President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf with Red Hat bearing initials “EJS’ in line to vote
WEST AFRICA —Today, October 10, 2017, Liberians vote for a new president to replace outgoing president Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The Tuesday poll also includes legislative races for members of the House of Representatives.
Voting started on a rocky path this morning, with several voters being initially denied access and the opportunity to vote because, according to officials of the National Election Commission (NEC) of Liberia, the eligible voters did not have their names on the authorized NEC voting roster sent at the voting centers.
These initial voting issues which raised widespread concerns took place largely in Margibi, Bong, Nimba, and parts of Montserrado counties.
In places like New Georgia suburbs and surrounding areas, few voter centers were relocated or changed as the citizens prepare to vote. One intellectual Liberian, Benedictus Dotu Nyan, remarked on social media this morning regarding this, saying, “You cannot change the rules in the middle of the game.”
Meanwhile, the leadership of the NEC quickly handled and addressed the setback with speed and ease, and a normal voting process began again.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf voted this morning, so was Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai of the ruling Unity Party (UP), ex-soccer star George Weah of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), Charles Walker Brumskine of Liberty Party (LP), and Alexander B. Cummings, Jr. of the Alternative National Congress (ANC). These four candidates, according to estimates and all available political analysis seem to be the center of the Presidential election.
An Early SOS to the National Election Commission of Liberia: “Let Us Vote” – Voters in Bong County pleaded to cast vote
From the look of the country’s political activism and zeal, Liberia is poised to be the most politically conscious nation in Africa by all accounts and measures. No presidential election in Africa’s history has gained momentum, spirited exchanges, and interpersonal interactions as well as citizens’ involvement than the ongoing presidential race to replace Africa’s first democratically elected president.
This is also the first time that Liberia will have a natural presidential transition when the mantle of national political leadership and governance are passed on to a new national leader. It will also be the first time that one democratically elected Liberian president will hand over power to another. It will indeed be the first time that Liberia will have a former democratically elected retired president, and this will be Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Like or hate her, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has made remarkable personal history. But her critics will quickly say it is a history that is grounded in self-interest, the interest of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and those within her orbit, including her family, friends, and loyalists.
President Sirleaf promised to leave Liberia better than when she took power. Her supporters will quickly argue that she has done her part but her critics would say given the opportunities and support she got from both Liberians and the international community she should have done far better.
Sirleaf is not shy in acknowledging this fact even though she insists that her administration has played a significant role in stabilizing the country. What is true though, according to Jones Nhinson Williams, a Liberian public policy professional with expertise, knowledge, and professionalism in job creation and workforce development, is that President Sirleaf has made Liberia a household name in the international media for many reasons. Some good and personal and most very unnecessary.
Williams, who is a staunch opposition to the policies and governance style of the president, said, “Madam Sirleaf deserves some credit for ensuring what Liberians most desire –‘freedom’– is not eroded in ways that previous administration did. He continued, “Where I vehemently disagreed with the president are on issues of organized and endemic corruption, judicial interference and political witch-hunt, nepotism, and the tolerance of cronies that did not or were not serving her well.”
Williams believes Liberians will remember President Sirleaf for some good things that she did even though she did more bad than good in an attempt to please her family, friends, and cronies. He urges the incoming Liberian president to carefully study the failure of President Sirleaf and learn from it.
He said, “We need a leader who will not tolerate family and tribal interference. The weakness of our political leaders in Africa is the attempt to skew the concept of having a system.” He insisted, “No matter how qualified, educated, experienced and competent a leader is, once he or she does not establish humility, honesty and put the interest of the people first rather than that of him or herself, their family and cronies, the result is failure and doom.”
Williams maintained that make no mistake, “Liberians are a nice people. We are a country of good Christians and good Muslims and we can easily forgive and forget. Liberians also love President Sirleaf. But she has failed or refused to recognize that in 12 years. Despite all the criticisms from Liberians against her, very soon a former president Sirleaf will be the “Oldma’ again. Our hope is that she (President Sirleaf) needs to do all she can to ensure that the Presidential election and the transfer of power go smoothly.” Adding, “The next president of Liberia should focus on job creation, innovation, and workforce development as his or her number one goal. This would require reorganizing and re-establishing the Ministry of Labor and its mandate.
The reason you find more young people in the streets throughout Liberia and following all kinds of crazy politicians is that they have no jobs and no income to distract them from meaningless politics as well as illegal issues and activities.”
So far, all the candidates in the race are determined, enthusiastic and more optimistic that they will come out the victor. While such determinism is good, one thing certain, the Liberian people are the ones that have the power to decide who leads them. The only problem is Liberians are good at choosing leaders who do not have their interest at heart, and who do not even bother to visit with them in their communities once in power. The good news, as Liberia transition, is that all the candidates are committed to a free and fair election and more importantly to a peaceful Liberia.