By Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh
Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai is back in the United States.
This is for the nth time, perhaps more than any Liberian vice president. At least more than any of the major presidential candidates in the 2017 race.
Like his boss, Madame Sirleaf, who has visited the United States more since she became president – even for the common cold when Liberian clinics and hospitals could have been the preferred and sensible choice to treat that common cold to save the country some money, visiting the United States seems to be the “mother of all visits” outside of Liberia for key Liberian government officials.
I don’t have the exact numbers to make a case about the president or the vice president’s countless visits to the United States to attend to “official business.”
But from press reports, and from my naked eyes and ears (since I reside in the United States), Mr. Boikai could be on the verge of tying or surpassing President Sirleaf for the number of visits he has made to the United States since he became vice president of Liberia.
In my home state of Georgia, metro Atlanta was once the preferred route of the vice president whenever he wanted the attention and the press – pre-LAMA Community center days.
Since the Liberian Community in metro Atlanta lost their building for lack of funds – a LAMA center that vice president Boakai helped to give birth to, that carried his name but he did not help to keep afloat when he was approached to do so financially, it is unknown whether Vice President Joseph Boakai will visit metro Atlanta any time soon.
I could be wrong.
Mr. Boikai’s attention for now is set on winning the Liberian presidency in 2017.
Friends of Vice President Boakai dubbed the “Coalition of JNB Supporters” gathered at a hotel in suburban Philadelphia on April 15, 2017, to do just that.
Looking at the pictures from the event on Facebook, I saw individuals whom I didn’t think would be in the crowd, to support a seemingly incompetent, uninspiring and stealth vice president who hasn’t demonstrated a walking knowledge of the job he now holds (since he reportedly often sleeps in gatherings), and hasn’t even articulated his vision for the country that he desperately wants to lead.
The individuals – some rabid critic of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and other opportunists, are waiting in the wing to run to Liberia just in case Boakai wins the presidency, to get their share of the pie.
What’s the difference between the government of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and a future Joseph N. Boakai administration? What’s Boakai going to do differently from the Sirleaf administration? Why hasn’t Boakai put forth his platform and his vision for the country? Can Boakai sign an agreement – a contract with the Liberian people that will hold him accountable if he cannot deliver those promises in 200 days of his presidency?
Even ULAA’s president Wilmot Kunney and his faithful and cheering squad of known supporters stood in attention to give their brand of North Korea-like collective salute and applause to their “chief” who apparently was carrying out his duty.
What a damn shame!
Looking at the pictures of Boakai’s faithful and blind supporters (mostly indigenous Liberians), and that is the danger and tragedy, I am reminded of the Tubman-Tolbert-True Whig Party and Doe era, etc., when blind and opportunistic supporters waved or carried banners and proclamations urging their president to seek another term; even though their president’s record of achievements and human rights/development records were visibly reckless and terrible.
Can Boakai win the presidency? Yes, he can. Because he is the sitting vice president who have access to the state bureaucratic network – funds, security, state-controlled National Elections Commission, the press, etc.
It is also a tall order for vice president Boakai because of the competitive nature of the race, with more than dozen candidates vying for the singular presidency.
Some of the presidential candidates, one or two, even though have not spelled out their programs, platforms and vision for the country, and have not made a compelling case why the individuals want to be president, are outstanding individuals who pulled themselves up by the bootstraps to be who and what they are today in society.
Of course, Mr. Boakai can be defeated.
Boakai cannot win the presidency on a silver platter with a staged coronation in the United States, far away from the electoral battlefront of Liberia.
This is perhaps the reasons behind his many visits to the United States to win over a friendly, opportunistic and compliant audience.