MONROVIA – It is by now an open secret that Unity Party Standard Bearer Joseph Nyuma Boakai, will today announce Nimba County Senator Jeremiah Koung as his running mate for the October 10, 2023 presidential and legislative elections. The long-awaited announcement by Mr. Boakai is expected to be a massive turning point for Liberia’s biggest opposition party, given the avalanche of speculations surrounding other prominent names in the running for the UP’s VP pick, prominent among which have been Grand Bassa County Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence and talk show host Henry Pedro Costa. In this edition, The Analyst carefully reviews the raison d’etre behind the selection of Sen. Koung, as well as the ramifications of the pick on Ambassador Boakai’s candidature.
Long before news began circulating that Nimba County Senator Jeremiah Koung was the likeliest choice for former Vice President Joseph Boakai’s running mate, public expectation had settled on Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence of the Liberty Party being named as Boakai’s running mate. Then of late, talk show host Henry Costa entered the fray, as momentum started to build at home and abroad for his likely selection. Opposition insiders who spoke with this paper for this special report said they were equally taken by surprise when the name of Senator Koung became listed as a hot contender for JNB’s running mate, due to the fact that Senator Lawrence and Mr. Costa had long been in the frontline, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with former Vice President Boakai when the going was rough amidst the buffeting political storms that threatened to crack the sail of the opposition tent.
Today’s naming of Senator Koung will leave a bitter-sweet taste in the mouths of many UP partisans, opposition members, and even Ambassador Boakai, who, according to a key Unity Party insider that spoke with the Analyst on the basis of anonymity, is now caught between a rock and a hard place for his choice of “Rescue-2”.
“JNB cannot fight the party hierarchy which finally settled on Jeremiah Koung as the best vehicle to get Weah off the Liberian people’s back. Yes, Nyonblee stood with the old man. She lost her standing with her own political institution because she decided to support JNB. Costa too has been a key voice in the opposition camp, fighting in the trenches for a JNB presidency. His businesses went down and he became a wanted man because of his support to the opposition camp, especially for the old man. Of course, Nyonblee and Costa might feel betrayed today because they are not his choice, but this is politics where the end justifies the means. Right now, the means is the critical Nimba County vote. We are prepared to do anything, whatsoever, to get Weah out and rescue Liberia,” the inside source disclosed.
Nimba County Senator Jeremiah Koung is no stranger to Nimba County politics. Nimba is Liberia’s second largest vote-rich county, apart from Montserrado. Koung has managed to win two successive elections in Nimba for two separate legislative posts. JNB’s selection of Senator Koung is only to secure the all-important Nimba vote and bring on board the “godfather” of Nimba politics, Senator Prince Y. Johnson (PYJ) who most recently ceded his position as Standard Bearer of the Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction (MDR) to allow Senator Koung political space in the driver’s seat for a possible negotiation with the Unity Party. The move, many pundits believe, was critical for positioning Koung and the MDR as key bargaining chips for inclusion under the country’s largest opposition tent.
“PYJ is focused on joining any camp to remove Weah from office, but he feels most comfortable with the Unity Party because he knows JNB has the capacity and the numbers to counter Weah at the polls. PYJ joining JNB will spell disaster for the ruling Coalition. And with all the issues facing him, the best bet he has is to step back and allow Koung to lead the assault,” Saye Gonkarnue, an MDR sympathizer from Ganta City intimated.
Koung is said to be bringing to the Rescue Team a lot of political and economic capital which will be needed as the clock ticks closer to campaigns and the actual D-Day for elections. Insiders have informed this paper that Koung has reached deep within the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) legislative echelon to build consensus for his ascendency to the position of Vice President of the Republic of Liberia after the October 2023 polls.
“The guy is having meetings upon meetings, day and night, to bring on board names that you will be surprised to learn about in the coming days and weeks. This thing is huge,” a legislative insider intimated.
But while Koung supporters may be basking over the news of his selection as “Rescue-2”, there are countless others who are bitterly grieving, blaming and calling out JNB as a betrayer who leaves allies in the cold for newfound friends only because of immediate benefits.
Telecommunications mogul Benoni Urey is said to be overly peeved at his long-time friend’s decision to name Senator Koung as running mate, leaving out his (Urey’s) protege Henry Costa who recently flew from the United States to Liberia in anticipation of being named as JNB’s number two man.
“Urey and Costa might not be attending the announcement program today. Why? Because Urey feels used by Old Man Boakai. You don’t treat friends that way. You don’t make promises you can’t keep. You don’t shove your friends under the bus. Urey and Costa stood by this old man even when he was abandoned by his associates in the opposition. They made him relevant, to the extent that even the Oldma wanted to come back to base. So, is this their pay?” vented an apparently frustrated All Liberian Party (ALP) partisan.
Other critics of the Koung selection who seemed less sentimental about JNB’s pick say the decision to pick the Nimba County senator is a ploy to get Senator Prince Y. Johnson in a pole position to serve as de facto president if the Unity Party wins the October elections, and if JNB becomes incapacitated to govern due to age and health issues.
“Prince Johnson knows he’s targeted by the Americans. But his best bet to the seat of maximum influence is through Koung who could become the next president if Joe Boakai wins but cannot continue his term. Koung as President means Prince Johnson is the de facto president of Liberia. Is this the scenario that Liberians want because we are desperate to remove Weah?” remarked a student leader from New Kru Town.
Worst case scenario, according to another Unity Party sympathizer in the United States, who doesn’t support the Koung pick, is the realignment of political alliances within the largest opposition bloc. Some supporters of the Nyonblee and Costa camps are already calling for their leaders to join the CPP as an alternative to the “shame” brought on them by JNB.
“I want Senator Lawrence to swallow her pride and get to Musa Bility. Let them settle their differences. I have always supported UP every step of the way, even up to the point of chipping in to pay for their new headquarters on Broad Street. Even if Boakai wanted to select Koung or anybody outside of the arrangement that we all have been bargaining for, the decision should have included all of the stakeholders who have been with Ambassador Boakai from Day One. But you can’t organize a program to announce your running mate and start to meet those stakeholders a day or two to the announcement to tell them about your choice. I never thought JNB would stoop so low. I didn’t give my support to have Prince Johnson making critical decisions in the Executive Mansion,” a strong JNB supporter from the Diaspora frustratingly remarked.
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