Fonati Koffa’s Winning Ways -How a Freshman Legislator Clinched the Deputy Speakership

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Counsellor J. Fonati Koffa might come across as a newbie legislator but his victory last Tuesday certainly smacked of a politician who knew what he was up against and what he needed to get the job done. Wrestling for a position that had just been made vacant by the ascendency of an opposition legislator to the Senate, Cllr. Fonati Koffa’s victory signaled a Herculean task that was achieved especially against the background of the opposition’s stellar performance in the just ended senatorial elections where they clinched major victories in the country’s main vote-rich regions. As The Analyst reports, a cursory analysis of Cllr. Koffa’s Tuesday stint on Capitol Hill shows a character who bridged party lines to even touch the hearts of not only a few of his staunchest opposition colleagues, but those independent lawmakers who hold equal sway in the House of Representatives.

Running against his main opposition contender from the Collaboration Political Parties (CPP), Cllr. Fonati Koffa, a former National Chairman of the opposition Liberty Party (LP) who later switched sides to the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), won Lofa County District #3 Representative Clarence Massaquoi of the former ruling Unity Party by 45 votes, representing 67.16 percent of the total votes cast. The CPP candidate managed to rally 20 votes, representing 29.88 percent of the total 68 votes cast from a total membership of 73 lawmakers.

The backdrop

The build up to the elections showed the opposition in high momentum, given their recent surprising victories at the polls during the December 8 senatorial elections. However, critics of the CPP had already started to decry the CPP choice for the deputy speaker position when the name of Lofa County District 3 Representative Clarence Massaquoi cropped up.

“He’s not people-centered!” some critics said. Others saw Representative Massaquoi as tight-fisted, meaning he’s very frugal with money, a factor many believed plays into the internal power wrangling when it comes to legislative elective power jockeying during secret ballot casting on Capitol Hill.

On the other hand, word had also started getting around on Capitol Hill that the Grand Kru District #2 lawmaker would win because he was clearly the go-to guy to make things happen. Many saw Cllr. Koffa as not only knowledgeable in legal matters, but easily accessible and people-friendly. But with the albatross of geophysical balance weighing somehow against his candidacy, his critics believed that Cllr. Koffa would not be allowed to take up the deputy speaker position against the fact that the entire leadership of the legislature was not only already dominated by lawmakers from  Southeastern Liberia, but were all members of the ruling CDC party.

Following his expected victory on Tuesday, Cllr. Fonati Koffa enjoined his colleagues to work hard to enact laws to benefit the people of Liberia, noting, it was an honor to serve the Liberian people.

The magnitude of Cllr. Koffa’s victory, which seems to have cut across party lines, is clearly evident in the spontaneity of positive responses even from the staunchest opposition critics of the ruling party.

While others are contending that Cllr. Koffa lobbied hard with opposition lawmakers and especially independent lawmakers to make his case for the deputy speakership, and that he also used cash violence to convince lawmakers to vote for him, some opposition critics were angry why didn’t the CPP candidate leverage his own influence to cut across the aisle and convince the independent lawmakers to elect their candidate.

“The truth is that the CPP put up a candidate that they shouldn’t have put there in the first place,” says one strong member of the opposition Liberty Party which is one of the constituent members of the CPP.

“We believe so much in what happened on December 8, that we are letting our guards down. If we make the same mistakes, we will pay at the polls in 2023,” she said.

Cllr. Koffa is a founding member of the opposition Liberty Party, a constituent member of the CPP. He served as Liberty Party chairman from 2011 to 2014, overseeing its growth and expansion.

He however resigned from the Liberty Party and joined the CDC where he serves as a member of the Executive Council.

Cllr. Koffa began his legal career in the United States in 1998 in private practice and moved to Liberia in 2009 to become a founder and Managing Partner of the International Law Group (ILG), now one of the emerging corporate and government firms in Liberia. He was admitted to the Supreme Court Bar of Liberia as valedictorian of its Class of 2014.

The new Deputy House Speaker was educated at the University Of North Carolina School Of Law at Chapel Hill, where he obtained a Juris Doctorate (JD) degree in Law. He also holds a Master Degree in Public Administration (MPA) from Raleigh, North Carolina State University, and a Bachelor of Public Administration (Cum Laude) with a concentration in Urban Planning, from Shaw University, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA.

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