‘Hierarchy’ Lawmaker Faces Daunting Challenge to Retain Seat

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Grand Bassa County – Representative Jeh Byron Browne may have the confidence of his senior colleague – Speaker J. Alex Tyler – at the House of Representatives but back in his constituency, he faces a difficult challenge to retain his seat.

Hon. Browne, now very powerful at the Capitol, is Chairing the all incisive and influential committee on rules, order and administration making critical decisions amongst equals.

Browne’s political affiliations at the Capital has grossed him political relevance – his Chairmanship – while his stance on national issues as an opposition lawmaker with Liberty Party has gained him fame and accolades within the last couple of years.

His feats at the Capitol are being downplayed by several of his constituents who assert that his floor-fighting-attributes are making no impact on their district.

Critics have branded his efforts to see the revision of the Liberian Agricultural Company (LAC) 1959 concession agreement and the establishment of the Gorblee Multilateral School in the district as lip service, as other prevailing situations like bad road condition; poor health delivery and poverty remain pressing concerns.

He came under fire in March this year when he openly declared that his constituency is the most develop district in the country. His critics lambasted him terming his comments as fallacious and a ploy to gain political fame despite the challenges people face in the district.

The District Three Lawmaker has however blamed the Executive for reneging on their part of the bargain as a branch of government. But his futile efforts in filing a Rate of Mandamus in 2013 only heightened the debate while the passage of the multilateral bill into law has been fruitless due to failed budgetary appropriation.

“The bill is now a law because it is approved by the President and in one or two budgets money was allocated for the multilateral (School) but the Executive has not done anything,” Rep. Browne told FrontPage Africa in grave frustration.

“The situation is not only with the multilateral in my area (constituency) but all the others, when we put money in the budget the Ministry of Education will not use it and so we have not started anything, “he concluded.

Browne Faces Challenge within LP  

The Liberty Party Lawmaker is hopeful of influencing another budgetary allocation in the upcoming 2016/2017 budget but the ramifications of all the stalemate since the law was enacted will well be used as leverage by opponents.

Several oppositions including business woman Etta Nasser and former student leader and activist Vincent Willie – also a member of the Liberty Party – have all enter the political fray while other names continue to emerge.

Browne’s main nemesis in 2017 might be his own Liberty Party stalwart, Willie, who is becoming favorable to many youth in the second populous electoral district in Grand Bassa County.

Now an oil and gas expert with the National Oil Company (NOCAL), Mr. Willie is known amongst Grand Bassa youth for championing the formation of Grand Bassa University Student Union (GBUSU) which now advocate for hundreds of students seeking financial aid from the County Development fund (CDF).

Willie is within the hierarchy of Liberty Party serving as Assistant National Secretary General for Mobilization while Representative Browne is prominent in the party and was recently appointed Chairman of the LP Grand Bassa Chapter though his appointment was weeks later rejected by several members of the party leaving the position still vacant in the county.

Insiders say a ‘crunch’ party primary will decide who contest on the LP ticket for 2017 in electoral District Four and with the two opting to contest, they will have to play political ball to win the hearts of the delegates. But Browne’s competitor says he’s relying on the support of the constituents rather than party primary.

“Politics is about your people; I come in this process with an open mind because I have been called and I’m committed to serving my people,” he said while hinting at contesting as an independent if the need arises. “So what so ever way my people think we can go I will go because it’s just not about the party.”

Battle for Popularity

Willie insists there’s no jittery about the party’s support for him but observers say Browne holds an advantage due to the latter strong relationship with partisans that might participate in any primary while the former continues to ride on the lawmakers infamous rant with several youth and student groups in the district and is secretly winning the hearts of prominent LP politicians in and out of Grand Bassa County. Hon. Browne may be rekindling the relationship by purchasing a 36 seated bus for his team in the district but some damage has already been done.

He was in 2014 slammed for rejecting a scholarship proposal from the district university students union and was last year again lashed at by several other youths for refusing to sponsor sport activities because according to him the activities were being politicized. In recent weeks, he’s somersaulted and openly showed support for the district teams.

“We are willing to prove to our people that indeed this district is well organized, well managed when it comes to sports…; we want to reconcile our people so today we put everything behind us and we’re moving forward because of the sick of the district”.

On the other hand, Mr. Willie is attracting youth in the urban parts of the district – mainly Compound Three and LAC –while his work to gain household popularity is burdensome but the former student leader who inherited the late Senator John Whitfield scholarship program and rebranded it The John Francis Whitfield & Vincent S.T. Willie Scholar Program at the Grand Bassa Community College has also squashed perceptions of popularity and the effect it might have on his political endeavor.

“Our people need ideological individuals and commitment; they do not just need popularity because it can be build but what they need is partnership,” he said.

With an acquired Master of Science (MSc) in International Oil and Gas Management from the Centre for Energy, Petroleum and Mineral Law and Policy at the University of Dundee in the United Kingdom, Willie says a mixture of sound education and passion to serve can transform the district.

“Education may serve as impetus, it may serve as just an augmenting force to that but your passion to transform society and passion to transform the lives of the dying people is most important,” he added.

Mr. Willie and a host of several other aspirants are showing every bit of resilience to unseat a lawmaker popular at the Capitol, vocal on national issues and has worked his away at the echelon of Liberty Party based on his aptness although there are glaring challenges to retain his seat.

The task is even more difficult than 2011’s when he overwhelming claimed 5,155 votes out of a total valid votes of 15,226, according to the National Elections Commission.

Alpha Daffae Senkpeni-dafff[email protected]

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