By Our Staff Writer
MONROVIA: With barely few days to continue the democratic fight for the nation`s highest seat (the Presidency), through a possible presidential run-off involving incumbent President, George Manneh Weah (CDC), and former Vice President Joseph Nyuma Boakai (UP), another serious political battle has begun in the Legislature, which is the First of Liberia’s three Branches of Government.
The other two Branches of government include the Executive and the Judiciary.
The October 10, 2023 Presidential and Legislative Elections affected some 50 Lawmakers including the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dr. Bhofal Chambers, whom, until said elections, represented Maryland County.
With the emergence of new Legislators, per the October polls, members of various Statutory Committees’ of both the Upper House, (Senate), and Lower House (House of Representatives), have also been affected.
As a result, there are credible reports in the corridors of the House of Representatives that lobbying for the influential, powerful, and lucrative House’s Speaker Portfolio has begun with some representatives elect eying the post.
So far, according to unimpeachable and authoritative Legislative insiders, four (4) representatives elect are reportedly showing interest for the
Speakership position, which is the third most powerful seat in the Land, after the President and Vice President.
Chapter V: (Article 49), of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia states: “The House of Representatives shall elect once every six years a Speaker who shall be the presiding officer of that body, a Deputy Speaker, and such other officers as shall ensure the proper functioning of the House. The Speaker, the Deputy Speaker and other officers so elected may be removed from office for cause by resolution of a two-thirds majority of the members of the House.”
With the above provision in the Liberian Constitution, the democratic lobby would lead to election of new corps of officers to steer the affairs of the National Legislature including the replacement of the ‘outgoing’ Speaker, Deputy, and members of other statutory committees.
Recently, several of the representatives’ elect were seen at various high-profiled hotels in Monrovia and its environs with some of the lawmakers who are eying the Speakership.
The four (4) newly elected representatives who are reportedly eying the post among the seventy-three (73) representatives include incumbent Deputy Speaker, Cllr. Jonathan Fonati Koffa, member of the National Governing Council of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC); Thomas T. Fallah, Senior Executive of the CDC; Madam Prescilla Abram Cooper, a GSM Business Tycoon and Women’s Rights Activist; and Musa Hassan Bility, Chairman of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP).
Cllr. Koffa is also representing Grand Kru County in the Legislature; Thomas T. Fallah former of Montserrado County District#5 Representative is now representing Lofa, district#1 in the Legislature; Madam Prescilla Abram Cooper won Montserrado County District#5 on opposition Unity Party (UP) ticket and Mr. Musa Hassan Bility, of Nimba County District#7.
Reports say the four names are now permeating the Legislative corridors for the third-highest seat in the country.
Cllr. Jonathan Fonati Koffa
Cllr. Koffa is a graduate of the University Of North Carolina School of Law at Chapel Hill in the United States, where he obtained a Juris Doctorate (JD) degree in Law.
His educational pursuit took him to Raleigh, North Carolina State University, where he obtained a Master of Public Administration (MPA) and a Bachelor of Public Administration (Cum Laude) with concentration in Urban Planning, from Shaw University, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA.
Cllr. Koffa began his legal career in the United States in 1998 in private practice and then moved to Liberia in 2009 and became a founder and Managing Partner of the International Law Group (ILG), now one of the emerging corporate and government firms in Liberia.
He was admitted to the Supreme Court Bar of Liberia as valedictorian of its Class of 2014.
Prior to his election as Representative of Grand Kru County, he served as Minister of State Without Portfolio and Legal Advisor to former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf from 2014 to 2016.
He began his entry into politics as a founding member of the Liberty Party (LP), the second leading opposition Party in Liberia, where he was eventually elected as Chairman from 2011 to 2014.
During his term as LP Chairman, he oversaw the growth and expansion of the Party including the increase of legislative seats the party held in the National Legislature.
He resigned from the Liberty Party and joined the Coalition for Democratic Change during the 2017 General Elections, where he now serves as Executive member.
In 2022, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly elected Representative Jonathan Fonati Koffa as Deputy Speaker of the House.
Representative Koffa was elected to the position with 45 votes while his closest rival then, Rep. Clarence Massaquoi, who was nominated by the Collaborating Parties Legislative Caucus (CPP) came next with twenty (20) votes.
Koffa who represents Grand Kru County, District#2, previously chaired the House Judiciary Committee and by ranking, he was considered as the fifth in command at the Legislature, now he is the second in command and will be hoping to take over as the first in command and third most powerful person in the land in the next few months.
Representative Koffa who contested against the then united CPP penetrated his way through the corridors of the opposition at the time. He ably convinced lawmakers from the CPP to vote him.
His financial lobbying power and ability to get other parties’ representatives to his side, coupled with a reservoir of Legislative knowledge and foresight cannot be overlooked and ignored, something his competing colleagues will have to contend with if they must get victory over him this time.
The just ended Legislative election which has allowed Koffa return to the Legislature is another show of political strength which should not be ignored, as the recent win marks his second term as lawmaker for the people of District#2, Grand Kru County.
Prescilla Abram Cooper (The New Political Iron Lady On Bloc)
Prescilla Abram Cooper who recently defeated some strong and influential politicians including former football star, Anthony Papie Sumo, and controversial Tugbeh C. Tugbeh is expected to be the lone female so far in the upcoming speakership election. She started her life as a young woman seeing her mother struggling to create opportunities to help sustain the family and as a teenage; she joined her mother to sell variety of businesses in the Red-light Market and its surroundings.
Despite all of these challenges, she mustered the courage and took on the challenge and got involved with hair braiding, selling of fish which helped her acquired high school education at the prestigious College of West Africa (CWA), after which she went to the AME Zion University where she obtained a bachelor degree in Business Administration (BA). Currently, she is a Master’s degree Candidate at the University of Liberia Graduate School.
Even though, there were many other challenges, she was discipline, determined and focused, as she went through alone with her ‘Mom’ as a young woman to archive her goals.
According to sources in her District, Madam representative elect, Prescilla Abram Cooper, has inspired and assisted other struggling women as well as others get empowered, so that they will be able to create a smooth space for their children to acquire quality education, abstain from drugs abuse, and have access to good healthcare, sanitation among others.
With 25 years of service in the private sector, specifically Lonestar & Cellcom (now Orange), she was able to build a strong transition by establishing businesses both in District#5 and other parts of Monrovia.
During her time at the GSM companies, and businesses, she established, managed and employed over three thousand (3,000) individuals, some of whom are residents of her District.
Some of her Professional/Business life details include serving formerly as General Manager/Co-Owner, Executive Inn, which is situated in Thinkers- village, Paynesville; Executive Assistant, Cellcom Telecommunications Incorporated Capitol Bye-Pass; and County Affairs Coordinator, Office of the Senator of River Gee County, Capitol Hill.
Madam Cooper also served as Customers Care Coordinator, Lone Star Cell Communications (now MTN), Congo Town; Senior Customer Care Officer, Lone Star Cell; and Executive Officer, Prevailing World Mission International, Paynesville 72nd.
In her political experience, Madame Cooper, who is an aspiring professional woman is very meticulous in how she aligns with and conducts herself in a society where politics is viewed by many as a game in which personal interest supersedes group interest.
Since 2005, she has been an ardent adherent of the Liberty Party’s political Platform which centers on the four R’s: Reconciliation, Reform, Recovery and Rebuilding.
She is of the unbending conviction that although politics is sometimes defined in terms of who gets what, when and how, contemporary Liberian politics must present a human face.
This, to her, entails going beyond defining politics in the often-narrow view of “what is her ultimate interest?” Owing to this view, she continued to work along with other politicians in projecting what is known as the down-to-earth value of politics: the greater good for the greater number of people.
As a young participant in politics in 2005, the district #5 representative elect, worked with different auxiliaries including the Brumskine Women Movement, the Friends of Brumskine, among others, in projecting the four pillars of the Liberty Party platform to the public.
By the time of the 2017 General and Presidential Elections, she featured prominently in the political auxiliary called Charlie Angels, a group that was active in the mobilization and recruitment of scores of partisans and supporters for the presidential bid of the late Political Leader of the Liberty Party, Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine, who envisioned a better Liberia up to his unfortunate demise.
Madame Cooper, who contested in the just ended Legislative elections in District#5, Montserrado County, on Unity Party ticket, won her counterparts with overwhelming margins, a result, which allows the National Elections Commission to announce the Unity Party candidate as the winner and representative elect of the district. She will be replacing CDC Thomas Fallah who left Montserrado to contest in District#1 Foya, Lofa County. She is member of Senator Nyonblee Karngar-Lawrence led faction of the Liberty Party.
According our sources, Madam Cooper has earmarked a whopping US$1.5 million to lobby with other elected representatives to secure the majority bloc of 40 Representatives.
As political analysts always say, ‘political leadership is the numbers’, she could put up big surprise as was done in the case of former Speaker, Bhofal Chambers, who was defeated at the polls Anthony Williams, a former university student leader.
The new ‘Iron Lady has emerged on Capitol Hill as lobby intensifies among the Representatives. Various hotels around Monrovia are busy in holding a number of consultations among interested lawmakers.
With these experiences along with the many achievements from the private sector and now in politics, many political commentators are suggesting that Madame Cooper cannot be look-down upon in this crucial race for the speakership.
Her financial strength, how she managed her way by defeating all of her male counterparts in District#5 Montserrado County, and being the only female candidate in the race so far, could be factor which may turn the ball in the court of the Unity Party lawmaker.
Musa Hassan Bility
Mr. Bility is a business man turned politician who has managed his way through the political corridors of Liberia in the last few years. The name Bility started being famous when he served as the President of the Liberia Football Association (LFA), for several years.
When Bility contested the LFA presidency years back, some of his opponents openly believed that they didn’t want a stranger in the game as Liberia FA president; but he defied the odds by winning the election.
With LFA being history as far as electoral politics is concerned, Bility supported former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s 2011 Presidential bid. He was later appointed as Chairman of former ruling Unity Party Montserrado Campaign Team. As Madam Johnson-Sirleaf second term was nearing its end, Mr. Bility returned to Liberty Party and served as Executive Member during the 2017 General Elections.
He was overwhelmingly voted in 2021, on a white ballot, becoming the National Chairman of LP.
Bility and others are brains behind the formation of opposition Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), a conglomeration of four parties; All Liberian Party, Alternative National Congress, Liberty Party and Unity Party.
Their unity among executives of the CPP led the Alliance to victory with more seats in the Senate during 2020 Special Senatorial elections.
In Liberia where politics is likely defined by demarcated lines of ethnicity or region, Bility, a member of the minority Mandingo ethnic group, did not see any chance of success for him in a conservative society such as Nimba is.
The official declaration of Bility by the National Elections Commission (NEC) as the winner of District #7 in Nimba County in the October 10 elections is a historic feast which has grown Bility`s political arm.
With the incumbent and other candidates being Mano and Gio, it took Bility to act smartly, using massive investments in the district to sway the voters to his side, a making the desires and craves for development to overcome tribal sentiments in the district.
NEC Chairperson Davidetta Browne-Lansanah on Wednesday, October 18, announced Bility as winner, securing 10,003 votes out of a total valid vote count of 27,897, constituting 35.86 percent.
The pronouncement by NEC, naming Bility as representative elect, has given the CPP chair another opportunity to advance his political strength in the country.
With the report of Bility’s name surfacing for the speakership position at the 55th Legislature; it is something that his opponents will have to work tirelessly on, if they must defeat him, as the name Musa Hassan Bility, in recent political history in Liberia, is not a force to underestimate, especially; with his corporate strength, and his knowing how to maneuver his way through the political and business terrain and getting what he wants.
Thomas T. Fallah (T-5)
During the October 10 Polls, Montserrado District#5 lawmaker, bided farewell to the County he represented for about 18 years now. Thomas Fallah popularly known as T-5 has officially bided goodbye to residents of District#5 as he moved to Lofa County on a new political journey.
Fallah defeated Foya district representative Francis Sakila Nyumalin in the October polls. In an emotional speech delivered when President George M. Weah and his Campaign Team visited the district as part of the Coalition for Democratic Change’s ongoing rally, Fallah thanked residents of the district for the trust they reposed in him to have elected him three times as their lawmaker (2005, 2011 and 2017).
After 18 years of service, Fallah moved to his parental home county where he overwhelmingly defeated the incumbent lawmaker and wooed more votes for his Party-CDC, during the Presidential race on October 10.
Before moving to Lofa, Fallah invested massively in real estate and timber ventures in Foya, Lofa county. He is considered among his compatriots as Lofa’s new ‘LION’ to take over the county leadership.
With his legislative ability at the House, serving as former Ways, Means and Finance Committee Chair, Fallah has the experience to secure the votes for the speakership.
Reports say Fallah’s intervention in Lofa and at the Capitol as Ways and Means Chair would give him political dividends as the lobby for third seat in land intensifies.
He told a group of journalists recently that the “name T-Five has been in the body politics for 15 years. Like I said, I went through the ranks and files to begin with Montserrado County. Montserrado County comprise 17 electoral districts. We got elected, we had what we called the Caucus of Montserrado County building relationship with the local leadership, the local government and we were successful to have been members of that caucus, we went to assistant secretary of the caucus leadership and then we went to the position of co-chairman and today I serve as caucus and then chairman of the Montserrado Legislative Caucus.”
He has been the longest serving representative in Montserrado County before moving to Lofa but what could ease his election for the Speaker Post is the lobbying of another senior CDC representative elect, Cllr. Koffa.
Meanwhile, it is not known who else may put their hats in the Speakership race, but these four politicians are said to be lobbying with both new and old representatives for the Speaker Post.
Reports say the race may actually be between Madam Cooper and incumbent Deputy Speaker, Cllr. Jonathan Fonati Koffa, as the two are from the two most contending political parties (CDC &UP) which have majority lawmakers than any other political party at the Legislature.
Currently, CDC has 26 representatives elect, UP got 10, independent 18 and rest are from the smaller opposition parties.
Any winner amongst the four (4) lawmakers will replace outgoing Speaker, Dr. Bhofal Chambers, of Maryland County District#2 from the CDC.
Representative Chambers, who has been sacked by his own people in Maryland County via the ballot box was elected Speaker of the House of Representatives at the 54th Legislature in January 2018, and his tenure is expected to end in January 2024.
Will the Speakership remain with the current ruling Coalition for Democratic Change of incumbent President George Manneh Weah, or placed in the hands of opposition Unity Party of Joseph Nyuma Boakai? This is the big question being asked by political commentators.
One commentator described the fight for the speaker post as a democratic exercise to see that any of the two parties that wins the Presidency, could stand a better chance of winning. The commentator noted that it would also be a major deciding factor with respect to who will take the Speaker position.
In every election around the world not precluding Liberia, it is the wish and hope of any ruling party to have political control over Legislature or Parliament aimed at helping to shape governance policies in enhancing the President’s agenda.