On April 22, 2021, Front Page Africa carried an editorial under the caption, “Competitive Atmosphere May be a Good thing for the CPP.” In this editorial, Front Page Africa told its readers that “the U.S-Style primary route offers the perfect opportunity for voters to hear from all those seeking the CPP’s nomination. This way, they can share their vision, aspirations and plans for Liberia if given the chance to lead.” While competition is a part of the political process, we argue that the comparison of U.S-Style primary to that of the Collaborating Political Parties of Liberia was not only disingenuous but also analytically and critically deficient. In our opinion, it is a recipe for confusion, chaos and disunity. In the U.S. primaries, the two major political parties, the Republican and the Democratic, each has its own base with devout members who are entrenched in their party’s philosophy and platform. During primaries, candidates appeal to their base. We ask, what is CPP’s core value that Karnga-Lawrence, Urey, Boakai, and Cummings should ascribe to and make the central point of their campaign? The CPP’s arrangement cannot be likened to any of the major US’s party organizations. The CPP is a conglomeration of four political parties with different ideas and platforms. What the CPP needs is an experienced, qualified and tested nominee with political stronghold to challenge and defeat George Weah and not the vigorous competitive process that FrontPage proffered for just selecting the CPP’s Standard Bearer.
The Editorial further argued that such a competitive atmosphere may strengthen and anoint the nominee of the CPP to be more equipped for debates. Which debates? FrontPage continued, “What would be intriguing is if the CPP encourage those seeking the nomination to agree to a debate amongst themselves.” Why? In the context of Liberia, it seems to us that FrontPage, although a reputable news outlet, is missing the central point on what should make a person the most qualified to seek the CPP’s nomination. I believe this foggy ‘journalism’ thinking is intentionally devious and politically farfetched. Missing this central point prompted FrontPage to compare CPP’s primary to that of the United States. Such comparison is a hallucination. As stated above, Republicans and Democrats are entrenched in their parties’ ideologies or beliefs. In the US, “Red States” and “Blue States” represent strongholds. FrontPage refused to mention strongholds even though the two major US parties – Democratic and Republican – have strongholds. In the US presidential election of 2000, Bush vs. Gore, Gore lost his home state of Tennessee even though he was a better debater than Bush. Had Tennessee been his stronghold, he would have won but his failure to win his home state prevented him from becoming the President. Americans vote on issues and that is why primaries in the US are always rigorous. That’s the United States and that’s also the beauty of elections in the United States. Unlike the US, what can be considered the stronghold that each political party in the CPP has? Definitely, such combined CPP’s strongholds do not yet exist. FrontPage seems to have conveniently forgotten that the Liberian body politic is often based on sectionalism. Sadly, Liberians vote based on tribal, regional or geographical connections, and not established political criteria and norms. In Liberia, what makes a candidate forceful in our opinion is the person’s political stronghold and not the ability to debate as important and essential as that may be.
Despite FrontPage’s misgiving, the Framework agreement between the Collaborating Political Parties will eventually produce a Standard-Bearer and Vice Standard-Bearer to go against George Weah and maybe Jewel Howard Taylor in 2023 if CDC’s political marriage holds. In our opinion, anyone of the four opposition leaders is more competent and qualified to debate with George Weah and his running mate. In other words, these CPP or opposition leaders do not need to attack and falsely destroy one another’s character for the sake of winning the nomination. By the way, we wonder whether members of FrontPage’ Editorial Board have ever seen George Weah in a debate forum let alone to debate either with Joseph Boakai, Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence, Benoni Urey and Alexander Cummings? Thus, FrontPage’s quest for a competition among leaders of the CPP to prepare them for such a debate is not only unnecessary but also suspicious? These opposition leaders are experienced, qualified and have full control over the English language than President Weah. Also, all the CPP leaders know and understand the difficulties facing Liberians and how to mitigate them than George Weah.
Having said that, among these opposition leaders, there is one particular individual that stands out among all others and that person, in our opinion, is Joseph Boakai. In fact, George Weah will be afraid to debate with Boakai or any of the other leaders. We argue that based on what we now know about George Weah, it seems to us that he has never debated in his entire life, especially when seeking public offices. For example, as a candidate for the Montserrado County senatorial election, George Weah rejected debate and same was done for the presidency. His supporters blindly claimed that their man, George Weah, does not need a platform or the need to debate because he is fully aware of what to do. Certainly, based on the President Weah’s performance in the first three years of his six-year tenure in office, it has become cleared that he does not really know anything about good governance as his supporters made Liberians to think and believe. For example, his Pro-poor Agenda, both ill-conceived and poorly formulated, after the election of 2017 as a beacon of hope is dead; it has not worked and will never work well to lift majority of our citizens out of abject poverty.
I therefore believe that if FrontPage wants political debates for its future headlines, it should encourage President Weah to participate in any presidential debate schedule organized during the forthcoming 2023 presidential campaign season. One thing I know is that President Weah is the one afraid to face Liberian journalists, and not any of the CPP leaders. FrontPage can bear witness as one of the media institutions in Liberia to support my claim that President Weah is afraid to face any serious journalist like its managing editor Rodney Sieh. Since coming to the presidency, President Weah has never soundly interacted with journalists either on national or international issues except stage-managed or recorded appearances.
Back to the FrontPage’s Editorial. Rather than advocating for forceful competitive debate at a CPP primary to select a Standard Bearer, it should focus on the three steps in the selection process enshrined in the CPP’s Framework Document: Consensus, VPS, and Convention. And PRIMARY as you can see is NOT one of the selection steps. As far as we know, the CPP’s first step for nominating or selecting its Standard Bearer will be by Consensus amongst the four political leaders. Failing that, they will go to a VPS (Voter’s Perception Survey of random sampling of thousands of Liberian voters). The political leader chosen through the Consensus or VPS will then be presented to delegates selected by each political party who will be attending the Convention, and at which time the nominee could be elected on ‘White Ballot’ for endorsement and validation. As can be seen from the above, DEBATE is not one of the options for selecting a CPP’s Standard Bearer. However, once a Standard Bearer is chosen, there will be general discussion, and perhaps even debates, on the best national policies and programs to be included in a CPP’s development and transformative agenda for collective support.
We therefore think the FrontPage’s Editorial is a disguise attempt to confuse potential Liberian voters about the selection process of the CPP’s Standard Bearer. It seems to us that FrontPage is selective in its criticism when it comes to who should lead the CPP. For example, the All Liberians Party’s Benoni Urey is often criticized by FrontPage because of his fervent support for former Vice President Joseph Boakai. This is apparent when FrontPage denigrates the ALP’s Political Leader, always making reference to Urey’s poor performance during the 2017 election, but the same is not applied to ANC’s Political Leader Alexander Cummings’ performance in the same election. In my estimation, Urey is better than Cummings. For instance, in the House of Representatives, three individuals were elected on Urey’s ALP ticket and none for Cummings’ ANC. Talking about stronghold! In addition, repeatedly FrontPage and its contributors indirectly accuse Urey of corruption but equally failed to apply same against Liberty Party’s Chairman, Musa Bility, also in the CPP, who is besieged by claims of corruption. Better still, this alleged corrupt Musa Bility has equally embraced Cummings, but FrontPage has not gone on record to deal with such a politically “planted” and supposedly cunning character. We want to surmise or it is our opinion that FrontPage is clandestinely in support of Alexander Cummings and therefore has become a paid agent. By pushing this debate issue within CPP, we maintain that FrontPage is embracing the need for competitive atmosphere in the CPP to find another avenue for Cummings to be the nominee by destroying the unity that led these four political leaders to collaborate for the future betterment of the Nation.
Politically, it should be noted that Cummings is not a match for Boakai. How can Cummings who came in the 2017 presidential battle in position #5 in a nationwide election with a total of 112,067 be compared to Joseph Boakai who came in position #2 with a total of 457,579 popular votes. Under Boakai, in the Unity Party, twenty (20) individuals were elected to the House of Representatives compared with none (zero) for Cummings and his ANC. Since FrontPage is not focusing or interested in serving as a fair umpire in the political ups and downs, by asking for strongholds, we will answer in our next article by identifying strongholds among the four political leaders, beginning with former Vice President Boakai versus Alexander Cummings in terms of their respective strongholds and individual strength as we approach the ensuing 2023 presidential and general elections.
About the author: Kadiker Rex Dahn holds a PhD in Historical, Philosophical and Social Foundations of Education from the University of Oklahoma. He once served as a Deputy Minister of Education and Deputy Director General, National Commission on Higher Education. He is a member of the North America Scholar Consortium, membership with the Highest Honor. Contacts: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
By: Kadiker Rex Dahn, MA, M.Ed., PhD
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