MONROVIA: With echoes of Nimba County Senator Prince Y. Johnson utterances pushing his kinsmen to vote for the ticket of the opposition Unity Party, because a UP win is equivalent to his protégé and kinsman Jeremiah Koung taking over national leadership, the people of Bong County whose daughter is incumbent Vice President of Liberia say they will coming together more closely to ensure the county (Bong) retains the Second Powerful Public Post of the country.
At two major ceremonies held separately in Salala and Gbarnga, Bong County on Friday, November 3, 2023, citizens of the county turned out in their numbers to assure Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor and her Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) that will ensure by voting massively so that the party wins the runoff.
They said their enviable place in national leadership is threatened by Prince Y. Johnson of Nimba County who are calling on his citizens to vote for the Unity Party in the runoff not for anything good that the Unity Party has done in the country but merely because he and his kinsman who is Vice Standard Bearer to UP’s Joseph Boakai take over the leadership of the country since Boakai is sick and frail.
The Bongese on Friday pulled themselves out in huge crowds from villages and towns, converging at designated venues, practically bringing commercial activities to momentary standstill as the people, mainly women, alighted the cities, and sending strong messages out that the women of Bong County and by extension the entire citizens of the county are not leaving anything to chance to ensure that the exalted Vice President’s position “will never slip away from under our watch and we will make sure that come rain, come sun, we will put aside our differences and defend our daughter to the last because she has brought pride and honor to all of us”.
Salala’s Storming Endorsement
The first program was held in Salala City, organized under the auspices of the Friends of Moiama, a political structure that mobilized, campaigned and successively executed the re-election bid of Representative Moiama Briggs-Mensah of District #5, Bong County.
It was their way of appreciating the role played by Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor in the re-election of Rep Briggs-Mensah during the just concluded October 10, 2023 and to to add more steam and energy to the massive campaign going on in the county for the Coalition for Democratic Change (CD).
According to the organizers, the programs were planned in just 48 hours but the results recorded demonstrated beyond reasonable doubts that the Representative Briggs-Mensah mobilized a huge followership in her constituency, the undisputed fact that joining the trail to campaign for the CDC ticket will be an added advantage to its pursuit.
Despite the short notice, the turnout was something that took many by surprise as the citizens started turning out at the Salala City Hall as early as 7 am that day for a program that was initially meant to take place at 10 am.
The Vice President for whom the program was meant also had to attend the endorsement ceremony of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) of the CDC ticket ahead of the run off.
The arrival of Representative Briggs-Mensah sent the venue into a frenzy, as her supporters who had been waiting for a long time swooped on her vehicle, singing, dancing and shouting battle cries as she disembarked from her vehicle heading straight inside of hall where local district officials, chiefs and elders, and others were all seated awaiting her and the Vice President.
Moments later, words went around that the convoy of the VP was fast approaching Salala, energizing the people to get in jubilant mood to receive their august guest.
Some group of women ran on the main road, singing and dancing as they lined up at the entrance to the walk-in lane from the main road to the venue of the program.
Soon her convoy arrived and the local district officials including City Mayor, Madam Mama Y. Harris and District Commissioner, Daniel S. Tubman and others who had all been seated had come out to receive the VP and entourage.
As soon as the audience saw the Liberian Vice President disembarking from her vehicle, the entire gathering jumped in a celebratory mood as she waved to the country and moved towards the welcoming party that included the Representative Briggs.
After the welcoming formalities, VP Taylor was led into the hall for the commencement of the program, amidst the shout of, “What is your number on the runoff Ticket,” and the audience would response, “yor yor number 2,” referring to the position of the CDC ticket on the run-off ballot.
In her brief welcome remarks, Salala City Mayor Madam Mama Y. Harris said she was excited to receive two outstanding daughters to the city, “who we see as our big sisters and mothers that have done us proud,” making reference to VP Howard Taylor’s leadership role being played in the county and the level of development she has been able to influence in favor of the county since her ascendency as Vice President in 2018.
At the Salala program were several women groups from the various clans, including Nyanforquelleh, Kpatolee, Konawolala, Konoyea and Zeansue, among others. The women groups spoke glowingly about the leadership prowess of the VP and love she has for the county demonstrated by offering jobs to a number of sons and daughters, scholarships for their children and the empowerment loans she has been giving the women in the county.
“We are happy to see our two daughters here today; our newly elected Representative and our Vice President. Anytime, we women look at them, we feel proud that Bong County has people in the government who are doing great things for the county and the country. We are proud and we must continue to make them proud too,” one of the women leaders said.
She admitted that during the first round, not much was said about what the office of Vice President meant in the governance structure of the country as they were misled into voting otherwise against their own interest.
“Our eyes are open now and the way we voted before will not be the same way,” the Salala City Mayoress continued. “We are going to follow what our leader and mother Representative Moima Briggs-Mensah has told us and besides that we ourselves have realized that the position our mother, who is the Vice President of Liberia, is occupying is next to the President and there will be lot of development opportunities that will be taken away from Bong County if she is not re-elected. So we have to step up and ensure that this time around we vote for her and President George Manneh Weah for the second term.”
Another lady, who took more of a more stronger approach, referred the run-off as “our last chance to correct all the wrong mistakes we did during the first round where some of us look at the ballot sheet ‘kolokolo’ and still voted against our own interest and we thought we were doing it against the Vice President. We realize our mistake now.”
She continued: “I want to say this to our people. This election is between Bong county and Nimba county and I don’t care how you see it. Nimba County is looking for our job but we already have it here so why can’t we fight to keep it. It is our glory. It is our pride.
“Our talk and do mother, representative Moima Briggs-Mensah, we are always with you and that is why when you told us we must all support our daughter we have to listen to you. You have never failed us. Any time you promised, you always fulfilled it.”
“Please, our Vice President, we are ready to work hard for you. Please do not disappoint us, don’t fail us. Bring us the tools to work with for the victory. We are ready to leave our husbands, our children to go into the bushes to campaign. Please give us rain boots, rain coats, everything we need to make this campaign easy for you,” she said further amidst cheers from the jam-packed hall.
The Chairman of the Friends of Moima (FOM), Mulbah Flomo, said as the most grassroots-based and potent political movement in county, their institution was pleased to oblige to the request of its leader, Representative Briggs-Mensah, asking them to join the campaign for the CDC ticket on which our daughter is the running mate and the need to support her”.
He described the move as a “call to duty to all true sons and daughters to rally around ‘one of our own’ because this is like an entire lifetime opportunity that has come our way and we must endeavor to ensure that victory comes their way on November 14, 2023”.
“We are going to double our efforts more than what we did during the general election when our leader won the representative seat,” he continued. “This time around, it is a payback time for the Vice President who played major role for many young people to be educated in the county, for some people to get job placement in government today.
“We are supporting you for what you did, when you were Senator, we know what you did. There are people here today in Bong County that we can show you are responsible for them to be educated. Today there are some people you made representative. You are a leader. You build leaders.”
In her special remarks, Representative Briggs-Mensah who was ushered on stage by her supporters in a Kpelleh song which was interpreted in English, “God has done it again”, extended and appreciation to local district officials, chiefs, elders, women groups, youth and others who turned out in a short notice to “honor our mother of Bong county, our own big sister, my mentor, the woman I am proud to call a true leader, the woman that I have seen that made leaders.”
She added: “This is the woman I am talking about, I am talking about Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor.”
She said her decision to support the VP was premised on the fact that she has been there for the county and talked forcibly for the county when it mattered most and in such a case it was expedient that the people rally around her “in this critical time in the history of the country and Bong County as well.”
Madam Briggs- Mensah, who is affectionately called “Madam Talk and Do” and “General 100, 100, 100” urged her supporters to do everything humanly possible to turn out en masse and vote for the CDC ticket under President George Manneh Weah and VP Taylor as his running mate.
“I always tell people that I will support Jewel because in the first 6 years, I heard her talking, when things were not done properly. She was on record of talking for them to be done properly. She has made a promise that in the next term, we will have two districts, a college, and a modern hospital.”
“Those who don’t have anything are the ones who always talk about it. But for us we already have it. I mean the vice presidency. Jewel is #2, on November 14, go and vote for 2,” she said.
“You see Nimba County voting their own? This is our own too. Let us not make ourselves ashamed. If it is not for you, please do it for Bong County. Women, it is our issue. We have come again to say to my big sister we will stand by you. Let us fulfil our promise to vote # 2.”
UP Supporters Chipped In
Also at the program were a number of partisans from the Unity Party and other political parties who campaigned and voted for Madam Mensah. They also came up to pledge their support to the CDC ticket and renounce their memberships in their respective political parties.
They vowed to exert all efforts to ensure that on November 14, 2023, they will massively turn out to vote for the CDC ticket just as they were presented with lappas with the CDC campaign inscription.
The celebrant, Madam Taylor, who was obviously beaming with smiles after all the messages of endorsement, rose up from her seat as traditional singers ushered her on stage for her remarks.
She thanked the people for the huge turn out and the honor bestowed on her from the home soil and committing themselves to the re-election of President Weah who has chosen her as running mate.
She historicized how she came to subscribe the candidature of Madam Mensah even when her own party, CDC fielded a candidate and it was mandatory on her that she stood with the party’s candidate.
“Sometimes ago, I was here and the women told me it was Moima Briggs the people wanted and I said okay. I went back and told my people about it and they said no. But I stood my ground that if people say that the person they want what can I say,” the CDC VP said.
“Besides that, I support a woman’s participation in leadership. How can I come here to support a male candidate? And as God may have it, the results came and we all saw it because women of Salala district say something they will stand by it and so I want to thank you for it. I don’t know how it would have been if we had lost the election. I am sure it was going to be disastrous.”
She told the people of Salala District how dear it is to her heart to the extent when proposals were made for the establishment of a major hospital and a university in Bong county, she told the team handling the preparatory paperwork that she wanted it to be located in the district citing, among other things, “because Salala is the face of the county; it is the first place you can reach in Bong county before others.”
While saying the runoff election was crucial, she told the people: “The election was easy, wherever you are, just talk to your people and put Bong County’s interest first”.
The VP also added: “All this struggle of mine is about Bong County. It is about how we can tap in development for the county. And the only way that we could have it done is by re-electing President George Manneh Weah of the CDC, who has chosen me to be his running mate. I am sure you will not want it to happen that in January 2024 when the inauguration must have finished you find the convoy passing through Bong County to Nimba County.”
And the crowds yelled: “No way. That cannot happen, we will keep you there”
She called for unity of purpose and the spirit of working for Bong County so that “the opportunities out there will come”.
She said. “I am happy that we will be working with a new team after the election, such as Senator elect, Johnny Kpehe, Representative Mensah, who in fact can enter my bed room at any time; we need to come together and do away with the kind of politics that continue to divide us.”
She promised to revisit the district this week Friday, so as to spend the whole day with them moving from one place to another with the view of assessing their needs.
Gbarnga Ceremonies Attracts Scores
While en route to Gbarnga for another major endorsement program for the CDC ticket, VP Taylor made a brief stopover at Flehla where she broke ground for the construction of Concerned Women Multipurpose Hall and made a promise to be a major part of the project, giving a timeline up to December 2024 for completion.
During the stopover, Madam Briggs-Mensah proposed that upon completion, the building should be named VP Taylor Concerned Women Multipurpose Hall, and most of the women agreed, saying it will be a worthy honor if it was done as proposed by Rep. Briggs-Mensah.
The entourage then headed straight to Gbarnga where hundreds of women and other citizens had been waiting for hours for a historic endorsement ceremony. The women were enthusiastic to be part and parcel of the campaign process to renew the 6 year mandate of President George Manneh Weah and VP Taylor.
At the program, which was also witnessed by Superintendent of Bong County, Madam Esther Walker, the traditional women welcomed VP Taylor. They said both VP Taylor and Representative Elect Brigg-Mensah’s presence was symbolic of so many groups, such as motor cyclists, beneficiaries of the Starfish foundation, the students of Bong County Technical College, the market women, shoe shine boys, traditional rulers, elders, women groups, students, the disabled, etc.”
The organizers continued: “Madam Vice President, we are heading to the runoff and it is going to be a fight. If you don’t have anything to balance, there is no way you will throw the blow. So the Bong County Women say you should take a balance on them. They are saying you will go into this race and come up successfully with number #2. We are welcoming you with this new rice from the farm for 2023; the day after the election, as they are counting the ballot, they will declare you and George Manneh Weah as winners. “As you are seeing the dry rice, they are counting the ballot in the name of the father, the son and the Holy Ghost.”
Thereafter several organizations whose representatives spoke at the Gbarnga program enumerated the level of support to them from the generosity of the VP and made strong representations for her re-election on the CDC during the ensuing run off so as to enhance the prospects of more opportunities to support them.
One of the organizations was a group of beneficiaries from the scholarship scheme provided by the Jewel Starfish foundation that has been meaningful in their pursuits with a number of opportunities offered at several institutions of learning throughout the country.
“This woman is not just our leader; she is a mother who has done so much for the girls of Liberia at the time when some people believe girls should not be encouraged to go to school because nothing will come from them,” they said further.
“She has changed everything and encouraged us to go to school for a secure future. We are so proud of you Madam Vice President, we don’t have anything to give you but God will richly bless you.”
An Islamic high school student praised Madam Taylor for her contribution towards their education and assured her that come the runoff election, all the beneficiaries including their parents “will turn out to vote for #2 on the ballot.”
The Executive Director of the Starfish Scholarship, also spoke at the programme, stating that the initiative is all over the country. “For the record, this year, Bong County topped the number of beneficiaries on the scholarship”
“Last year, we had 490 beneficiaries, excluding the Bong County Technical College. This year, we have 798 students benefiting from the Jewel Starfish Foundation only for Bong County alone and the highest number so far. The School is paying the tuition and other fees for more than 5,000 throughout Liberia.”
The Muslim Women Association of Bong County, through their spokesperson, said they were happy for the level of empowerment given women without regard to their religious or social status, mentioning about the 25 Muslim students on the VP’s scholarship.
She said: “We are for you and President George Manneh Weah, we will vote for you.”
Having listened to the statistics of the scholarship for girl education by Her Excellency the Vice President, “we want to say thank you so much for and on behalf of the Christian community. We want to say God will bless you,” said Reverend Sesay who spoke on behalf of the Christian Community.
Also, the Spokesman of the Grassroots Campaign Network for CDC in Bong County, who set the hall on fire with his forceful presentation, asserted that the VP must be supported so that she and President Weah will maintain political leadership and help improve the living conditions of Liberians.
With the mammoth crowd who had gathered at the Civil Hall at the Administrative Building, he continued: “This is all the reason why we as citizens of this county must garner more votes for the CDC; for the VP is not just prominent citizen of the county but a mother figure for us and the country.”
He added: “The CDC ticket of President George Manneh Weah is the best ticket. It has a man and a woman on it. It has our daughter on it. That means when you have two reasons to vote for her. One, she is our daughter and the other is a woman. If you vote for her, you are also voting for her too.
“We want to tell the other people that the Kpelle tribe is the largest ethnic group in this country,” he said further.
“Since Bong County was founded, this is the first time we are coming near the presidency and she is the second most powerful person in the country next to the President. This means a lot. Where she is now is where others are fighting to be, and some of us have not realized this. So in the second round, we are going to package all our votes and give it to CDC so that we will maintain this position of relevance in the country.”
According to him, the VP job is not a small job and that the Nimba people are fighting for it like no one’s business.
“So, we are not going to allow this to happen. We will vote for our own. Vote for # 2”, he said amidst cheers and a standing ovation from the people.
He challenged the people to take the mantle for their county by ensuring that VP Taylor whom he repeatedly referred to as “our own daughter occupying a very powerful position in the land” and President Weah are returned to office come November 14, 2023.
In a position statement presented to VP Taylor, the women of Bong County said having taken into consideration the numerous intervention she has made in the lives of the citizens of Bong County, especially the women folks, they were under obligation to endorse the ticket of the CDC where she is a running mate to President George Manneh Weah.
The statement read: “Chief Dr. Jewel Howard Taylor, Vice President of the Republic of Liberia, we the women of Bong County, from different women organizations, across the county, having identified your numerous contribution and support for women empowerment, which includes economic empowerment, educational empowerment, free scholarship and vocational training, and advocacy for women rights and position among others across the length and breadth of Bong county, and Liberia at large for the past 6 years, and as the only known female vice president and all the Liberian women representation in the executive position, we hereby declare our unflinching support for your re-election.”
The Bong County citizens assured the VP that the remaining 10 days to the run off, they were going to go all out to ensure that all deck will be on board to bring victory on November 14, 2023.
VP Taylor, who was emotionally charged and completely overtaken by joy, said she was eternally grateful to the women for being thoughtful to honor her and give her the much needed support as she and the President approach the runoff election.
She spoke of her humble background being the last child of her father born in Zorzor before the family migrated to Bong County and despite all the odds she passed through, she was extremely grateful that she could stand before the crowd to address them as the first female democratically elected Vice President of the country.
She used the occasion to thank President Weah for giving her the opportunity “to break the barrier to reach the stage where I am today and that is why I continue to make the compelling case for the re-election of President Weah because he means a lot for the country.”
Speaking further, Madam Taylor said: “What I like about President Weah is he is interested in the lives of all of us. I am not saying some of us, but all of us. Even the Unity Party people’s children are keeping the free WASSCE; their children go to school for free, that is for all of us. For 12 years, they did not give to our children; education is the most important thing you can give to your children. It is the only education that can stop poverty, if you are not educated, it is not just possible to get out of poverty.”
VP Taylor lamented the different trends the 2023 general elections have taken pointing at the opposition for engaging in lies, deceit and desperation for power having failed in the past 12 years to deliver to the Liberian people the dividend of democracy and praised President Weah for being a man of Peace “even to the extent of being cheated in 2005 and 2011 yet during the 2006 inauguration he wore his white suite for the inauguration despite the misgivings from his supporters”.
“He told his people that though he was cheated, he would respect the opinion of the elections commission and that one day it will be our time. Now the time came and today he is the President.”
In an emotionally charged statement, VP Taylor urged the citizens to rally around her “because this is about Bong County, it is about you and the future of the county”.
She added: “I am here today making this plea for support from you but it could be you, it could be another citizen of Bong County standing in this position so I don’t understand where the opposition is coming from our own people. It is like they want the office of the Vice President to go to Nimba County so as to deprive us of the opportunities for development.
“You hear from them what Jewel has done for our people; she has not done anything so there is no point in her being there. And I wonder why all these desperations that they have to lie on me. But as the President will say, don’t mind them.
“If I did not do anything of course you would have not elected two times as your senator”, she said
She took a swipe at Senator Prince Moye, saying his politics of bitterness and desperation will not succeed against the interest of the people of Bong County.
“As a senator on the Senate’s Ways and Means Committee, when there are opportunities for Bong County, he removed them, not realizing he is undermining the county.
“In this election, if he was someone who feels so important, why did Ambassador Boakai did not choose him to be VP but he had to choose Senator Jeremiah Koung of Nimba County to be his running mate and Moye is fighting all over the place to take the glory to Nimba County?” she said, amidst shouts of “no way, he will not succeed” from the audience.
As the program ended, pundits who later on spoke to The Analyst said that if there was no message sent out to the people of Bong county during the first round, the two programs held over the weekend greatly inspired the Bongese to allow them see reasons to identify with one of their own.
“These messages from the two programs were direct to the point and will definitely have profound impact favourably for the CDC during the run-off. The programs were masterstrokes,” the political commentator told The Analyst last night.