Brumskine’s Renaissance Play: Liberia Opposition Leader on Resurgence Tour
Monrovia – Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine insists that he did not retire from politics following his defeat in the 2011 Presidential elections in Liberia.
“I’m touring the country in fulfillment of the mandate from our special convention in Lofa to lead the restructuring and reenergizing of our party. I’m visiting the southeast because what we seek this time is to build a broad coalition to usher in a new era for CHANGE. We intend to leave no one behind on this journey, because this is our moment to renew Liberia’s promise and shape our future for the better” – Cllr. Charles W. Brumskine, Political Leader, opposition Liberty Party
“What had happened was that before the election, I had an interview and I said if I did not win, I would not run again. But shortly thereafter even before the election, I was reminded that this was never about me, it was about Liberia,” the Liberty Party political leader told FrontPageAfrica in a 2015 interview.
With 2017 Presidential elections looming in the wings, the political leader of the opposition liberty party is making his rounds across Liberia looking to repair damage and sell himself as an alternative to the sirleaf-led government. But Are Potential Voters buying the pitch?
In the last few months, Brumskine has been resurrecting his political life of sorts, attempting to correct some of the costly errors that contributed to his losses in the past two elections and making inroads into rural Liberia, capping a nine-day tour of southeast Liberia this week, during which he has been explaining the party’s agenda for the rebuilding of a nation which has been led by the incumbent Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and the ruling Unity Party.
A former President Pro Temp of the Liberian Senate during the turbulent Charles Taylor era, Brumskine first contested the Presidency in 2005, receiving nearly 14% of the vote, 6% less than the second-place candidate, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in the first round.
Brumskine however stood on the fence in the second round and failed to throw his weight behind neither of the top two first round candidates, Weah and Sirleaf, a decision which some political observers say led to the beginning of a strain relationship with Weah’s Congress for Democratic Change.
In 2011, Brumskine chose Bong County Senator Franklin Obed Siakor as his running mate in what was seen as a fatal blow to the rest of the field contesting the presidency but the Liberty party candidate finished a distant fourth behind the incumbent Sirleaf, CDC’s Tubman, the Independent Prince Y. Johnson with only 5.5 percent of the votes.
Pitching the Candidate
With 2017 Presidential elections Looming in the Wings, the Political Leader of the Opposition Liberty Party is making his rounds across Liberia, looking to repair some damage and not only sell but trumpet himself as an alternative to the Sirleaf-Led Government.
But Are Potential Voters buying the pitch?
Starting in Greenville, Pleebo and Harper, the past few days, the Liberty Party political leader has been reminding potential voters that the party founded out of the ashes of Liberia’s prolonged civil war with a mission to explore new policy direction that would set Liberia on a progressive path of sustained growth and development, is confident of victory in 2017.
Taking a pointed jab at the ruling party, Cllr. Brumskine showed solidarity with southeasterners for their show of solidarity and praised their resilience in the midst of harsh economic conditions they are faced with while assuring that with determined efforts on the part of all citizens across the country for a new Liberia secured in the four pillars built in the LP Platform, a new era of hope was on the horizon.
The Cllr. Brumskine tour has been greeted with mixed reactions. While resident and elders in Greenville, Pleebo and Harper welcomed and expressed joy that he was once more in their company since 2005, critics of the Liberty Party leader say he has his work cut out from him in convincing voters that he has what it takes to erase the perception that his support is only limited to his homeland, Grand Bassa County which he won in 2005 but lost in 2011.
Addressing the Bassa Label
Cllr. Brumskine accumulated 58 percent of the votes in 2005 distancing football legend George Weah, with 17 percent and Sirleaf who went on to win with six percent. Six years later the candidate’s numbers shrunk from 2005 as he won only 37.6 percent of the votes with Sirleaf finishing a close second with 33.7 percent Winston Tubman won 18.4 percent as the candidate for the opposition Congress for Democratic Change.
While acknowledging that Bassa is his home and offering no apologies, Cllr. Brumskine’s aides say he is in effect looking to address the handicap that defined his candidacy in the past two elections by reaching out to counties beyond his reach as he did when he launched his comeback in Lofa County last year, a vote-rich area which landed the party a crucial senatorial seat in 2014 with the election of Steve Zargo.
“I want to make sure that we are more inclusive than people think that we are, but more importantly the people of Lofa County, they have made the Liberty Party the northern star of Liberian politics.
They took us and placed us way up there, I mean they made us look good coming out of the midterm election, so we feel that it is only fair that Hon. Eugene Fallah Kparkar, who is the chair of Liberty Party’s national campaign committee and Steve Zargo; Senator Zargo who has shown us how to win election in spite of all odds, to give them opportunity to showcase their party to the people of Lofa and the people of Liberia.”
For now Brumskine will be hoping that his southeastern swing go a long way in addressing some of the lapses from ’05 and ’11.
Says the LP leader: “I’m touring the country in fulfillment of the mandate from our special convention in Lofa to lead the restructuring and reenergizing of our party. I’m visiting the southeast because what we seek this time, is to build a broad coalition to usher in a new era for CHANGE. We intend to leave no one behind on this journey, because this is our moment to renew Liberia’s promise and shape our future for the better.”
A Lot Needed to Convince Voters
Some voters have so far appeared convinced, praising the LP leader in Pleebo for his demonstration of maturity in Liberian politics, while acknowledging that they have over the last eleven years learned the difficult lessons of their error and were prepared to look in a new direction
Cllr. Brumskine’s message to the citizens is anchored in the four pillars (Four Rs) of the Liberty Party Platform including Reconciliation to ensure domestic peace, Reform to establish Justice and many more, Recovery and Rebuilding. To domesticate his message further, Cllr. Brumskine went to the core of some of the economic development issues facing Southeasterners.
He made particular mention of the need to invest heavily in agriculture to ensure self-sufficiency; supporting and sustaining a value-added orientation in industries such as rubber and oil palm so as to produce materials locally, thereby creating more jobs for the people.
While in Maryland County, he spoke of the strategic nature of the twin Cities of Pleebo and Harper in terms of their population concentration. Cllr. Brumskine went on to say that one of the ways to defeat poverty is by bringing the people together in large population centers, as such undertaking makes it possible for government to better deliver goods and services to them.
Over the 24 hours, aides say, Cllr. Brumskine was making his way to Fish Town where they will be for two days before cruising on to Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County for the final leg of the Southeastern tour.
As Cllr. Brumskine aims to solidify his standings in the southeast, aides say he is also looking to other parts of the country, particular the Western belt and central Liberia in furtherance of the party’s national outreach effort which is to consolidate its membership base, motivating local party workers, and giving a message of hope to the citizens.
Outside the tour, the core issue of Cllr. Brumskine’s third quest for the presidency is how much he will be prepared to convince voters of his electability and why they should take a chance.
Delicate Issue of Criticizing EJS
Gauging from his past two experiences, the Liberty Party leader says he is convince that his third attempt could be the charm even as murmurs of a purported discussion between his party and the incumbent government which suggest him pairing up with Boakai as a running mate for 2017.
Cllr. Brumskine says his most important priority now is to consolidate and mend fences with the opposition. “I have a very good feeling that it is going to be different, but equally important, my drive is to see if we can unite the opposition.
We are so splinter, we are so fragmented. I am hoping that we can learn from the Nigerian experience, where President Buhari bought the opposition together, you know ABC could not have done it alone, it took four major political parties in a merger to come together to beat the ruling party.”
Additionally, the tricky patch for Cllr. Brumskine would be how he handles the delicate issue of criticism of Sirleaf, who is on the way out.
It is an issue he told FrontPageAfrica recently that could come down to one key component, the man Sirleaf is looking to give her blessing to in the succession play, her vice President, Joseph Boakai.
“You know one of the best things that have happened to the opposition is to have the Vice President as a candidate. So we say. I do not have to criticize the government. I leave that with Joe, Joe has to do that himself if he wants to have a shot.
I give you an example, the President has conceded that corruption is a vampire in Liberia so what is Joe going to say, when we are talking about corruption? Is he going to say I have a policy? I have a way of dealing with corruption.
Hi Joe where you have been for the last 12 years? So that should be interesting, I don’t have to criticize an outgoing government. This is our position, President Sirleaf and you know and most people know, I have been one of her harshest critics, when it comes to dealing with her policies.
I do not get personal whether it is with her or any other opposition politician. I criticize her policies but I will tell you that we all must realize that she has done some good and the last thing the Liberian people want is to have us retrogress.
The Liberian people do not even want us to maintain the status core which Joe Boakai will probably, do. We must now move this country forward with someone who has a vision.
Someone who has been tested and proven not to be an appointed official of government but one elected by his people and one who the people he represented still enjoy his trust and he still enjoys their trust. That is what moving forward is about.”
But even if a pairing with Boakai is in the cards as speculations are suggesting, Cllr. Brumskine faces the same challenge members of another opposition, the Congress for Democratic Change, has amid murmurs that their candidate is in behind-the-scenes talks with Boakai: Would their party base accept their candidate as a running mate to a sitting government with a lot of question marks lingering over the past twelve years.
‘Excited About Political Leader’s Tour’
Cllr. Brumskine insists for now that he is looking forward and not backwards. ” I desire the presidency because deep within my heart I believe that our people deserve the kind of leadership that thinks forward. Liberty Party is interested in solutions. We all know what our problems are in this country.
We cannot just afford just to be angry, because anger is not a plan; it should not be the only reason to seek leadership. Anger never inspires hope, and it’s too narrow to sustain a movement. For us, this will be an election to draw the contrast, offer solutions and make the case for our ability and experience to govern.”
For the foreseeable future, the Liberty Party appears to be on a collision course with a pivotal third quest in hopes of attaining the state power which has eluded Brumskine. But like Sirleaf and the Unity Party before; the opposition party’s ability to lure other members of the opposition will be put to the test in the coming weeks and months.
For the immediate future, several factors including the party’s ability to raise cash could make or break Cllr. Brumskine resurgence as a key political force in Liberia’s political play. For now, party chair Cllr. J. Fonati Koffa says, the emphasis is on building momentum and cementing footing in the areas that matter.
“We are excited about the political leader’s tour and his reception in the South East. Once he sets up the leadership structure we will be able to embark upon our major membership recruitment drive. We believe this is a major step in becoming the ruling party.”