Liberia: Rep. Fonati Koffa Responds to Critics Citing Regional Politics in His Quest to Be Deputy Speaker; Says It’s Not Unprecedented

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MONROVIA – Representative J. Fonati Koffa (CDC-District #2 Grand Kru County) is the current chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary who is vying to become the next Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives replacing out going Deputy Speaker Prince Moye.

Moye was elected as Senator for Bong County in the December 8, 2020 Special senatorial Election.  Koffa comes to the race with huge influence as a member of the ruling party. His chances of becoming the next Deputy Speaker are high but he stands the challenge of answering or addressing himself to criticism of his attachment to the ruling CDC and a citizen from south-eastern region of Liberia where the President, Speaker, Pro-Tempore are also from.

His critics believe that electing him as the next Deputy Speaker will create a one-party system of governance and a one-sided regional government. Despite these criticisms, Cllr. Koffa is not bothered because, according to him, criticisms made against his bid for the Deputy Speakership are genuine but being a ruling party Deputy Speaker is not unprecedented.

“Most members of the 54th legislature are looking at the issue of who becomes the next Deputy Speaker in the context of balance and not party or region. They are looking for someone who can supplement their leadership. Members of the House of Representatives will be looking for someone who has the political ability to navigate in the legislative and political waters.

“While party and regional balances are something to consider, this is not the first time this will happen. Most recently, the President, the President, Speaker and Pro-Temp were from the Western region with the Vice President from the north. This is not unprecedented, what people are looking for is more effectiveness than regional party balance.”

He said, his ambition to contest for the Speakership is an attempt to step his role in the legislative body politics given his capacity and skills to ensure that in the next three years the legislature is effectively that body that builds consensus and passes laws and effectively collaborate with the executive to perform functions that have been delegated to lawmakers by the people.

As Deputy Speaker, he said his role will be to consult with the Speaker when he is appointing committee chairs and members. The Deputy Speaker is an also an ex-official on all committees which gives him a more expanded responsibility.

Power sharing arrangement

Responding to discussion that a deal was reached in 2018 between the ruling CDC and the opposition Unity party to have the ruling party take the Speakership while the opposition takes Deputy Speakership, he said, that argument is a mischaracterization of the arrangement and that the arrangement was with the Unity Party (UP) and now that UP is a member of a bloc that makes up the CPP, and that the agreement was for a given time.

Rep. Koffa: “To suggest that we are in a power sharing between CDC and UP but shy away from decisions that have been made by the House of Representative doesn’t make sense. It was not a power sharing arrangement, it was an arrangement through the lobbying efforts of some lawmakers that in order to have a smooth transition of power so that we don’t fight over job; that doesn’t suggest that we are in a power sharing. There will be a new set of arrangement if the political term dictates.”

Koffa confidence of winning is rooted on relationship he has built with other lawmakers in the opposition. “We are going about it in a different way; I have friends across the political landscape, I am at a point now where I have close to 35 lawmakers in our camp putting us in the position to go to our political party with what we have, seeking their blessing.”

We are not rivals

He further dispelled rumors about a strained relationship between him and Speaker Bohfal Chambers. He and the Speaker are from the same political party. “We are both from the same party. I am working up to mend and compliment his leadership. We are not rivals, obviously there is nothing you can do as Deputy Speaker without the confidence of the Speaker.

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