COMMENT: Lying To Deceive: A Rejoinder to John H.T. Stewart

MONROVIA-IN a recent write-up by John H.T. Stewart, Something Former President Sirleaf Needs to Know and Understand – She is Not the ALPHA and OMEGA of Politics in Liberia, he railed against former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, as she mourned the death of her son.

This was rather distasteful, given the circumstances. While neither Stewart nor his benefactor, Joseph Boakai, may like the reality, it is an established truth that EJS is a force in Liberian politics.

She picked Boakai to be part of a two-term winning ticket. It is therefore a contradiction to claim that, on the one hand, she is not a powerful political force, while, on the other, Liberians believe that she caused Boakai’s defeat in 2017. She must be a serious political force to do so.

The truth is that Boakai lost to Weah because of many adverse factors: his small-mindedness, lack of a vision for the country, sense of entitlement, divisive and indecisive leadership characteristics, and an unwillingness to forgive even those who helped him on his long political journey. Benoni Urey is now discovering this latter aspect of Boakai.

As an incumbent Vice President, Boakai lost overwhelmingly to George Weah, an opposition candidate. This was because he ran, as if he were an opposition candidate, on an agenda of change. He should have run on an agenda of continuity. But instead Boakai, the UP candidate, ran against the achievements of a government of which he was part of.

But of course, someone else is always at fault for his failures and defeats. The responsibility is never his. When the government in which he was second only to EJS failed, it was not his fault because “the Ellen Government squandered its opportunities”. As if he was not a part of it.

After 12 years as Vice President, Boakai proudly described himself as a “parked race car”. It did not occur to him that by referring to himself as a “parked race car” he gave the impression that for 12 years he just sat there doing nothing while receiving all the emoluments that he was entitled to.

Naturally, by running against an administration in which he was second-in-command, he denied his campaign and himself the opportunity to own any of the administration’s successes. So, whose fault was that?

The fact is Boakai deserved to lose because Liberians were spared handing power to an individual who would have been a huge liability to the country had he been at the helm. His politics is toxic. He is absolutely bad for Liberia.

This is not to suggest that Weah is a good President. But Boakai would have been just as bad, as his character flaws would have plunged Liberia deeper into an ethnic divide that wreaked havoc in the country in the past.

Liberia does not deserve to be haunted by Boakai’s ghosts. The country has to work hard on building a better future, especially after the incompetence of Weah. Liberians need a leader who would focus on what is best for the people instead of one like Boakai who would concentrate on settling scores.

He moans a lot. For instance, Boakai has complained to T-Max that his pension was too small. But he failed to point out that former VP John Gray got nothing from his administration. Did Boakai not think that he also would be former VP one day?

Who knows – maybe Weah will increase his retirement pay if he does well and help destroy the CPP? If this was not so serious for Liberia, it would easily pass for a bad joke. No wonder, he is being listed as a star witness in the government’s ongoing trial of Alexander Cummings on clearly trumped-up charges.

The Chair of the CPP, a retiree on the payroll of Weah’s administration, is also the government’s star witness in a political trial against the only other aspirant standing between him and the CPP Standard Bearer position. Yet he wants Liberians to believe he is serious to remove Weah from office.

Stewart knows very well that the lawsuit against Cummings is to break up and destroy the CPP. Even a blind person can see that. Liberians must not forget that Boakai, upon taking over the CPP Chairmanship, actually promised to “reconcile and unite” the political grouping, which was willed into existence by the people. Is this what he meant when he made that promise to the Liberian people?

Strange things are happening and Liberians need to open their eyes and ears very wide. Stewart is daring to suggest that our courts, aware of an obvious interest from the administration to break up and destroy the CPP to the political benefit of Weah’s reelection effort, will be fair to Cummings. Even a one-year-old child will not believe that line.

Cummings is on the docket because he represents a threat to the current administration’s chances of victory in 2023. But Cummings is the only one within the CPP who has repeatedly and publicly said that he would accept the result of a CPP Primary if he lost. Boakai is yet to say the same.

Doesn’t it look suspicious that Urey, Boakai, and Karnga-Lawrence, supposed opposition leaders, are working with the GoL to break up and destroy the CPP, the collaboration that they themselves are leaders of? This is nothing to do with any alteration to the Framework Document, which they have all had access to and operated under for the last two years.

Is it not blatant that their participation in this is simply because they fear losing to Cummings in a primary, which they agreed would be the means to decide the CPP Standard Bearer? It begs the question: why are they so afraid of the guy who is supposed to have “no numbers”, “cannot win” and has “no base? Why is Boakai running so scared that he has thrown himself shamelessly into this plot to discredit his opponent at the cost of breaking up the CPP?

John H. T. Stewart

The Framework Document was not altered to select candidates for the House of Representatives. It was not altered to select candidates for the Senate, including Nyonblee and Dillon. It does not give Cummings or the ANC any advantage at all over anyone who is a party to the agreement.

So, what exactly did he alter and why would he alter it? Did Urey, Boakai, and Karnga-Lawrence only “realize” it was “altered” when it came to put in motion the process to select/elect the Standard Bearer?

Stewart can support his candidate. It’s his democratic right. He and Boakai go way back and Urey is his long-time buddy. But they should realize that they cannot successfully pull the wool over the eyes of Liberians

No doubt, the conspiracy against Cummings is strong. Boakai, Urey, and Karnga-Lawrence, championed by the Government, make for a strong collaboration of political co-conspirators. But theirs is more than a simple political marriage of convenience against an individual. This conspiracy extends to undermining Liberia’s democracy, and for any so-called progressive or change-seeker to ignore it or pretend otherwise is hypocritical.

Given Stewart’s long journey from being a soldier in the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), it is understandable that he may not like Cummings bursting onto the political scene and calling for real change. Stewart and others think Cummings must wait his turn to lead Liberia.

But to smear the man for daring to challenge the status quo that Liberians want to change for the better in disingenuous. They have failed to look at the bigger picture whereby their underhand tactics could have dire consequences for Liberia and its hard-won democracy.

For Boakai, Urey, and Karnga-Lawrence to connive with the Weah administration to destroy the CPP so that they are excused from the burden of keeping their promises to the Liberian people is cowardly. No coward deserves to lead anybody, let alone Liberia. And the government is just as culpable for joining this trio to undermine an already struggling democracy under Weah.

Finally, Stewart drew Riva Levinson into the picture to prove to the unsuspecting mind that EJS is somehow seeking to interfere with the trial on Cummings’ behalf or intimidate the government. Strangely, like Liberians often say, Stewart is crying more than the bereaved. Isn’t there an existing relationship between the Weah administration and Levinson? Isn’t she a lobbyist for Weah, McGill, and other officials of the Weah administration?

The Government hired Levinson’s firm in 2018 and recently again in 2020 which ran into last year. Do they not take her advice and findings seriously? In fact, even on the bogus lawsuit, they asked for her opinion and intel and she gave it. She reported to the highest official of the Liberian government in the United States in the person of Ambassador George Patten, as she was expected to do, and he relayed the information to Minister Nathaniel McGill and others of interests.

According to the text message, Levinson found out that there was a “dossier” on McGill. Why would all this be happening if there was any merit to the fairytale Stewart is trying to compose that Levinson’s involvement is at the behest of Sirleaf? Surely, Stewart cannot be suggesting that Levinson was working for Sirleaf when she gathered intel and passed it on to Patten and the Weah administration.

Indeed, the administration is worried about what Levinson found out, as it should be. But had Stewart bothered to ask his buddy Urey, he would have easily found out that none of the named individuals in the text from Levinson would have claimed to be surprised that she discovered what she did, or that the Weah administration does not take her counsel seriously.

Ambassador Patten does, for sure. If any message ever comes again from Levinson, McGill will not be sharing it with Urey. Ambassador Patten must have been extremely embarrassed reading Stewart’s write-up.

Look, Stewart, Liberians are tired of this rhetoric of “militancy” with promises of “fierce resistance” and “unwavering actions with bullets to our breast”. Furthermore, Liberians know that history has shown this to be the utterances of those who are the first to flee when things get hot.

For now, all Liberians want is to democratically change a corrupt and discredited system for which Boakai is an unwanted reminder. Rather than the archaic threat of “fierce resistance…to defend the sacred heritage”, Stewart’s rhetoric would be best served by joining the effort to bring real democratic change.

This way, Liberians could all change the direction of their country for the better to improve their lives without Stewart constantly threatening to do what he absolutely has no capacity to deliver.

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