The battle for leadership within the former governing National Patriotic Party or NPP of ex-President Charles Ghankay Taylor seems far from over as factional groups jostle for the party’s chairmanship.
Barely a week after one faction of the NPP led by businessman Randolph Cooper announced it has taken over the chairmanship from the embattled Cllr. Theophilus C. Gould, whose tenure as national chairman expired in December 2014, a rival group dubbed Council of County Chairpersons or CCCs, which is apparently sympathetic to Gould says it does not recognize the Cooper’s leadership.
Mr. Randolph Cooper, who is former Managing Director for the Roberts International Airport under the Taylor regime, claimed he was mandated to serve as interim chairman to take the party to convention within 45 days.
But a member of the so-called Council of County Chairpersons, Edmund B. Gibson, who claims to represent River Gee County and also Secretary General of the CCCs, their attention is drawn to the on-going saga unfolding within the NPP.
“About three weeks ago, individual purporting to be partisans of the NPP besieged our national headquarters, claiming they have taken over the party and have installed an interim leadership to take the party to convention; on behalf of the Council of County Chairpersons from the fifteen political sub-divisions of Liberia, we wish to categorically condemn, denounce and disassociate ourselves from such lawless and illegal activities at the NPP headquarters,” he said in a statement Tuesday.
Edmund explains that the NPP is a corporate institution guided by rules and regulations and encourages all partisans to channel their grievances through the established grievance procedures laid down in the party’s by-laws and constitution.
“It is unacceptable and uncivilized for the people to resort to gangsterism in the name of democracy; this lawlessness has to stop and we want to use this public forum to call on the Ministry of Justice to intervene in arresting the situation before it escalates to a potential conflict where lives and properties could be destroyed,” he cautioned.
According to him, the threat that is being posed by those he described as ex-combatants taking over the headquarters of the NPP cannot and should not be under estimated, adding that they were duly elected across the country and the Theophilus Gould leadership still enjoys their unflinching support and confidence.
He insists that Gould remains the legitimate chairman until the biennial convention decides otherwise, while Senator Jewel Howard-Taylor of Bong County is the standard bearer until 2017.
“We reject claims made by ex-generals of the defunct NPFL that they are partisans of the NNP because they fought war. Fighting for the NPFL does not automatically make anyone a member of the NPP. There are procedures by which individuals can become members of the NPP and we encourage the likes of Coco Dennis and those ex-generals at the headquarters to end their lawless action and pursue the civilized way of attaining membership with the NPP,” Edmund added.
But Mr. Cooper has dispelled these claims as unfounded, maintaining that the national executive committee of the party has mandated him to serve as interim chairman to take the NPP to convention.
The National Executive Committee, which is the highest decision-making body in the absence of convention, presided over by the Vice Chairman for Administration, John D. Gray, mandated me, Randolph Cooper to take the party to convention within 45 days”, he told The NewDawn last evening.
According to him, the convention has been scheduled for July 23-26, 2015, adding, “I have agreed not to run for any position at the convention.” Mr. Cooper noted that the National Elections Commission had ruled that the self-styled Council of County Chairpersons appointed by T.C. Gould is illegal, and only those who were elected with Cllr. Gould as Council of County Chairpersons in 2011, are legitimate.
He said Cllr. Gould was elected for four years and his tenure expired since December 2014. “Because T.C. Gould wants to perpetuate himself in power, he has refused to hold convention.”
No one knows when the in-fighting in the former ruling party will end, but as the current crisis drags on, it could no doubt weakens the cohesion of the party that transitioned from a rebel group to a viable political force that held power in Liberia from 1997 to 2003. By Ben P. Wesee – Editing by Jonathan Browne