By Festus Poquie
The political season that will eventual lead to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s replacement at the helm has arrived with worrying sign for the ruling Unity Party. Lofa County, which has so far been the stronghold of the governing Party appears to be heading in different direction.
In barely a year, the Unity Party has suffered back -to-back defeats in the vote rich northeastern county. In December 2014 the party lost the Senatorial seat it has been occupying since 2005 to the opposition Liberty Party. In December 2015 the ruling party again lost a House of Representatives seat it won in 2011 to an Independent Candidate via a by-election.
The UP downward political rating is unfolding despite recent electoral statistics pointing to its dominance in Lofa. During the 2005 presidential and legislative elections, the Party won the county with a comfortable victory recording 26,875 or 60.2% of the votes. This was only rivaled by the opposition Congress for Democratic Change that recorded 17,733 or 39.8% votes.
In 2011, there was an impressive surge in the governing party’s popularity in Lofa as its political leader and incumbent President Johnson-Sirlesaf sought a second term mandate. This was reflected both in legislative and political victories. With 81,614 voters turning out on polling day, UP had a landslide, collecting 72,309 votes or 91.8% there and winning four of the five county seats in the House of Representatives including a seat in the Senate.
But 2005 and 2011 are history dead and gone. 2014 and 2015 are also history but were turbulence or meltdown years for the ruling politicians in Lofa. So, what has gone wrong for the Unity Party in Lofa? There has been no clear explanation and party officials have no answer to the hard question. However what is clear is that With time, the political variables may be changing.
Mariamu Beyan Fofana – Chair of the Unity Party Legislative Caucus told the New Democrat “We fought and did everything we could [do possible to win]” when asked what went wrong for the Unity Party in Lofa. “ I’m looking at the positive in that election, ” declining response to the substantive aspect of the question. For Representative Fofana (Lofa District #4) the positive in the concluded legislative poll in the tiny Vahum district of Lofa is the election of a female lawmaker.
But the defeat is news and a concern for the political future of the party given that its deputy political leader – Vice President Joseph Boakai is a native of the county and the region that recorded the fresh defeat.
He barked and campaigned for the party’s candidate and near namesake Augustine Boakai Lansanai. yet he was unable to win the hearts and souls of the locals in his native region that had a total 9,816 voters to vote his chosen candidate to the House of Representatives.
The hypothesis surrounding this defeat is that Augustine Boakai Lansanai the Party choice for the Lofa County District Number 2 seat in the House of Representatives is a lackadaisical politician who squandered party support, exerting little or no energy into his campaign and waiting for an eleventh hour intervention of the Vice president to woo the voters. Also, it is explained that the demography of the region had it hands in the election. Lansanai won most of the kissi votes and lost on the Gbandi and Mende votes while the victor – Julie Fartorma Wiah had support amongst the three tribes. It concludes that it is the Vice President’s intervention that gave him the 1,664 votes. Mr. Lansanai has not been available to this paper to test the validated of this hypothesis.
But in any case Lasanai was the Vice President and UP’s candidate thus the defeat is theirs and the party should diagnose the political shortf
all in vahum in particular and Lofa in general.
The 29th Vice President (Joseph Nyumah Boakai) is the UP’S candidate for the 2017 Presidential election.
In a buildup to his ascendency as the party’s political leader, Boakai in May 20115, for the first time in ten spent 10 days outside the capital in his native Lofa County with report emerging of an unprecedented turnout of multitude backing his presidential bid.
He toured key towns like, Salayea, Zorzor, Voinjama, Quardu Gboni, Kolahun, Vahun and Foya, and was petitioned there to contest for the office of President. So the defeat in his homeland has been an embarrassment to the chiefs who have said yes to his leadership.
But a group supporting the Vice President’s bid issued the following statement to ease the doubt and confusion: “ Chiefs and elders in Lofa County have hit back at critics of Vice President Joseph N. Boakai over his presidential ambition, terming their assertions as “reckless and unrealistic.”
“The reaction of the chiefs and elders comes amidst criticisms by some opposition elements that Vice President Boakai’s political grip on his native homeland is diminishing, citing the result of the just-ended Lofa County by-election.
The Chiefs say it will be “a sad mistake for anyone” to consider the result of the by-election to be the position of Lofa in the 2017 presidential election.
The added: “The miserable results of all the opposition parties that took part in the process must send a strong message that Lofa is not prepared to do business with any party other than the Unity Party with Vice President Boakai on the ticket.”
According to the Chiefs and elders, Vice President Boakai is “the most experienced candidate to lead the country at this time,” adding, “He has the temperament, maturity and the proven track record of performing, and besides, he has the spirit of peace which puts him in a better position to unify the county.”
The head of the Paramount Chiefs Council of Lofa County, Musa Kamara of Quardu Gboni District, said the failure of the Unity Party to retain the seat in District #2 can in no way affect Vice President Boakai’s 2017 presidential bid as is being ‘shamefully heralded’ by “mere detractors.”
“We Lofans are plainly resolved and fully prepared to support our kinsman for the position of President come 2017, simply because he has what it takes to move the country to another level. He is the best presidential candidate to succeed President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf”,” Chief Kamara stated.
Chief Kamara, flanked by scores of chiefs and elders of the county, spoke to the ELBC correspondent over the week-end in Voinjama during which he made this defining and unwavering comment.
At the same time, views sampled from District #2 where the by-election was just held, generally indicate that the result of the Unity Party candidate must be blamed on him, and not the Vice President.
Many persons told reporters that the candidate never applied seriousness by campaigning vigorously as was the case of the winner.
According to a release from the office of Vice President Boakai, the VP took only a single day to campaign for the Unity Party candidate because he was never in the country, noting that that the folks that were working on the ground never told the Vice President the reality on the ground regarding the lack of seriousness on the
part of the UP candidate.
Meanwhile, in an exclusive interview with the ELBC on New Year’s Day, Vice President Boakai confidently indicated that Lofa remains a ‘no go zone’ for any opposition presidential candidate, adding that his people are fully backing him for presidency.
He informed listeners that he never lost in the just-ended by-election, revealing that the winner of the by-election is in his camp and is, in fact, one of his strong supporters.
Notably, too, the people of Vahum did not only reject the Unity Party but all the mainstream political parties in the country as indicated in the results of the by election.
Julie Fartorma Wiah (the winner – Independent candidate) 1,974 votes representing 20.11%.; Augustine Boakai Lansanah –Unity Party 1,664 votes representing 16.95%; Moisema Kamara – Congress for Democratic Change 1,573 votes representing 16.02% ; f Varforay Kamara an independent candidate 1,522 vote or 15.51%,; Jasper Tamba Saliah Chowo – Liberty Party 816 votes or 8.31%; Julia Russell of the All Liberia Party (ALP) 670 votes or 6.83%; Liberia National Union (LINU) 475 votes or 4.84%; Amara Kaifa Kanneh – Alliance for Peace and Democracy (APD) 433 votes or 4.41%; Moses Armah Saah – Alternative National Congress (ANC) 433 votes or 4.41%. writes Festus Poquie