Who owns NUDP? Who is the legitimate leader with powers to steer the day to day operations of the NUDP? Who controls the National Executive Committee? How many Executive Committees does the NUDP have? Who has power to authorize the convening of the National Convention? These questions are normal and legitimate questions that have now become a rivalry between two formidable groups in the NUDP. Unless they are amicably resolved, the NUDP-third runner up in the 2011 presidential elections- would find its self in a continued political turmoil and obscurity for a long time.
For three months there have been serious legal contentions over policy decisions and who has the right to steer the party to another course. The National Elections Commission of Liberia (NEC) has had the constitutional responsibility to investigate the NUDP crisis and dichotomy. At the end of a vigorous investigation with Honorable Gbarwo Kowou led 13 or more witnesses to justify the expulsion of Senator Prince Yormie Johnson as Standard Bearer of the Party with no witness produced by the defendant according to Honorable Bedell Fahn, the Elections Commission ruled in favor of the defendant on grounds that the Party lacks a constitution according to governing regulations of the Commission. The NUDP, according to the Commission sources, did not submit the constitution acted upon to the Elections Commission to support plaintiff’s arguments.
Based on the merit of none provision of the constitution according to elections regulations, the NEC ruled that the Party returned to status quo. This means that Senator Prince Yormie Johnson remains the Standard Bearer of the Party and the complainants remain the legitimate officials of the NUDP. This decision was adhered to through national pronouncement by the Gbarwo Kawou’s faction of the NUDP. Some partisans who are committed to the NUDP jubilated that now the leaders had got to the point of proceeding with reconciliation in order to capture the presidency come 2018.
Unfortunately, this dream has degenerated to what party analysts have described as a new struggle of control over the Party. NUDP Chairman, Honorable Kowou has announced that National Convention would be held in Grand Gedeh County in compliance with the advice of the NEC that convention should be held democratically to resolve the leadership impasse. Other sources have said that the decision of the Kowou’s NUDP is pluralistic and suggests that the NUDP is not simply a Nimba Party and since the election of Honorable Kowou of the Krahn ethnic group was in the spirit of reconciliation, the selection of Grand Gedeh solidifies Krahn/Gio reconciliation. However, they noted that the selection of Grand Gedeh should have been a consensus and not without the endorsement of the Standard Bearer.
On the other hand, some partisans claimed that reconciliatory principles, especially the return to status quo as decided by NEC has also been violated by Senator Prince Johnson’s faction by maintaining the suspension of the National Chairman of the NUDP and his party litigants on grounds that they were suspended by the Executive Committee and requested to appear before the Grievance Committee. As argued by the Deputy Chairman for Operations of the NUDP, Honorable Cornelius Porte who is a former legislator, Honorable Kowou, National Chairman, Mr. Medrick Gontee, Secretary General, and Mr. Eric Gbarmie, Assistant Secretary General and Spokesman of the Party remained suspended until they clear themselves before the Grievance Committee headed by Nimba County Citizen Honorable Roger Woodson.
An observer to the proceedings at the Elections Commission notes that it is interesting that the cardinal reason why the Standard Bearer gained victory was on the basis of lack of due process and procedural errors. Unfortunately, procedural errors were made in respect of the suspension of the Chairman of the Party and others by the Standard Bearer who is said to have influenced the convening of an Executive Committee Meeting in the absence of elected counties chairpersons, elected officials, and committee members who constitute the National Executive Committee, says Mr. Eric Gbamie, Spokesman of the Party. He claimed that those involved in the decision were loyalists of Honorable Prince Johnson from the Gio Tribe. Those, according to him, cannot be the National Executive Committee and on these grounds, such suspension cannot hold, he said. Gbarmie raises another contention of the Vice Chairman for Operations suspending his Boss in a Fabric Radio interview just minutes after the National Vice Chairman for Operation spoke.
The Kowou’s NUDP faction who claims legitimacy and support of the counties has concluded an Executive Meeting on Sunday to hold convention in July. The Johnson’s NUDP is said to be holding its convention in June as well. At least a month before Honorable Kowou’s. With Senator Grupee of Nimba County being allegedly selected by Senator Johnson according to Gbarmie and also reported in Chronicle Newspaper of May 9 on its back page, the NUDP has now got two national chairpersons and two national executive committees. But Vice Chairman for Operations, Honorable Porte says he is not aware of Honorable Grupee being appointed Acting Chairman; furthering that they are now beyond that contentional level.
Impeccable information of this Columnist reveals that Senator Prince Johnson seeks to reconcile and reunite the Party. In an effort to do so, he has extended invitation to the Kowou’s group through the spokesman, Mr. Eric Gbarmie for Thursday, May 10, 2011. According to the NUDP Constitution, the Standard Bearer can convene Executive Committee Meeting and preside over same. But the NUDP Spokesman claimed there is procedural error. The National Chairman elected by the Convention should have been liaised with by the Standard Bearer to cite such a meeting. This according to him does not show enough faith in whatever reconciliation process he wishes to pursue. But Honorable Porte says invitation has been extended to all and those who have a case should come forward and file their cases. His objective is to reconcile the party for 2018 presidential and general elections.
The genesis of the NUDP dichotomy began prior to the holding of convention when three top officials and county chairpersons resigned their posts due to confidence problems which resulted in a much publicized public debate. They later formed themselves as the Independent Union for Progressive Leadership (IUPL) headed by former Chairman Emmanuel A. Lomax with the Board of Directors chaired by deputy political leader Senator Abel Massalay. The NUDP prior to the resignations which first surfaced with the Secretary General was the most formidable party with all opportunities to democratically take power from the U.P. The IUPL became the largest auxiliary which supported President Sirleaf. The three officials were expelled from the party without due process which motivated their support to the U. P.
The Kowou’s NUDP is said to be strongly opposed to President Sirleaf and has a pact with the CDC. During the second round in which the NUDP was established as the Kingmaker, the Executive Committee is said to have unanimously consented to give support to CDC Winston Tubman and George Weah. It has been alleged by the Kowou’s faction that previous commitment to the CDC was breached unilaterally by the Standard Bearer with money changing hands from the Unity Party in the Amount of US$900, 000 dollars to the Standard Bearer. The accusation was denied with counter accusation that the Kowou’s faction received US20,000 from CDC without the knowledge of the Standard Bearer. Both accused each other of acting unilaterally which has resulted to the current impasse.
Political analysts predict a bitter conflict. They predict that though NEC has ruled, rivalry still reigns and that the manner in which NEC handled the matter has provoked more confusion and the resulting impasse would have to be brought back at their doorsteps once more. While Johnson’s faction allegedly fears a plot to undo him as the next NUDP Candidate, the Kowou’s faction is more resolved that the NUDP next presidential candidate will be as a result of competitive democratic exercise. According to them, this is what democracy is all about and not a one man show.