MONROVIA – The newly selected running mate to former Vice President Joseph Nyuma Boakai says, contrary to widespread belief that his ascendency to the presumptive second highest office in the land was a fluke of circumstance, he was actually courted by Mr. Alexander B. Cummings and his Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) to become their running mate, months become he was ever contacted by Mr. Boakai to become his running mate. Senator Koung went further to dispel rumors of his involvement in any act of corruption as a lawmaker, challenging his accusers to come forth with evidence.
Making the assertions Monday, May 8, 2023 on Spoon TV Live, Nimba County Senator Jeremiah Kpan Koung, who is also the Political leader of the Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction (MDR), said his ascendancy to running mate to Mr. Boakai comes with a bit of history, going back to Bomi County Senator Edwin Melvin Snowe.
“One of the first persons to speak on the issue of Vice President was Edwin Melvin Snowe. I want to say this because it’s good to give people their flowers when they are alive. In late 2017, right after the elections when we won, we were talking about the Speaker election: who to be Speaker, Deputy Speaker, and the leadership of the Legislature. One morning Honorable Snowe called me and said he wanted to see me. He said it was urgent and I needed to come. I thought something had gone wrong, and so I rushed to his house.
“He said, Jerry, I called you to have breakfast and also let you know that I want us to form a team to run in 2029. I asked, run for what? And he said, the leadership of this country. ‘I want to be president, and I want you to be Vice President to me; and I think we can win’, he said. We laughed about it. Since then, I always call him Prezzo, and he calls me VP. Everybody knows that Snowe calls me VP and I call him Prezzo.
“By November last year, the second person was Honorable Alexander Cummings, and I also want to say thanks to him too. By November last year I was in Gompa when I got a call from the hierarchy of the ANC, saying they wanted to see me in Monrovia. I told them I was in Nimba for the weekend, and would be in town the following week. When I came to town I met George Wisner at Paris, and he told me upfront, ‘Cummings wants you to be his Vice President.’ And I laughed, as we started talking about it. I told him to give me some time to think about it, because it was too abrupt.
“When I left George, Musa Bility called me, and he said he needed to meet me immediately. Musa told me: ‘my man, look; no beating around the bush. It’s a golden opportunity. Cummings wants you to be his Vice President. Take it, let’s go.’ I said ok; George just told me the same thing, but give me some time let me think about it.
“Gould also called me, we met at his office and we spoke about it. And then I thought to talk to my constituency to hear from them, and so I told them to give me time. So, I started to consult my team; I came to my people, and other people around me.
“Earlier January, I met Mr. Cummings and we talked to know one another. I told him that I was still doing consultations, and would get back to him. And we kept talking.
“Dr. Gaywea McIntosh visited me with his Madam. He was also magnanimous, telling me, ‘Look, we think you are ready, understanding the private sector, the length of time you spent in government’.
The last person to visit me was the Secretary General of the CPP. He visited me one week prior to Friday, the Friday before the Friday I was nominated. He texted me that he wanted to see me, and was curious why I didn’t want to accept their offer. I said to him, let’s meet on Friday, because I was going to Bomi on Thursday for a meeting.
“And so, on Friday night he came to my house and we met. He said Jerry, we’ve been behind you since November. This is April. So, I told him, look; all my consultations tell me that the people are leaning towards JNB. Cummings is a good man; but the Liberian people can make their decision before election. And so, I said to him, I am sorry. It’s not that you people are not good people, but the Liberian people from all my consultations are leaning towards JNB, and they have asked me to work with JNB. At this time, JNB had spoken with Senator Karnga and myself that he had narrowed down to both of us, and one of us will be. And so, I want to be grateful to Mr. Cummings. He actually sealed it up, to make me believe that the time has come, and I need to get ready. And finally, Joseph Boakai made the pronouncement. So, I just want to be grateful to Snowe, Mr. Cummings, and Ambassador Boakai,” Senator Koung said.
On the question of what he brings to the table as vice standard bearer to Ambassador Boakai, Senator Koung said his experience in the private and public sectors gives him added advantage.
“All my life, I’ve been in the private sector. I started living on my own at age 12, selling in the street as a kid. All through the war, I was never a soldier, I never fired guns before, I was only a business person, and I reached a level in the Liberian business community. If you go to Nimba, the records are there.
“I got elected in 2012, and it was a new terrain, entering government, coming from the private sector all your life. First job in my life was to be a representative, beside working for myself. I built for myself a company as CEO with more than 100 employees.
“The legislature is the nucleus of government. If the government was a corporation, we are the board of directors, the policy arm of government. And so, spending 12 years there is a wealth of experience. I come to this job with the private and public sector experience. I come with the true Liberian story. The guy driving the taxi, I come with his story. The guy selling oil on the street, I come with his story. I understand what they go through, I know exactly how they think. I come to represent that woman who will cook at 8 pm for the children to eat and sleep. They cook in the night because they want the child to sleep with food in their belly until the next day at 8pm before they cook again. That’s my mother. I came to represent her. I understand the Liberian story. I am that story.
“And so, when it comes to solutions for Liberia, if I was asked by Ambassador Joseph Boakai to make recommendations on every sector of the economy, I am ready and prepared to give my advice. If taken, I think we can turn this country around.
On the issue of rumors that he has been engaged in corruption as a legislator, Senator Koung said he has worked all his life in the private sector.
“My first job in the public sector is the legislature. They pay me my salary; they give me gas, operational funds to buy stationery and other things for my office. I have never been given project money to do a project before in the legislature and I ate the money. Nobody can come out and say this is the money I gave to Jeremiah Koung because he asked me for X,Y,Z. Most of the things you hear are myths, no facts. People have nothing against me. They make up stories to come after me. But we are in the public space. When I was running my own business, nobody knew me. If I was still running my own business, I wouldn’t be in this space. But the space I am in is a public space. And when you are in public, you are a leader. We are all part of the freedom of speech bill. So, people will say things to you. And that’s why we are strong. We come with that thick skin. If you can’t make it, get out. Go and do different things. Let the people say what they want to say. We are focused. We have a goal, and we are moving towards that goal, and we will achieve it,” Senator Koung stated categorically.
Meanwhile, CPP campaign chair Ambassador Lewis Brown has dismissed claims made by Senator Koung that the CPP had scouted him to be their Vice Standard Bearer as laughable, terming Koung a “pawn of distraction” within the Unity Party and part of the CPP’s plan to outmaneuver them.
Responding to Senator Koung’s statement on Spoon Talk, Brown said the Unity Party was desperate to compete with the CPP for a running mate and that Koung was just a strategy to distract them. Brown clarified that no negotiations for a vice standard bearer pick would last for over five months and that Cummings never promised Koung a running mate position.
According to Mr. Brown, Cummings only asked Koung for them to work together as part of a plan to negotiate with the UP. The CPP campaign chair stated that Koung was their bait to distract the UP and that they wanted the UP to have him. Brown concluded by stating that Koung knew he was played, the UP knew they were played, and now he’s saving face.