Who Will Be Liberia’s Next Imperial President And How?

By: James Thomas-Queh
Contributing Writer

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
August 14, 2017


At less than 60 days to the October 10th elections, and as each day comes with its intrigues and sagas that torment our minds, this dreadful question crops up: Who will be Liberia’s next imperial President and how?

First, I announce my choice - knowing that our imperial Presidents are made and not appropriately elected - as we are mind-set to accept as mummies. Now, were I to vote on October 10th my imperial President would have been Dr. Joseph Mills Jones. So, I give the man his flowers as he is now confirmed in the race.

Topping my selection list, Dr. Jones is a man of a strong character, temperament, decisive, discipline and with a clear economic empowerment platform for the country.  He has more understanding of the real economic situation of the country, our financial institutions and how best they can be reinforced to maintain both national and international credibility, sustain the economic growth and the development of Liberia.

Furthermore, in the last 12 years Dr. Jones took the National Bank from an unknown, exclusive money-bag of the imperial President - to a first-class international institution and the first ever popular attention to its role as the power-house of Liberia’s monetary regulation and control – thus a vital national entity. I honestly believe that Dr. Jones is a top-notch manager; and were it not for his tenacity the national bank would have long since been dysfunctional and turned up-side-down like most of our government ministries and other state institutions.

In all fairness, look at that ultra-modern national bank building (though started by Doe) now standing majestically before the ruins of the defunct TWP headquarters (a party that ruled Liberia for over 100 years). Well, the unfinished housing bank is just a block away down Ashmun street - left sadly to squatters; and while the ghost of the Executive Mansion is vivid at the other end of the city - abandoned by the imperial President since 2006.

But still more important, the micro-finance program for the economic empowerment of the poor market women – the real breadwinners of Liberia – won Dr. Jones the nickname of a “poverty doctor.” Anyone would have thought that such laudable accomplishments should have been encouraged and embraced by the national leader, but that was not the case. Instead, what we saw were those absurd articles 5.1 and 5.2 of the infamous CoC -now relegated to history.

And you know something, I did not hear a word from those critics of Dr. Jones when we all felt off our chairs upon hearing recently that the government had established a parallel macro-finance loan program under the aegis of the Ministry of Finance for the Liberian entrepreneurs since 2014. But guess what? Even the struggling Liberian entrepreneurs knew nothing about this loan and neither the public. Millions of dollars went missing in three years, and that did not even take the attention of the President to know how her program was improving the national economy or the lives of Liberian entrepreneurs. And now where is that case after the media frenzy? Nowhere, a scapegoat was publicly ridiculed, and the Liberian leader’s back is covered for any possible future detail revelations on the matter.

Well, at least everyone saw Dr. Jones travelling around country in grand style, launching his program and dedicating sub-offices of the National Bank. So tell me, I prefer an official who used the means within his scope of duty for a genuine economic empowerment of the masses (with an intent to be president) than he who (without no intent to be president) only shares the state coffers with his cronies, family members and loyalists while the schools, hospitals and infrastructure are all in an absolute mess.

Notwithstanding, after these honest praises and admiration for Dr. Jones, I have had my disappointment. This God fearing man has chosen a Baptist preacher as his VP running mate.  And for one like myself on the boarder-line  between religion and atheism, I have a strong reservation for any preacher-turned-politician. Second, while it may be true that  Liberia was founded on a divine inspiration or Christian principles some 170 years ago,  God left us long ago to take care of ourselves as grown-ups; so we declared our country a secular state. And third, the last time we tried to change this principle around with a reverend President (Tolbert) and a bishop Vice President (Bernie D. Warner) – our country went deep under for over 25 years.  Perhaps a warning from God that politics and religion do not necessarily make a successful marriage.

But mind you, we are also aware of the lucrative “religion business” now flourishing in Liberia which has shrunk the congregations of the traditional settlers churches. Thus is the probability that a preacher-turned-vice presidential candidate could attract the born-again “Christian state” theorists – including the non-voting factors that have continuously influenced our presidential elections.

Whatever the case, I have the strongest conviction that under any future serious government, Dr. Jones will be given a significant role to play to help move the country on a sound economic development path.

How political alchemy and symbolic voting figures made our dictators, tyrants and imperial Presidents since 1985

Now, after that objective and convincing portrait of my candidate, here are the election realities from my perception. Though we talk about free, fair and transparent elections, but deep in our hearts we know it a pure illusion. Putting aside the high rate of illiteracy, overcrowded capital with shanty towns, the country has no valid census, no national ID cards, no zoning regulations, no addresses, no birth certificates, no border controls, dysfunctional local administrations, etc – all things to give the semblance of a functional state are non-existent. To crown it up, the elections are held during the peak of the raining reason when circulation around the country is near impossible; NEC hurriedly goes around the country and does the so-called “voters registration” and issues “voters cards” to anyone who shows up; and candidates transport their voters to voting centres. Folks, this is not a fairy tale; it is the truth, and nothing but the truth.

In the face of this disastrous reality, it is the political alchemy –alongside some symbolic voting figures - that have always imposed upon us our imperial Presidents since 1985. And that was when our generation started its democracy adventure. For example, in 1986 Doe rigged the elections upon the support of the military; in 1997 the fear of the NPFL rebels guaranteed Taylor’s victory, and in 2005 the international community with a 15000 strong UNMIL forces made it possible for Madame Sirleaf to have won and ruled Liberia in the manner she did for the last 12 years. In essence, within 170 years Liberia has never genuinely prepared herself to carryout any free, fair and transparent electoral process.

This time around, however, we thought naively that such huddles were out of the way, especially due to the absence of the incumbent from the race. But some months back the President sat the tune to prepare our minds and set into motion the political alchemy. If my memory is correct, she predicted that no one party would win; there will have to be coalitions. For an incumbent, that was a recognition of her failures and also a condemnation of her own party; thus, all the rumours that ensued since. On the other hand, reading in between the lines one can see that the prediction is also logical for an internationally acclaimed President who won 2 terms both in the second rounds -  and thanks always to coalitions. Of course, the foreign handlers of those elections could have given Madam her victories in the first rounds, but certainly the risk of popular discontent would have been much higher. So, the second-round wining scheme serves not only to reduce the number of contestants, but also to pacify the populace and facilitate the political alchemy of “soft elections rigging.”

That is, in a country like Liberia with such a huge electoral deficiency the first round is used to apportion fictitious figures in accordance with the importance of the parties and the perceived populace fervour for each candidate. These figures are then registered in our subconscious as genuine; thus, are usually or hardly uncontested. From this point on the task of NEC becomes easier in the second round when coalitions are formed with the two declared front-runners. And all they do next is add up the figures of the first round - even if the voters did not turn out or vote on the orders of their standard bearers. Thus, the candidate with the most important coalitions in the second round is most likely to win. And this tells us also that the first-round coalitions are not effective because they lacked the official designated voting figures.

Having this in mind, the scenario already projected on the ground was that there would be no knockout in the first round. Instead, there will definitely be a Brumskine-Boakai dual in the second round.  But that was before the Vice President selected his running mate – a choice that has plunged the UP further into an absolute disarray.

That brings the CDC high into the equation – a party I classified among the “three living political parties” since 2005 (LP, CDC and UP) – but which the politicians have seemingly erased off their radar since Taylor’s former wife was chosen as its vice presidential candidate. But George Manneh Weah could well create the French “Macron effect” in these elections. I still believe that the CDC has the most loyal foot soldiers and supporters who are among the largest voting population of the country (from age 35 down). Most of these are the youths or former child-soldiers who have been left into abject poverty while we develop a pseudo-middle class for 2030. So, not only do they have a strong nostalgia for the Taylor era, but also as fanatic football fans, George Weah remains their soccer icon and still the most popular household name; they would walk any distance or pay their own fare to vote for him. I do not know his political platform, but Weah has proven to be a formidable political player never to underestimate.

Having said that, the only political party that I saw on the ground with a strong pre-electoral party machine, and a well-organized wining strategy was the Liberty Party. In fact, it was being called “the new girl in town.” And this leaves me the impression that its candidate, Charles Brumskine, will definitely be in the second round. Thus, a dual between Brumskine and Boakai as projected, I have no doubt Brumskine will definitely win. But a dual between Brumskine and anyone else from the remaining major parties (CDC, MOVEE, ANC and ALP) will be a tough match and hard to predict. Of course, in this case the movement of major coalitions should be among the determinant factors to declare a winner.

Second stage of the political alchemy: The effect of foreign influence peddling on the elections

Apparently, to convince the Boakai group of her support, the Press Secretary to the President informed the public that “As customary among world leaders, the President has informed all of her colleagues at the levels of ECOWAS, AU, the United nations and other institutions that she supports the presidential bid of the Vice President.”  Now, what is the interpretation of this very undemocratic and dependency statement?

Is it to mean that should those voting figures do not add up to make Hon. Boakai the next imperial President, the international community should descend on Monrovia and impose the man on the Liberian people? Or should it be interpreted that any candidate who wins other than Boakai should not be accorded the same international goodwill as Madam Sirleaf? But, if the intent is to influence the Liberian voters that Hon. Boakai is a continuation of Madam Sirleaf’s reign, and thus indispensable for Liberia after 12 years as VP – then that is a dead case for me.
Ellen and Boakai are now like cunning on cunning’s back; she told the Liberian people that she and Boakai were there together and would retire together. But forgot that the imperial presidency is a gold mine; so the man bulldozed his way into the race without her apparent acquiescence. In response, the UP was suddenly wrecked; and from all indication, its VP standard bearer can hardly swim and needs a rescue desperately – or else, he might drown.

Leaving that note aside, I had been wondering why an American official made a statement recently that the United States does not support anyone candidate in the Liberian elections. Now I guess it was to pre-empt the Madam that as a “democratically” elected President she should not be going around like some dictator telling her “colleagues” who will inherit her throne. Instead, she should have been reassuring them that the Liberian voters were mature and wise enough to elect the best leader to succeed her and rule the country effectively.

Further, we are all aware that the Americans do not need to know the Madam’s choice because they have always been the major players on the ground. It is no secret that most of the major candidates have American citizenship or Green Cards, homes, cooperate board members and fat bank accounts in the United States like Madam Sirleaf herself, and also pay taxes there. Additionally, Liberia uses the US$; so it is no big deal for them to choice from the array of fine candidates and deliver Liberia another internationally acclaimed President.

Notwithstanding, in this scramble for Liberia’s resources and geo-political influence peddling environment, there are also other major world powers whose choice for the presidency may go contrary to that of Madam Sirleaf’s official support or the United States. Liberia is surrounded with former French colonies and interests; and the French have a great admiration for George Weah as a “gentleman” soccer legend. Recently also a French documentary on the “wives of former dictators and tyrants” figured Jewel Howard-Taylor almost like a star lavishing praises at her former husband for his excellent rule. Seriously, but it’s just a hint.  

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The other power is Great Britain, which took Charles Taylor off our backs – not for the atrocities committed in Liberia, but mainly for his blood-diamonds engagement in Sierra Leone – a former British colony and interest. Taylor is now in a British prison, and not at The Hague; so Britain has a trump card in its favour to ascertain that Liberia gets an imperial President who will keep the vicious blood-diamond dealers far away from Sierra Leone. Or else, Mr. Taylor could be sent home on parole to us since we failed to learn and be a serious nation and people. Well, Mrs. Agnes Taylor was detained recently in Britain – coincidentally.

And next comes China – a country with huge investment cash from a successful combination of communism and capitalism. Though traditionally China refrains from interfering in the internal affairs of other countries, but it has invested too heavily in Liberia to sit supinely and watch an anti-China imperial President be enthroned on the heads of Liberians.
Thus my alarmist warning - these diverse global interests competing and cohabitating pacifically (or so it seems) on our soil could turn out to become the aides and abetters in our awaiting social time-bomb – if we do not fight harder, open our eyes, hearts and minds to select a leader who is level-headed, decisive, energetic, sincere and a true national reconciler – devoid of tribalism. 

But while we wait, I anticipate my congratulations to our next “democratically elected” imperial President in waiting.


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