Rift over Little Things: Liberia’s President, Vice President at Loggerheads over Transfer of County Health Services Administrator

Gbarnga — The decision by President George Mannah Weah to rescind the transfer of Jonah Nulee Togbah to Rivercess County against the wishes of Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor appears to signal yet another twist in the reported rift between the president and his vice president.

The Ministry of Health on January 22, 2021 transferred Togbah, administrator of Bong County Health Services, to Rivercess County, replacing him with Lasanah Kromah, Warehouse manager of the Ministry of Health.

In a letter addressed to Togbah by Norwu Howard, deputy minister for administration of the Ministry of Health and sister to the vice president, the ministry said the decision to transfer Togbah was part of its rotational policy of staff.

The transfer letter states:

The Ministry of Health extends its compliments and wishes to inform you that you’re hereby recalled from the Bong County Health Team and reassigned to Rivercess County Health Team as County Health Services Administrator.

Your assignment takes immediate effect as of February 1, 2021 and your immediate supervisor will be the County Health Officer (CHO), Rivercess County Health Team to whom you’re to report for specifics at your duties.

Congratulations on your preferment and we look forward to a cordial working relationship to help improve the health status of the people of Liberia.

Kind regards,

Norwu G. Howard

Deputy Minister of Health

President Weah rescinds Togbah’s transfer

But during his tour of Bong County last week, it was gathered that President Weah mandated the minister of health “to immediately reinstate Togbah, stating that his transfer was more political than administrative as claimed by deputy minister Howard.

The minister of health, Wilhelmina Jallah, meanwhile, reinstated Togbah on February 12, 2021, rescinding a previous decision by Minister Howard to transfer Togbah.

The reinstatement letter states:

We present our compliments and wish to inform you that you’re to report back to Bong County and resume work as County Health Services Administrator. 

This letter is predicted upon a transfer letter dated January 22, 2021, transferring you to the Rivercess County Health Team as County Health Services Administrator.

You’re therefore asked to report to the County Health Officer, Ministry of Health, for the specifics of your reassignment. Congratulations on your preferment.

Please accept the assurance of our highest esteem.

Sincerely yours,

Wilhelmina Jallah

Minister of Health

It was a decision against the wishes of the vice president, who reportedly sent Whatapp messages to the Minister of State Nathaniel McGill and the president “to decide between she and Togbah who’s more important to the CDC”.

The content of the messages, FrontPageAfrica understands, was that the vice president requested the affirmation of the deputy minister’s decision to transfer Togbah and that she was in support of the decision.

The political side of the transfer

Togbah has been a long-time ally to the vice president, who reportedly influenced his appointment as administor of Bong County Health Team.

Tokpah and Howard-Taylor reportedly broke ranks after he (Togbah)  joined Pres. Weah’s Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) – a  constituent party to the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) of which Howard-Taylor’s National Patriotic Party (NPP) is a member.

And many in Bong believed the decision by Minister Howard to transfer Togbah is linked to his current rift with the vice president. Samuel Smith, a resident of Gbarnga, shares his opinion on the Togbah-Vice President  saga. “I feel that the decision of the vice president’s sister Minister Howard to transfer Jonah was a political decision rather than administrative. I think he should be judged on his performance and competence, not on personal decisions,” he said.

Faith Kamara, a Gbarnga resident and a partisan of the CDC, hailed President Weah for the decision to influence the reinstatement of Togbah. Kamara said it would have cost the CDC a great blow had the president fallen prey to the politics that resulted to the transfer of Togbah. “Thanks, Mr. President for being farsighted. I think the decision was to dislodge Togbah from Bong because of his political intentions in Zota District in 2023,” she said.

History of defections from VP’s camp 

This is the third time a ranking member of the vice president’s camp has broken ranks with her for Weah’s CDC. 

It can be recalled superintendent Esther Walker of Bong County broke her 27 years relationship with Howard-Taylor after she left the NPP and joined President Weah’s CDC.

Walker, who served as caretaker to Howard-Taylor during the regime of former President Charles Taylor when Howard-Taylor was first lady, cited “personal reasons” for her decision. “After 27 years of relationship with Madam Jewel Howard-Taylor, I hereby terminate my relationship due to personal reasons. I would like to appreciate the vice president for memory we shared for together the past 27 years,” Madam Walker said.

Recently, Rep Marvin Cole, Howard-Taylor’s former Political Officer, threw pointed jabs at the vice president at a political rally in Bong County describing her as “ungrateful” amid her reported rift with President Weah.

Infact, Rep. Cole vowed that under his leadership as representative of District Three, it would have been impossible for anyone to influence the transfer of Togbah from Bong County. “Jonah and all!? Da war, ooo,” Rep. Cole posted on his official Facebook page.

Togbah’s transfer sparked uproar

Tokpah’s transfer sparked uproar  in the county and a serious power tussle between members of the Bong Legislative Caucus. 

A faction of the caucus led by Senator Prince Moye, Robert Womba of District Four, Senator Henrique Tokpa, District Six lawmaker Moima Briggs-Mensah were in support of the transfer of Tokpah, while Rep. Marvin Cole of District Three, Rep. Edward Karfiah of District Five and Rep. Albert Hills of District One were against the transfer of Tokpah.

The Moye-led divide of the caucus was pushing for Tokpah’s transfer seemingly because Togbah intends to contest as representative in District Four in 2023 against incumbent Rep. Robert Womba, a close friend to Moye, while Rep Cole of the CDC believed Tokpah’s transfer to Rivercess would have undermined the party’s popularity in the county.

Moye, during a town hall meeting in Kokoyah District, called on the president to dismiss Tokpah, claiming that the Bong County Health Administrator has politicized the health sector.  

Though he didn’t cite any reference to his claim, Senator Moye said the health sector in the county was in retrogression because of Togbah’s presence and it was important for the president to dismiss him.

But citizens in reactions described Moye’s statement as political and were intended to blackmail Togbah to the president seemingly because of his stance against Moye during the December 8 Special Senatorial election.

Rep Cole, meanwhile, lauded the president for reinstating Togbah, describing the move as best interest of the CDC and the health sector in the county.

VP Taylor dismissed key member for ‘honoring’ president

In a bid to weed out “the bad apples” from within her ranks, the vice president also dismissed her chairlady, Jebeh Goodlin, days after she honored President Weah in Gbarnga.

Though the dismissal letter cited “administrative reasons”, Goodlin believes her dismissal was due to the recent honor she bestowed on the president in Gbarnga. 

“A day after I, along with women of the Coalition for Democratic Change honored the president I received a letter of dismissal from the office of the vice president,” she said.

Continuing, she added: “I strongly feel because I was part of an honoring program for the president in Gbarnga that’s why may have angered the vice president.”

Goodlin vowed to remain a loyal “friend” to the president, stating that her dismissal has further motivated her to work for Weah’s CDC in Bong. “This won’t deter me. I am even more motivated to work for the CDC,” she said.

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