After leading the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) as the first female politician despite some challenges plaguing the CPP like in any other political institutions, Grand Bassa County Senator Nyonblee Karngar-Lawrence, and Liberty Party political leader, who had served as Chairperson of the CPP for eight months, last Friday, October 15, handed the gavel of authority to the Standard Bearer of the Unity Party (UP), Ambassador Joseph Nyuma Boakai, at a turn over ceremony held at the National Headquarters of the Unity Party in Congo Town, Monrovia, amid rapturous standing ovation from the hundreds of cheering partisans, supporters and sympathizers.
Senator Lawrence who came to political limelight in 2014 when she contested the Grand Bassa senate seat and defeated incumbent Senator and sitting President Pro Tempore M. Gbehzongar Findley, and recently got re-elected for another nine years, has raised the bar, making a strong case for female politicians who have been making frantic efforts to get to leadership positions given the way Nyonblee has elevated advocacy for the rule of law, good governance and the promotion of gender equality in the country.
As a lone female lawmaker in the upper chamber of the national legislature prior to the election of Senator Botoe Kanneh of Gbarpolu County, Madam Lawrence spoke of her experience working in an environment that has been dominated by male politicians over the years, admitting that she soldiered on to engage the process, fighting against all forms of negative tendencies to derail her belief and intimidate her to submission to the detriment of the people, especially the women whose interests remained paramount to her.
“In 2013, after I felt intimidated on my first day in the Liberian Senate by the loud voices and actions of men who were veterans in politics and felt that they knew the issues and how to deal with them, I decided that the way to stand above them was to do the right thing and remain firm and steadfast, notwithstanding the shouting and screaming”, she said.
Before serving as the only female Chairperson so far of the CPP, the tough-talking Senator took over the affairs of the Liberty Party upon the demise of its founder and first standard bearer, the late Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine, during an era that nearly rocked the party having lost such a leader who gave the party a unique brand of being founded on integrity and the rule of law.
Against all odds, she took the position with stride, rebranding LP to fit in the post-Brumskine era, especially so when the party had lost all the presidential elections it contested since 2005, which affected the psyche of the teeming supporters.
Speaking at the jam-packed turning over ceremony held at the UP National Headquarters last week, the combative Senator took time to roll out her scorecard during her tenure, a feat, according to keen followers of Liberian politics, that was worthy of commendation as it laid the basis of transitioning a serious opposition into a mode of a government-in-waiting.
“In an effort to formulate the CPP plans for a better Liberia, we worked with the secretariat of the CPP and some experts to harmonize the platforms of the four constituent political parties focusing on key areas such as: Macroeconomic stability and economic development, Economic and social and infrastructural development, Health Care, Education, Youth development and entrepreneurship, Gender, vulnerable and physically challenged, Agriculture, food security and climate change, Governance and Reconciliation, Rule of law and security, Culture and tourism, Foreign Relations and Legislative Reform Agenda”, Senator revealed what CPP intends to do when Liberia’s biggest opposition bloc takes state power in 2023.
An apostle of institutionalized and functional structure, Senator Lawrence told the mammoth gathering her tenure conceived the idea of having a permanent secretariat as a central and prominent component of the CPP, the rationale being for a more lasting structure to serve as the core operational, expert, intellectual and ideological hub of the collaboration. She stated that the current arrangement restricts the secretariat to an ad hoc structure subjected to rotational leadership which according to her makes the secretariat’s operations to be fleeting, losing consistency and the sustained focus required to implement the CPP agenda.
She noted that there is a crucial need to mobilize and organize the human, financial and institutional resources required to constantly review and address the political, economic and social issues confronting the country, and develop a governing roadmap for the alliance ahead of 2023
“The CPP should endeavor to attract and make readily available a multidisciplinary team of full-time expert personnel with the necessary competencies to guide and coordinate the work of the CPP. Under our leadership, we established a ten-person committee represented from all constituent parties to establish and Configure a Permanent Secretariat, develop Terms of Reference, Functions and Responsibilities of Personnel of the Permanent Secretariat and set minimum qualification requirements for the Secretariat”, she said, adding that a presentation was made to the political leaders separately and with their inputs a presentation was made to the National Advisory Council.
The first African lawmaker to speak in the session of the Pennsylvania State Senate, in the United States of America, mentioned about the impact of the Women Wing of the CPP, beginning with the hosting of a successful International Women Day program where former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf served as the Keynote Speaker and was well attended by other prominent citizens. She said funds were raised and contributed to the campaign to expedite the election cases against female candidates, notably Senator Botoe Kanneh and Madam Edith Gongloe-Weh.
To this end, the outgoing CPP Chairman called on the women folks to draw a lesson from her own story, being a female politician and serving as a lawmaker, something that comes with a lot of challenges.
“I became the first female political leader of the Liberty party and also the first female Chairperson of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP). The responsibilities that come with these portfolios have been enormous, the challenges very daunting, and the public outcry, the healthy and unhealthy criticism and insults on social media. Yet, we remain focused and steadfast, guided by the wisdom from our God.
“These experiences have been very humbling and extremely rewarding. My very presence here today and in these last one year and even beyond is a testimony to the fact that there is a space for women participation in the political sphere and in leadership in this country”, she said.
Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence’s leadership role and strong advocacy for women emancipation and gender equality has not only been felt in the country, but she took the crusade at the international stage where she once served as a panelist discussing Gender Equity in Public Office that was attended by four former African leaders including Chief Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, Madam Joyce Banda of Malawi, Madam Catherine Samba-Panza of Central African Republic and Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and got standing ovation from the participants at the occasion.
She also listed as setting up of a CPP legislative agenda as an achievement, recognizing that while the CPP has numerous lawmakers, and realizing the actual benefits of the collaboration require a concerted and deliberate effort to ensure that rules are set for all CPP lawmakers as regards the CPP position on legislative matters; there is a clear method/processes of engagement between the CPP lawmakers and the CPP.
She said the CPP ended the first phase of this process by working with the National Democratic Institute to have a retreat that brought in congressional facilitators from the USA. She added that the outcome of the retreat led to the formation of the CPP leadership in the national legislature.
“We successfully held a leadership workshop to deliberate on the impact of existing turmoil in the CPP. Through our efforts and with support from my colleagues, we were able to minimize the tension within the CPP and focus our collective energy toward 2023. Agreement was reached and a press statement released to guide the process, which is ongoing,” noting that recommendations were made in her turn over notes.
“We engaged the NEC, had press conferences and issued statements on behalf of the CPP and independent candidates on violations of our rights and the Constitution on election results. And our interventions expedited those processes and proved successful except the results of the Senatorial election of Lofa County”, she added as part of her achievements while serving as Chairman of the CPP.
Touching on the process to produce the sole candidate for the CPP which should have occurred under her leadership, she said as stated in the May 19, 2021 original framework signed by all political leaders of the party, the CPP presidential ticket must be identified by December 2021 and it led to the implementation of the requirement in keeping with NEC regulations that all parties interested in the standard bearer position must have conventions and present their candidates before the start of the consensus process.
Senator Karng-Lawrence further said both the Unity Party and the Alternative National Congress concluded theirs and presented Mr. Joseph Nyumah Boakai and Mr. Alexander Benedict Cummings as their standard bearers respectively to contest the CPP Standard Bearer position.
“We wish to announce that a roadmap for the consensus engagements was presented to the political leaders and standard bearers at the D’Calabash meetings and further to NAC. The NAC decided that all consensus processes be tabled until we conclude on the framework allegations report. We made a promise to present the CPP ticket at the end of our tenure but due to these restrictions caused by the framework allegations, we have to turn over that responsibility to the UP ”, she said,
On the internal wrangling in the Collaboration occasioned by the allegation of the alteration of the framework document, she said aside the findings of the National Advisory Council, she has referred the matter to the legal committee that worked on the original copies and had advised the leadership of CPP for advice.
According to her, to conclude the matter, she wrote the legal advisors to verify among other things, the procedure that were followed in incorporating the proposed amendments in the FD and submitting same to the NEC, the effect of abstracting the signature page from the original FD signed on May 19, 2020, by the four political leaders and attaching it to the final document without their approval, expressed or implied, and submitting same to NEC, whether the proposed amendment made by the lawyers were changed without their consent and any other issue of legal significance that needs to be addressed by the NAC.
She called on the CPP to support its candidates in the ensuing bye- elections in Nimba, Bong, Bomi and Grand Gedeh Counties as all the processes of the Bi-Elections have been concluded peacefully and amicably where the ANC represents Nimba, the UP represents Bong County, The ALP represents Bomi and the LP represents Grand Gedeh. She said plans are on the way to support our candidates with our presence and resources for CPP victories.
“Before I close, I wish to sincerely call on the four political leaders of the UP, ANC, ALP and LP to come together, in the spirit of unity and oneness with Love for Country. Let’s bury all of our ambitions, as Liberia is bigger than each of us, and connect beyond our internal teams to those Liberians whose livelihood depend on the decisions that we make today. Liberians are crying and are seriously concerned about the current states of affairs of the country, and we are their only hope. But we cannot continue to conduct ourselves in the form and manner as though we are the opposition. We are one and the same, with a common vision and hope for Liberia. Because we have a track record that they believe in. Let’s not let our people and our Country down. Let’s get back on the table to resolve our problems and I trust the ability of our elder in the room who is taking over”, the fast emerging amazon of Liberian politics concluded her speech.