MONROVIA – With few months left to holding of the 2023 presidential and general elections in which President George Manneh Weah’s Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) is hankering to clinch a second term, political bookmakers are confused over the trending events from Liberia’s vote-rich Nimba County that could upset the cart for the CDC. In recent days, Nimba County Senator Prince Y. Johnson (PYJ), his political godson, Nimba County Senator Jeremiah Kpan-Koung, and their Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction (MDR) political outfit have been sending jittery feelers that they might not support President George Weah’s 2023 second term bid based on the myriad of defaults with the political marriage that saw the MRD and its kingpin PYJ throwing their weight behind the CDC in 2017. But a prominent son of Nimba County who is now gunning for the District #7 Representative seat, Musa Hassan Bility of the opposition Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) and the Liberty Party (LP), says the CPP is happy that things are happening that way for the MDR relative to defaults on the appointment of Nimbaians in the Weah government and other social development benefit issues to the county, noting that the CPP has a better option for the people of Nimba County that encompasses personal or political party gains, but one that would benefit all Nimbaians and Liberia in general.
Making the assertion recently when he appeared on the Spoon Talk show, businessman-turned-politician Bility said the MDR being a pragmatic political organization has the right to be concerned about what is happening in Nimba county. However, Bility conjectured that the MDR should have sooner flagged those issues it felt were not being lived up by the CDC, especially during the midterm period of President Weah’s administration.
“They have options that’s why they are falling back. I am here. I am from Nimba and in the CPP. We are going to offer our county a better option than they have right now. We are happy that things are happening that way. The CPP has a better option for Nimba. I was going to ask the MDR during the campaign, about what they were taking to the Nimbaians as opposed to the price for supporting the government. There was an agreement signed. We all have access to that agreement. Was that agreement implemented? Why was it not implemented?
“If you look back at the last government and see the number of Nimbaians in that government, you know there is a massive difference. Is this government capable of restoring that in the next 11 months when the position really doesn’t matter anymore? Most of the people are going to be taking break to go for vacation. At the end of the year the legislature is going for break. The question is, what happened to the five years? There is the Mital Steel issue where the money that should come to the county is supposed to be placed in an escrow account but it is not there. I don’t even know why these issues are coming out this late. I guess internally the MDR leadership is frustrated. But the CPP will reach out to them. We will make better offers. And we will provide more opportunities for the county. I am not in the MDR, but I know it is serious.
“Forget about all of the other 14 counties. It is Nimba that made the difference. How do you have smaller counties with all of these positions and Nimba has nothing. Again, you have to ask the government: what was the deal? We can’t just say the government did not live up to its commitment. My understanding is that there was a written commitment for a number of ministerial and deputy ministerial positions,” Bility said, in referencing to the current MDR gripe with the Weah-led administration over the allotment of only proper ministerial position to Nimba County, after Nimbaians had thrown their weight behind the CDC to ensure them win the 2017 presidential elections.
“First of all, if you don’t look to this county, don’t expect this county to look to you when the time comes. That warning coming 11 months to elections looks a little bit too late to me. I would have raised that alarm as soon as the first cabinet is formed,” Bility stated, noting that as an incoming Nimba County Representative, there will be serious representation from Nimba County that will prevent such problems from occurring.
“Therefore, you will not have such problem. Even if you are in the opposition, no government will look at a county like Nimba and ignore it. Nimba has over 1.5 million votes. And we are going to do a lot of registration this year. Take it from me,” Bility vowed.
On the issue of whether the people of Nimba County sold their soul to the government through Senator Prince Y. Johnson and his MDR, and they are now living with the aftermath of a bad deal, Bility disagreed with the notion.
“I don’t agree with that. The constitution gives the president the right to decide who he or she appoints. Whatever political arrangement you had with the president; it is still up to the president to live up to that. Senator Johnson and Senator Koung are senators from different branch of the government. They can have an agreement, under our constitution, but that agreement has no standing. The constitution is very clear that the president is the head of the executive and he decides who sits where. So, I believe that there was an agreement. I have been told; I have heard that today. If that agreement is not implemented, how can you blame them. The only blame I would give them is that they didn’t raise the alarm early. But political arrangements are not legally binding on the president. As senators, they have the authority to authorize nominations made by the president, not on the condition whether the person is person is from Nimba, but whether or not the person is the right fit for the job. Their political arrangement is separate from their legislative responsibility. My only point is that, at least at the midterm, they should have sounded the alarm. But this is good for the CPP, we have a better option for Nimba,” Bility averred.
Strengthening the Legislature for Better Nimba
One of the main contending governance issues is that the Legislature has allowed itself to become a rubber-stamp branch that kowtows to the whims of the Executive in return for perks. Bility says as a representative of Nimba County, such tendency will not see the light of day. He promised that his legislative actions will be premeditated to the benefit of the people of Nimba first, and to the country in general second.
“First, as a Nimbaian and as a legislator, I will not sign unto the budget until and unless the money that Nimba is supposed to get from the Mittal Steel arrangement is fully paid to Nimba. In my district, for instance, there are two major health centers, one is in Bahn, and one is in Sacleapea. Before this government, these two centers were receiving annually US$150,000 and US$200,000 respectively. Today, the two hospitals are receiving less than US$150,000. The representative signs unto that budget and takes US$30,000. So, you give away your people’s access to healthcare facilities just because they pay you US$30,000. I will not do that. I will make sure that is restored and I will make sure that in my county we have a legislature that sits to review the national budget as a team and then form a county-wide position as to each item. Because, when the people elect 11 members of the legislature, two for senate and nine for the House, it is for them to get together in the interest of the county, not to act individually. There is nothing as District 7, when there are other eight districts in Nimba County that are not doing well.
“As lawmakers, we have to unite in spite of whatever political party we are from. As representative of Nimba, I will strive on getting us to agree on more things than what we disagree on. For example, the condition of our roads, our hospitals, healthcare, education, access to finance. We will not touch the national budget unless those things are taken care of. That’s how you build a big county stature. So, if the government realizes that there is going to be budget that Nimba County is not signing unto, trust me, they will not pass that budget; because that will put them against the people of Nimba,” Bility intoned.
Going further, the Nimba County District #7 lawmaker said successive governments have succeeded in dividing Nimba County legislators to the extent that they don’t agree on anything because that’s the only way government can have their way.
“We will change that. Do you know that the entire Nimba County, there is only one pickup for the security forces? In a county of over 1 million people, six cities, there is only pickup. Nimba County gives the government of Liberia over 30% of its revenue. We get nothing in return. That has to change. By now, we should be making laws to ensure that a percent of revenue generated in the county stays in the county. This brings about competitiveness.
“Yes, I am going to represent District 7, but beyond and above District 7, I am going to represent Nimba County. Any serious government will have to take Nimba seriously. For Nimba to have Minister is a joke. How would we have allowed this to happen? As opposition that is running for a seat in the county, I will take that case to the Nimba people. And I can tell them that under a CPP government led by Alexander Cummings, we will have nothing less than five Nimbaians as cabinet ministers. We will fight for that; and we will push Mr. Cummings’ hands to do that. When you want to represent the country, you have to know where the majority of the people are. Government has to reflect that. Of course, you can’t compromise competence, and all the other qualities of a good administrator, but we have everything in Nimba. We lack nothing,” Mr. Bility asserted.