President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first woman president, has announced she will run for re-election next year, despite previous promises to serve only one term. “I now announce to you, and to the thousands of supporters in radio land and abroad, that I will be a candidate,” she said during her annual address in the hemicycle of the national legislature.
This declaration by the president was followed by another one from Nimba County Senator Prince Johnson. President Sirleaf said she will be a formidable candidate, while Senator Johnson said he will be the most formidable candidate. This has triggered diverging comments from every part of the oldest independent state of West Africa. That’s the noise in the market.
“I say, our oldma is running again,” says Salimata Jalibah, a young woman who sells garden egg (bitter balls) at Red Light Market in Paynesville. Dressed in a white tee-shirt bearing the photos of President Sirleaf and her running mate Vice-president Joseph Boaikai, Salimata is gesticulating behind her table shouting, “UP all the way….!”
She calls the attention of a lady who was glaring at various tables lined up. “My sister, come buy your bitter balls, 50 dollars for it.” The lady comes near, arms on her hips, she says, “what you say Madame Unity Party?” “Oh! Are you partisan? I say, the old Ma will do it to them again. She says she is running.” The lady gets close to Salimata, stands side her, and speaks in a whisper, “are you sure she will make it?” She asks.
That question startling Salimata. “Look at this other one!” Salimata shouted, “what do you mean by she can make it? Oh…! It looks like you are part of those who are dreaming hein.., sit down there, you will stay long inside my sister. In fact, I don’t need your money, go somewhere else to buy, if you are really here to buy.”
“My name is Olivia Tah,” she reacts, “you are right. I am not part of your camp, but I am not a dreamer, neither will I stay long inside. You at the UP will stay long inside. First you say you were not running, now you the contrary, in that case who will stay long inside?” Salimata gives a tap on Olivia’s shoulder and says, “let me inform you Olivia, because it looks like you have some doubts in your mind.
The old Ma said she was not going. She said it indeed. But look at what she has done the past years she has been in office. Do you want her to leave such a good job undone so that corrupt individuals, crooks and vultures will come and spoil the good job? No go sleep. It will not happen. In fact, what side are you on? Are you part of the dreamers who say they will be more formidable?”
“So what?” Olivia said…, “What makes you think that Prince Johnson can’t be more formidable than the old Ma? When your party rejected him in 2005, didn’t you see what he did? He got the majority votes and your candidate did not win. He may not win everywhere, but believe me or not, he will slim your chances and the chances of any other candidate in Nimba. So don’t take him for granted.”
At this juncture, I look at my watch; it was almost time for me to be in my office. But I decided to go in a tea shop at the rear of the market, to drink a cup of tea (hataryee). “Eh! My journalist, how are you? For long, where have you been? Look, you are coming at the right time. You are journalist, what is your view on the old Ma’s declaration?” Mamadee Kamar, a friend, asked me.
“You just said I am a journalist, you answer the question.” I replied. Mamadee then went on saying, “this is what I wanted to hear. Let me tell you today; I am member of an opposition party that is not yet born. Do you know what party is that?” I told him no.
He added, “I am waiting for the main political parties to get together for a coalition. I will be the first to join them. If that does not happen, it will be impossible to beat the Old Ma. In fact, that’s the reason why she says she is going to be a formidable candidate. Just watch, very soon you will see belly driven politicians crossing carpet. Just few days after the Old Ma’s pronouncement you can see that they have seized the air waves, making cosmetic statements just to please her.”
Jah Red, owner of the shop, gives me a cup of tea, and whispered to me, “don’t mind it, that’s the noise in the market. If you mind it, you will not buy. But I want to ask you, is it true that a new party is being created?” I answer him, “don’t mind it. That’s the noise in the market.”