We Respect The Vice Presidency, But We Disagree With Its Current Occupant: A Rejoinder To His Excellency Joseph N. Boakai
Over the last several months, there have been insinuations from many Unity Party supporters amidst the resurgence of huge public support for Liberty Party and its Political Leader, Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine. As Liberty Party welcomes Liberians of all backgrounds and political persuasions, most recently Harrison Karnwea, those insinuations are now being enhanced to false accusations by elected government official(s) who should be accustomed to making decisions on facts, rather than street gossip and social media banter. The Vice President was recently interviewed, during which time he repeated and or alluded to rumors that President Ellen Sirleaf is fully supporting Liberty Party and Cllr. Charles Brumskine. This, according to the rumor, is the reason why many are coming to Liberty Party.
Liberty Party USA holds the office of the Vice President in high regards but we are disappointed that His Excellency Joseph N. Boakai would make such remarks unsubstantiated by evidence. Such behavior sets the wrong precedent, not only for other political actors, but for the next generation. What would the Vice President say when someone else comes along alluding to rumors about him that are false and misleading? What about the many young men and women who would think it is prudent to employ rumors when wrongly accusing others? This is akin to the type of political dishonesty that have wrecked our country in the past.
What perpetrators of these rumors have failed to realize is that the resurgence of Liberty Party is not the product of any one person, not even Cllr. Brumskine alone, and definitely not because of President Sirleaf in any way, financially or otherwise. It is the result of having lost two elections and using each loss as an opportunity to grow and mature our political discourse. Those of us who have been with the party for several years endured the difficult times, not by pointing fingers at other parties; rather, by inflecting on what we didn’t do right. After our first loss, we focused on robust critiques of the government in our quarterly reports where we provided alternative ideas to the Unity Party government. Many who are now peddling falsehoods about Liberty Party were the same ones who said we were being overly critical and not giving the President time to govern.
After our second loss, we realized we did not have adequate social media presence to combat rumors, neither did we fervently promote the guiding principles of the party to our people in rural Liberia. We also did not educate the voting population on our core principles of Reconciliation, Reform, Recovery, Rebuilding (4Rs). And out of our inflection came improvements in our message, our delivery and our outreach. We retooled our platform, tapered our message and our tone to continually fit the needs of the average Liberian. We became active on social media and simplified our message so the average Liberian could know how Liberty Party could do things differently. That sacrifice was made by average men and women of Liberty Party, many who have encountered numerous difficulties in anonymity for the party. Some spent resources that could have been used on their families, others rallied their communities without receiving a penny. We all kept the torch of Liberty Party ablaze while others rejoiced at our demise. We stood in lock step because our faith was never in a person, it was in the collective ideals of a party that will continue after us.
And our hard work is now paying dividend. Liberians everywhere know the Liberty Party brand, a party where honesty, integrity and professionalism are hallmarks. In many quarters, we are branded as the most mature political party. Ranking partisans from CDC, UPP, NPP, UP and now MDR have all come to join Liberty Party recently in large numbers, yet only the Unity Party is complaining. They did not complain when Liberty Party supporters crossed over and supported Unity Party. Are we to assume President Sirleaf is calling members of other Liberian opposition parties to join Liberty Party? So when our Vice President repeats such a rumor, he not only undermines the President he now serves, he degrades the efforts of thousands of Liberty Party supporters the world over, and for that we take exception.
It is our hope that the Vice President will instead speak to the things he has control over. And that is repositioning the Unity Party’s message to offer hope to Liberians. Over the last 11 years, that message has been asphyxiated by the cold hands of corruption and devalued by the burden of inflation in the midst of joblessness. Moreover, Liberians have been reduced to beggars, among the top 5 poorest nations in the world, while elected officials, some now running for office, enjoyed the comfort of silence. It is our hope that our Vice President will put forth a plan to correct Liberia’s 2014 governance score card as documented by the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a U.S. Government entity charged with delivering development grants to countries:
- Government Effectiveness 35/100
- Rule of Law 44/100
- Regulatory Quality 29/100
- Land Rights and Access 21/100
- Inflation 43/100
- Trade Policy 31/100
- Natural Resource Protection 17/100
The Vice President is on record as saying that “The role of the Vice President is very clear. I am not the President. I do not make appointments. I do not set the rules; the President is the President.” But did the Vice President advise the President as to a better course of action on any
issue over the last eleven years? If the President did not accept his advice, or if his views were so
fundamentally opposed to those of the President, why did he not make his views public as he is doing now on the issue of her lack of support? Why did he not resign? And although he is not the President of our country, as President of the Senate, the Vice President has had opportunities to influence legislation over the last 11 years, thus should have a track record to show how he has operated within his span of control.
In fact, the Vice President has made numerous foreign trips ostensibly to show how his work, as Vice President, has added value to the lives of Liberians. It is high time we stop referring to the office of the Vice President as a ceremonial position. How can we give that excuse to the average college graduate who has no chance of getting a job, to the mother in child birth who has to give birth (or worse) while walking a day or more to the nearest clinic, to the 25,000 students who failed WAEC exams in one sitting, to the young men and women who have no skills training while 86% of government revenues go towards recurring expenses, or to the families that go to bed hungry while corruption abound? Our people are sick and tired of excuses and mediocrity. It is the public’s abhorrence for such record that have opened the floodgates to Liberty Party. Liberians are joining Liberty Party because Unity Party, where the Vice President is now the Standard Bearer, has not won the confidence of the voting public.
We are gaining more support because our Political leader sees no limit to what is possible. In our recent excursions at the US Capitol in Washington D.C, Cllr. Brumskine spoke on behalf of thousands of Liberians trapped in the U.S immigration system, some of whom could face deportation. He also articulated his vision for a new Liberia when he met with Congressman Charles Dent of Pennsylvania, congressional staffers and State Department officials. He did not go asking to receive; instead, Charles Walker Brumskine sat with shoulders squared and said the U.S needed Liberia as much as Liberia needed the U.S. His theme was Liberia: Love, Location, Language (the three Ls). Companies from the U.S can use Liberia as a conduit to the 350 million strong West African market, so investors should not look at Liberia as only a population of 4.5 million. Our ability to speak English, love for people and location can be leveraged to provide mutual benefits to both the people of Liberia and investors. He shared his plans to develop human resources, our young men and women (about 60% of our population below the age of 35), who could be trained to operate data and customer service centers for big U.S. businesses; our farmers who could grow crops to take advantage of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a legislation in the U.S which enhances market access to the U.S for qualifying Sub-Saharan African countries. He said Liberia does not benefit much from the duty free privileges of AGOA because we have not been able to produce commercial quantities of agricultural products for export. He then gave his plans for agriculture, incentivizing private sector involvement, speaking to the potential for selective free trade zones, incentivizing farmers, farm to market roads, among many others. He spoke to improving the legislative and regulatory framework to bring about efficiency and transparency in government. He spoke about sustaining peace and security and dealing swiftly with corruption, to alleviate uncertainty for investors. He reinforced to me the value I’ve always held that “we must never negotiate from a position of weakness. Never.” That’s the negotiator who can pull value out of discussions.
Cllr. Brumskine is not in government yet he is working to add value to his people. How can we then allow the thought that the office of an elected official, the second highest office in the land, is a ceremonial position? How can we suggest that not appointing ministers and officials of government are reasons for not being equally responsible for the current state of affairs in Liberia?
Lastly, people from all political parties are also joining Liberty Party because of our enduring commitment to reconciling our people. No amount of development and economic activity can sustain our peace outside of reconciliation. Cllr. Brumskine told attendees at the town hall in Philadelphia that “we had roads in Liberia, we destroyed them because we had not learned to respect our differences and diversity.” Unlike others who choose to run their campaign along ethnic lines or to exploit religious diversity in our country, we have decided to include all Liberians in our party, regardless of how one worships or which heritage one’s parents originate. We have chosen to run our campaign on hope and aspirations, not fear and suspicion. These divisive campaigns are repugnant and Liberians are running away from such because they represent the antithesis of what it will take to move our country forward.
So as we approach the consequential elections of 2017, we want to tell every Liberian that the doors to Liberty Party are wide open. Our institution is bigger than any one individual, it embodies the spirit of renaissance that will muster the collective energies of our people to build a vibrant nation. That is why we believe that “Together We Can Do Better” and why we are Liberty.
Philip B. Suah, Jr.
Chairman, Liberty Party USA