Can Prince Johnson Endorsement Bring George Weah Close to Presidency?
Monrovia – When the National Elections Commission (NEC) released the final results for the October 10 Presidential and a legislative election, the demography of votes was enough to tell that vote rich Nimba County would decide who the next President of Liberia becomes.
Report by Lennart Dodoo, [email protected]
Nimba County, according to the 2008 population census, has a population of about 462,026. From the NEC 2017 statistics, Nimba has a voting population of 279,601, of this number, 200,791 votes were cast in the county.
Despite the presence of 20 Presidential candidates in the race, with the Unity Party, now led by current vice President Joseph Boakai and former soccer legend George Weah of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) being the heavy weights in the election, Senator Prince Y. Johnson was overwhelming voted for in Nimba.
He attained 107,430 votes of the 200,791 votes that were cast.
This constitutes 53.5% of the overall votes in the county.
The margin between Senator Johnson and vice President Boakai who came out second in Nimba was a 67,466 difference (He obtained 39,964 votes in Nimba).
Weah’s performance in Nimba was dismal despite coming out third in the county. He earned 16,002 votes (8%).
Senator Johnson’s political performance in Nimba has always been splendid, though analysis of NEC statistics from 2011 to 2017 shows some decline in his support base.
It was least imagined that another son of the soil, Harrison Karnwea, who participated in the October 10 elections as the vice standard bearer of the Liberty Party that came third in election would have performed in a shameful fashion. Not only did Karnwea serve as managing director for Cocopa plantation in Nimba, he also served as Minister of Internal Affairs during outgoing President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s first term.
Many had believed that Karnwea would have upset Senator Johnson’s votes in the county, but to the contrary, Johnson remained standing tall. Liberty Party had only 8,949 votes (4.5%) in Nimba.
Liberia’s Own Electoral College
Unlike the United States of America, the presidency in Liberia, like many African countries is won by popular votes (50% +1 vote).
But winning elections in this small country of about 4 million people, the candidate must perform competitively in Bong, Montserrado, and Nimba Counties.
The voting population in these counties is as follows: Montserrado County: 778,291, Nimba County: 279,601, Bong County: 208,123 and Montserrado County.
Montserrado County has been the strongest hold of Senator Weah since the 2005 elections. In 2005, Weah won the first round of the elections obtaining 37.4% of the votes while Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf got 27.9%.
The tables, however, changed in the runoff election when other parties ganged up with Pres. Sirleaf’s Unity Party against Senator Weah – giving her 54.5%, while Weah earned 45.5% of the votes in Montserrado County.
In 2011, Weah, though Weah was in the back seat while Cllr. Winton Tubman led the CDC to elections, the party still took Montserrado with 45.8%.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf came close with 44.4% of the votes in the county.
Weah’s CDC boycotted the runoff election, alleging that the electoral process was marred by fraud.
Goerge Weah again proved prominence in Montserrado County during the 2014 senatorial race with a landslide victory, despite the presence of Robert Sirleaf, son of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
He won with 78% of the votes.
In the first round this year’s election, CDC again dominated the Unity Party in Montserrado County with 48.6% despite the presence of 20 Presidential candidates in the race. The Unity Party managed a 27.3% in Montserrado.
In 2005, the CDC was no match to the Unity Party in Bong County. The CDC managed a 29.8% in the runoff election while the Unity Party was very comfortable with 70.2% in that county.
During the first round, both parties performed dismally with none obtaining not up to 11% percent of the votes in that county.
The National Democratic Party of Liberia (NDPL) led by Cllr. Winston Tubman and Jeremiah Sulunteh overwhelmingly swept the county with 42.2% of the votes in the first round.
The Unity Party’s success in the runoff in that county stemmed to the fact that it gained the support of the NDPL in the runoff election.
In the October 10 Presidential and general elections, the CDC made a stunning statement in Bong County. The county produced two vice Presidential candidates, Jewel Howard-Taylor of the CDC and Jeremiah Sulunteh of the Alternative National Congress.
The vice standard bearer of the Unity Party, Speaker Emmanuel Nuquay boasts of having strong ties and roots in Bong County but that didn’t help the Unity Party in Bong.
The CDC obtained 40.6% of the votes in Bong compared to the UP’s 34.0%.
Lofa County has traditionally been a Unity Party base. Vice President Joseph Boakai It is no surprise that in the October 10 elections, the party outperformed all other parties with an overwhelming 78.5% while the CDC trailing 7.0%.
Unlike previous election years, Weah’s CDC outclassed the Unity Party massively in the October election.
These are how the CDC and the UP fared in the southeastern counties:
- CDC: 18,232 votes, 47.8%
- UP: 4,791 votes, 12.5%
Grand Kru County
- CDC: 14,965 votes, 63.5%
- UP: 3,225 votes, 13.7%
- CDC: 22,960, 71.5%
- UP: 4,155, 12.9%
Grand Gedeh County
- CDC: 29,723 votes, 75.0%
- UP: 3,827 votes, 9.7%
River Gee County
- CDC: 14,515 votes, 59.8%
- UP: 3,892, 16.0%
No one would doubt that votes from this region catapulted Weah to lead the first round of the elections.
Had he put up similar performance in Nimba County, runoff elections wouldn’t have been an option to determine the country’s next President.
Prince Johnson Turns Nimba over
Nimba County – Senator Prince Johnson upset the October 10 elections. His presence in the Presidential race made it difficult for any of the candidates to attain any significant number of votes from the vote-rich county.
Despite his murky performance in almost all the counties, his overwhelming performance in Nimba landed him at fourth place in the October 10 elections, obtaining an overall percentage of 8.2% from 127,666 votes. 107,430 of those votes came from Nimba.
Since the declaration of the runoff election, the nation had been eager to know whose side Senator Johnson would stand, as he is believed to be the kingmaker in the runoff election.
Senator Johnson has been very critical of both Weah and Boakai.
At one point in time, described Senator Weah slammed Senator Weah as someone who is unable to control his followers, and as such, any decision to elect him as President of Liberia will send the country back to war.
“I am appealing to Ambassador George Weah because you have not become President yet, but you turned loose your men on people to stab them. When you become President, this country will go back to war,” he warned.
Senator Johnson went on to say that it is not anyone’s birthright to be President; therefore Senator Weah should not impose his will.
The Nimba County kingmaker has been equally critical of Boakai in recent time, describing the Vice President as one who has nothing new to offer Liberia and should go and relax.
But in a sudden summersault, Senator Johnson, a day after his return from Nigeria, where he and Senator Weah attended church services at the Synagogue Church of All Nations of Prophet T.B. Joshua last Sunday, announced his “full and unflinching support and collaboration to the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) and the candidacy of Senator George Manneh Weah.”
According to him, his analysis of the October 10 elections showed that the majority of Liberians voted for change.
“The message was laud and unbelievable,” he said.
He noted that his decision to support Senator Weah is pursuant to the Ganta Declaration which he headed and ensured that opposition members committed themselves to ensuring that an opposition victory for change in 2017 Presidential election.
Senator Johnson: “After holding a broad-based consultation with stakeholders and partisans from across the country and our stronghold in Nimba County, including the executives of the MDR and with their approval and consent, I have resolved to remain committed to the spirit and intent of the Ganta Declaration of which I was the convener, host and architect-in-chief.”
Will Make A Difference?
Some political pundits opine that Senator Johnson’s endorsement of Weah may not necessarily produce the votes he needs to win the county.
One of such pundits is Nimba County District #7 Representative Worlea Saywah Dunah. He warned Senator Johnson to stop “making business with the county for his own personal benefit.”
Dunah said the Nimba is not a commodity to be traded for the purpose of getting profit in return.
He said that Nimbaians are responsible people who make decisions that will improve their living conditions, which do not in no way suggest that the Senator Johnson should commercialize the county for his selfish interest.
He accused the Sen. Johnson of using the county to enrich himself during political times.
According to Rep. Dunah, Senator Johnson getting the highest votes in Nimba does not mean he is capable of delivering the county to the oppositions.
“Sen. Johnson got the required votes he needed from the people of Nimba in the first round of voting, because he is a son of the county, so the residents fully supported him. This does not in any way mean that he holds the key to the county’s decisions.
“Since he lost the Presidential elections, the people votes have returned to them, therefore they can now vote for any of the two candidates of their choice they believe can best lead this nation,” Dunah said.
Dunah said the run-off election is a new ball game that involves two players with different Patten of playing, “so Prince Johnson cannot play the match, because he is going backward in the Liberian politics rather than forward.
“Johnson has lost the trust of Liberians, because during the 2005 Presidential and representative elections, he came third and fifth during the just ended October 10 polls – a trend Dunah said is not good for any politician.
The Nimba County Lawmaker said a wide spread believes that Sen. Johnson would help the standard bearer of the opposition Coalition for Democratic Change, George Weah to win the Nimba votes is a fallacy, “because Weah has the history of winning elections during the first round, and not the run-off as in the case of the scheduled November 7 run-off, which history will repeat itself.”
Dunah said Sen. Johnson being a part of the opposition parties is no threat to the Presidential bid of Vice President Joseph Boakai, “because VP Boakai is the most experienced and competent person to lead the country.”
Rep. Dunah added: “Senators Weah and Johnson at the Senate have no agenda, because they both have never disagreed with a single polices of the Unity Party lead government, and that Weah in particular has not proposed a bill that will possibility develop the lives of the citizens.”
Many supporters of the CDC believe the endorsement by Sen. Johnson is a blessing to the party.
Peter Rogers, an ordinary supporter of the CDC said, “Our only problem in this election was Nimba County, but now that the godfather of the party has decided to join us we are going to sweep all the votes there. This is indeed our time.”
Fatu Kamara strongly believes that the CDC’s votes in Nimba are going to swell greatly.
“We have done our homework well,” she said. “CDC waited patiently for 12 years for this moment, nobody is going to steal it from us. We are prepared to lead this country, to redeem this country from the sufferings the Liberian people are going through.”
Hannah Togba: “All we needed was the presence of Prince Johnson. I’ve lived in Nimba before, I know how the Nimbaians respect that man, if he says vote for Weah, Nimbaians will vote for Weah, so I strongly believe that George Manneh Oppong Weah is the next President of Liberia.”
Sekou Konneh a supporter of Weah told this paper that victory for the CDC in the runoff election would be overwhelming.
“This is going to be the biggest victory ever in the history of this country.
The first round elections demonstrated two things:
- The people of Liberia want change and
- The people of Liberia love Weah.
Even Prince Johnson has joined Weah, what more do they need to believe that Weah will win landslide on November 7?”