Former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has called on Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor to lead the campaign for women leadership in Liberia in the next election in 2023, promising to be in the shadow, providing support.
The call has sent a shockwave deep inside the governing Coalition for Democratic Change, particularly to President George Manneh Weah that he could face a serious challenge in his second term bid at the poll from his Vice President, Madam Jewel Taylor in 2023.
The call has also left opposition leaders scratching their heads on whether they are ready to support a woman candidate for the presidency against their own insatiable interest for the highest seat.
But speaking last Friday at an induction ceremony for officers of the Liberian Women NGO Secretariat in Monrovia, Mrs. Sirleaf said women in the country face marginalization from their male counterparts, particularly in politics, as evident by having only one female currently in the 30-member Liberian Senate.
She rallied women to rise up and contest for political leadership both in the Legislature and the presidency with assurance that she would remain in the background to provide her support.
“Vice President Jewel Taylor should take the lead in 2023 and I will be in the shadow to give my support,” the former president said. Beyan Kota, the head of the Christian Association of the Blind (CAB), is supportive of the former president’s position.
Mr. Kota lamented that people with disabilities in Liberia have been neglected, but he believes that if more women are placed in leadership, they will give attention to disadvantaged people, including the blind and the physically-challenged.
Madam Sirleaf’s call, rebroadcast early Monday, 25 January on OK FM 99.5, has been greeted with mixed reactions here with some callers describing it as divisive or something equated to throwing a monkey wrench into her own former ruling Unity Party, now headed by her former vice president, Joseph Nyumah Boakai.
Others say it is an awakening call and perhaps a betrayal by former President Sirleaf, who, in her last address before the United Nations General Assembly in 2017, said it was time for the young generation to take up leadership in Liberia.
She backed her call subsequently by supporting the candidacy of George Weah against former Vice President Joseph Boakai in the 2017 presidential election.
To throw a monkey wrench into something is a British-American phrase that simply means to foil, disrupt, sabotage, frustrate, or cause problems to a project or activity.
The four Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), of which the UP is a constituent member, is yet to settle down on who to put forward as a presidential candidate to face President Weah in 2023 with both Ambassador Boakai and businessman Alexander B. Cummings of the Alternative National Congress (ANC), another constituent party, seem not willing in public to reach a compromise.
However, Madam Sirleaf’s call is likely to set President Weah and his Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor further apart politically, with suspicious eyes at each other on the road to 2023.