Last night, the LAMA Independent Elections Commission raised the bar by putting up a very successful debate. Thanks to the moderators, the candidates and their supporters for a spirited and civil debate. Our hats off to the Commission for level of fairness and transparency exhibited so far. The questions were fair and the rules clear for all.
In the Parliamentarian debate, Candidate Simeon Sepha was over two hours late and so the floor was all for the bombastic Stephen Paye. However, upon the discretion of the Elections Commission, Mr. Sepha was given 2 minutes to make remarks just before the presidential debate. So we give the day to Stephen Paye. In the Board debate, Layee Toure won clearly. Next was Juanita Caulker who presented herself as the adult in the room. The rest played it safe except Kema Diggs did well in her delivery but hurt herself by overrating her own abilities and making some outrageous claims.
The Chaplain Pastor Oliver Worjloh is running unopposed. His presentation was flawless and seemed to be the consensus candidate. All sides cheered him.
Another unopposed candidate is the Treasurer Mr. Titoe Sayneatue who admitted that he got no formal training in accounting, Finance or any related business course but taunt his experience serving as Treasurers for so many organizations. He got some jeers when he announced that he is a former Custom Officer in Liberia. Knowing how corrupt Custom is in Liberia and most West African countries, some murmured that such explains why he always wants to be where the money is. With the current Treasurer being a Doctorate degree holder in Accounting and a Professor of Accounting in a local university who really raised the bar for the office of Treasurer, many are skeptical if LAMA is not going backwards by electing such person as Mr. Sayneatue who has no formal training in the job he wants but always wanting to be Treasurer in almost every organization he is a part of.
In the debate for secretary, Mrs. Dede Dalmeida clearly won the day over Mrs. Nwane Rose-Williams. Nwane repeated things such as putting LAMA on social media that were already in place in LAMA as the new things she would introduce when elected. To that, Dede retorted that that those things were already in place but the issue was commitment. She said for the last two years she has spent working in LAMA, she wears many hats to the extent of serving as Acting Secretary when there was no secretary and that is so because there are no committed people to work. She said she is one of the few young persons in the administration and sometimes serves in three capacities at the same time. She took a jab at her opponent who was elected Secretary General almost four years ago but quit and walked away barely one month on the job. Perhaps the lowest point for Mrs. Williams was when she clearly stated that she will not serve if her preferred candidate for president (meaning Mrs. Somo Hubbard-Basir) did not win because she will only serve with people who share her vision. This came to prove why she abandoned her elected position four years ago and gave the voters no guarantee that she would not be walking away again after giving her their votes.
For Vice President, Mr. Jerry Yekeh had an edge over his opponent Mr. Thomas Awadjie especially in the line of experience and serving LAMA. Mr. Awadjie who appeared that he had rehearsed the questions admitted that he stepped away from LAMA when he was asked to comment on his role in LAMA for the past two years. He said his reason for staying away from LAMA is because of the noise in personal attacks that took place at most of LAMA meetings. He said he trained his six year old daughter that telling someone to shut up is an insult and so when his daughter heard adults in LAMA meeting using those words, she asked “daddy, why is he using bad words?” Another low point for Mr. Awadjie was when he could not commit to working with any of the candidates for president who would win the elections. Like his team mate Nwane Williams, he can only work with a president whose vision is in line with his vision of working here in Metro Atlanta and extending to Liberia. With a 501c3 organization such as LAMA where there are no political parties to run on a ticket but individuals run on their own merits and commitment to the organization, it is mind boggling that individuals will put their team or party interest over the interest of the organization.
The Presidential debate was the main attraction for the night. Mrs. Yahsyndi Martin-Kpeyei clearly reigned supreme followed by Mr. Nathaniel Tamba who some refer to as a One Man Army since he go no running mate. Mrs. Somo Hubbard-Barsir was almost a non-factor although she has a good number of supporters in the house. She appeared emotional and combative except to the end when she sounded a more friendly tone of being good friends with her opponents. Yahsyndi who is the current Vice President and Acting President used her experience and commitment to LAMA as her major advantage. She chided her opponents who like her were part of the LAMA leadership but quit their jobs and walked away only to come back and run for president. When asked if each of the candidates would commit to working with whoever wins, Yahsyndi said she would still be working and cleaning and setting up even if she does not win. Tamba said he would have no choice but to congratulate the winner while a clear commitment could not be gotten out of Somo.
It is often said that debates don’t make you win elections but debate can make you lose. In the days and weeks to come, we will see the impact of the debate on the voters and come November 8, the final whistle will tell if these debates had anything at all to do with the elections results.