Liberia: The Joe Boakai-Alex Cummings Failed Accra Meeting in Retrospect

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Many key supporters of the Unity Party, according to sources, were shocked when news emerged of the recent UP political leader Joseph Boakai’s trip to Ghana accompanied by his son and nephew allegedly for a reconciliation meeting with Alternative National Congress(ANC) leader, Alexander Cummings.

It is not known exactly who organized the meeting but informed sources suggest that it was former College of West Africa(CWA) students that organized the meeting intended to bring together Cummings and Boakai both being political adversaries and graduates of CWA.

One individual said to be strongly linked to the organization of the meeting is former deputy foreign minister, Sylvester Grigsby, a close friend and CWA classmate of Joseph Boakai.

For the record, Grigsby currently heads an organization known and styled as the Liberia Renaissance Office(LIRO). This is an organization allegedly put together for the sole purpose of identifying a suitable presidential candidate who it can sell to US opinion leaders including even US President Joe Biden.

Former President Ellen Sirleaf, also a CWA graduate, is said to be closely linked to the LIRO including her PR consultant Reva Levinson. The former President reportedly has close business connections to Ghanaian Finance Minister Ofori Attah.

As to whether she played a role in organizing the meeting is unclear but sources suggest the choice of Accra as the venue of the meeting was not by accident as her presence in Accra at the time appeared to suggest..

It is also not by accident that she has since called for the intervention of ECOWAS to stave off the criminal prosecution of ANC leader Alexander Cummings.

The President of Ghana, Nana Dankwa Akuffo Addo who currently chairs ECOWAS is said to be closely related to his Finance Minister Ken Ofori Attah.

Mr. Ken Ofori Attah is also reported to be a business partner of President Sirleaf (Data Bank, Accra and International Bank of Liberia, IBL)

As sources suggest, they (former President Sirleaf and co)  had placed strong hopes in the apparent belief that her strong connections in Ghana would have lent much weight to have Boakai acquiesce to suggestions to quit the race in return for a handsome fee.

Further, according to informed sources, an initial offer of US$15m was proposed. This was against the belief that such an inducement would have proved too tempting to resist.

Additionally, according to sources, there was/is widespread belief amongst the former President’s key supporters, a belief shared by some in the Boakai’s camp, that Boakai’s ailing health conditions would militate against his ability to continue the race to the finishing line.

And as such according to sources, it was believed the initial amount proposed(US$15m) as retirement money would have proved tempting enough to lure the former Vice President to Ghana to travel to Ghana to meet with Mr. Cummings.

And it probably did given the rather surreptitious nature of the former Vice President’s trip to Accra which, according to sources, was kept as a closely guarded secret known perhaps to only a select few.

 But the meeting according to sources ended in a deadlock because former Vice President Joseph Boakai allegedly rejected a US$6m bribe offer to back down and instead endorse Cummings’ candidacy.

According to a report aired on Power FM on Wednesday, December 22, 2021, the ANC leader, Alexander Cummings, walked unannounced into a meeting between Allan White and VP Boakai and began pleading with the former Vice President to accept the US$6m offer.

Note that Allan White, former prosecutor of Charles Taylor, according to sources, is  also reported be hired as a PR consultant to LIRO headed by Sylvester Grigsby.

It was at this point according to the report that the former Vice President allegedly walked out of the meeting claiming the bribe offer was an insult to his character.

But spin doctors of the former Vice President have dismissed such claims. They maintain that he(VP Boakai) had actually travelled to Nigeria and was on his way back to Liberia when he made a brief stop-over in Accra, Ghana.

They maintain that it was by coincidence following arrival in Ghana that the former Vice President received an invitation to attend the meeting which he eventually walked out of.

But such claims have left many questions unanswered. Critics contend that the former VP cannot in good conscience claim ignorance of arrangements that culminated in the Accra meeting.

In the first place, who organized the trip including logistics associated with it? Were party officials contacted and did they give it their blessings?

Assuming for the sake of the argument that party officials did give their blessings to the trip, why was no party official involved?

For all what it seemed, it was intended to be a convivial affair involving former school and classmates, a convergence of CWA “FOXES” especially Cummings and Boakai, to “jaw jaw” and then reconcile.

Informed sources have confirmed that former President Sirleaf(the Mother Fox) was also present in Accra This may have also been the appealing factor leading to his decision to attend which could have possibly been an opportunity to mend fences.

It can be recalled that in last October during President Sirleaf’s birthday celebrations her former Vice President turned out to grace the occasion and as the video recording of that event shows, former Vice President Boakai stretched out his hand to his former boss but she deliberately refuse to shake his hand.

This clearly suggested that the “Madame” had still not forgiven him for having a perceived hand in her earlier expulsion from the Unity Party although they had reconciled and she had been reaccepted into the party fold.

As it seemed, the former President cared more about ensuring that Boakai’s presidential ambitions were waylaid then about the future of the Party.

 First in order of business was the removal of Wilmot Paye as Secretary-General and his eventual expulsion from the ranks of the Unity Party all in an attempt to appease her.

However, such reconciliatory attempts no matter how well intentioned they were, apparently proved later to be of little import to former President Sirleaf given her open tilt towards ANC leader Alexander Cummings.

But if the rather sour and strained relationship between two old “FOXES” Ellen and Joe was anything to go by, then there was little chance that the recent convergence of former FOXES at a reconciliation meeting between Cummings and Boakai would have achieved anything of substance.

This is especially in view of very credible reports that Ellen is an avowed supporter of Cummings who, according to sources quoting ALP leader Benoni Urey, appears bent on becoming the chosen one of the CPP.

But the troubling question that remains unanswered is what justification can  former VP Boakai  provide for not including party officials on his delegation when he was apparently  fully aware that the visit was political and not social or health related.

 That he instead opted to constitute a delegation composed of his son, Jojo Boakai, and nephew Jake Kabakole to discuss important political matters affecting the future of his party and country defies reason even if the visit was intended to be a low key affair.

Now, it appears that the former VP, by that surreptitious visit to Accra, has seemingly endangered his moral standing in the party and raised questions to which answers have not been as readily forthcoming as expected.

This, according to critics, has conveyed a distinct impression that he had personal but unworthy motives for attending the meeting.

According to a key UP supporter(name withheld) the fallout from the visit as well as the full measure of its impact  is yet to be determined.

According to some party loyalists, they feel angry and deeply disappointed by former VP Boakai’s decision to have traveled without informing them about the purpose of the visit to Ghana.

In their opinion, his decision to attend a political meeting, dubbed a “reconciliation meeting” accompanied by his son and nephew rather than by party officials was far out of place.

Additionally, his closest supporter of late, Benoni Urey, was said to have been deeply upset about the former Vice President’s decision to have kept him in the dark about the failed Accra meeting with Cummings.

More to that critics say that his failure to have united the CPP under his leadership and secured its nomination has greatly endangered his chances of nailing down the requisite resources, financial and otherwise, necessary to clinch victory at the 2023 polls.

Moreover, they claim that given health concerns, they question the ability and strength of former VP Boakai to organize and muster the political strength and financial capacity to lead a robust and credible campaign capable of attracting mass support to outweigh the ruling CDC at the 2023 polls.

And now with the UP and ALP openly declared decision to leave the CPP, and with UP leader Benoni Urey and ANC leader Alexander Cummings locking horns in court, there are questions not only about the ability of former VP Boakai to heal the wounds between two key players in the CPP but also whether the rift can be healed at all.

Now that he(Boakai) has been named by state prosecutors to testify against Cummings in Court and given he does, the rift would widen even further and completely mar any chances or possibility of a mend in relations.

One of his staunchest supporters, Henry Costa has openly called on the former Vice President to speak out to his supporters and provide some direction as to which course of action to take in view of the current situation.

Costa’s remarks are being seen by some as a signal of intent to abandon support for Boakai and shift to someone else excluding Cummings.

 However, it may yet be too early to arrive at such conclusions given the fluidity of the situation characterized by shifting political alliances. And these are all reasons which demands that former Vice President Boakai breaks his silence.   

But he(Boakai) has remained quite taciturn since his return from Ghana. And despite charges from Cummings that as current head of the CPP, VP Boakai rather than attempting to have the feuding parties mend fences, he is instead simply looking on as the storm rages.

But supporters of the current CPP Chairman Joseph Boakai, have brushed such charges aside. They maintain that on several occasions, Cummings has either walked out of called meetings claiming as justification the “alleged lack of an agenda, or simply spurned invitations to attend.    

At this point, it is safe to conclude that the CPP is for all purposes dead. The political masterstroke which embattled Liberty Party Chairman Musa Bility had sought to achieve by having the Liberty Party declare its support for ANC leader, Alexander Cummings has apparently failed.

Cummings is now left holding on to mere shreds of a now factionalized Liberty Party. Analysts suggest that Bility’s flawed move has drawn ethnic sentiments into play here. 

This is because Bility, an ethnic Mandingo, may prove incapable of swaying the popular support in Bassa away from Nyonblee Karnga Lawrence, an ethnic Bassa.

Lest it be forgotten, the Bassa ethnic group is the second largest ethnic group in Liberia unlike the Mandingo who constitute one of the minority ethnic groups.

Even then, there are questions whether Bility can command majority support for Cummings among ethnic Mandingos equal to that enjoyed by the late former ULIMO-K leader, Alhaji Garsumu Varmuyan Kromah.

This leaves Mr. Cummings in a quandary. Because he lacks an identifiable political base, he desperately needs the support and backing of a unified CPP, something which he has proved incapable of mustering in view of the current lawsuit and the UP and ALP’s declared intention to leave the CPP.

The recent criminal conspiracy lawsuit filed by ALP leader Benoni Urey against ANC leader Alexander Cummings has without question placed the issue of reconciliation between both individuals beyond reach at least for now.

Whatever the case, popular predictions about a death knell hanging over the CPP appears to have been fulfilled. Slowly but surely, the national discourse centered on Cummings, Boakai and Weah appears to be shifting.

This is because the grueling fight between Cummings and Boakai over the CPP nomination has created strong feelings of disappointment in the public and left the people searching for options.

But lest it be forgotten, ethnicity as well as regionalism will more likely than not feature heavily in decision making when it comes to choosing a president but, may not be the final or most weighted determinant.

From all indications, the Liberian people are longing for honest, decisive, accountable, inclusive and transparent leadership to manage the affairs of the country. And this is regardless of ethnic, regional or religious considerations.

But there is an urgency of time attached to this. The Voters’ Registry(VR) is yet to be cleaned-up since the Supreme Court’s mandate to do so before the presidential runoff election in 2017.

Constituencies are yet to be developed as the National Census on which basis Constituencies can be demarcated is yet to be held.

Of key importance, also, is the very composition of the National Electoral Body(NEC). Its Chairperson is currently facing criminal charges including money laundering while serious questions of character remain hovering over the rest.

With just a year remaining to elections it appears unlikely that these matters will be resolved before the elections in October next year.

Rather than focusing on such an all-important matter as the creation of a level playing field for elections, several of the leading political parties have been locked in bruising ego clashes which have only tended to hurt rather than enhance their prospects for victory against the CDC.

In many ways than one, the CPP’s internecine battles have served to seriously undermine overall chances for electoral reform well before the conduct of elections in 2023. 

What had once appeared to be a formidable CPP partnership has turned to be what in local parlance is called O.Y.O(On Your Own) friendship a meaning akin to the story of the “Three Musketeers” all for none and none for all.

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