Since President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf announced in 2010 that she will be a formidable candidate, her party, Unity Party (UP) has gone on what may be likened to a shopping spree to buy off vocal members of the of parties that pose serious challenge to her reelection quest. Her messengers are said to be carrying bundle of cash around as well as promises of jobs to buy off any figure of political substance.
So President Sirleaf’s definition of a “formidable candidate” is not only limited to touting the records of the jobs she has been doing as president since 2006, but also include bribing or cajoling members of other parties with cash or job offer. With lots of ambitious but hungry politicians around, that means many of them are ready to jump on the largesse thrown out by the president. Who will resist such offer when resisting it mean being hungry and hopeless?
While the president might have enjoyed some comfortable feeling over the fact that she has netted politicians like Edwin Snowe, Darius Dillon, Sam Wulu, Eugene Nagbe and others, she might have also being wishing that her most feared opponent, George Weah, will not agree to be second to anyone on a ticket. She might have been convinced and confident that when the scenario of 2005 is repeated in 2012, she would defeat Weah using the same argument that “he’s not experienced or educated.”
If she had thought this way all along, one may have concluded that Tubman-Weah ticket will send a shock wave through the spines of the president and her supporters. To many people, Tubman-Weah ticket is certainly a game changer comes 2011. George Weah is a national and international icon who is very popular, especially with the young people. It’s out of this love and admiration that a soccer icon was encouraged to throw in his hat in the political range. His entrance into the political race brought a lot of youth energy to the political process, propelling him to the first place in the first round.
Despite the huge popularity, people have always been skeptical whether Weah has the understanding, maturity, temperament and sophistication to lead a nation coming out of war. With this skepticism, some died hard supporters of Weah think he might have been denied a victory in 2005. Whatever that happened in 2005 is history now. Madam Sirleaf was declared the winner but Weah and his CDC remain the biggest challenge to her reelection bid.
Like a Beautiful Woman Chased by Every Man in Town
Other opposition politicians know that their own popularity pales in comparison to that of George Weah. As a result, all of them have been trying so hard to form alliance with the international soccer legend but the difficult question has been who should be on top of the ticket born out of such alliance. Like a beautiful woman chased by every man in town, Weah first went into a political marriage with Winston Tubman.
Then to Brumskine and now it’s back with Winston. Weah’s popularity with the down-trodden masses and Winston Tubman’s international credential are a “formidable” combination. This is the ticket that may give President Sirleaf a serious run for her money. She and her supporters might have pined their hope on the fact that Weah would not agree to be second to anyone on any ticket. With that put to rest now, President Sirleaf and her supporters must be scratching their heads now trying to figure answer to what seems like a political game changer.
Genuine Sacrifice or Crocodile Tears?
Few weeks ago, there was a CDC Convention in Kakata, Magibi County. Both Weah and Tubman vied for the top of the ticket. In the democratic process, Weah lost to Winston Tubman who then named him as his running mate. If we must believe that the process that produced the Tubman-Weah ticket was democratic as it is said to be by CDCeans, it is fair to say that CDC is more democratic than other political parties in Liberia.
None of the other political parties has subjected itself to internal democratic process like CDC did in Kakata. If we must tout CDC for its democratic credential in Kakata, others have said that the whole process was stage-managed. Before the convention’s result came out, there were already words on the streets that Weah would bow out and Tubman would come in. While the news came out as expected, there were pictures of Weah, Geraldine-Doe Sherif, and Acarius Gray crying profusely.
What is the meaning of the tears? Does it mean that Weah actually contested the standardbearership of the party but actually lost to Tubman? It’s hard to say what the tear was about. The tear says two things about the CDC Convention: either they were faking it or they were genuine. If it was genuine tear as a result of losing the party’s top post through an election, then one may be convinced that the process was free and credible. Whatever anyone may read into the CDC Convention and its result, it’s fair to say that Weah made the “ultimate sacrifice” by subordinating his personal interest to that of his party.
Perhaps he’s been realistic to know that no matter how popular he is, there’s the possibility that 2005 could be repeated in 2011 and he could be in the wilderness for another six years. As such, he will find it more comfortable being the vice president than just being an opposition leader for another six years. So if taking the second spot with someone can deliver the victory that eluded Weah and his supporters in 2005, then they have made a good and well calculated choice. If CDC succeeds with Weah as vice president, he will certainly have the opportunity for on the job training, preparing for the day when he should become president.
Coming in From the Cold
When Cllr. Winston Tubman was in Kakata for the CDC Convention, his wife, Mrs. Tubman was in Happer on some church conference in Maryland County. She could not be in Kakata. She had walked along with her husband so long with no prospect of getting anywhere close to winning the jackpot in the Liberian politic. She had seen her husband being bounced off from one political party to another. First, he was booted out of the NDPL which he represented in 2005 as a standard-bearer.
He went on to LINU of the former VP, Harry Moniba. He was booted out again. Cllr. Winston Tubman had somehow become a butt of joke within the political circle for bouncing in and out of parties. Some of his old connections within the current political establishment had gone far away from him, thinking that he was finished politically since he had been booted out of LINU.
The option the learned counselor had was to form his own political party or join another party again. Then news started filtering in that he had joined the CDC, the most popular grass root party. Looking at the recent political history of Liberia, Winston Tubman is not the only one that had bounced from one party to another.
President Sirleaf left the Liberia Action Party (LAP) for Unity Party (UP). Brumskine was booted out of the former Liberia Unification (LUP) and he founded his own party, the (Liberty Party LP). And now as we approach the election this year, there has been series of high profiled defection from one party to another. So jumping from one party to another is normal but when a person is booted out of two different parties and left hanging trying to figure out where to go next, he’s definitely subjecting himself to ridicule.
So it might have been an embarrassingly humiliating moment for the erudite counselor to find himself in such a position. His wife might have skipped town for a church conference in Maryland to get away from another round of embarrassment. But in the end, he came out victorious by winning the CDC’s internal contest for the standard-bearership. Whether it was pre-staged or not, the fact that Cllr. Tubman is on top of the ticket of the most popular grass root party is indeed a victory for him. Now his competitors are forced to take him seriously. Like we say in Liberia, disappointment can sometime be a blessing.
About the Author: Nvasekie N. Konneh is a poet and writer. Over the years in the US, he has been a prodemocracy activist and nine year veteran of the US Navy. He’s the author of a book of poetry, “Going to War for America,” poems about his experiences in the Liberian war and in the US military. He’s currently the publisher of the Uptown Review Magazine in Monrovia, which covers Liberian arts, culture and tourism. He can be reached @ KonnLove@aol.com or Knvasekie@yahoo.com