Liberia: Brownie Samukai to Support Embattled UP Aspirant in Lofa County Senatorial By-election
BEYAN TOWN, Lofa County – Lofa County Senator-elect Brownie Samukai Saturday vowed to travel to the nooks and crannies of the county to campaign for Unity Party aspirant Garlakpai Kortimai ahead of the May 10 senatorial by-election.
On his return to the county a month after President George Weah granted him executive clemency suspending his two-year jail sentence, Samukai said: “I will be a very active player in the pending by-election to ensure that Garlakpai Kortimai is the next senator of Lofa County. The same energy I exerted before becoming a senator in December 2020 it’s the same energy I will exert for Kortimai.”
The Supreme Court of Liberia prevented the certification of Samukai after he won the December 8 senatorial election, and handed down two-year prison sentences to the former defense chief along with his two deputies Joseph Johnson and James Nyuman Ndokor after they failed to return US$ 1.1 million worth of stolen money from a government pension account.
President Weah’s pardon on Samukai, of the former ruling Unity Party, has given him enough leverage to campaign for Kortimai, whom he believes is best placed to replace him as senator of the county.
“I’m a member of the Friends of Samukai, a group of committed Lofians who sacrificed to ensure I was elected senator. This team has named its choice for the pending by-election in Lofa and that person is non other but Mr. Kortimai.”
“It would be ungrateful to name a different candidate rather than Kortimai, a man who stood with me from the day I announced my intention to seek for the Senate. Kortimai is a trusted character who served Lofa County as superintendent, and I have the conviction if he’s elected senator he will serve Lofa well.”
Hero’s welcome for Samukai
Thousands of supporters gave Samukai a hero’s welcome as brass bands played and thousands mobbed his car, holding banners and portraits of him when he arrived at Beyan Town, the border between Bong and Lofa Counties.
Zorzor, Salayea, Foya and other districts in the county have been a hive of activities in anticipation of Samukai’s month-long appreciation tour of the county months.
Beyan Town had begun buzzing at dawn, with motorbikes and cars filled with supporters of Samukai. Many had driven hours to be there.
Doris Mulbah, 32, a classroom teacher, had come from Voinjama District, a six-hour drive in car, said: “Samukai is like a father to me. He had great dreams for Lofa County but was prevented from taking his seat. I am here to pay my respects. It is a very happy day for me and my family.”
“I couldn’t resist such an event, the return to the county of my senator,” said a chief in Beyan Town wearing a traditional gown as he waited for hours for the program.
A youth who gave his name as Eric agreed, saying: “Samukai remains my senator no matter the situation. We understand that the government tried to prevent him from taking his seat as senator of the county through a controversial court proceedings. I never regret the day I voted for him.”
By-election a referendum for CDC popularity in Lofa
President George Weah and his Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) will learn how much clout the ruling party has in the county, the stronghold of his major rival Joseph Boakai ahead of the 2023 presidential elections.
President Weah and CDC are directly backing candidates challenging Kortimai.
There are sentiments in the county that the CDC has made amends to its dismal showing in the 2017 presidential elections, with many believing the outcome of the by-election will offer signs of the party’s strength in the county ahead of the 2023 presidential elections.
“The quicker we get through the by-election in May,” said George Smith, a supporter of President Weah, “the quicker we’re going know how far we have come as a party in Lofa County.”
In recent years, elites of the CDC and natives of Lofa including Monrovia City Mayor Jefferson Koijee and Monsterrado County representative Thomas Fallah, and the Director of the Liberia Civil Aviation Authority, Moses Kollie have been making inroads in the county trumpeting the party.
But one acclaimed juggernaut is the former Vice President Joseph Boakai, who many see as the ‘face’ of the county.
Though the likes of Koijee, Fallah and Kollie may have a solid reputation in the county, it’s still unclear whether they have built the kind of structures that can challenge Samukai, Boakai and the Unity Party ahead of next month’s by-election.