In politics, there is something called stronghold—a reliable support base for a politician that stands firm no matter the situation. It is the last bastion of any politician and is often the last to ever fall to opponents in rare situations. A Stronghold is a place of extreme political comfort and security, and the citadel of survival. The strength of the stronghold lies in the politicians’ unbreakable affinity rooted in dogmatic, ethnic or religious or ideological ancestry. The Liberian political terrain is not different from any other place where contests for political battles turn to support bases or strongholds for survival. Vice President Joseph Nyuma Boakai has got his own stronghold—and that is Lofa in general and Foya, his home town or district, in particular. If there was anywhere in Liberia that would open arms so copiously wide to receive and celebrate the former Vice President’s longtime political foe, Foya is least expected. But for two good days, President George Manneh Weah stampeded and softened Foya, and the predominantly Kissis, Ghandis and Lormas went gay, showing so much love and support relatively higher than some of the President’s natural political corridors visited. They say it is not because of the last-minute press release by the former VP calling on Lofans to welcome President Weah, but because of the good-naturedness of the Liberian leader to all, including Foya. The Analyst reports.
In the 2017 presidential and representative elections, President George Manneh Weah won high votes in all counties (14 out of 15) of Liberia except Lofa County. He was significantly outshined in Lofa by the standard bearer and Vice President of the then sitting ruling Unity Party, Amb. Joseph Nyumah Boakai.
The reason for that was, and still is, simple: Lofa is or perhaps was the former Vice President’s ‘pepper bush’ or stronghold. Bulk of the votes came Foya, where he was reported born and has had as an exclusive political domain in his 42 years of political life.
And he has prevailed over his opponents over Lofa, mainly Foya, as he proved during the last midterm senatorial elections when his endorsement of candidates led to their victories.
As the 2023 general elections beckon and it is getting clearer that he is almost in the driver’s seat to clinch the CPP ticket and face President Weah again, political pundits are in advance counting the Lofa votes to be in the kitty of the former Vice President.
But something has popped up in his backyard that could discount the early assumption that he will have a rosy outing in Lofa when the elections proper come by.
President George Manneh Weah has just been invading the Lofa and Foya pepper bush and fortress of the presumptive standard bearer of the opposition bloc, the CPP, and many are asking if the stronghold, following the president’s visit, still remains under the former VP’s exclusive control.
When the President started the county tour in February this year and news started to emerge that he was getting an unbelievable welcome in counties, perhaps the only place expected not to fall in that euphoria of massive support and acceptance of such visits was Lofa County.
The reason was understandable. According to speculations in the political space, Lofans had “resolved” that by 2023 the county will be upgrading its participation in the decision making process of this country by producing the next President in person of former Vice President Boakai, who remained in that undergo position for years.
This anticipation placed Mr. Boakai in the position to assume an arrowhead role as the “anointed Prince” that will take the county to the Promise Land, and that county had already taken a firm position where its votes and support will lie thus thickening the skin of the county against any other politician.
“The visit of the president to Lofa County will be the real litmus test. It will tell us how strong is Mr. Boakai holding on the county because anything otherwise will definitely spell doom for his political career which he may not recover from,” said Mr. Bartee Coleman, who describes himself as an unrepentant supporter of the CPP.
On Thursday, June 3, 2021, President Weah and party took off for Lofa County with uncertainty in the minds of some people who were even closer to the presidency as to what would be the response of the people in the fortress of a man whose possible challenge to the incumbent in 2023 will be a formidable one.
However, the political chemistry changed down the line and it turned out to be a visit that could easily be seen as a ride in the park.
Eventfully, President Weah arrived in the county with a huge presence of joy, celebration and jubilation from the citizens to the extent that people lined up the route from the point of arrival all the way to Voinjama and several stops were made where the president had one on one discussions with the local population to the admiration of the people.
It appeared very clear that the more the visits the President made to towns and communities, the tempo of his acceptance increased.
But nothing projected a better feat than the event that took place in Foya on Saturday, June 5, 2021, which should be the nucleus of his stronghold we earlier discussed.
One of the traditional rulers, speaking at the jam-packed Foya Football Stadium, fired the first salvo that set the stage for what will later on follow as chains of endorsement to the president’s quest for re-election in 2023.
The Foya chief asserted boldly: “Rumor is different from the truth. The rumor going around that we don’t like the President is not true. It is a tradition for us that we don’t go against the ruling establishment. You will go for twelve years. You can see the turn out today. We didn’t force them. Please don’t be afraid Mr. President.”
He told the gathering that Lofans are not trouble makers. “If it was so, when President William VS Tubman died in office, a Lofan would have taken over because it was clear that he was in a better position to do so.”
The chief was making reference to the widely held rumors that at the death of Tubman, some top government officials and diplomats made advances to the then Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), the late Lt. Gen. Koboi Johnson to take over the administration but he refused.
“We love you and as a manifestation of our love, we will gown you at the venue of your lodging. We will also give you five living cows for your pepper soup”, the Chief told the President amid thunderous patronizing cheers from citizens of Foya.
The Superintendent of the Foya Statutory District, Mr J. Clarence Sandie, took the Foya hospitality further by saying the people of the district were solidly behind the president and showed it vividly by presenting a petition signed by traditional rulers and other power brokers of Foya for Mr. Weah to re-contest the 2023 presidential election and that people will solidly be behind him to realize the project.
Representative Francis Nyumalin, one of the few lawmakers who in the past had been championing the presidential project of former VP Joseph Nyuma Boakai, might have sealed the re-election petition of Mr. Weah when he described the President as patriot and a historic epic success story of Liberia.
He said Lofa County has produced three Vice Presidents, but nothing has changed for the county and that it is still lying flat without development.
He said, on the other hand, the South eastern part of the country has produced three Presidents and the place is developed.
He used the occasion to render an apology to the President for the insults and disrespect shown to the president by Representative Yekeh Kolubah, a son of Lofa County and asked for his forgiveness.
Speaking on the Brownie Samuka’s issue dragging from one point to another, Representative Numalin said that the entire people of Lofa detest corruption and so when the Supreme Court came out with its verdict of guilt, they supported the ruling and had looked forward to seeing his offense being discussed and settle one day.
“But what baffled us, Mr. President, was when the Ministry of Justice placed a halt to the certification of Brownie Samukai”.
He then appealed to the President to instruct the Ministry of Justice to withdraw its objection from the National Elections Commission so that Mr. Samukai will have his rights to represent his people.
Responding, Mr. Weah thanked the people for the elaborate welcome program held in his honor. In a rather radiant move, President Weah told the people, “Lofa County has fallen” and the county is turning out to be a CDC habitat.
On Samukai, the President said the case is in court and so it will be expedient for the process to go through all the legal process so that we have a solid foundation for rule of law in the country.
Commenting on the request for the President to pardon Rep. Yekeh Kolubah, the President Yekeh is his brother and he knows him very well and he has pardoned Yekeh.
On the Citizens request for development, the Liberian Leader assured the citizens of Foya that “in the shortest time Foya will change, saying this is a government of the people, for the people and by the people.