Former presidential candidate Counsellor Winston Alexander Tubman is calling for a united opposition bloc in Liberia to stand against incumbent Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai in the 2017 presidential and representative elections.
Vice President Boakai formally accepted a petition from his kinsmen of Lofa County early this year to contest for the nation’s highest seat after his two terms under Mrs Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Since his acceptance speech, he has been mobilizing support both in Liberia and the Diasporas in preparation for his bid, and traditional leaders from Lofa and Bong Counties recently met in the provincial town of Gbarnga, central Liberia and pledged support to Boakai.
But 74-year-old Tubman, also an ex-United Nations Ambassador to Somalia, who contested on the popularity of former football legend George OppongWeah in 2011, warns that if members of the opposition bloc failed to unite and forge a common front, Boakai could have an easy ride at the polls come 2017, which could spell doom for multiparty democracy in Liberia.
Boakai’s ruling Unity Party is already completing two terms under current President Sirleaf. In an exclusive interview with The NewDawn Thursday, 10 December at his private office on Broad Street in Monrovia, Cllr. Tubman describes Vice President Boakaias a force to reckon with in the impending 2017 elections.
He says as a sitting Vice President Boakai enjoys lots of opportunities and privileges, including access to government’s facilities, embassies, support of elders, chiefs, local government authorities and the cabinet, among others.
“Beware that he’s a sitting vice president of the country and so, there are lots of opportunities accorded him which include government’s embassies, support from the local authorities and so on. But me traveling to the leeward counties, it will be on the expanse of the party and from my personal pocket. These are things that can put him in a better position for the race,” he cautioned.
Commenting on his plan for the next elections, Cllr. Tubman said he is returning to the main opposition party, Congress for Democratic Change of now Senator George Weah, on which ticket he contested for the presidency in 2011 as standard bearer with Weah as his running mate, but boycotted the runoff against President Sirleaf on fear that the poll was not fair.
But international observers, who monitored the two rounds of elections, said Tubman’s actual fear was defeat at the ballot box. “It’s a bad signal… political leaders must be prepared to win or lose,” said former Ugandan Vice-President and head of the African Union observer mission to Liberia during the 2011 elections, Speciosa Wadira Kazibwe, according to the AFP news agency.
He has contested two presidential elections unsuccessfully beginning with 2005, when he was knocked out in the first round, coming fourth with 9.2 percent of the total votes against Madam Sirleaf.Also during the first round of voting 2011, the former UN diplomat was again defeated by President Sirleaf, but got enough ballots (32%) to force a run-off, which he subsequently boycotted.
When asked whether he thought the CDC was prepared to elect him as its standard bearer for the second time, Cllr. Tubman said he will not fight George Weah for the standard bearer position because Weah is his son and that it would be difficult for anyone to defeat Weah at the CDC’s convention, but he (Tubman) is sure of becoming the next standard bearer of the party based on his relationship with the CDC and its officials.
Unveiling his political agenda if elected President of Liberia, the onetime Justice Minister under slain President Samuel Doe, says uniting Liberians would be his top priority like his late uncle, and 18thPresident of Liberia, William V.S. Tubman, who introduced the Unification Policy, bringing indigenous Liberians and ex-slave settlers together.
Cllr. Tubman also promisesto ensure the establishment of a War Crimes Court in the country so that former warlords and others who committed atrocities could have their days in court, noting that Liberians should not continuously live with such huge atrocities inflicted on them by few people who even today have not realized the evil done to the people. “Our people suffered for long during those years of the wars and we think those who played major roles should give account.”
“I believed those who committed crimes against our people should give account of their deals. We cannot live with them in this kind of fashion. They should explain themselves to the Liberian people their reasons for those atrocities committed against our people,” he emphasizes.
As to UNMIL’s drawdown, he thinks it is too early for the departure of UNMIL, saying Liberia is about to hold elections which require the UN to be present so that things would be guided professionally, but the departure of the UN peace keepers, is worrisome and troubling.
By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor & Bridgett Milton-Edited by Jonathan Browne