The Task before JNB/CPP

IT IS OFTEN said that disagreement among members, crises and other turbulent events are all hallmarks and the beauty of democracy, especially in an environment where two or more parties with their own unique structures, philosophies, leadership styles and orientations are opting to operate under one tent to pursue a single goal. In some cases, being stubborn enough to suppress the differences that exist, and moving on to race towards the bigger picture, have served as a defining moment in making the political marriage or collaboration much stronger and at the end of the day, victories come along the way.

THE COLLABORATING POLITICAL PARTIES (CPP), despite all the back and forth with the crises affecting the party, took similar  route last week Friday, October 15, 2021, when an elaborate turning over ceremony was held to herald the emergence of the Standard Bearer of the Unity Party (UP) Joseph Nyumah Boakai, Sr. as the next Chairman of the fledgling opposition block comprising of the former ruling Unity Party (UP), the Liberty Party LP), the Alternative National Congress (ANC) and the All Liberia Party (ALP) to lead them for the next eight months. He will be the fourth to serve the position after Benoni Urey, Alexander Cummings and Senator Nyonblee Kargar-Lawrence who handed over the gavel of authority to the former Vice President.

WE SALUTE MR. Boakai on his ascendency as the Chairman of the opposition block and see this as a major watershed in the history of CPP during the critical time of its existence. With the task ahead, his experience, wisdom, and age will play a crucial role in navigating the murky roads ahead. We will return to him later but for now let us set the tone of this editorial.

SINCE ITS ESTABLISHMENT in May, 2019, three political leaders as per the agreement on the leadership arrangement have served in similar capacity and performed specific tasks. Urey led in its formative stage when the politicians were conceiving the idea of forming a collaboration. Cummings led them to the registration process, where it was officially certificated by the National Elections Commission (NEC) and took them to the historic December 8, 2020 Special Midterm Senatorial race with resounding victories that have put the ruling establishment under immense pressure; while Nyonblee should have organized a convention to pick the sole candidate of the party to contest against the incumbent President George Manneh Weah in 2023. But her tenure was marred by some controversies bordering on an allegation of alteration of the Framework document levied against Mr. Alexander B. Cummings, political leader of the ANC by Mr. Benoni Urey of ALP. The task of doing so now has been shifted to Mr. Boakai and that alone has put huge pressure and demand on the former Vice President.

BACK TO MR.  Boakai. His tenure will be the most herculean task of all those who have served before him. Upon his head rests the weighty crown of picking the sole candidate to bear the torch of CPP against the incumbent President George Manneh Weah in 2023. It is already generating so many controversies in the polity and Mr. Boakai being one of the two interested persons will be under the radar. How the party under his stewardship goes through this major test will define the fate of their teeming supporters, sympathizers and others who see them as the right alternative and platform to challenge, and if possible dislodge President Weah and his CDC led government from power.

WE CANNOT WRITE off in a hurry all the unnecessary distractions, confusion, attacks and counterattacks and controversies that have engulfed the party for some time now. These ugly situations have the propensity to disrupt their entire dream if care is not taken. Mr. Boakai is aware of all these and it was unfortunate that with his wealth of experience and age, he has not been forthcoming to address them and put everything under his control.

HOWEVER, GOOD ENOUGH, he has woken up to the occasion now that he is leading the CPP to find lasting solutions to the problems, even if not all so that the opposition will once again breathe the sigh of relief.

WE TAKE INTEREST in his public admittance that he takes responsibility of all that have been happening but remained silent, and that he will henceforth play a major role to resolve these things and we quote him so as to put him on record: “Without any defense and justification, I accept full responsibility for all the tethering issues of today. My eloquent silence in the face of these internal wrangling and exchanges strengthens my courage to know that mere defending our individual positions without a deep sense of collectivity only makes us weaker. Where others see breakdowns, we see an opportunity to build and become stronger, where others see despair, we offer hope and in the face of what appears to be division, we will work with our colleagues to unite”.

AS GOOD AS this may be reassuring, we believe Mr. Boakai needs to go beyond mere making commitment; it must be backed by real action that will be practically seen. There is no way one can sugar-coat anything that CPP faces serious crises that are threatening its existence and survival. Boakai got the first dose of it all on the eve of his preferment when a major constituent party, the ANC, took a position not to attend the turning over ceremony and another one, the Liberty Party official did not form part of the program because of procedural errors in the planning and executing the program. This is worrisome.

THE FIRST TASK before Mr. Boakai therefore is to pursue a genuine process for reconciliation and take actions to mend fences with all those who felt aggrieved with all the back and forth in the party. Partisans, supporters and other well-wishers must be given the confidence that the leaders are ready, willing and able to work together for the good of the Liberian people first and then for the collaboration.

SECONDLY, MR. BOAKAI, though an interested person vying to head the sole ticket, must ensure that the process leading to, during and after the selection of the person that will lead the ticket against President Weah must be sincere, transparent, open, free and fair so as to maintain the group as a strong and united front moving forward. Anything short of this will amount to a total disaster in 2023. Perhaps we need to remind the opposition block the importance of a united front in an electoral process that is difficult to be won by a single party. At least for the first time in opposition politics in the country, a united front dislodged a ruling establishment from governance in 2017.

IT IS ALSO important to stress that though the leadership gavel has been given to the UP Standard Bearer and much is extended from him, it is also a matter of commitment that the other political leaders and their supporters rally around him with the maximum support the party needs to keep its hope alive. Bickering and all forms of undermining will not do any good for them. It will only strengthen the CDC that they are trying to unseat from state power.

THE CPP IS a clear attempt to again create this sense of momentum within the opposition, and so replicate a tried and tested formula for debilitating the ruling party. In 2017, the creation of the Coalition for Democratic Congress (CDC) gave Mr. Weah enough support to oust the UP when Boakai was the standard bearer. By comparison, Mr. Weah has had far less time to establish the patronage networks needed to withstand the same thing happening to him.

THE TASK TO uproot the ruling establishment is seen to have been made easy already from the government’s failure to address many issues that affect the citizens relative to rising insecurity, galloping unemployment, untold human sufferings and misery in the country. But it is not really possible to garner such support and record a resounding electoral feat by the CPP when the opposition bloc itself is plagued with crises threatening its future.

THE JOB AHEAD is going to be herculean and Mr. Boakai should know that a lot is at stake and rest on his ability to weave together ideas, thoughts, creativity and foresight backed by the right perspective to lead the CPP to its promised land. Please fulfil the task ahead of you Mr. Boakai.

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