If the current security, economic and political progress prove true, the Unity Party ( UP) presidential nominee will be named the victor once ballots are counted in October this year. Over the past 10 years, Liberia has made significant progress in security sector reform, and economic and political development – factors that are enormously crucial in this year election. To assess Joseph Boakai’s chance of victory, we look at the progress made by the Sirleaf-Boakai led government. We will also analyse voter ideology in national elections by using County endorsement and vice presidential candidate selection.
National security is a precondition for economic and political development, which makes it an essential factor that concerns every Liberian despite their political affiliation. Because a robust security system is a necessary and sufficient condition for peace and stability – Does this sound like a valid argument? Yes, it is…
Since the end of the civil war in 2003 and the return to democracy in 2005, Liberia has been gradually rebuilding and returning to normalcy. Under the Sirleaf-Boakai leadership security sector reform was a top priority. Because they wanted to ensure that our children go to school safely. With the help of the International Community, our security sector underwent a massive reform which opened up the political space and ultimately boosted investors confidence, for example, in the mining sector.
It is reasonable to note that the Unity Party ( UP) government has been made considerable progress in providing security for all. According to the Peace Institute, Liberia’s post-conflict recovery process appears to be a success story for other nations. If you dig deeper, you will agree with my argument that the UP led government has made significant progress, because a body of international institutions has acknowledged this. For example, a report by the World Bank maintained that the current government has revived national hope by strengthening the institutions of national security and good governance which has revitalized its economy and infrastructure and restored its reputation (World Bank, 2014). An achievement that has unequivocally made Liberia a safer place for all. It also means that our democracy is booming, because a safe environment paves the way for a genuine democracy. This is an amazing achievement that every Liberian should celebrate. The perfect way to celebrate this is to VOTE for Joseph Boakai – play your role by sustaining our hard earned democracy. That is why voting for a responsible team to lead our nation has never been so crucial.
In 1996 when I visited Liberia there was fear and deprivation everywhere. In 2010, when I went back everything has changed. I saw happiness and progress. I was excited because Liberia was getting better as my best friend, the late Mamadee Diakite argued. But all of these require genuine commitments, hard work, and strong leadership – from our leaders. One of the quiet and behind-the-scene drivers in making all of these a reality is Vice President Joseph Boakai. And then, I got interested in him. Over the years, I have been following his role in the UP led government. And I got to know that he is a man with discipline, resilience who thinks thoughtfully about important policy issues and pushes for pragmatic solutions. These are the qualities we want to see in our next president. Boakai is the most experienced candidate to be trusted when it comes to sustaining and improving national security. Because he understands the challenges faced by the security sector. For instance, he knows that true national security is more than personal human safety but rather it also involves making sure that our national economy is growing and providing jobs. Furthermore, he understands the real impact of the Ebola outbreak that destroyed our health system and pushed thousands of Liberians back into poverty. Failure to elect a responsible government, like the Boakai- Nuquay team will make the recovery process even messier.
Eradicating poverty will not be possible without a sustainable economic growth that generates jobs and brings benefits to every Liberian. Generally, this includes boosting productivity within existing sectors as well as rebalancing national economy towards more productive sectors. For example, moving from agriculture to manufacturing. Such structural change in the national economy has lifted millions out of poverty. This, I would argue was a top priority of the Sirleaf-Boakai led government. Currently, no one understands this urgent needs better than Joseph Boakai. I have seen in him a fierce determination – a strong commitment to national security, food security and economic transformation (from agriculture to manufacturing). I have seen in him the possibility of what Liberia could be if there were capable leaders.
Before the Ebola outbreak, Liberia was making a significant progress in many sectors. In 2013 Liberia was ranked sixth among the top 10 countries with the highest GDP growth in the world ( Brookings Institute, 2014). Investors confidence was building up. Local businesses were growing. In many areas, major road projects were in progress. But all that being said, I know, as a Development Practitioner progress comes very slow, and not without its setbacks, for example, the Ebola outbreak. In 2014, Liberia was hit hard by the Ebola outbreak and the spiky decline in major commodities prices such as Iron Ore and Rubber. This was not only a setback for the UP led government but also the entire Mano River Region with the exception of Ivory Coast.
Many years of progress was wiped away in a few months. Every good politician or development practitioner understands that there will always be challenges in nation building. The good news is that: Joseph Boakai better understands these challenges. That is why he is the most prepared, qualified and experienced candidate in this election to face these challenges. I am certain that Liberians will overwhelmingly elect Honourable Joseph Boakai to continue the hard work. So, we presume that Joseph Boakai and his Vice Presidential candidate Emmanuel Nuquay are set to win 2017 election.
The selection of a vice presidential candidate has always prompted heated discussion,
for instance, how much does the VP pick really matter in an election? It has been noted that presidential candidates often consider geography when choosing a running mate – a pattern most political leaders follow. In order to answer the question above, I will use the effect of a County endorsing a presidential candidate based on the VP pick. A perfect example will be Bong County in 2005 presidential election, which I will term as the “Bong Effect”. The “Bong Effect” is a political model developed by Dr. Winston Tubman. It was based on the calculation that if you pick a running mate based on geography ( from a vote-rich county) it is more likely to influence the general election outcome in one’s favour. Interestingly, in 2005, Winston won over 40% of the vote in Bong County. One possible reason for this is the impact of a VP selection based on geography. Now it is easy to see why this model has become popular in modern elections in Liberia. For example, this year, both Cumming of the ANC and George Weah of CDC have selected their running mates from Bong County. The hard fact is that neither of them will win Bong as Winston did in 2005 because Bong has become a battleground. That being said, we strongly presume that Boakai and Nuquay are positioned to edge out a victory in Bong County. For starters, Bong and Lofa are good neighbours and so are Bong and Margibi. This means that most residents in Bong County are more likely to vote for the Unity Party – Good Neighbour Effect.
And then George Weah selection of Jewel Taylor as his running mate will do him more harm in many parts of Liberia, including Bong County. For example, CDC is set to lose a large percentage of the Muslim votes in Bong and many parts of Liberia. Because religious and ethnic diversity plays an important role in many contemporary democracies across the globe. In this case, we argue that Jewel Taylor role in supporting a failed bill that threatens secularism will do CDC more harm in this election. After many years of civil war, we need a multicultural society that embraces diversity – diversity should be our source of strength, not weakness.
Building further on County endorsement and VP selection. Boakai has played a smart game by selecting his running mate from Margibi. Margibi constitutes about 5% of Liberia’s population. This means that the County has become a vote-rich zone and one of the key players in deciding this year election because of its population size. Again, we presume that Boakai and Nuquay will win Margibi which will also influence the general outcome.
The Liberty Party ( LP) which is struggling to sell its political ideology to the Liberians has made a similar mistake. Charles Brumskine’s selection of a vice presidential candidate from Nimba will do him little favour. This is because there are two big names from the County in this year election which has ultimately reduced the voting weight it carries in deciding who governs Liberia. In other words, the presence of Karnwea and Johnson on the ballots means that Nimba is no longer a vote-rich country for a particular candidate in this election. It also means that the Liberty Party strategy to increase its national voting share will not be effective.
Remember the Bong-Bassa marriage was a political disaster for LP in one of the past elections. So will the Bong -Nimba marriage be a political earthquake for LP, again?
Even more disturbing for LP is that the party has failed to identify the reasons why it has been struggling to come second place in the past two elections despite the so-called popularity Brumskine has enjoyed in some segments of the Liberian community – based on his divisive religious message in his campaigns. For example, Liberty Party slipped from third place in 2005 to fourth place 2011. This means nothing has changed in term of strategic planning. Except for the coming of a few rich businessmen with deep pockets to finance his campaign. Considering these and others factors, Joseph Boakai is set to win 2017 election.
Presidential candidate credibility is an integral part of any modern election. If this is true, then it raises an important question: Do Liberians really trust Weah or Brumskine to lead? The answer is NO. The fact is that Liberians trust neither Weah nor Brumskine in delivering the political goods that will benefit everyone. Trust and credibility are inseparable. Credibility is a valuable quality that all leaders must aspire to obtain. Establishing credibility as a leader isn’t something that happens instantaneously. It’s a process that involves time, hard work and patience. Sadly, both Weah and Brumskine have failed the credibility test. For example, George Weah has been in national politics for over 10 years but has failed to learn and improve his political career. He is currently struggling to keep up with his duties in Parliament. In the case of Brumskine, do you really trust a ‘Corporate Lawyer’ to govern? Think about this… Furthermore, the Liberty Party lacks intra-party democracy that is why Brumskine has been the only presidential candidate since 2005? On the other hand, Boakai has built his leadership credibility as one of the finest politicians in modern Liberia. Liberians strongly believe that he will deliver the political goods that will benefit everyone. That is why most political analysts have projected that Joseph Boakai is inching toward a big victory. That being said, Boakai and Nuquay will have to continue the hard work in order to firmly seal their victory.
Join the campaign to sustain our gain and progress with Boakai and Nuquay
Musa V. Sheriff
Perth, Western Australia
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article, are not the views of the New Dawn newspaper.