his support is overwhelming.

“You saw history in the making when 31 legislators endorsed us, you saw history in the making when 19 Senators endorsed us, you saw history in the making when the people of Bong County endorsed us and the people of Bahn said because you have now put a farm here, you can now go to Gbarpolu, they endorsed us.

The people of Gparpolu, you were there you went all in that mud. You were there when the staff of the Senate and the house they called us and endorsed us.

 Yesterday, we were in Bomi County we were endorsed. Show me your own of record. The people have record of everyone and know who mean well for this country.”

Mr. Augustine Ngafuan, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, who himself toyed for a while with a run for the presidency, but is now deeply involved in VP Boakai’s Presidential run, said the stomp in Bassa is following a line of recent outreach in search of a political mandate for a first-round victory.

 “We have been with him in Bong County, in Gbarpolu. Few days ago we were in Lofa. I am very happy with what I see here.

We are trying to build a consensus around him. We know that everyone in the Presidential race have his or her strength and his or her weaknesses.

But when you juxtapose the vice President’s strength and weaknesses against those of the others, the generality of the Liberian people are converging on him and so we want to be able to give him that endorsement and give him a mandate.”

Mr. Ngafuan acknowledged that the elections will not be a walk in the part for any candidate.

“We know it’s a tall order but it’s achievable. We want to be sure that he doesn’t just win but he wins with a mandate that is resounding because that goes into governance.”

Eyeing Political Mandate with 1st-Round Win

Mr. Ngafuan says he has been impressed by the VP’s attention to the details of governance.

“One of the things that impress me is that each time I engage with him, we’re not just talking about victory. He’s concerned about delivery after victory.

Because people think that getting victory is difficult, but governing is more difficult.

So, the conversation I’ve had with him, gives me the confidence that the Vice President and the standard bearer, possibly the next President has what it takes to continue on the positives and to effect the necessary reform.”

Mr. Ngafuan dismissed the idea of the county belonging to one candidate.

“This is no one’s territory. Yeah, Brumskine may have some weight here but the number has been dwindling since 2005.

We almost came neck and neck with Brumskine here in 2011. So, if you look at that it is highly possible that we could surprise him here.

So, we are doing everything to ensure that the vice President gets the mandate from the majority of the Liberian people, including the people of Bassa and what we see here impresses us a whole lot.

So, it is not just a county thing, it is a national thing; but the people of Bassa are doing what others are doing.

So, the Vice President from what we are seeing is going to get unanimity of support but that is the message we want to carry because that empowers him for governance. So, it’s not just victory we are seeking, but we are seeking victory with a mandate, a resounding mandate.”

He described the Boakai movement as a momentum generation occasion.

“Gparpolu, Bomi, Bong Counties have all done their part now we are about to storm Nimba. Other counties will be competing.

So, there is competition amongst the counties for endorsements.

So, we need to do more in order to make sure that we have a consensus around the Vice President, that consensus will create reconciliation and that reconciliation will help in development. So this is where we are and I think we are going to hit the target.

On concerns from many regarding the VP’s delay in announcing his running mate, Mr. Ngafuan averred.

“People who have those concerns have a right to be but I think he is being very meticulous. From our engagement with him, he is looking at all the factors, trying to balance all the forces and making a decision that represents the best for Liberia.

He talks about victory but he also talks about the best for Liberia.

He wants a vice President who has the credentials as you know; the Vice President is only a heartbeat from the presidency, so I think he is nearing that decision now. He will be within the deadline.”

With some 114 days until voting day, the ruling party’s candidate is not only racing against time in finding a running mate, but naming one so close to the start of the political campaign season could complicate his preparations in the last stretch of his Presidential quest.

Ethnic Card Implications

For now, though, the issue of reconciliation and Boakai’s silence over his key aides’ play of the ethnic card in these elections, is also causing jitters in some diplomatic and political circles, even as his supporters trump up the rhetoric, as party chair Paye ranted Saturday.

“Today, that history has been clarified, that record has been corrected. This county belongs to the people who today have assembled; those who have learned the language of the sixteen ethnic groups of this country are not the true custodians and owners of this republic.

And we are here today; the people of Bassa have established in no uncertain terms in irrefutable language, that this country as it marches forward after 170 years, the only way for Liberia is for the owners of Liberia to take charge of their destiny.”

Paye added: “Edward Wilmot Blyden spoke years ago and said that this country belongs to the people who make up the majority of the population and the way to embrace them is to get assimilated into the rich cultures and traditions. Blyden spoke that; I’m not the one saying that here.”

For the foreseeable future, it remains to be seen how Boakai and his supporters’ gamble of the ethnic card factor into this year’s elections.

It is a gamble, some supporters say, could either make or break his campaign – or further spur division, or likely come back to haunt him.

On Saturday though, it was about perceptions and numbers: Who pulled what crowd and how much of an impact it will have on the final count – after all the votes have been cast and counted.