MONROVIA – The situation with the opposition Liberty Party (LP) National Chairman could well be equated with the often quoted Liberian parable which says: “the dump truck that built the Executive Mansion cannot pass in front of the very Mansion”. With the Liberty Party poised to hold a special convention on September 5, 2020 that would, among other things, strengthen its position to contest the upcoming December 8, 2020 midterm senatorial elections and the 2023 presidential and general elections within the framework of the recently certificated Collaborating Political Parties, LP National Chairman, Senator Stephen J.H. Zargo, has of late been alarming over what he perceives as attempts by some Liberty Party higher-ups to remove him as National Chairman and replace him with Musa Hassan Bility. Seizing the opportunity to clear the air on these and other developments, the Lofa County lawmaker, in an exclusive interview with The Analyst over the weekend, outlined a myriad of reasons why he still enjoys the confidence of the Liberty Party and its partisans.
Specifically touching on the issue of an alleged attempt to remove him, and on critics who allegedly questioned his leadership, Chairman Zargo told The Analyst that the Liberty Party, as the country’s foremost opposition institution, has achieved a lot under his chairmanship, from an extremely challenging post-2017 elections period up to present.
“As you know, Liberty Party was founded by the late Counsellor Charles Walker Brunmskine, a visionary, an astute statesman and an erudite lawyer. May his soul rest in peace. In his wisdom, after the 2017 elections, when we discovered the results were marked by fraud, we started with the elections commission and finally took an appeal to the Supreme Court because that’s the kind of foundation our party is built on. We do not take the law into our hands by issuing invectives against our opponents, stoning people, destroying properties; because we are a democratic-centric party and we respect the rule of law. We felt that we were cheated; we felt that the elections were very irregular, and we felt the results were marred by egregious fraud that warranted a rerun, which didn’t happen. They admitted that the irregularities were egregious but not enough to overturn the results. But you and I know what is fraud. There is no small fraud. Fraud negates anything legal. Of course, we were devastated by the ruling but did not allow the 2017 events and the results to break down our democratic spirit and our quest to make Liberia better. We had a convention in Lofa County at the end of 2017 and I won unanimously as National Chairman of the Liberty Party. I think the Liberty Party had all the good reasons to make me their chairman even as we set the new normal of electing as chairman a senator who perfectly understands the workings of the first branch of government. Today, the ANC has a national chairman who is also a senator. I am told that the Unity Party is still engaged in having their convention, and that Senator Conmany Wesseh is contesting. Liberty Party has always set the new normal,” Chairman Zargo stated.
The Liberty Party National Chairman, who is also a long-serving distinguished law enforcement officer, said he became chairperson in order to resuscitate the hopes of the party after the devastating 2017 elections results.
“If you see Liberty Party now and look from where we came three years ago, you will appreciate the fact that we’ve lifted the party again. As one of our achievements, we worked closely with an independent candidate in Bong County to ensure his victory. If you noticed the involvement of our partisans in Bong County when Dr. Henrique Tokpa contested the Senate seat, it was one of my strategic engagements as national chairman. It was the Liberty Party that led that onslaught, and I was the captain,” Chairman Zargo proudly boasted.
Continuing on his achievements as national chairman, Senator Zargo said, “We didn’t just stop there. Under my chairmanship, today we’ve been able to whip CDC in Montserrado County which they consider their backyard. In the history of our body politics, no party has ever beaten CDC in Montserrado. It was the Liberty Party, working in concert with other parties, that defeated CDC. Today, it has left a mark on them. Today, we have Darius Dillon in the Senate under my chairmanship. Also, under my chairmanship, working with the founder of the party, Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine, we signed a framework document to start the Collaborating Political Parties. Today I am glad, in as much as he’s dead and gone, we were certificated last Friday as a Collaboration, consistent with Article 81 of our Constitution and the electoral law”.
He said, under his chairmanship, the Liberty Party is today considered a lead party of the opposition.
“Too often, we were criticized for not working to collaborate with other people. We were labeled the bookish party, the Bassa People Party. But under my chairmanship, those perceptions have been diffused. You have a Lofa County man from a Buzzi, Gbandi, Mandingo background as chairman of the Liberty Party. Most importantly, it is because of my chairmanship of the Liberty Party that my colleagues in the Senate chose me to represent Liberia at the ECOWAS Parliament as Co-chairman on the Committee on Trade, Custom and Free Movement, next to the Chief Whip of the Ghanaian Parliament who is a member of that country’s ruling establishment.
“So, for any of my handful of critics to question my leadership; for them to say I am busy with my senatorial job and I don’t have much time to devote to the party, therefore they want to bring in their own people, I think my achievements, which were accomplished with the full support of the Executive Committee of the Liberty Party, clearly defeat those assertions. And I feel proud that we’ve elevated the party to the extent that when you go to every nook and cranny of the country, our people are talking about the Liberty Party,” Chairman Zargo stated.
After he had provided a detailed account of his achievements, The Analyst further pressed Chairman Zargo on why he still strongly feels that people are attempting to remove him even after he has done so much for the party.
“I am glad that the Liberty Party National Secretary General is here with us. He is not only the longest serving SG of our party, but I could safely say the longest serving SG in the history of party politics in Liberia. Perhaps as an Executive Committee member, SG Jacob Julius Smith will be able to tell us why they want to remove me,” Chairman Zargo responded jovially.
LP Executive Committee Member Jacob Smith’s Take
But with a rather serious demeanor, the Liberty Party Secretary General debunked critics of Chairman Zargo who allegedly complained he is not doing much for the party because of his engagements as a sitting senator.
“I think the argument of Chairman Zargo not being available is a thin veil that is being used by confusionists to sow seeds of discord in the party; to destroy the internal cohesion we’ve always had. That’s exactly what’s happening. Now, let me take you back to the days of Counsellor Fonati Koffa when he served as our party’s National Chairman. When he was chairing the party, at times he had to visit the United States of America. The party was still functioning. We had a functional Executive Committee. Under Steve Zargo, in like manner, whenever he’s not around, for instance, when he travels for ECOWAS meetings for two or three weeks, he’s always made it his duty to leave someone in charge. And we’ve executed those agenda that the party has already set for itself. So that is not an argument. I think what’s happening in the Liberty Party right now is just the fact that you have a bunch of confusionists who want to come and destroy the internal cohesiveness of the party. And that, we stand against. It’s not going to happen,” SG Smith warned.
Rehashing the issue of Chairman Zargo’s achievements, SG Smith recalled how, following the party’s 2017 Executive Council Sitting in Voinjama, the Liberty Party held its first successful retreat in collaboration with the National Democratic Institute, under Chairman Zargo’s leadership.
“He financed part of the cost of having all of the party chairpersons transported from the various counties to come to Monrovia for that retreat which was basically to take stock of the past, especially of the 2017 elections, with a view of determining the way forward. One of the key things we discussed at that retreat, for example, was the collaboration with other political parties. Moreover, that was the perfect opportunity to have all of the country chairpersons coming together to have a deeper understanding of what is prevailing even at the national level,” SG Smith recalled.
He said Chairman Zargo has been the engine responsible for invigorating the spirit of oneness in the Liberty Party. “For example, it was through his instrumentality that the partisans were mobilized and reinvigorated during Dillon’s campaign. Throughout that period, he made sure that partisans were at the headquarters, they were provided food and other necessities just to electrify their spirit,” SG Smith disclosed.
Lamenting the ongoing attempt to replace Chairman Zargo, SG Smith added: “most of our friends after 2017 left the party for different individual undertakings, and we had to struggle to bring the party up to this point, to the extent that it became attractive under the direction of the late political leader, that we were able to get into a framework with other political parties. So I don’t understand what they mean when they say someone is not available and not contributing to the party. I think they may have been ostensibly wrong,” SG Smith stated.