Liberia: Bong 2020 Senate Race: The Names Coming Up
Gbarnga, Bong County – Ahead of the 2020 senatorial election expected to take place in December, the political temperature of Bong County is approaching boiling point as the battle for the senate seat gets hotter and intriguing by the day.
The incumbent senator, Henry Yallah, is bent on going for a second term having been first elected in 2011. He is targeting 2029 as the time he would have completed his 18 years in office.
For the first time in the history of the 57-year-old county, many credible aspirants have shown interest in the race. As at press time there were eight persons who have shown interest.
They are Deputy House Speaker Prince Moye of electoral district two, former Liberian Ambassador to the United States of America, Jeremiah Sulunteh, former executive director of the Development Education Network (DEN-L), Dorothy Tooman, the former legal counsel of the Forestry Development Authority, Benedict Sagbeh, former Agriculture Minister, Dr. Mogana Flomo, Menipakei Dumoe of Liberty Party and the former president of the Federation of Liberian Youth (FLY), Mohammed Nasser.
Factors that will determine the winner in this year’s election will include the aspirant’s personality and acceptability, party strength, support of critical segment of the population in Bong County and the aspirant’s financial capability.
In no particular order, here’s is a brief about the strengths and weaknesses of aspirants for the Bong Senate race.
Nasser’s foray into the senatorial race in Bong County is raising dust among the young people in some parts of Gbarnga. He has an elaborate campaign organization.
Notwithstanding, he faces major challenges. First, among the challenges he seems to have difficulty in tracing his root in the county.
While Nasser has claimed to hail from Kpaii District because of the nativity of his mother, his political opponents and rivals are claiming that he is not a true son of the soil.
RATING: He may not have the resources to pull through an expensive senatorial campaign.
If he contests, this will be the first time Sulunteh will bid for public office in Bong County as a person. He attempted to contest in 2011, but was prevailed upon to shelve his ambition to allow former Bong County superintendent Ranney Jackson to contest on the ticket of Unity Party.
In 2017, he withdrew from the bi-election because he felt “betrayed” by the Coalition for Democratic Change after he supported during the runoff election.
Sulunteh has gifted his time in politics to the struggle of better welfare of citizens of the county. During his time as Ambassador of the United States of America, Sulunteh sent several students to the United States to pursue academic excellence.
His supporters argued that Sulunteh, former senior national vice chairman of Unity Party, remains the most prepared for the seat of the senate considering his experience in party politics in the country level.
Were the race to be a senator of Bong County a free gift Sulunteh would be easily crowned because of his rich credentials. But he has to struggle for the coveted senate seat.
STRENGTH: Eminently qualified if the race is on merit.
RATING: A contender.
Weakness: Sulunteh’s major weakness is his inconsistency he has demonstrated over the years. In 2005, he contested along with Cllr Winston Tubman on the ticket of the National Democratic Party of Liberia. He later joined Unity Party in 2006. In 2017, he left the Unity Party and joined the Alternative National Congress (ANC). When ANC lost the election in 2017, Sulunteh was the first to announce his support for the Coalition of Democratic Change (CDC) with the hope that the party would have endorsed him for the senatorial bi-election created as the result of Jewel Howard Taylor’s ascendency as vice president.
The CPP of which Sulunteh’s ANC is a member is reportedly in an arrangement which could give the nod to Unity Party, another party in the CPP, to select a candidate.
Dr. Mogana Flomo, Jr
Flomo has not hidden his ambition to become senator of Bong County.
The former minister of agriculture belongs to the class of young people dissatisfied with the performance of another young man, incumbent Senator Henry Yallah.
Flomo seems to enjoy the support of traditional leaders in four of the 13 administrative districts of the county, a factor that may swing votes in his favor. Flomo cuts a picture of a man who can assert himself and capable of summoning the strong political will to follow through with whatever good intention he has for the county and the people.
RATING: A contender
Weakness: He is perceived as elitist and not a believer of money politics in a county where voters are after money rather than the credentials of candidates.
Sagbeh is contesting the senate for the third time having contested 2011 and 2014. On those occasions, he ran the most popular campaigns.
Those efforts could only earn him fourth and fifth places respectively. He is one of the oldest aspirants in the race. His influence and popularity would be brought to bear as he would not need introduction to the electorates.
RATING: Not a contender.
Weakness: Sagbeh is not too close to the grassroots in the county.
Madam Tooman is one of few who have openly declared for the senate seat. She is the favorite of some women in Bong County. She is immensely popular among the youth in some parts of District Two on account of her accessibility and grassroots base.
Observers described her as a good listener.
With the emergence of Madam Tooman, votes in District Two would definitely be between her, the incumbent Yallah and Rep. Moye. She is expected to put up a big fight in major towns like Samay, Gbenequelleh and Tamaita because of her family ties.
RATING: An aspirant to watch.
Weakness: Madam Tooman’s ambition is a hard sell because she has no resources. She only has only a vision.
In earnest, Senator Yallah remains the candidate to beat.Senator Yallah has been overwhelmed by the gale of endorsements by different political groups in the county. He is now called “Mr. Projects” in acknowledgement of numerous projects he had embarked on across the county for the past nine years.
Senator Yallah touts his tenure on providing scholarships for students of the county through the Loitoi Scholarship Foundation, construction of schools and bridges across the county and providing loans for women.
Senator Yallah is poised to defect to the Congress for Democratic Change. Also, FrontPage Africa has gathered that negotiations between him and the former ruling National Patriotic Party has reached “80 percent”. If the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change endorses Yallah’s bid, it could be a catalyst for his re-election.
RATING: The leading contender
Weakness: Senator Yallah’s major headache for re-election could be getting the endorsement of Vice President, Jewel Howard-Taylor. Howard-Taylor remains the most influential politician in Bong. Her influence in Bong politics is entrenched. He is the first person in recent years to win re-election as senator. Howard-Taylor and Senator Yallah have been at odds for the past four years. In fact, the vice president in 2017 even branded him a “snake” and called on residents of the county not to re-elect him. Until the pair can have a truce, Yallah’s re-election lies in the vice president’s hands.
He is a faithful ally of former vice president, Joseph Boakai of Unity Party and banks on the renewed strident clamor of a “Unity Party senator in Bong County” as an opportunity to aspire for the senatorial seat in the county in the hope that he might be the lucky one, if the CPP goes ahead with the idea of giving the Unity Party the nod to select candidate from Bong County.
The Deputy Speaker has been consulting quietly and widely in respect to his senatorial aspiration while his foot soldiers have continued to market him in the 13 administrative districts of the county. By virtue of the office of Deputy Speaker, Rep. Moye is perceived as someone who has gotten more than a passing knowledge of the intricacies of governance at that level.
The Deputy Speaker’s entry in the senate race has divided the Bong caucus with a segment including Bong’s district six lawmaker Moima Briggs, District Four lawmaker Robert Womba and Senator Henrique Tokpa all pledging support to his bid.
Rating: An aspirant to watch
Weaknesses: The questions about “what really does Rep. Moye want” from citizens continue to linger on the minds of residents of the county. As Deputy Speaker of the 54th National Legislature, many residents say are still baffled by the lawmaker’s decision to contest the senate race. Some have even branded him “greedy” and have promised to punish him at the ballot box in December.
Rep. Moye is on record for condemning a sitting legislator of contesting an election, describing it as “unnecessary”. Such statement has come back to haunt him. It has taken a toll on his ambition and, from all indications, it could hurt his ambition.
Besides, majority members of the Bong caucus including Bong’s District Five lawmaker Edward Karfiah, Papa Kolleh of District Seven, District Three lawmaker Marvin Cole and Junior Hills of District One have all endorsed Senator Yallah’s bid, dealing a big blow to the Deputy Speaker.
Speculations that the Deputy Speaker is eyeing the vice presidential slot of the CDC if President George Weah parts ways with Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor in 2023, appear to have given the vice president a second thought on the incumbent. If Howard-Taylor endorses Senator Yallah it could spell doom for the Deputy Speaker’s senate bid.
Dumoe is not strange to Bong politics. In 2014 senatorial mid-term election, he played a significant role in the election of his former boss and now Vice President, Jewel Howard-Taylor. In fact, he was by recognized by Howard-Taylor for his role played in her election.
In 2017, Dumoe also played a significant role in the election of Senator Henrique Tokpa. He and Rep. Moye preached against sitting lawmakers contesting for legislative seat. The message resonated with residents of Bong as Tokpa defeated Rep. Marvin Cole with over six thousands votes difference.
Since his entry in the race, Dumoe, who hails from Sanoyea District in lower Bong, has taken a dig Rep. Moye, describing him as “insincere and unrealistic” to residents of Bong County.
To date, Dumoe is the only aspirant to hail from a lower side of the county craving for a senator of the county. Also, Dumoe’s entry in the race could provide some headache for the CPP in his quest of selecting a consensus candidate in Bong.
Rating: An aspirant to watch
Weaknesses: Dumoe doesn’t have the resources to execute his ambition.