Gbarnga, Bong County — The ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) faces a bind in reclaiming Bong County in the November 16 by-election after supporters of the National Patriotic Party (NPP) accused the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs Nathaniel McGill of supporting two candidates in the race.
Their charges against the minister come days after he was seen campaigning along with Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor in Gbarnga for the ruling party’s candidate, Melvin Salvage.
Salvage, a member of President George Weah’s Congress for Democratic Change, a constituent member of the ruling coalition, was last week endorsed at a political rally in Gbarnga by McGill, who reportedly contributed cash to his campaign.
But partisans of Howard-Taylor’s NPP have accused McGill of also playing double standard by supporting an opposition candidate despite his public appearance of Salvage.
Terrance Benson, a partisan of the NPP, accused McGill of financing the campaign of the People’s Unification Party candidate James Kolleh in a bid to prove that the vice president has lost hold of the county.
Howard-Taylor has reportedly been engulfed in a feud with President George Weah on a number of key political decisions in Bong County, ranging from her honor as the county’s highest traditional icon to her refusal to endorse the candidate of the party in the 2020 senatorial elections in the county.
Though Howard-Taylor didn’t publicly endorse any candidate at the time, political pundits believed her actions may have hurt the party following the election of the opposition candidate Prince Moye.
And partisans of the NPP fear that the reported feud between President Weah and Howard-Taylor is still fresh and visible, accusing Minister McGill to be on a mission in Bong to deface the vice president.
“We still think the internal fight within the ruling coalition is still visible and it could spill over to the November 16 by-election in Bong County,” said Deborah Flomo, partisan of the NPP.
“I think there is a ploy by some members of President Weah’s Congress for Democratic Change to undermine the vice president’s popularity that is why I think Minister McGill is supporting the PUP candidate Kolleh.”
“I strongly believed some hierarchy of the ruling party are supporting opposition candidates in the pending by-election, which could dampen the chances of the party,” one partisan of the CDC told FrontPageAfrica.
Vice President Howard-Taylor, apparently aware of the alleged ploy by some members of the ruling coalition, called for the collective efforts of everyone to ensure Salvage wins the November 16 by-election. She said: “I’m hearing in some corners that some senior members of our party are bankrolling opposition candidate in an attempt to undermine our efforts. If that is true, then it’s totally wrong,” she said.
“We need to work together as a coalition to win the by-election. Salvage is not a member of my party but I have chosen to support him because he’s a member of our team.”
What is behind Min. McGill’s visits in Bong?
Minister McGill has made a number of visits in Bong County for the last five months, embarking on the construction of his house in Gbarnga and declaring all government-run institutions of learning free for last academic year through his sixty million Liberian dollar tuition aid scheme.
The frequent visits of Minister McGill, whose mother hails from Sanoyea District, to the county have made many residents pondering about two things ahead of 2023 in the county: would he be the candidate of the CDC in the 2023 Senate race in Bong County? Or he is trying to solidify President Weah’s grip on Bong County in the event the CDC parts company with Howard-Taylor in 2023?
Some residents are also wondering why has Min. McGill gained so much interest in Bong in recent months when the vice president is still influential in Bong? “I’m getting so confused these days about how residents of the county go to receive Min. McGill when he’s arriving in Bong County. Everytime he making a visit in Bong County there is a welcoming program for him. I don’t think his frequent visits to Bong County are normal,” said one resident of Bong County identified as Esther.
McGill’s triumphant entry in Bong
The minister proved critics right last week when he made a rousing welcome to Gbarnga enroute to endorse Salvage.
Residents of the county lined the routes from Nyanforla, the border of Bong County, to receive the minister as partisans chanted pro-McGill slogans.
The irony about McGill’s entry was that he was more publicised than the party’s candidates.
McGill: ‘No political intentions in Bong’
Rebuffing allegations against him, the minister said: “I don’t want to be a senator in Bong County. My intentions are to sell the agenda of my boss, President Weah”.
Kolleh has, meanwhile, denied being supported by McGill. He said his campaign has been funded by the PUP, friends and Bong County District Five Edward Karfiah. “I have never had the time to interact with Min. McGill least to solicit support from him.
Minister McGill also refuted rumors that he’s bankrolling a candidate apart from the party’s candidate, Melvin Salvage.