Liberia: The Dillion Experiment: The Rise of a New Generation of Leaders
It was a semblance of a sunny day, and as usual during this time of the year in Western Connecticut, we’re engulfed by extreme cold weather just like the Midwest. It freezes here all the time with threats of daring snow, and all we do is to shield our vulnerable selves from the brutal weather. One of such days with the temperature at 31*F was December 6, 2020. I found myself in the basement of my house where nothing is in short supply. Well relaxed on the couch, I had just taken few sips of my maxwell coffee brewed very well. The basement was filled with an alluring aroma of my coffee, and If you’re a proud consumer of Maxwell or Starbucks Coffee, you know exactly what I’m talking about here. Although the outside temperature was unfriendly, but inside felt like 70*F.
By Josiah F. Joekai, Jr., Contributing Writer
While I was being robbed of my attention by my own coffee, I suddenly remembered that it was the official campaign closure of the Coalition of Political Parties (CPP) candidate, Sen. Abraham Darius Dillion named and styled “Pre-Victory March”. Sen. Dillion is contesting the Senatorial Seat of Montserrado County in the Special Senatorial election scheduled to take place on December 8, 2020. Now, I found a genuine reason to stay longer in the basement and also brew more coffee. This time, I took a very long sip because the news of Sen. Dillion’s campaign was consequential. In my self-assurance effort, I quickly reached out for a cup of liquid coffee and inserted it into the brewing machine. More coffee on the way…
I quickly logged onto Spoon TV and it was a complete wow, wow, wow! Huge crowds, positive slogans and symbolic gestures put me in a shock mode. For few minutes, I was speechless and absolutely cutoff from everything happening around me at that moment. I forgot that I needed to collect my brewed coffee from the machine, take my last sip in the mug and continue to watch the podcast. Yes, I was dreaming and no one dares blame me for such insensible state of mind at that moment. The showing of a genuine political strength in Montserrado County under the watch of the Celebrity President, George Manneh Tawlon Ousman Weah was uncommon. Everyone has been undeservingly living with the artificial mystery that Weah has insurmountable grips on Montserrado that could never be unwrapped. Conversely, that is no longer the case. Montserrado is up for grasp like any of the other fourteen (14) Counties. I am drinking coffee, but this is obviously not a coffee talk.
How about this dimension? The popular slogan of the march “we want Dillion, we don’t want money” coming from the hearts of tens of thousands of down trodden masses reflects solid commitment and support for Sen. Dillion. Contrary to the negative slogans of the recent past elections (1997 -2020) such as “you kill my pa(…father), you kill my ma …mother), I will vote for you”, “you know book, you don’t know book, we will vote for you”; the Dillion slogan signifies a renewal of the mindset of the Liberian voter. Can we trust this sudden change? I cannot guarantee, but it’s a fantastic start that needs to be nurtured. Wait a minute, let me get my coffee please…
…and then the gestures: supporters, mainly suffering Liberians, symbolically giving cash, lit-lamps, flashy light bulbs, etc. to Sen. Dillion during the march was a clear manifestation of his high job approval ratings and renewal of his mandate. It was an historic moment. I also learnt from Spoon TV (…James S. Good Day Flomo) that prior to the pre-victory march, more than US$40,000.00 was raised by supporters as contribution to his campaign. Given our disconcerted political orientation, it should be the other way around with the candidate or politician directly or indirectly paying for votes in cash or kind. Not too fast! I can recall quite vividly during the 2005 elections, Weah’s campaign had similar unusual experience with voters printing their own t-shirts, purchasing their own food items and walking long distances to support then candidate Weah. Wait a minute, does that mean Dillion is Weah of 2005, and Weah of 2020 has now become Dillion of 2005? Well…the scenarios may look similar, but the difference lies in the change of the mindset of the voter “we want Dillion, we don’t want money” and authenticity of Dillion himself. Quick question: Was this just another posturing by the Liberian voter, or is it a real turning point? Again, nothing is cast in stone here, but like I said, it has to be nurtured.
Oh, I almost forgot what’s keeping me here! Okay, I’ve just refilled my mug and you know what that means. I am reenergized to stay in the basement for two additional hours. Uhm…by refilling my mug, I’ve renewed the aroma of my irresistible coffee in the basement. My nostrils are happily rejoicing.
I see…everything is now coming together, and making real sense to me and maybe you too. So, we cannot ignore the fact that a new factor has emerged in our body polity, the ‘Dillion Experiment’. What does it mean for our flustered political system, going forward? Good question, but please let me have some coffee.
First, Dillion is the antidote to all the wheeling and dealings in the Senate, by extension, both Houses of the Legislature. His unorthodox or nonconformist approach in the Senate has unearthed the entrenched corruption in the first branch. In the eyes of many Liberians, this brave move is heroic. Sen. Dillion has also triggered the “Legislators’ Salary Reduction” conversation in a serious way by significantly reducing his own salary and giving Districts in Montserrado the opportunity to apply same to development projects. He’s touching lives and the impact is being felt across the County. This is unusual in our legislative politics, but usual for an authentic legislator, Sen. Dillion as he’s proven to be. Sen. Dillion is obviously not the first to initiate the salary reduction conversation, but his practical action set him apart. That being said, more coffee in the main time…
Second, the Dillion Experiment has inspired the silent impoverished masses. They now dare to hold their leaders, including President Weah accountable. He’s their hero, and that speaks a lot to their solid bond that promises to last for an unbreakable political cycle. Sen. Dillion has cut deep into Weah’s so-called stronghold, Montserrado County thus, implying uncertainty for his political future. My opinion is that if Dillion is reelected, his eyes will be on the Presidency in 2023 not because he so desires, but because his base will mandate him to go for it. He won’t reject! Besides, his show of unquestionable political strength in Montserrado County by reason of his re-election will give him the conviction to take the chance.
Third and finally, Joekai, please lock this in your brain, What? If Dillion is re-elected, the experiment will cause a revolution within the CPP. Dillion is the face or symbol of a new generation of leaders that are rising within the Coalition with the potential to engender a radical paradigm shift in our body polity. That generation is on the trajectory to produce a ticket for 2023. As bizarre as this opinion may sound, it is a critical thought that cannot be ignored. It will be the new generation vs the old political order. Could this be a nasty internal struggle, or the much-needed political revolution to install a 21st century leadership with the right skill and mindset to meet the hope and aspiration of the Liberian people? Well, as much as I’m not 100% certain, we however, need to support and nurture it.
Now I can take my last sip and retire. The serenity of my basement and unmatched coffee served me so very well.