Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Tubman’s Last Gamble!

By: ralph geeplay

Liberian politician Winston Tubman

Politicians are gamblers. They all bet and stake their fate on the future, and this is done not in so quiet ways. To add to the spectacle, it is often executed with everyone watching, and if they do win the glee is always never mistaken: Cameras capturing the smiles of victory, newspaper banners hailing their conquests, television and radio stations blaring their speeches and images.

The fist pumping and the almost near subtle arrogance that comes with the power they inherit is palpable for all to see.

But when they lose, they alone must nurture their wounds from the public humiliation and defeat, they alone must go on and find something else to do, pay their debt from the campaign or defy the odds and come back swinging.

Winston Tubman has been down that road once, not as an elected public official but as a defeated presidential aspirant who give up his lucrative United Nations job like the current occupant to become president of tiny little Liberia! But why--- ‘oh okay’, you can certainly almost hear his supporters saying, but ‘why not?’ That’s the 22 million dollar question.

And I think we all do know why. Look back from 1980 to 1989, the only person we still remember, etched in our memories like prints, or the one who most stand out three decades later is the ruffian: Samuel Kayon Doe. Moreso, from 1971 to 1980 it is William Tolbert who define that same period in our national history, and the same can be said of Shad Tubman and his times.

Every president defines his times and so it will be for Ellen and whoever follows her: You literally etched your name in stone and the history books, robbing shoulders with world leaders, endless adoration and fame and well, to add too wealth, especially in Africa, if you are good at stealing. But let’s move on, at least we all know why the presidency is soooooooo important!

It is almost always predictable to forecast Liberian politicians. Tubman’s intent to join the feeble Liberian National Union (LINU), this month was no news at all. It is a prototype ordinary amongst Liberian politicians.

Journalists were curious in the late 1990s when Ellen Johnson Sirleaf jump ship from the Liberian Action Party (LAP) to her current Unity Party (UP) during the 1997 elections. A life long LAP member, the party was over taken by Cletus Wortorson, while Ellen was away in the Diaspora busy building her resume as an internationalist. These credentials, she would need later to construct her way to power.

Upon her return to cast her net for the presidency, she announced she would rather lead the waning UP, whose leader Edward Kesselly had gone to the great beyond. When she was further quizzed and pressed by journalists, why was she leaving the party (LAP) she had worked so hard to build, the iron lady countered that “politics is not a Sunday school business!” Gatchu!

The same can be said of Charles Brumskin who dished his National Patriotic Party (NPP) for the Liberian Unification Party (LUP) few years ago. When hostile reception greeted him there at the LUP, he ran away from the clatter and formed his own Liberty Party (LP).

Even LINU founded by a former Liberian Vice President, Harry Moniba, who served on the ticket of the National Democratic Party of Liberia (NDPL), saw ample reason to jump ship once it became clearer that the NDPL was never a popular grass root party, contrary to what many in the party felt when times were good!

It is suddenly evident today, that President Samuel Kanyon Doe and his inner circle blamed all their troubles on the Liberian progressives and opposition politicians for nothing, ignoring the brutality that characterized the NDPL temperament as it held state power all through the 1980s.

Once out of power in Liberia, the political whores who always brandished all the fancy slogans like leeches drop dead when the blood runs dry. Tubman learned that lesson when he came home to contest the presidency in 2005.

“At least give him credit for being principled enough to say ‘when it was good I was with the NDPL, and now that it is not so good I will still lead the party’,” an observer says.

He continues, “Tubman could have left the NDPL for other parties but he felt that was where he was when the gravy was running really good under Dictator Samuel Doe, but he and others soon realized that it was a sham austere charm.” He continues “The allure its members thought the NDPL had was imaginary. In other words, the NDPL is a baggage and Tubman is trashing it to build his own consensus ahead of 2011.”

Vice President Harry Moniba

Where else then to land but LINU, a little know obscure party already registered under Liberian electoral laws with no known head and controversy surrounding it.

Today, LINU is being resurrected by the nephew of Liberia longest serving President William V.S. Tubman, who led Liberia for 27 unbroken years.

The question on the minds of many, is whether Tubman can win? The answer is yes. He has a chance like the many others throwing their hats in the race. Plus, he has the essential prerequisites: a devouring ambition and the political courage necessary to build accord where leadership and the attainable experience and education coalesce that defines national characters that should be running for office; “it is just that he has jumped so many times like a frog,” a prominent Liberian political scientist says: from the defunct TWP to the NDPL, all former ruling parties and now the little known LINU.

“Like a chameleon,” a former NDPL official says, “his changing color in search of political office is a testament to blind ambition in search of self and dreams.”

But Tubman is gambling, that once and for all he will pull with him the NDPL partisans who mainly hailed from Grand Gedeh removing the stigma that hangs over the NDPL as a tribal party, probably leading to its demise and the disgruntled members scattered here and there who hail not from the county, but loathe the inheritance the NDPL cast on their characters and careers.

His intent therefore is to shed this failing façade. Having convinced George Weah to join him under one umbrella. Analysts further say, this attests to his superior skills as a diplomat when it was all certain that Charles Brumskin of the LP would woo African greatest foot baller of all time.

Weah for Tubman remains a hypnotic fascination. For one, if Weah populist message still resonates with the youth of Liberia, as it did the last time around, LINU will ride a huge wave. But no one is sure for real if the former world footballer still has that hortatory moonshine that saw him coming second during the last election. Observers also say, if the TWP still thinks of itself as having any gist, it might have no better ally in this current political indulgence where realignment of parties are concern ahead of 2011 other than Tubman.

If he’s is successful on all these fronts he becomes a formidable contender with Liberian youth and an old establishment behind him to galvanize his trail to the Executive Mansion.

As Tubman builds his coalition to 2011, the former top United Nations official must beware that Liberians in general are nostalgic about another Tubman occupying their Executive Mansion, given, that his uncle led Liberia with iron fist, refuse to cede power until death subdued him on his hospital bed in London in 1971.

President Tubman

His name recognition thus far therefore, is a fusion of blessing and curse, some say. Illiterate Liberians (and they are in abundance, 85% of the population is) not so aware about President Tubman, and many of them of older generation, and still spread through out the hinterland of rural Liberia do not know the true nature of Shad Tubman"s draconic hold on state power, but rather, they still remember the so-called peace and prosperity he presided over and the flaboyant dashing gallantry with which he led.

On the other hand, those who are so well-read about his presidency see his weaknesses as a spoilt autocrat, schooled in the politics of divide and rule, handing out shameless justice during his 27 years in power and the voracious play at state craft, to put it bluntly "the patronage system,"... the virus and vice that has come to characterize twenty first century Liberian politics!

A legacy indeed. The nephew, in his quest for the presidency, in these modern times, must walk that fine line and induce the lots still hanging with suspicious gaze that he is the right kind of Tubman the country wants.

What nobody cannot doubt and deny is that Winston Tubman is well connected, well travelled, is accomplished both as a domestic and international bureaucrat who held important posts within the Liberian government and on the global scene.

But time is not on his side, which means he is certainly gunning to top the ticket, and will do all to coax Weah to take the number two slot, which means the vice presidency, if you will.

Because come to think of it, by the time the elections roll around he will be almost 75 years old. He is promising to lead a one term of office. That also means he would be almost 80 by the time his one term expires. If he is number two on the ticket and the LINU and Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) wins, Weah might want another term since it is known incumbents have advantages and given the fact that he is really young, in which case, Tubman will never smell the Liberian presidency.

But worse still, let’s say for argument sake Weah accept one term and pass the baton on, Winston Tubman would be almost 80 when it’s his time to run. Now tell me, who wants an 80 year old running for office when young energetic technocrats like Kofi Woods, Jerome Verdier and Tiawo Gongloe etc. would suddenly be ripe, and ripe enough to compete for the office in 2017, if the current term limit remains unchanged that is. This therefore, is his last gamble having failed once. Improbable conjectures? You decide.

First published by the Liberian forum on: Friday June 26 2009

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