Monrovia and its outskirts experienced a virtual lockdown when partisans and supporters of the governing Unity Party (UP) demonstrated to Liberians and perhaps the world that they have the numbers to elect Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai and Speaker Emmanuel Nuquay as the country's next President and Vice President on October 10.
Saturday's huge gathering proved to the oppositions that contrary to their views the Boakai/Nuquay ticket will pull the needed crowd to boost their campaign trail to realize their political dream.
As the city and its environs stood still in clear obedience to UP's quest to joyously launch their political campaign in support of their standard bearer's bid to become the next President of Liberia, officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP) were in full readiness to quell any eventuality that could create insecurity to the citizens and foreign residents.
The over 10,000 sitting capacity of the Antoinette Tubman Stadium (ATS) in Monrovia was filled to capacity, both in the stands and on the playing pitch, and overflowing to the street. Sandwiched by swarms of supporters, Mr. Boakai arrived around 5:30 p.m. and took to the podium.
Although the UP's standard bearer emeritus, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf did not attend Saturday's rally, supporters say her absence posed no problem; that, "plus her presence, minus her presence, we will vote for Boakai," happy-looking partisans told one of our reporters who also formed part of the ceremony.
The crowd had arguably exceeded the expectations of many, especially in the opposition camps. UP partisans had defied the early morning downpour, when they emerged from all parts of Monrovia and made their way to the ATS.
Some of those who were advised by authorities of the Liberian National Police to remain in the outside queue from entering the already-filled ATS later sat by their radio monitoring the program by way of commentaries.
President Sirleaf said in an interview on state radio she had made a promise to some women in Suehn Mecca District, Bomi County, that she would break ground for the construction of a clinic in that area. To her, that was of a greater priority than the Saturday rally, she said.
Saturday morning started with a heavy downpour in Monrovia, but the weather turned out to be merciful, with a bit of sun.
Some partisans like Mary Doe arrived at the ATS as early as 6 a.m. from VOA with several of her siblings. "I came here because this is the party that my father told me about and I'm happy that I'm supporting them," she said.
Fatu Kromah, 55, is physically challenged. With her crutch in one hand, she swings her waist left to right, dancing to the song, "Y'all leave us, da de papay we want."
"I'm here because this is the man that I want and I feel bad that the standard bearer [President Sirleaf] who I voted for is not here today," she added.
Some of the groups in support of the Unity Party, including Sinkor United for Boakai's Presidency, Nimba for Boakai, and Women of Development in Support of Amb. Boakai and National Muslim Heritage Foundation in Support of Boakai.
Overwhelmed by the massive show of support, an equally stunned Boakai expressed his gratitude for the show of support. Even his lieutenant, J. Emmanuel Nuquay, was also impressed by the number of partisans who showed up in support of their presidential cause.
"Thanks for coming. I appreciate your support a lot; and your coming proves that you care about this country. You have come to give us a mandate, which we will implement. With this mandate we will fight corruption, bring jobs for the young people, and better roads. This and more we will do if elected," said an excited VP Boakai.
In his two-minute remarks, which were an abbreviation of a much longer prepared speech, the VP thanked his partisans for the huge turn out and promised to improve their lives if elected. The future of Liberia, said Boakai, is secure if he and his chief lieutenant, Speaker Nuquay, are elected to lead the country for the next 6 years.
In exclusive interviews with several supporters of the ruling party, they pledged their commitment to the party and promised to ensure that VP Boakai becomes the 25th President of the Republic of Liberia come October 10.
The crowd of supporters, many of whom didn't get to hear the VP's speech but were nonetheless equally happy with the show of support for the beleaguered VP (in reference to how the president has treated Boakai's presidential bid, going as far as not showing up at the launch of the UP presidential and legislative campaign).
Chanting different slogans, including "Your leave us, da de papay we want"; "You know book, you scare of debate"; "Joe been sleeping, but has woken up to bring changes"; "Our ma spoiled it, our pa will fix it"; "Leave your friend woman, Charles Taylor coming," supporters promised that no matter the condition, rain or shine, their support for the VP remains unflinching.
Roosevelt Peterson, 33, told this paper that he was not a Unity Party supporter, but only started supporting the party because of VP Boakai, who he described as man of integrity who will deliver the country from its current condition. "I never used to support the UP, but until I started following the VP on his campaign trail and listening to the plans he has for Liberia. You have seen the turnout today. No one, not even Charles Taylor or Madam Sirleaf has pulled such a crowd before. We know that if this man is elected as president, things will change for Liberia. This is why we are here under the rain to show our solidarity with the vice president and Speaker Nuquay," he said.
Why Such a Huge Crowd?
Speaking to several partisans about their thoughts on the huge turnout at the UP campaign launch, the people overwhelmingly said they were shocked by the president's treatment of the VP. "Listen, when a man, a Liberian man, stands by your side for 12 years and never once tried to usurp your authority, nor embarrassed you in any way, that is something commendable. We are here to show the president that with or without her, we are going to take vice president Boakai to the Executive Mansion," said James Mulbah of Careysburg.
"For me, I think there is such a huge turnout because the people of Liberia know that this man, vice president Boakai, and his team, including Speaker Nuquay, can deliver. Out of the 20 candidates in the race, Boakai is the most experienced, and most qualified for the position," said Rachel Smith of Buchanan.
If one can gauge the outcome of an election based on turnout at campaign launches, the Vice President and his vice standard bearer have put up a rally that will be one for the records. It remains now to be seen come Election Day if this massive show of support will translate into meaningful votes to realize the ultimate in all political aspirations: the presidency of a nation. "Only time would tell," Smith added.
- David Yates provided details for this story