As the Elections Committee (EC) of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL)
officially declared campaign open on Saturday, November 2, 2013 which
runs until November 8, 2013, two hours after the debate, Liberian
journalists will gather in the port city of Buchanan in Grand Bassa
County to elect a new code of officials this weekend. Current President
Peter Quaqua bows out after two terms and will not be seeking a
successive one for the PUL.
But the build-up to the elections are already being greeted with threats from disqualified candidates to file a writ of prohibition against the EC. The EC is tasked with clearing candidates and last weekend announced the disqualification of three candidates.
Addressing a press conference, the chairman of the PUL’s EC, Professor James Wolo, said Cholo Brooks, Omecee Johnson and Ade Wede Kekulah, were disqualified for various reasons including inconsistencies and breach of the union’s constitution. They were vying for the presidential, vice presidential and secretary-general posts.
The final listing now includes Jacob Parley, K. Abdullai Kamara and Charles Coffey to contest the presidency and Jallah Grayfield and Siatta Scott-Johnson for vice president.
Octavin Williams and Kaiheneh Singbeh, the committee said, are
qualified to contest the secretary general position, while Stephen Binda
and Daniel Nyankonah are qualified to contest the assistant secretary
Brooks’ qualification had seemed very likely with his educational credentials being under the spotlight even before the EC’s decision. He had applied as one of the presidential candidates but the EC says he was disqualified due to inconsistencies in his academic credentials submitted.
A former BBC stringer, Brooks is said to be threatening to file a writ of prohibition against the PUL. His critics had always questioned his academic qualification which many had predicted would undermine his potential of becoming the next PUL President. Even with a chance of him being back in the race, others maintain he lacks the minimum intellectual competence and capabilities to administer the affairs of the Union. But others had hoped that his long-term practice, both national and international, would have helped the Union.
That now means that the race is left between Kamara, Parley and Coffey going at one another’s throat to replace Quaqua.
Kamara Vs LMC-Cloud:
But for Kamara who is widely known to not be a mainstream journalist but a media advocate, development and human rights strategist, there is a lot he had to overturn: he is seen by many as one that would be a ‘ceremonial leader’ if elected based on his Liberia Media Center (LMC) link. His former partner and colleague, Lawrence Randall who was thought to have initially declared his presidential ambition for the Union’s election, reportedly backed off on the back of similar critics stemming from his once-controlled LMC saga. This now further fuels speculation that Kamara has been placed in the race as the man to push whatever agenda the controversial Randall may have had.
But on the other side, Kamara’s admirers view him as a professional man who could get the job done which help continue the Union’s respect and integrity.
Coffey Vs His Lapses
The current Secretary-General of the Union is Coffey who now wants to take the hot seat. An employee of the state-owned broadcaster, the Liberia Broadcasting System, he too has got challenges, the primary one being his critics’ perception that he would be “too soft” and may continue to “indirectly propagate’ government’s agenda at the expense of the Union. Coffey’s current post in the Union, according to his critics, is one that was not been seen and his performance was not noticed.
However, Coffey brings a wealth of extensive experience in mainstream journalism, evidenced by his long-time coverage of the National Legislature. A major boost for him in the election would be his LBS-base which has dozens of PUL members that overwhelmingly chose him over his fellow LBS-workmate and now rival Parley.
Parley: A Man On His Own
Parley is the third man qualified to contest the post but probably with a major hurdle awaiting him at the polls. He was rejected by his fellow LBS colleagues who chose Coffey over him in their bid to send a single candidate from that entity and his persistence to continue may not produce any good result for him.
However, Parley’s personal lobbying with fellow journalists would help him as a seasoned journalist whose coverage of the Liberian Presidency and Foreign Ministry among others have not gone unnoticed.
How Public Relation Posts Robbed Candidates
Johnson and Kerkuleh, according to the EC, are the vice presidential and secretary general hopefuls respectively that were disqualified for violating Article 4 Section 1 (iv) of the PUL constitution, which states that “Public relations officers/managers who were full members of the union as of the coming into force of this constitution shall continue to remain full members of the union. They shall vote, but shall not be voted.” That is, they currently serve as public relations officers (PROs); even though the committee did not state where they serve as PROs.
One of the disqualified candidates, Omecee Johnson, has reportedly taken an exception to the committee’s action and threatened to file a writ of prohibition against the PUL for what he terms as his ‘illegal disqualification.’
Johnson said his disqualification by the PUL-EC was not surprising, alleging that it was a result of his advocacy in Kakata, Margibi County, during the union’s 49th anniversary celebration, where he called on the current leadership to account for the status of the union’s controversial US$100,000.00 (one hundred thousand United States dollars) case pending at the civil law court as well as vices that are destroying the union.
He further alleged that “with the interference of the current leadership headed by Quaqua in the electioneering process, the whole process is manipulated.”
But PUL President Quaqua noted that he has no interest in the elections or in any particular candidate. Quaqua said he was not ready to make any further comment prior to the congress, where he will be official speaking on issues relating to the union.
Whatever, all roads lead to the country’s second seaport city for Liberian journalists to decide who lead them for the next two years as they will be hoping for a robust leadership that will stand up against the country’s growing wave of libel suits against media personnel in post-conflict Liberia. Will it be Kamara, Parley, or Coffey for the presidency? Will Grayfield take the Vice Presidency at the expense of his fellow counterpart Siatta Scott-Johnson?
Can Octavin Williams knockout Kaiheneh Singbeh who is the current Assistant Secretary-General of the Union for the position of the secretary general position? Will Stephen Binda beat Daniel Nyankonah to fill the vacant assistant secretary general position?