MONROVIA: As the titanic battle of who becomes the next Speaker of the 55th National Legislature heats up and is now being reduced virtually to a two horse race between the current Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Cllr. Fonati J. Koffa and Representative Richard Koon of District #11, Montserrado County, there are strong indicators that Deputy Speaker Koffa is poised to have a clean sweep for the exalted seat ahead of Koon in the election that is slated to be held mid January, 2024 just few days to the inauguration of President elect and Vice President elect Ambassador Joseph Nyuma Boakai and Senator Jeremiah Kpan Koung.
In a contestation that has been aptly dubbed the “Third Round” between the outgoing ruling party, Coalition for Democratic Change(CDC) and the Unity Party(UP), political actors, stakeholders and pundits relying on measurable factors which could influence the outcome of legislative election of this magnitude are of the strong conviction that with the race been trimmed down from the initial five persons to two, the ambition of Koffa will definitely leapfrog that of Koon and that “Koon and his people themselves know that it is just the matter of time it will be become clearer to them”.
Some of the factors being considered include education, wealth of experience in public service, the level of robust legislative roles, interpersonal relationship, leadership experience, ability to create harmonious working relationships with other branches of government without compromising the independence and integrity of the national legislature.
A Lawyer and politician, whose short but meteoric rise to prominence in Liberian politics, shows a healthy understanding of politics and the ability to cut across political and ethnic divides to accomplish national goals and objectives.
On account of public service experience, Koffa has good background knowledge in public service having served in the executive branch of government within the President as a Minister of State Without Portfolio under the leadership of former President, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf where he was given crucial assignments such as serving as a Special Prosecutor of the Sable Mining Bribery Scandal Case.
With the presidency being very key in the governance structure in the country, a good understanding of that branch of the government will be an added advantage to manage possible issues that may arise between the executive and legislature and come up with solutions that could improve the relationship between the two institutions.
His legal background as a Counselor of Law stands him out as some with an added advantage of being a lawmaker. The whole essence of the legislature is to fine tune government businesses and harnessed the same into legally binding transactions be it agreements, treaties, budget, concession though the activities cut across all fields of human endeavors but at the end of the day, the work of the legislature end up with formulation and finalization of legislation.
When everything is said and done, a speaker with a sound legal knowledge will guide and guard the legislature against acting outside the legal confines of business that will save the state from entering in an avoidable situation.
Koffa was a key founder of one of the leading legal institutions in the country, the International Law Group, though he had left the practice when he entered public service, his involvement with the firm exposed him to the importance of the legal profession especially when it comes to dealing with big investment issues where foreigners are involved and the interest of all parties including the investors, the government and the state must be taken into consideration.
According to a political pundit, what gives Koffa an “absolute advantage over any other candidate that may challenge him is his present position as Deputy Speaker which is just a step below the Speaker proper.
“Indeed he is right within the proximity of the speakership as he presently serves as the Deputy Speaker and he has being exercising the roles of a speaker for a long time on many occasions and in the process has gotten to know and master the art and craft of being an assertive speaker and a leader of immense quality and authority.
“There is nothing new to this position that he does not know especially against the background that some of those who are presently in the house of representatives know him very well as a goal getter; the right thing is for his colleagues to just consummate everything to make him speaker”, the pundit said.
Another public analyst, Willietta Jowson, who has been a keen follower of the legislative politics spoke well of Koffa’s uncommon interpersonal relationship he exhibits among his colleagues such that even those who are not members of his party, the CDC are keen to make him speaker.
“I have been following legislative politics for some time now and what I have been able to realize is the unique traits of Deputy Speaker Koffa to work with diverse groups of people without any special preferential treatment for anybody. You can see that even with the whole “party mandate” from the Unity Party, some of the members are keen to vote him ahead of Representative Koon who is the official candidate of the party”, she said.
A legislative colleague who was just elected as a representative though an independent was very blunt as to who he wants to see being a speaker so as to avoid a rubber stamp legislature and believes Koffa has what it takes to be a speaker that will protect the sanctity of the national legislature.
“We will insist on having an independent legislature that will be stiff enough to withstand some of the advances that may come from the executive to compromise us thereby betraying the purpose for which we are here. I am supporting Deputy Speaker Koffa to lead us and I have been mobilizing my colleagues. He will surely be elected”, he said
When comparing his pedigree with his rival, Representative Koon, many stakeholders said there was no match as besides coming into the national legislature at the same time with Koffa, Koon has very limited experience and exposure in public service.
“Koon is not a match to Koffa and there is no need of mixing it with politics where sentiments will be brought in. Nothing much is known of Koon in the house as he has been able to play a leading role and assertive among his colleagues”, said Alphonso Deblay Jr, a retired civil servant who now runs an local civil society group, Clear Conscience Incorporated said while writing off the chances of Koon in the race.
Some of his colleague who are not supporting him have made it clear that electing him will be subjecting the national legislature to the executive branch “because Koon will not be able to confront the President and we have begun to see it already with the way the UP people are pushing this agenda based on party mandate”
“This should not be about a party or any special arrangement contest and I cannot understand why our people are reducing this race to CDC vs UP. It is about who can lead the Honorable House of Representatives to enable us command the respect of the general public. I am going beyond the party line to vote for Deputy Speaker Fonati J. Koffa in the ensuing election for the sake of the country and its progress”, a UP lawmaker who did not want to be named in the papers said.
Meanwhile, as a demonstration of their resolve to support the Grand Kru County lawmaker to the fullest, 37 of his colleagues turned up at the Roberts International Airport to give him a rousing welcome on his arrival from the United States of America where he has gone to hold strategic consultations with key international stakeholders.
“This is just an illustration that we are resolved to elect him as our speaker and there is no going back on this. We are on the side of history and come the proper time, we will usher in the Honorable Deputy Speaker to ensure the independence and sanctity of the first branch of government”, one of the lawmakers said.