MONROVIA: Since the 2023 electoral campaign started, President George Manneh Weah and his Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) have now begun entering serious battleground territories and infrastructurally challenging provinces. Lofa is particularly outstanding in a number of ways on these fronts, for being the native domain and stronghold of Ambassador Joseph N. Boakai, the President’s most formidable rival in the elections, and that the county, like several others, is terribly plagued by worsening road conditions. The aforementioned conditions, mainly the road condition, stare grimly in the face of the President as he moved from district to district on campaign trails in the county. Though the President, fondly nicknamed “Bad Road Medicine” for his robust focus on paving roads since his incumbency, embarked upon the pavement of Lofa’s major highway from the Bong end, he has now been getting a deeply fair appreciation of the dreadfulness of road conditions in the county. He just could not ignore but speak to the situation, assuring the people of the county that he would treat as an utmost priority and will hasten with the completion of the remaining parts of the Lofa road in his second term. The Analyst reports.
In the last two days, and for the first time since August 5 when the campaign period was announced by the National Elections Commission (NEC), President George Manneh, entered Lofa County, home of his most venomous political foe.
Of the 15 counties of Liberia, Lofa is the only county that President Weah did not win in the 2017 elections. Ambassador Joseph Boakai, former Vice President of 12 years under the regime of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, won the county.
Lofa is not just a “Green Province”—the official color of the former ruling Unity Party on whose ticket Mr. Boakai, a Lofan, serves as Standard Bearer; it is also challenged critically in terms of social services, mainly road network.
Thus, for the President, messaging was to be key entering the “pepperbush” or “backyard” of the CDC’s most difficult political terrain, and fortunately a paved road into the county began only during the first six years of his government.
Ambassador Boakai, for 12 years (2006-2017), served as Vice President of Liberia during a period widely described as “Liberia’s golden days”—golden days because it was when the country attracted the largest international goodwill and a per capital income only matching the 1950s/60s where the country’s GDP topped all countries in the world except Japan. Unfortunately, for 12 years, Boakai, the native Lofan, and his then ruling Unity Party failed to pave an inch of Lofa road.
President Weah therefore has got something to tell the people of Lofa, mainly on their most felt interest—road network—and other infrastructural interventions his administration has made in six years directly or indirectly through Lofa-born officials serving in his Government.
Getting deep inside Lofa, mainly rural towns such as Zorzor and Voinjama cities, was an audacious journey for the President and his campaign caravans. The roads are most challenging.
Those whose vehicles could not make it to pass risky terrains are still grappling with mechanical breakdowns experienced on the road, while some had to give a U-turn to Bong County.
But the President and a large number of his entourage made it through, and he just could not fashion any campaign message without mention of the condition of the roads.
“People of Lofa, I have seen your roads,” the Liberian leader said, almost sounding like someone wanting to say, “I have seen and experienced in person the terrible times you have had with road condition in these parts and I deeply share your pains.”
He continued, sparking huge applause: “But you can rest assured that my administration, if reelected, will treat the road network we already started in this county with utmost urgency and priority. We will get it from where it is; it will pass through here and reach as far as Menikoma.”
The President said one of the reasons Lofa should participate fully in his reelection is that the county, despite its history of having some of its brightest sons and daughters in government, never experienced or benefited from paved road until his administration.
“Despite the huge challenges my administration has been faced with, including COVID-19, coupled with huge development deficits we met on the books, we still try to do something for every county and every community,” he said. “Our impact and handiwork can be felt and seen everywhere in this country, including Lofa.”
He said despite the fact Lofa was the only county he did not win in 2017, he finds the county in his heart and thought to give it a paved road and other development initiatives being carried out.
“I came here in 2017 to ask for your votes, and the records show that what we got from here was not as much as we expected, but we appreciated you and still appreciate you today because the votes we got here helped us to go on top, and we won. You also made that happened,” he said.
“Some politicians want to portray the votes you give me as a rejection,” he continued. “But I don’t think so. Your votes pushed me higher over all others. And I thank you for that.”
“While coming here I saw your roads. When I first came here to ask you for votes, I promised to build your roads. That’s exactly what we are doing. The road we are building from Gbarnga, Bong County, will be completed as sooner we get reelected.”
“I am not running because I am handsome or because I am a Ballon d’Or,” he urged scores of Lofans at the Voinjama rally. “I am asking you to vote for me on my development records set in the last six years. I want you to vote me because I achieved more in terms of development than any other president achieved in the past.”
Under the hails of ceaseless applauses, the President said: “I am from the slum of Gibraltar in Clara Town, and like many of you from disadvantaged communities, we did not have the opportunity for free school, or free WASSCE and many things that we are now going for the young people of this country.
“Even though my detractors go all over the place, and say that I know nothing, but here I am as the only President of Liberia providing essential human development services to the people; services that those claiming to know something were not able to do for over 120 years. We struggled to go to school, to pay WASSCE fees, we struggle to enter college because the older generation of leaders failed to provide these services for us. Anyone who is able to read between lines will tell that I am the one who really care for this country and its people, including Lofans. I this case, they and I, who knows something and don’t know something?”
The President said Lofa County will see more development, more positive changes in the lives of community and people, in his second term because he is fully prepared and fully concerned about the living conditions the people face.
“If you can see what I have done—many things that could not be done long before I came to presidency—it tells any reasonable person that I am capable of doing far more in another presidential term; that best is yet to come.”
He said: “Lofa County and its people are on my mind. As you can see and hear, there are testimonies from the sons of Lofa how I have impacted their lives; how I empower them to be able to come back home to cater to your needs; to put the case of Lofa on the national table for consideration. I don’t have to be natural born Lofan; I am a son of Lofa in my heart and mind. That’s the most important thing.”