By Urias S. Goll & Stephen R. Johnson
It is a hoary and a trite concept that presidential election is won by the collective value and message of the team (presidential and vice presidential candidates). A single candidate, no matter the marquee status and position in society, cannot match the well-suited and strategically positioned combination of two individuals with seamless attributes for overall success. In 2005, it was not only the international acclamations and “iron lady” traits that won the elections for Madam Sirleaf. It took the president considerable time to invest in the thoughtfulness of choosing someone who could fill out and connect the missing links to her grand cavalcade as Africa’s first democratically elected female president. In the years preceding 2005, she won the minds and spirit, undeniably, of the educated, intellectual, and urban class including women, children and, men. Her biggest challenge was connecting to the rural communities. There was no best choice other than the impecunious Ambassador Joseph Nyuma Boakai, who is famous for pedestrianly moving to Monrovia from Voinjama and serving as janitor while acquiring secondary education. This added value from Ambassador Boakai defeated all arrays of platitudes about madam Sirleaf belonging to an elite class of Americo-Liberians and a member of the ‘Congo’ class that perpetuated segregation against the rural and indigenous communities; and that her ascendency would be a resurgence of the True-Whig party’s hegemony. The results from 2005 remain in the annals of our nation’s battered history. In 2011, when faced with similar challenge, it was widely rumored that the president would opt for a change. Intriguingly, it appears that the president held dearly, the value of building a strong team and the unchanging support the campaign received was because it was Ambassador Boakai again as the second man.
VP Joseph N. Boakai
2017 presents similar headaches to Ambassador Boakai who is highly positioned and favored to become the next president even within the opposition community. Boakai’s biggest challenge to date is not whether he has campaign finances to engage the elections, neither the rumor that Madam Sirleaf has disavowed her support or the misconception spewed by opposition of disunity in the unity party, but the choice for a running mate. Considering the largest opposition party, Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), has finalized its ticket, and recently, the Liberty professed “bombshell” of Mr. Harrison Karnwea as the running mate, which everybody predicted, attention has now shifted to Ambassador Boakai for his choice of a running mate. There are two main theories that the VP can base his judgement upon to generate the ultimate result that could land him the seat. We have opted to call the first “Nimbaism” while the other is called Negbarleelectics.
Nimbaism (self-generated word), is a concept that has overly plagued our politics because of the vote-rich nature of the North-Eastern county-Nimba. Most presidential candidates feel that they need to select a running mate from Nimba in order to enhance their chances of landing at the nation’s highest seat or at least a fair chance to the runoff. As this trite concept is widely belabored in our political discourses, one key missing factor remains unattended to: that voters from Nimba will not overwhelmingly support a candidate until approved by Senator Prince Johnson. Evidence to this idea is adduced in 2005 and 2011 elections although 2011 was a slightly different case. In 2005, Joseph Kortu, a well-educated and true son of Nimba, contested the Presidency but could barely win the County. Intriguingly, George Weah won more votes from Nimba than any other candidate including Kortu. This was highly based on Prince Johnson unfettered unannounced support for Weah. The point, proffered in this article is that, Nimba County, incontrovertibly as a vote-rich county, does not out rightly vote a candidate who is not directly supported by Prince Johnson, a proclaimed “messiah” by his people. The razzale-dazzle of 2011 elections present a more compelling evidence in support of this position. Therefore Nimbaism is not a concept to uphold in this race unless Senator Johnson raucously and publically endorses the candidate who is selected to champion the cause. Considering another candidate has been selected as running mate from Nimba, it reduces further any chance of putting two sons of Nimba, which ultimately could split the vote, thus reducing the “vote-rich” status of the county. The Unity Party already has a strong tie and respectable relationship with Nimba County by virtue of Mr. Wilmot Paye chairmanship and control of the party. This is even solidified by the VP stance on institutional building and respect for the party values. We need to exploit this opportunity extensively.
This leads us to another key concept affecting the selection of Amb. Boakai’s running-mate that is Negbarleelectics (Pronounced as Neg-Bar-Lee-lectics). This theory espouses the concept that Cllr. Negbarlee Warner is the perfect candidate to run alongside JNB because he undeniably brings to the table two distinct but strategic group of voters- the young people (18-45) and the Southeastern block. Young people, since the youth bulge in the late 20th century, which later expanded in the 21th century, have constituted the crust of any vibrant candidate in a political election. With about 68% of the population below the age of 35 (2008 census), the median age for Liberia stands at 18.3 years. About 8 years ago, the total number of persons in Liberia between the ages of 10-39 years was 1,855,317 (2008 census). This figure suggests two things: (1) it is probable that those who were between the ages of 10-17 years at the time of the census will be eligible to vote (first timer) in the 2017 elections and (2) citizens who were 35-39 years have not reached 50 years of age. If we then posit the definition of a young person as being between the ages of 15-45 years, it is inherently evident that young people who may constitute about 1.8 million of the voting population will decide the next election. This is not an ordinary number to disregard in our democracy considering the last election of October 2011, a little over 1.2 million voters turned out to vote in the first round constituting 71% of the registered voters. If one can build a strategy around this figure, a resounding victory is inevitable.
In the 2011 presidential and legislative elections, the southeastern region accounted for 18 percent of the total votes outside of Montserrado County. As one of the highly respectable and revered sons of the southeast, Negbalee possess the quality of being the game changer for the Ambassador’s presidency. His stance on integrity, honesty and hard work is an attribute that Liberia has been lacking and which mimics the vice President’s vision of Think Liberia, Love Liberia and Build Liberia vision. While Cllr. Warner, arguably, may not come from a vote-rich county, his immaculate employment and work history both in the public and private sectors imbued with his relatively young age status and energy, resonates with voters from all sphere of life. As likened to the messiah in the holy book, Cllr. Warner “was doing good, every where he went.” Adducing from the records, Cllr. Warner began his actual academic life at the University of Liberia where he graduated with honors and later matriculated to Law school and excelled exceedingly (graduating with honors). As one of the few Liberians to possess a graduate (Masters of Law degree) from the prestigious Cornell Law School, Negbalee has made significant contributions towards enhancing our legal system. He worked as legal counsel for Central Bank of Liberia in his early professional career and later moved to the Tweh and Associates while teaching at the Law School. When the Carbon Harvesting issue propped, the President consulted her integrity notebook and selected Negbalee to lead the investigation, which resulted in the exposure of the entrenched syndicate operating to defraud the Liberia Government of millions. Based on his work within the environmental and resource governance sector, Negbalee moved to the Liberia Extractive Transparency Initiative (LEITI) secretariat as head. During his tenure, the LEITI facilitated Liberia compliance status with the EITI global and was recognized as a country striving to ensure transparency within the resource governance sector. After an exceptional performance at LEITI, he opened his law firm, Heritage Partners and Associates, and continued teaching at the Law School. It will interest you to note, that Associate Professor Warner is one of the 3 Liberians legal scholars who has written a textbook used by the Lewis Arthur Grimes School of Law as primary resource material. Cllr. Warner later served on the Board of LPRC but unfortunately, resigned because of management’s deviation from his ethical values and standards. When Dean Jallah of Law School decided it was time to move on, there was one name that reverberated in the minds and spirit of the university authority-Associate Professor Negbalee Warner. To date, Nebalee is one of the few Liberians to become member of the New York Bar Association.
While there are other names rumored as running mate to Vice President Boakai, It is uncontested that Cllr. Negbalee value and contributions to the JNB team is astoundingly glaring. He possesses the quality to attract votes from the young, old, intellectual class, integrity group, women, traditional leaders, and the comrades on the streets (zogos). A person likened to Amb. Boakai, who espouses and lives by the tenants of honesty and integrity, must not relent on selecting a man with unquestionable character and integrity. Ambassador Boakai should pick Negbalee because he connects with the younger generation and the intellectual class. He meets all standards and will bring a new and refreshed energy to the Presidency. The Negbaleelectics theory is what has been the missing link from the Vice President and Unity Party’s strategy. Let’s pick Negbalee and fire up ourselves to win the Presidency of Liberia!