Koffa Cruises On To Speakership -Colleagues Say His Term Poised to Restore Dignity -Pundits Contend He Brings Balance of Power to GoL

MONROVIA: Grand Kru County Representative Fonati Koffa is just an inch away from the revered hotly seat of Speaker of the House of Representatives, according to many political commentators who opine that his ascendency will strike the needed political equilibrium in the Liberian governance tripod. With the presidency now gone to the Unity Party in its second round of leadership, and the President Pro Tempore post seemingly drawing towards the new ruling party, pundits contend that the current deputy speaker’s rise to the full seat of speaker of the House reinforces political equality and balance of power in the country. Besides, most of representative colleagues of Mr. Koffa, who constitute the “majority bloc”, have intimated that the Grand Kru Representative is the most experienced, pragmatic and well-suited candidate for the prestigious jobs. Those factors combined it is widely postulated that Mr. Koffa is the presumptive Speaker of the House in the 55th Legislature, January 15 elections popping in the corner. The Analyst reports.

Monday, January 15, 2024 will be another defining moment in the annals of Liberia’s political history when 73 newly elected presentative representing 73 electoral districts will search amongst themselves to pick on their theirs to head them as the Speaker and another one as the Deputy Speaker.

This important exercise is consistent with Article 49, which states that “the House of Representatives shall elect once every six years a Speaker who shall be the presiding officer of that body, a Deputy Speaker, and such other officers as shall ensure the proper functioning of the House”.

The heat is on. It has been on since the week after October 10 when they were variously elected by their constituents.

The list of candidates that were opting to vie for the Speakership of the 55th Legislature was long at the onset, but after much horse trading, consensus building and negotiations, it shrunk to two persons that include incumbent Deputy Speaker, Cllr. Fonati J. Koffa of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) and Representative Richard Nagbe Koon of District 12, Montserrado County of the Unity Party Alliance.

The nation has been edgily watching unfolding developments about the House elections, since that First Branch of Government constitutes that bulwark of the Liberian democracy regime pillared on tripolar arrangement in which the other branches are the Executive and Judiciary.

Article 3 of the Constitution provides that “Liberia is a unitary sovereign state divided into counties for administrative purposes. The form of government is Republican with three separate coordinate branches: the Legislative, the Executive and the Judiciary”.

In the tense campaign that has been raging over the last couple of weeks, it appears the Grand Kru Representative Koffa is the favorite, evidenced by the clamor of his colleagues to elect him on a week’s time as their leader.

Despite the whirlwind of politics, lobbying, consensus building, as well as deceits and betrayals which has characterized the Speaker election process – the epic battle, probably the fiercest of all since the restoration of democracy in 2006 – all indications are the Mr. Koffa will prevail.

Majority incoming members of the House together with a number of political pundits and citizens have been making the case about the imperative of electing a more acceptable, qualified and capable House Speaker as the coming years will be decisive in terms of sustaining the country’s democratic gains, and that Koffa is the deal.

According to those who are vouching for the incumbent Deputy Speaker Koffa to be speaker, he is the better choice of the two who are contesting when it comes to guaranteeing a purposeful and robust Legislature that will not only ensure a harmonious relationship among the three branches of government but will serve as a catalyst to fast-track national development beneficial to the nation and its people.

Mr.  G. Timothy Quessor, a civil society activist, said in an interview with The Analyst last week: “While many may be physically qualified for the job, only few are mentally, spiritually, socially, psychologically and politically qualified and competent to hold such office. One person who is extremely gentle but firm, simple but frank, easy going but meticulous is Deputy Speaker Fonati J. Koffa. He fits the call to this revered office going by the aggregate assemblage of factors that makes efficient leadership.”

He continued: “For the kind of national Legislature we envisage in the coming years, the task is to find a suitable person to occupy the positions of the Speaker of the House of Representatives to properly guide proceedings and uphold the independence of the institution and the rule of law. Putting a round peck in a round hole is very necessary to have a sound and stable, focused and enduring leadership for the Legislature.”

A longtime senior staff of the House of Representatives who does not want to be named for fear of reprisal if things did not reflect his wishes at the end of the day also told The Analyst: “As far as I know, Honorable Speaker is of enormous goodwill and attracts incredible respect from his colleagues across party lines because of his down-to-earthness and boundless generosity. We who have been here for years know quite well that Deputy Speaker Koffa can gracefully and impactfully lead the House effectively with the kind of team spirit he carries in his leadership style. He is a principled politician who often deploys sterling qualities into steering the chamber of the House by adopting and implementing progressive ideals and objectives of the country deserves.”

Deputy Speaker Koffa’s worth of experience in governance is widely taken into consideration having served as a Minister of State Without Portfolio under the administration of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. He has undertaken other crucial national assignments which he flawlessly executed, according to several others who worked with at various levels in the country.

Serving as Deputy Speaker for about three years afforded him the opportunity to get exceptional knowledge of the workings in the executive branch of government at the highest peak of its leadership.

Following is win for Grand Kru District #2 seat which he won overwhelmingly, Mr. Koffa was appointed the Chairman of the House Standing committee on Judiciary where he was instrumental in guiding the House in taking decisions on most landmark legislations through his vast legal knowledge.

When the vacancy was created as the result of the election of then Deputy Speaker Prince Moye, Koffa contested for the position and got an overwhelming support of his colleagues and emerged victorious in a tensely contested election. Since then he has been diligently discharging the function of Deputy Speaker to the admiration and satisfaction of his colleagues.

“His pursuit for the Speakership position is not just a quest to upgrade his status but to add value to crucial decision process at the national legislature using with his experience in the executive branch of government and now that of what he had garnered leading his colleagues while on several occasions acting as Speaker of the 54th national legislature.

One of his colleagues who is poised to support him but will not like to be named said in a chat with The Analyst: “One can hardly say much of the positive things being said for Hon. Koon about his rival, Representative Richard Nagbe Koon. One can see clearly how Koon is struggling to have the needed support and endorsement from his colleagues.”

Peterson Y. Callon, a school teacher who supported the UP during the runoff opined that the outgoing 54th national legislature was able to achieve a lot in terms of crucial legislations passed with the involvement of Koffa and it was natural that at this stage where the country is looking out to see the right person to lead the next legislature, the current Deputy Speaker should be given the maximum support to emerge as the next speaker.

“For want of space, I will highlight only a few of such legislative interventions and reform initiatives. It is to the credit of the 54th national legislature that the annual budget process of the government was reformed to conform with our counterparts in the subregion from July to June to now January to December fiscal calendar. All this came through series of oversights to correct some missteps. The Legislature was able to make interventions that produced the just concluded national elections, the anti-corruption laws were amended through the new constituted LACC, among others.”

He further recounted: “Honorable Koffa was deeply involved in all these, especially deploying his vast legal acumen in the process and guiding everything to success. So, you already have the man who can do the job, why go out again to bring someone who only claims to the job is that he does not want opposition to lead the Legislature. It is only natural, therefore, that Koffa on whose shoulder the famed anchor of stability of the ninth House has been resting, should emerge as the next Speaker.”

A pro-democracy group, Clean Democracy International, in its press release last week said as Liberia’s democracy is gradually taking roots in the country efforts must be exerted to further leverage on the gains made over the years by ensuring that Legislative Branch of Government is allowed to be independent and out of the undue influence of what the group called, “rampaging imperial presidency”.

“The election goes beyond the candidature of Deputy Speaker Fonati J. Koffa; it is about saving our nascent democracy and allowing it to grow beyond the grip of the rampaging imperial presidency. Allowing the ruling party through the candidature of Representative Richard Nagbe Koon to be the next speaker is not doing the country justice. We need our dissenting views to be heard and protected in the National Legislature and it can only be possible if the opposition leads it,” Paul Bemah III, the National Publicity Secretary of the group was quoted in the press release.

There other citizens who think that a Koffa Speakership, acknowledging his legal background, will be invaluable to the cause of serious law making amidst the challenge of crafting and pushing legislations that thoroughly vetted using the constitution and existing laws in the country.

The proponents of this school of thought said given the huge number of lawmakers going to the 55th with no legal background, Deputy Speaker will be of great help to guide his colleagues to “legally do the right thing for our country and people”

“His vast knowledge in law and judgment will be sought after by his Legislative colleagues in many ways especially with respect to clarification of complicated or technical bills or propositions,”, a lecturer of Political Science at one of the private universities who supports Koffa’s aspiration told The Analyst via mobile phone.

The Analyst was told last night that a major press conference of a consortium of institutions under the aegis, Friends Of Democracy And Good Governance, is slated this week to accentuate the need for the incoming National Legislature to be headed by Deputy Speaker Fonati J. Koffa not just from the perspective of being an opposition lawmaker, “but a great help to the incoming President, Ambassador Joseph Nyuma Boakai to benefit from constructive criticism so that he will be able to make the right decision guided by principle and not be deceived by partisan lawmakers who will be there for their own selfish interest.”

“Yes, I can confirm to you that there will be a major press conference and we will use the opportunity to offer our pieces of advice to President Elect Joseph Nyuma Boakai to see reason not to oppose the speakership ambition of Deputy Speaker Koffa even if his party opposes it,” said the spokesperson of the group.

“Koffa is a harmless politician. The only thing the UP people are holding against him is he is not their member and will want to work against their agenda. It cannot be true. That is not the posture of the Honorable man. He wants a better Liberia and that is why you find his support base is across party lines and that is what we need; a unifier, a committed public servant, a man who has a large heart for everyone.”

Some of his colleagues who spoke to newsmen last week said there was absolutely nothing can stop them from voting Koffa because “it is the right way to proceed to the next dispensation”

“Before I even decided to contest in my district, I have been following activities in the national legislature and I saw that the Deputy Speaker has been doing tremendous jobs here; there is no record of misdeeds, he is focused on the bigger picture, he can be trusted by his words.

“Some of us came to this national legislature to make changes but not to follow people who will not lead this institution the right way. I contested and won as an independent candidate so it should tell you that a lot us are supporting him not because of party affiliation but for what the nation stands to gain through his charismatic and quality leadership”, one of the newly elected lawmaker said.

As the debate heats up and more messages of good will continue to go the way of Deputy Speaker Fonati J. Koffa to emerge victorious, a terse response to a question posed to a known activist for good governance in the country who did not want to be identified captured the mood of the nation.

“But while Representative Richard Nagbe Koon and his supporters strut through the market square jockeying for the coveted office, it is pertinent for other members-elect to remember that the higher yearnings of Liberians for good governance can best be served by the best, and not just the good within their fold. And the stark reality, which cannot be distorted, is that Representative Koon and even none of his supporters have the pedigree, impeccable record and capacity of Koffa.

“Let them not distract us from seeing a matured, experienced and dedicated public servant, Deputy Speaker Koon emerging as Speaker of the 55th national legislature.

“While God creates everyone differently with varying gifts, grace and talents, the man Fonati J. Koffa is richly endowed with virtues of humility, respect, compassion, godliness, good moral sense and brotherhood. He does not play politics with relationships, he cherished them so much”, he said.

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