‘Betrayal Politics’ by CDC Kills Jeremiah Sulunteh’s Senatorial Ambition
Gbarnga, Bong County – Former Liberia’s Ambassador to the United States of America, Jeremiah Sulunteh – a one-time strong political figure in Bong County – is now reflecting on a big decision made during the runoff election in 2017 to support the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC).
Report by Selma Lomax, [email protected]
Sulunteh’s political party, the Alternative National Congress (ANC), sat on the fence as a political institution even though several executives took their sides, pledging support to either one of the two political parties during the runoff.
For Sulunteh, who was eying the senatorial seat in Bong County in case of a CDC victory, and a possible vacancy with Madam Jewel H. Taylor excelling to the vice presidency, opted to align with the CDC during the runoff, making his intention public.
It was widely believed that with Sulunteh supporting the CDC, the party could return the favor by supporting him for the vacant senate seat after the election of Madam Howard Taylor.
Surprise Declaration Dealt Sulunteh First Blow
The political talk of the CDC supporting Sulunteh spread like wildfire in Bong County until the surprise declaration of intent by newly elected District#3 Representative, J. Marvin Cole of the CDC.
Cole was relatively unknown in Bong County politics as compare to Sulunteh until while serving as City Mayor of Gbarnga City, his dismissal set the ball rolling by bringing him to prominence.
The political newcomer upset incumbent George S. Mulbah by winning the District #3 seat but with less than three months at the Capitol, Representative Cole’s confidence has grown extensively. He now feels that he is best suited to replace Madam Taylor.
He eventually declared his intention for the senatorial seat, which was followed by an endorsement by President George M. Weah and Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor recently.
The declaration and endorsement by President Weah struck a big blow o the senatorial ambition of Sulunteh.
It became apparent that Sulunteh could take the gamble to join the CDC and subject himself to a primary with Representative Cole but again the stakes were high that it was a risky decision given lawmaker’s position as chairman of the National Patriotic Party in Bong County, a confidante of Vice President Taylor and a senatorial aspirant who has already been endorsed by President Weah.
Compelled To Abandon Political Quest
Although Sulenteh has been a household name in Bong County politics for few years now, new trend in Liberia’s body politics based on the results of the 2017 presidential and representative election where the CDC won large votes in 14 of the 15 counties of Liberia, has compelled him to abandon his senatorial ambition.
During the 2005 general and presidential election, Sulunteh delivered Bong County to the National Democratic Party of Liberia (NDPL) where he contested on the party ticket as vice presidential candidate to Cllr. Winston Tubman.
Few years down the line, his popularity in Bong dwindled especially after he took up the post of Ambassador of Liberia to the United States of America, keeping him far away from the people.
His return to national politics was not favorable as his interest in serving as either a presidential or vice presidential candidate on the ticket of the ruling Unity Party did not materialize, leaving him to find a new political home. This landed him to the ANC but things did not work for the ANC, which performed below par.
With the performance of the ANC in Bong County fresh, Sulunteh opted not to take the risk of contesting the county senatorial seat on the ticket of the ANC but rather getting the support and endorsement of the CDC which is the favored party by many Liberians for now.
‘I Feel Betrayed’- Sulunteh’s True Confession
For Sulunteh, rallying the CDC support does not mean crossing over to the CDC from the ANC. This could no doubt further damage Sulunteh’s political reputation, with people looking at him as jumping from one party to another within a short period of time.
Playing a smart game, Sulunteh was pushing for the support of the CDC while he remains with his ANC, but for the CDC the Bong County senatorial seat is a top position that the party can’t let go by endorsing a candidate from another political party.
Knowing that joining the CDC and going into primary with Representative Cole, was a big gamble, Sulunteh feels betrayed that the CDC will put up a candidate against him.
Although, while pledging his support to the CDC during the runoff there was no written document, but in politics the issue of implied consent can be clearly visible when political decisions are made and such was the situation with Sulunteh, when many political observers thought it was clear that Sulunteh’s support to the CDC was a bargain for the CDC support in the case of a CDC victory and a vacant senatorial seat.
No doubt politics is a game of gimmicks and chicanery but Sulunteh has now thrown a hint at what was behind the scene before he supported the CDC in 2017.
“I feel betrayed by the CDC”, says Sulunteh when he finally let go his senatorial ambition.
But the the vice president Howard-Taylor said last week that the CDC did not endorse Ambassador Jeremiah Sulunteh because he refused to join the party.
“The CDC will not raise snake against itself,” Howard-Taylor said. “The CDC will support you, Hon. Cole. You can win this race.’’
She said Cole is sure to win with her support and that of President George Manneh Weah.
Two weeks ago, President Weah called Cole “senator in waiting,’’ when the two greeted each other at the presidential palace in Gbarnga.
In interviews with several political stakeholders in Bong County, FrontPage Africa learned that Howard-Taylor was looking for a candidate who will appeal to voters, not someone who has the ambition to become vice president.
“If Sulunteh wants the support of the CDC, he must join the party,’’ Howard-Taylor said.
“There is no way the CDC as a ruling party would support a candidate from different party.”
The outburst of betrayal by the CDC, according to Sulunteh, now signals that some senior officials of the CDC might have made some promises to Sulunteh in return for his support in the senatorial by-election.
CDC is now at the helm of power and Sulunteh has no remedy in getting redress from betrayal politics and also there is no way that he can change his decision to support the CDC in 2017.
Sulunteh now has to sit and rethink his decision looking ahead of his political future.
Out For Now – Sulunteh Gives Up
Sulunteh has declared that he is no longer contesting the senatorial seat and is instead recalibrating his political machinery with indications that he is preparing to faceoff with incumbent senator Henry Yallah in the special senatorial election in 2020.
Senator Yallah is spearheading the quest to create a new county out of Bong County and should he succeed, he might possibly be contesting for a new county created from the geographical location of what is current Lower Bong County.
On the other hand, should Senator Yallah’s effort proved futile, beating him in 2020 could be much more easier as the people of Upper Bong, which is more populated could stage a big protest vote against his stance to divide the county.
While the talk of Sulunteh contesting in 2020 is mere gossip, it is just under three years to fresh presidential election which comes out in 2023 and Sulunteh perhaps could be looking at higher heights, strengthening along with Alexander Cummings their political strategy for the 2023 political plebiscite.
Cole, Tokpa, – Who Gets Sulunteh’s Support?
With Sulunteh now out of the race, the two main contenders are Representative Cole and Dr. Henrique Tokpa – any of the two would be happy to have Sulunteh endorsing their candidacy.
According to sources, Sulunteh outburst about betrayal politics from the CDC places him in a tight corner not to support the candidacy of Representative Cole, because it will pay him no dividend.
Some say even if Sulunteh supports the CDC candidate, the party which is fighting to control all positions in government will still put up another senatorial candidate in Bong County in 2020.
Dr. Tokpa looks the likely candidate to get Sulunteh’s support since he could possibly return the favor to Sulunteh in 2020 if he (Tokpa) is successful to get elected as senator in the pending senatorial race.
Political observers believe that the betrayal politics such as the one Sulunteh has fallen prey could come back hurting the CDC in future elections.
Some officials of the CDC in Bong County insist the party won the 2017 election on its own and not based on the support of other political parties and individuals.