JEWEL & DEW – MAKE IT OFFICIAL
Months after Liberty Party Charles Brumskine scored a coup in landing the vocal Senator Franklin as his running mate, another pair with political capital have thrown a monkey wrench into the presidential race pitting the popular Bong Senator Jewel Howard-Taylor alongside Ambassador Dew Mayson. The pairing have no doubt raised the stakes in the scramble for votes in the vote-rich county.
Clara K. Mallah, email@example.com
Gbarnga, Bong County -
Senator Jewel Howard-Taylor came to Bong County Saturday to show-and-tell. But what the popular senator brought along could alter the dynamics of the upcoming presidential elections.
For months now, speculations have surfaced that the Senator was in talks with Ambassador Dew Mayson and that the pair was contemplating running on the same ticket. The popular Bong senator was recently crowned standard bearer of the National Patriotic Party while Mayson was recently tapped as standard bearer of the New Deal Movement. Together, the pair hopes their partnership arrangement will strike a populist tune en route to the presidency, using vote-rich Bong County as a launching pad.
Last weekend, the pair appeared together for the first time since the speculations began to surface.
Senator Taylor told her constituents that merging with Mayson was the right thing to do now for Liberia’s immediate political future.
Said the Senator: ‘‘I came to show someone to you. A few months ago they made me standard bearer for the party(National Patriotic Party, NPP), and I know Bong County is our key base. I decided as we are part of the coalition that we will come and just introduce ourselves to you. I came to you first because I hold you in such high esteem and I know you love me and you honour me as a daughter. So I have to pay honour to you to come to you first. I brought Amb. Mayson to come and say hello to you. He is the standard bearer of the New Deal movement. They are in partnership with the APP and other parties. We have decided that we will not separate ourselves into 21 groups in this election because it will make everybody tired. So we have come together and be strong to have an alternative voice. You know God does everything in order.’’
The coming together of Senator Taylor and Ambassador Mayson has opened the vote-rich county up for intense scrambling in this year’s elections, especially coming on the heels of the partnership deal between another popular Bong politician in Franklin Siakor.
Bong has twelve districts with Gbarnga serving as the capital with the area of the county measuring 8,772 square kilometres (3,387 sq mi). As of the 2008 Census, the county had a population of 328,919, making it the third most populous county in Liberia.
The county is bordered by Lofa, Gbarpolu and Bopolu counties to the north, Margibi and Montserrado counties to the west, Grand Bassa County to the south, and Nimba County to the east. The northeast part of Bong borders the nation of Guinea. But it is the Taylor significance which could make the county a key battleground this year. This much was reflected in the crowd of supporters who turned out to hear the announcement that Mayson was forming an alliance with the popular senator. Elders, youth, children and ex-combatants thronged the streets to greet the Senator and her featured guest.
Singing, Dancing and Kola Nuts
On a Cool Friday evening, at the Cole Town where she made her first stop to speak to a group comprising mostly women, who gathered for fast and prayer day, Senator Taylor was greeted with singing and dancing as women welcomed her and presented the traditional kola nuts.
For his part, ambassador Dew Tuan-Wleh Mayson entered Salala District, separating Bong County from Margibi County, where citizens waited to welcome him to the county. Together, the pair walked through the crowd to greet those who turned out to welcome them.
At the county’s administrative building in Bong County, bike riders, traditional dancers and cultural dancers welcomed Senator Taylor and Ambassador Mayson. Mayson was given some kola nuts and a dove as sign of purity and victory.
Despite the fact that the party’s first standard bearer, Charles G. Taylor, was forced out of power in 2003, and is currently at the Hague facing charges for crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Sierra Leone, partisans appeared unmoved and undeterred as hundreds turned out to greet Mayson and Senator Taylor.
With much in play ahead of the 2011 elections, both Senator Taylor and Mayson used their presence in Bong to woo potential voters.
At the Liberia Muslim Youth Association School, Senator Taylor hailed Muslims for what she described as their consistency. ‘‘I remembered I came here for your support when I was running for the senatorial post, you asked me one question that if I became senator, would I fix your school and consider your cry? And I said yes.
‘Good candidate’ eyeing Quran
Senator Taylor reminded the school that she lived up to her promised of constructing a school.
‘Sometimes I tell my brothers and sisters in the Christian community I wish we were committed like the Muslims because when you say yes people came see and when you say no people can also see. You don’t change your mind. As senator I did what they asked me. I renovated this school when I became senator.’’
Abraham A. Fofana, Principal of the school said he was impressed with the pairing of Senator Taylor and Ambassador Mayson. “He’s a very good candidate; we really recommend that he assist us in the rebuilding of our school. The school is not completed yet. We have to reach to high school level, and it’s just up to the junior high level. So we are asking all those who want to stand as a standard bearer elections, we will give all our support to anyone who is ready to support us.
Mayson went a step further in declaring that he would respect Muslim holidays and even become the first president to read the Quran. Said Mayson: ‘‘I want to be the first Liberian president that has read the Quran. I want to be the Liberian president that considers the Muslims and the Christians on an equal basis. I want to be the Liberian president who will respect the Muslims holidays, that Ramadan must be given the same respect as it’s given to Christmas. Thank all for the help and to see all Muslims students in schools that serve as the basis for jobs and development.’’
Suffering ‘too long’
Taking a stab at the incumbent government, Mayson said, the ruling party has kept Liberians suffering for too long and also apart. ‘‘We don’t want the last six years to be like the coming one. As president I will not take salary, since the president gets a free place to live, travel and even vehicles to their care, there is no need for him to take salary.’’
Mayson took the ruling party to task for denying Liberians the chance to hold together. ‘‘We have not been able to hold power because they kept us apart but time has come for us to say enough is enough to take over what belongs to us. With the unity of our people, elections this year the people of Liberia will join together matching to Monrovia and having meetings at the executive mansion.’’
Mayson cautioned that Liberians must never lose sight of the opportunity. ‘‘It comes to us every six years and if we miss the opportunity, to change our lives we will have to wait for another six years. I’m tired of seeing most of our people unemployed, because when a person is unemployed they can’t buy food for their children, or send them to school, and even get respect at home. They will not get money to pay hospital bill when they and their children are sick. They lose their pride, too.’’
Continued Mayson: ‘‘We want the president to be competent. By this I mean the president must know our problems and have solutions for them. We want to go the executive mansion with a plan; we have a plan for agriculture, education and in six years every Liberian must be able to read and write. Up to present only 15% of our people can read and write it’s a big problem and we will work towards that.’’
For her part, Senator Taylor said while incumbent Sirleaf has done a lot of things in the international community that enabled Liberia to maintain peace, the president asked the Liberian people for only one term and her time was almost up. ‘‘What she done we appreciate it. We love her as the first female president, but we know when you read the Bible you will learned that when Moses tenure was over, God took him to rest and he raised Joshua to the new land and carried the people.’’
‘We need a new day’
The Senator said she is often disturbed to see people still living in mud houses in 2011. ‘‘People are living like we are in 1910. Unemployment is so high, even though the big companies are coming up , but they are telling us our people are not trained. So they are importing people from abroad to do the jobs. So the money is not reaching our people yet. We need a new day.’’
The Senator said her partnership with Ambassador Mayson aims to create a unified Liberia. ‘‘Today, in Liberia when you are ex-combatants you can’t find a job. They say the people fought war. But in the Quran and the Bible wars were fought and God transformed nations. And God will use man to fight, he will not use angels, those people who fight to make Liberia a unified Liberia must work.’’
Looking to zero in on the votes of ex-combatants, the former first lady said the civil war was important so all Liberians can be a part of the country and its development. ‘‘I was not going to be in the legislature in the 70s, they were going to tell me I’m too young, and I have no experience. But because of the war that was fought in this country, young, old, Islamic, Christians have all equal access.’’
But despite the progress, the former first lady said, people are still unsatisfied in the country, unsatisfied to see their children graduate and get no job because they did not go to school in America. ‘‘Whether from UL or America once you are a graduate you must get a job just as good as any child that comes from Harvard, because all of us cannot send our children to Harvard. So it’s time to change the dynamics in the country to bring to bed the dreams and aspiration of our people from the founding of this nation.’’