ANALYSIS: Boakai’s Campaign in Lofa – The Trickle-Down Effect on 2023

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VOINJAMA, Lofa County Former Vice President Joseph Boakai was on Wednesday received by a mammoth crowd who gathered in large numbers along major towns and villages leading to Zorzor District, Lofa County.

Many of them could not hide their excitement as they cheered Boakai and his entourage in what could be best described as a triumphant homecoming.

Boakai, political leader of the Unity Party, called on Lofians (residents of Lofa County) to turn out to vote for the Unity Party candidate, Garlakpai Kortimai, to send a message to the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC).

“I have nothing to say but to remind you of the current economic situation we are experiencing as a country. They have denied and fought the representation of Lofa County at the Liberian Senate, and want to install someone of their own. It’s time you use your voting card to defend the decision you made 2020 to vote Brownie Samukai, who was prevented from taking his seat following a bogus Supreme Court ruling.”

When they bring the country money to convince you to vote their choice, eat it and vote the Unity Party candidate,” Boakai said to an uplifted audience who chanted in return, “Number 4, Number 4,” referencing the number of Kortimai on the ballot paper.

Why by-election victory would be key for Boakai

Lofa was the only county that overwhelmingly voted the former ruling Unity Party and Boakai in the 2017 presidential elections.

During the first round, Unity Party obtained 91,324 votes, representing 78.5% of the total valid votes cast, with the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) getting 8,194 votes amounting to 7.0%.

In the run-off, which was contested between Boakai and George Weah, things did not improve for the CDC, with the Unity Party getting 79,258 votes representing 84.2% and the CDC getting 14,860 votes or 15.8%.

The results from the run-off indicated that Lofa was the only county where the Unity Party and Boakai defeated the CDC massively, while the remaining fourteen counties were all won by the CDC.

Statistics indicated that the votes from Lofa contributed hugely to the election reaching a run-off.

Fast forward to the June 28 by-election, the CDC didn’t field a candidate but it seems the ruling party is making frantic efforts to win the Senate through a proxy candidate, Cllr. Joseph Jallah, an Independent candidate.

In recent years, officials from the CDC hailing from Lofa County have been frequenting back home and building strong political bases in what looks like a clever political game plan.

Prominent amongst those making headways in Lofa County are Monrovia City Corporation Mayor, Jefferson T. Koijee and Montserrado County lawmaker, Thomas Fallah, both of whom are natives of Foya District.

Koijee made his presence known or rejuvenated his presence in Lofa County during the 2019/2020 edition of the National County Sports Meet, where he attended all the group stage games played in Voinjama and up to Monrovia, and became one of the highest donors to the county teams.

The CDC official was seen everywhere with the Lofa County football team and even took them to hotels and other places for lunch in Monrovia as a sign of motivation.

Many believed Boakai’s popularity has diminished in Lofa County, owing to the “massive work” the ruling party has done in the county since it came to power in 2018.

A win for Kortimai and Boakai would, for sure, send a clear message to the CDC that Boakai still remains their main challenger ahead of the 2023 presidential elections. 

Why Kortimai can benefit from Boakai’s popularity

As superintendent of Lofa from 2006 until late 2012 July, Kortimai was a strong supporter of the county’s growth and provided opportunities for many of his kinsmen, notably young people, to pursue their interests. 

He was instrumental in guaranteeing the Unity Party’s two victories in 2005 and 2011 through his leadership of the party.

Kortimai is, on the whole, selfless and easy to get along with. He is a local entrepreneur that owns a peanut butter processing plant in Lofa County, which employs a large number of people. 

He has a long background in Lofa politics and ran against incumbent Senator Sumo G. Kupee from the same Zorzor District in the 2014 midterm election. He finished sixth with 3,570 votes out of a total of 48,812 valid votes.

From the Gizzima Clan in Zorzor District, he has amassed considerable administrative authority and earned the trust of his kin in the inhabited towns of Fissebu and Yeala, as well as some areas of Zorzor City.

Kortimai has established positive long-term working relationships throughout the county, especially Voinjama, where it has a sizable network of supporters among the Lorma speaking community.

Many of Brownie Samukai’s followers regard him as a true fighter who stayed by them throughout Samukai’s court trial and believe that they may compensate him by choosing him to replace Samukai, who is legally incapable.

However, Kortimai has done little to maintain his political base, as seen by his political grass-roots hopping from the Unity Party in 2005-2012 to the Congress for Democratic Change in 2014, before returning to the Unity Party in 2022 and acting as Acting County Chairman.

Kortimai’s long-standing enmity with Sumo Kupee may have a detrimental effect on his election prospects. He has had little impact in Salayea District since 2012 and may soon lose a sizable portion of the Salayea vote.

With the current trajectory of events, he may garner a majority of votes from the Samukai Camp, but this will not be enough to overcome the districts 1-3 vote totals. With three candidates from Zorzor District, Kortaimai (Gizzimai clan), Kupee (Gizzimai clan), and Samah (Zeayama), Kortaimai’s chances are bleak, as Zorzor District votes will be chosen by the Bluyeama clan, over which Kortimai has little power.

Even with the Friends of Samukai’s blessing, Kortimai cannot maintain a commanding lead given that Samukai’s major supporters were in Districts 1,4 and 5, while Jallah won districts 2 and 3.

Kortimai’s task will be to work intensively to ensure that the votes in these districts are from Samukai supporters. This appears to be unlikely given that Mariamu, who finished second to Samukai in district four, is also back in the race, and the return of Cyrus could further dent Kortimai’s chances.

Kortimai may struggle in District five due to the presence of Kupee and Samah. Kortimai will have a 25% probability of getting elected and a 75% chance of not being elected if all of these things remain constant.

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