Monrovia – Trumpeting the massive role played in the recent election of former Vice President Joseph Boakai of the Unity Party, warlord-turned politician Senator Prince Y. Johnson is reportedly making excessive demands for major positions in the Boakai administration. FrontPageAfrica has learned that Sen. Johnson, one of the most-feared warlords of the civil war, has his sight set on the Liberia Maritime Authority, the Liberia Telecommunications Authority, the Liberia Electricity Corporation, the National Security Agency, among others.
The Influencer in Nimba
This is however, not a new phenomenon with Sen. Johnson. The Nimba County Senator prides himself as the kingmaker in Liberia elections. He was instrumental in helping former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf secure a second term in a run-off election after going neck and neck with George Weah in 2011. In that election, Weah opted to go as running mate to Cllr. Winston Tubman who was invited to the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC). For that run-off election, the Sirleaf-Boakai ticket of the Unity Party obtained 118,396 votes (96.73%) in Nimba after Sen. Johnson’s support which catapulted her to the presidency for a second term. Tubman-Weah got 2,287 votes (3.27%) in Nimba.
In the 2017 elections, Sen. Johnson opted to support Pres. Weah in the run-off election. Weah’s main contender was former Vice President Boakai who was the sitting Vice President at the time. Johnson contested the first round in that election and and came fourth place with 127,666 votes representing 8.22% of the total votes. Over 98% of Senator Johnson’s votes in that first round were from Nimba. In the run-off, Senator Johnson pledged his support for Weah and rallied the people of Nimba to vote Weah. In the run-off election Weah obtained 73,434 votes (57.14%) after Sen Johnson’s support while Boakai got 55,083 votes (42.86%).
Paying the devil’s price
This victory he helped Weah to get in 2017 came with a heavy cost – demanding that priority be given to Nimbaians in his cabinet and that he, Sen. Johnson would make recommendations for those appointments. Sen. Johnson also accused the Weah-led government of refusing to release the county’s development fund paid by ArcelorMittal.
Weah, apparently weary of Sen. Johnson’s demands, in 2022 decided not to buy in to anymore demands from the Nimba County Senator.
During a sermon in June this year, Pres. Weah while on the pulpit at this Forky Klon Family Fellowship Church labeled Sen. Johnson as a “blackmailer”. He said, “If you do not want to work with us, get on the side, we have other people.”
“You are manipulating people every day. Give me this and give me that. Are you infallible? We are not working with you again, you can go anywhere you want to go.”
Ultimately, letting go of Sen. Johnson cost Weah his re-election has Sen. Johnson’s support to his arch rival, Amb. Joseph Nyumah Boakai saw him get 74.14% of the votes in Nimba in run-off election. Boakai’s Vice President-elect, Sen. Jeremiah Koung is a member of Sen. Johnson’s Movement for Democratic Reconstruction (MDR).
Sen. Johnson’s pressure on Weah was made even more evident by the United States Department of Treasury sanctions on him which sanctioned the Senator in 2021 for being involved in pay-for-play funding with government ministries and organizations for personal enrichment. As part of the scheme, upon receiving funding from the Government of Liberia (GOL), the involved government ministries and organizations launder a portion of the funding for return to the involved participants. The pay-for-play funding scheme involves millions of U.S. dollars. Johnson has also offered the sale of votes in multiple Liberian elections in exchange for money.
Boakai Facing His Own Hurdles
With about two months left before President-elect Boakai would fully assume his role as President of Liberia, Sen. Johnson is already hammering him with names that he wants to head some specific government ministries and agencies.
During the campaign, Sen. Johnson told the people Nimba that the Boakai is too old to lead, therefore, voting him and Sen. Koung who hails from Nimba into office would be the surest way to getting a Nimbaian to the Presidency. He noted that because of Boakai’s age, 79, Sen. Koung would be the de facto President. For pundits, this means, Sen. Johnson would be the President by extension.
During the campaign, FrontPageAfrica obtained a recording of a telephone conversation in which Senator Johnson is heard pleading with the Mayor of Karnplay in Gberlergeh District, Philip Flomo, to stop antagonizing the Unity Party’s ticket and rather join his team.
He said: “We’re fighting for Nimba County to take the lead and Nimba will win in the name of Jesus. Bassa is with us, Gbarpolu with us, Bomi with us, Lofa with us, Bong County with us; what is your problem and you’re on the radio on me? My brother, what have I done, you got to change.” Senator Johnson added, “We’re fighting for you. When y’all turn to this man [Weah] against our prayer for Nimba to produce Vice President – this old man is old, he took Koung to be his Vice President when he wins, isn’t it Koung that would be doing the job for him? Can he go everywhere? No!”
That was not the first time Sen. Johnson had been heard making remarks concerning him or Sen. Koung, now Vice President-elect becoming the de facto President.
During an elaborate political gathering in Nimba in July where Koung was officially unveiled to the people of Nimba as the running mate to Boakai, Sen. Johnson pronounced the Nimba County would produce the next President of Liberia through Jeremiah Koung.
“This is the pathway to the presidency,” the former war-lord-turned-politician, said, alluding to Koung’s selection as Boakai’s running mate.
FrontPageAfrica has gathered that the Nimba County Senator is exerting his influence over Boakai by requesting control over Liberia Maritime Authority, the Liberia Telecommunications Authority, the Liberia Electricity Corporation, the National Security Agency, but his demands are not going down well with President-elect Boakai. FrontPageAfrica gathered that the President-elect has in his inner circle expressed his disdain at Sen. Johnson’s request but has been very careful in handling the issue, opting to table discussions on appointments for now.
What’s the Boakai-Johnson Agreement?
In a live broadcast on Facebook on Tuesday evening, outgoing Montserrado County District 8 lawmaker, Acarous Moses Gray opined that the intent of the U.S. sanctions on Sen. Johnson was intended to reduce his political influence in Liberia – a factor which Pres. Weah took into consideration before breaking ties with the godfather of the vote-rich county.
According to Gray, Sen. Johnson would face the law for war and economic crimes, but he is, however, try to shield himself under the Boakai-led government.
“I shouldn’t be saying this but I’ll say this: Prince Johnson would face the law, the international partners are very clear – the sanctions they placed on Prince Johnson, they wanted to reduce his influence in political decision-making process of this country. The next step is to demand for Boakai to turn Prince Johnson over,” he said.
Rep. Gray also allegedly that President-elect Boakai during the negotiation for Sen. Johnson’s support made commitment to Senators Johnson and Koung that they would get not less than 30% of the government for their support.
He also disclosed that Sen. Nyonblee and other collaborators are to benefit 25 percent of the government.
The Unity Party Secretary General, Amos Tweh did not respond to FrontPageAfrica’s request for comments and clarifications.
Source: Frontpage Africa