With the December 8, 2020 midterm senatorial elections just around the corner, at a time that the opposition Liberty Party (LP) is fielding two prime candidates for the hotly contested Montserrado and Grand Bassa County seats, news of internal wrangling that could impact the party’s performance keep surfacing. From what The Analyst has gathered, Liberty Party National Chairman, Senator Stephen J.H. Zargo, is not satisfied at all over what he sees as unsavory attempts by some party executives to use the planned September 5, 2020 Special Convention to elect party stalwart, businessman Musa Hassan Bility, as the new National Chairman.
According to LP national chairman Zargo, when he held a press conference on August 5, 2020 at the party’s national headquarters, “the Chairman of the National Advisory Council, a non-administrative structure of LP, Mr. Musa Hassan Bility, intersected the County Chairs in Kakata, Margibi County, where he camped them for two nights”.
Senator Zargo further disclosed that prior to this situation, Mr. Bility had also dispatched the Vice Chair for operations, Mr. Elder Jallah, to meet and concoct a petition along with the County Chairs, seeking to endorse him (Hassan Bility) as National Chairman of Liberty Party, while he (Zargo) is still seated as Chairman and other EC members are still enjoying their legal term on the executive committee.
The LP national chairman said, while it was not unusual for the Constitution Review Committee (CRC) to have invited county chairpersons of the counties to participate in August 1-2, 2020 National Executive Council Sitting of the Liberty Party held in the City of Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, he became confounded by the attempt by Mr. Bility to influence the county chairpersons.
“At this juncture, I became confounded as to what was at stake. But on closer examination, I realized that a plot was in the making. A Constitution Review Committee with a limited mandate, had also proceeded outside of its orbit, to begin planning for a Special Convention to be held on September 5, 2020 for the unlawful and unnecessary purpose of electing a new leadership team for LP. Where did the CRC obtain its mandate from to set convention date? Who authorized such a convention?” the seemingly embattled LP national chairman wondered.
Senator Zargo admits that the party’s constitution which is under review provides in Article VIII that the Standard Bearer or Political Leader may call a special session of the National convention to be called The Special Convention.
“It also states in session 2 of the same article that the Special Convention may be called for a general or limited purpose, as laid out in a special order issued by the Standard Bearer or Political Leader,” Senator Zargo intoned.
He further disclosed that, in the middle of the review process, the CRC in conjunction with the committee constituted to plan for the Executive Council Sitting for the purpose of validating and adopting the Constitution, under the influence of Musa Bility had already set September 5, 2020, as the date for a Special Convention to elect new officers.
“The question is, what prompted the committee to have moved in the direction of conceiving a convention and setting a date, when the CRC had not completed its work to make submission to the National Executive Committee and the Political Leader? The Political Leader had not made any declaration of a need for Convention, either through a written order or in a meeting of the Executive Committee, as contained in Article VIII; so, where did the Committee derive the authority from?” Senator Zargo wondered.
The Lofa County lawmaker said he is convinced by the actions of partisan Bility that he may have been working closely with some members of the CRC and the Executive Council Planning Committee, and a few members of the Executive Committee in plotting the removal of the leadership that was elected in Voinjama in 2018.
“As evidence thereto, we noticed alarming language in the proposed revised constitution under the section titled Transitional Clause. The language in the Transitional Clause sought to apply the new law retroactively, by mandating that upon coming into force of the revised constitution, all positions elected in 2018 are automatically dissolved and that a Special Convention is to be held in 60 days of the adoption of the new constitution,” Senator Zargo noted.
Addressing what he saw as flaws in the revised constitution, Senator Zargo questioned the rationale of having a Transitional Clause that is retroactively applied. “The fact that we had all agreed to review our constitution does not necessitate the dissolution of the EC,” he said.
The LP national chair also noted the insensitivity of holding a national convention under one year of the passing of the party’s Father and former Political Leader, Cllr. Charles W. Brumskine.
“We had suggested, as a mid-way between what they want and our legitimate position, that the party should give a minimum honor to the man who shaped our institution so significantly, and by extension, our nation’s democracy, by allowing his death anniversary to elapse, i.e. Nov. 20, 2020. After this date, the leadership could determine a feasible date. This too fell on deaf ear. Musa Bility and his group would go at all lengths to run the convention in 60 days,” Senator Zargo lamented.
The Lofa County lawmaker also highlighted that the potential negative effect of holding a convention in an environment of acrimony when the party, within the framework of the CPP, is facing crucial election, especially in Grand Bassa and Montserrado Counties, far outweighs any benefit to holding an election now.
“Again, we had requested that in order not to dampen our chances at the pools in the 2020 midterm election, the convention should be suspended, notwithstanding its impropriety, to allow us keep our focus as a team. We thought this was a sufficient compromising position. This too was downplayed,” Senator Zarbo intoned, noting that at this point, he believed there was something beyond a mere change of leadership.
He disclosed that, as the proceedings of the Sitting got more clouded with signs of delegates being overly compromised, a good number of the EC members boycotted the second session.
“Absolutely, there was nothing logical one could suggest to save the day. Later, we were informed that the Political Leader, Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence, used her reasonable judgment to call for adjustment of the 60-day convention plan to now read, within 150 days,” Senator Zargo averred.
He further noted that while he applauds the political leader for the foresight and leadership to protect the best interest of Liberty Party and the memory and legacy of Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine, he is constrained to deduce that there are just too many things to be desired of the demand of Mr. Musa Bility and some EC members for the holding of convention within sixty days and the solicitation of petition from Chairpersons of the Counties, even when the appropriate decision-making layers of the party had not ordered any such convention.
The Lofa County lawmaker conjectured that those decisions that are concocted to breed conflict within the party could be based on beliefs in some quarters that Mr. Bility has money to sponsor the campaign budgets of the Liberty Party candidates.
“Well, if this be the case, he does not necessarily have to become Chairman now before doing so. As a partisan who wants to hold a bigger stake, which he did before, partisan Bility could go ahead and do so. This would be an added advantage to his bid for the Chairmanship after the midterm election,” Senator Zargo reasoned.
He also conjectured that people believe that he (Chairman Zargo) does not spend money.
“This is completely untrue, as I have, since ascending to the Chairmanship, been involved with expenses related to LP’s operational expenditure significantly (Including LP’s collaborative efforts with Bong County Senator, Dr. Togba, support to Senator Dillon’s campaign for the Montserrado seat, providing vehicle for the Youth Wing of our Party, contribution to our rental obligation, personal assistance to ordinary partisans, etc.,” Senator Zargo noted.
Chairman Zargo also noted, that there is a perceived threat of an LP-UP bond within the CPP, in which he could play a role in cementing, and that certain higher-ups don’t feel comfortable about such.
He further inferred that “certain invisible hand is playing behind-the-scene role to ensure that LP, a valuable member of the Collaboration, is put in disarray so as to undermine the cohesiveness and success of the CPP”.
“Indeed, we are at a cross road. And, we cannot play the proverbial ostrich. We must recognize the threats that are being posed to our cohesiveness and unity of purpose. Many of our partisans have devoted valuable time to ensure that this party succeeds, alone or in the collaboration with others. In this vein, I am appealing to our PL and the general partisanship of Liberty Party, to go beyond the rephrasing of the convention clause by being definite about the 150 days language. We would like to see an exact language that sets the convention date at 150 days after the Council Sitting,” Chairman Zargo stated.
Political Leader Calls for Calm
Meanwhile, the political leader of the Liberty Party, Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence, has called on partisans who may have qualms with outcomes of the party’s recent Grand Bassa County National Executive Council Sitting to refrain from making public statements on the matter, and taking actions which would breed conflict while internal remedies are being sought.
“While these disagreements are nothing strange to political processes and do reflect the beauty of democracy, I herewith call on all partisans who may have disagreements with the outcomes of the council sitting to refrain from making public utterances on this matter and taking actions which would breed conflict while internal remedies are being sought,” Senator Lawrence cautioned.
According to the LP political leader, as a party, the LP has a unique approach to resolving its differences and would not allow any individual or group of individuals to alter the history and values that have earned the LP much acclamation and respect nationally and internationally.
“It is my hope that everyone takes note of this and channel all grievances through the requisite internal dispute resolution mechanisms,” Senator Lawrence said in a press release issued August 5, 2020.
The National Executive Council of the Liberty Party comprises its Political Leader and ten prominent partisans appointed by the Political Leader; the National Chairman, Secretary General and all Vice Chairpersons; and all county chairpersons.
Senator Lawrence further explained that the decision to hold the Buchanan Sitting of the National Executive Council was an outcome of the 2019 Voinjama Convention which brought the current leadership of the party into existence, and was reinforced at a National Leadership Retreat held in Buchanan in February of this year, consistent with Article XII of the Party’s Constitution.
“The Office of the Political Leader herewith clarifies that the recently-held Executive Council Sitting was in strict adherence to the Constitution of the Liberty Party as quoted herein above; and as such, decisions reached at the sitting are binding,” Senator Lawrence stated emphatically.
Zargo Resignation Rumor Quashed
Relatedly, Liberty Party National Secretary General, Jacob Julius Smith, has refuted trending rumors regarding the resignation of the party’s National Chairman, Senator Stephen J.H. Zargo.
“In the last 48 hours, we have been inundated with calls from Liberty Partisans across the country seeking information as to trending rumors regarding the resignation of our National Chairman, Senator Stephen J.H. Zargo,” SG Smith said, in press release dated August 8, 2020.
Mr. Smith noted that the news circulating that Chairman Zargo has resigned is mere rumor and has no basis in facts.
“Chairman Zargo remains mentally, politically and psychologically balanced to administer the daily affairs of our party under the direction of the Political Leader, and with advice from the National Advisory Council,” the LP General Secretary noted.
“As a valuable member of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), we are constructively engaged with activities of the CPP, and call on our partisans to ignore all distractions from rumormongers,” Mr. Smith stated.