Gbarnga, Bong County – With less than six months away, the ruling Coalition of Democratic Change (CDC) could split on a choice of candidate for the December 8 Special Senatorial election in Bong County. From the look of things in the county both President George Weah and his Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor could support different candidates.
Report by Selma Lomax, [email protected]
The coalition comprises of President Weah’s Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), the former ruling National Patriotic Party (NPP) of Vice-President Howard-Taylor, and the Liberia People’s Democratic Party (LPDP) of former Speaker Alex Tyler.
Weah’s CDC has announced a timetable for the conduct of its primaries for the December 8 Senatorial election scheduled to take place July 18 in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, while the NPP has also announced that candidates for the party will be decided through primary.
The LPDP hasn’t said anything regarding a primary across the country ahead of the Senatorial election. In the county, incumbent senator Henry Yallah, who joined Weah’s CDC two weeks ago, appears to be the favorite for the party’s slot.
The coalition has expressed confidence in winning at least 10 of the 15 counties. But what now appears to be a stumbling block for the coalition in Bong County is how to come out for a consensus candidate.
The coalition appears to be divided in the county.
Two weeks ago, some members of the coalition led by Representative Marvin Cole of District 3 and a former staff member of Howard-Taylor, endorsed Yallah as the choice for the coalition but minutes later some members of the NPP, led by the party’s secretary general in Bong County, Amos Barbu, rejected the endorsement, saying the NPP has not decided on which candidate to support in the county.
There is a rift between the Senator and the Vice-President. Howard-Taylor hasn’t hidden her beef with Yallah. At a program in Yallah’s native Kokoyah District In 2018, the Vice-President took a dig at Yallah and called on residents of the county not to re-elect him. “In 2020, Yallah and I will dance it in Bong County because he will not be re-elected,” Howard-Taylor said of Yallah in 2018.
The question now lingering on the minds of many in the county is whether the Vice-President still stands by her statement even though Yallah has joined the coalition. Will the NPP field a candidate in Bong County in 2020?
Howard-Howard’s popularity in Bong County is unmatched. She is the first person to win two successive elections as Senator in the county, 2005 and 2014. She was instrumental in helping the CDC win Bong, the third-largest county in Liberia, for the first time in as many elections.
This is a popularity that coalition can bank on to win Bong County, according to many partisans of the coalition in the county. Amos Kerkulah, a partisan of Weah’s CDC, says Howard-Taylor remains the most popular politician in Bong County and with the NPP’s growing influence in the county, the coalition must come up with a consensus candidate that will meet the approval of the Vice-President to win the county.
Another partisan, Jerry Varney of Bong’s Suakoko District, says no one can discount Howard-Taylor’s influence because she remains the face of the county. “This is a woman who defied all the odds to win two successive elections in Bong County. She remains the kingmaker ahead of the December election,” he says.
To date, the Jewel-Howard has remained silent on her choice of candidate in the Bong Senate race though Yallah has offered apologies to her. Some of Howard-Taylor’s supporters including her pastor in Gbarnga, Lahai Sesay, and her “political son” Rep. Marvin Cole have reportedly pleaded with Howard-Taylor to support Yallah “for the sake of the coalition in the county”.
In fact, FrontPageAfrica understands that Howard-Taylor and Rep. Cole have broken ranks over the lawmaker’s decision to endorse Yallah without the conduct of the party primary. In a rather jibe at Howard-Taylor, Cole posted on Facebook last week. “Don’t destroy yourself, the journey too far yet.” In another Facebook post, the lawmaker said: “Since 2005, we have been committed, so what do you.”
Rumors of rift between Pres. Weah and VP Howard-Taylor could prove costly for the CDC in Bong County
Political observers in Bong say rumors of rift between the president and his Howard-Taylor may dampen the vice president’s chances of supporting Yallah in December.
Last week, Howard-Taylor’s close ally, Bong County Superintendent, Esther Walker, defected to Weah’s CDC citing “personal reasons.” Howard-Taylor and Walker created a strong bond as “big and small sisters” for 27 years before Walker’s surprising appointment as superintendent of Bong, an appointment Walker owed to Howard-Taylor.
Some partisans of the NPP believed Walker’s decision to break ranks with Howard-Taylor was masterminded by Weah, who reportedly wants to break up the NPP in the county ahead of 2023 presidential election.
Barbu believed the reported rift between the President and the Vice-President could undermine Howard-Taylor’s decision to endorse Yallah. “You can’t be breaking up the NPP and expect us to support a candidate on the CDC ticket,” Barbu said.
A source close to Jewel-Howard told FrontPage Africa that rumors of Weah contemplating not to select Howard-Taylor as running mate in 2023 is making the vice president hesitant not to support a candidate Weah’s CDC will endorse in the county.
Our source said that the Vice-President still wants to maintain a strong grip on the county even if Weah doesn’t pick her as running mate in 2023.
Who will VP Taylor support in Bong County?
Howard-Taylor seems to be racing against time in selecting her candidate to support. It remains uncertain as to whom she would support in the Senate race.
Speculations were rife that the Vice-President was poised to back the Secretary of the Senate Nanborlor Singbeh. FrontPage Africa has gathered that Singbeh may not contest the election because of an ongoing lawsuit hanging over him for allegedly owing workers of the Liberian-owned MHM EK US$ 82,000 in salary arrears.
The pending Senatorial election, according to political pundits, is very crucial for Howard-Taylor and selecting a candidate could make or break her influence in Bong.
A win for her choice of candidate in December could cement her position as the most popular political figure in Bong, and a loss for whomever she supports could dent her popularity, especially with the 2023 presidential election looming, according to many.