Monrovia — The race car parked in the garage emerged as an unexpected topical campaign issue during the 2017 presidential elections. Presidential candidate George Manneh Weah and his running mate, Jewel Howard Taylor, both used the analogy to throw pointed jibes at former Vice President Joseph Boakai who was often labeled "Sleepy Joe" and often described as a parked car in a garage due to the perception that he did very little or was never in the forefront during the 12-year reign of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
While Mr. Boakai's supporters dismissed the criticism, they could not ignore the impact it was having on his campaign.
When the first presidential debate came around, Boakai held no punches, suggesting that he could not function properly as Vice President because he had limitations; before delivering the famous line: "You will not know the speed of a racing car when it is parked in a garage."
Boakai did not win the 2017 presidential race, Mr. Weah did. Now two years on, those comments appear to have come full circle amid the recent treatment of Mr. Weah's Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor.
In the final of our four-part series on an interview with the Vice President, airing today, the VP, when asked whether she had any regrets about making the statement now coming back to haunt her, said, she does not.
Said the VP: "The truth is that statement was made by the then Ambassador George Weah on the campaign trail. I was subsequently asked about it, and reiterated that I would not be a - parked race car in a garage. I had no regrets then and have none now. Thankfully, over the past 2 years, I have been actively involved in many state activities, including women's empowerment initiatives. So, I am definitely not a race car parked in a garage. In fact, I am not parked at all. Though I may not be running up to my highest speed, but I am on the road and intend to continue to be so, by the special grace of God."
Instead, the VP said, the fact that she has not given up in spite of what has been unfolding over the past two years, shows her strength and courage. "To feel haunted by those words, is to have given up and thrown in the towel. For those who know me will say in a heartbeat - She is not a quitter. As long as I have life and breath and opportunities to continue to be a change agent - I will remain so. But I will say Ambassador Boakai is an astute statesman and I'm grateful for his contributions to our nation."
The Vice President also addressed another controversial issue over her jobs.
In May 2018, the VP told residents in Bong: "The fact that some of you who sitting here, are not members of the Coalition, but we have nothing in our hearts against you because I would have removed everybody, replaced you with people I trust and believe would work with us, because you would have done same to me had you been in power" adding, "this is my time, because I served as opposition for 12 years."
The comments came at a time when many local officials in Bong lost their jobs and have now been replaced by stalwarts of the ruling CDC, allegedly on orders of electoral district #3 Representative, Josiah Marvin Cole.
Looking back, the VP said her thinking then was of someone in the euphoria and exuberance of the moment. "We had just won this overwhelming victory... Could my choice of words been different, yes it could have... but we all live and learn."
The Coalition as a political engine, she explained, holds the dreams of many; underpinned with the aspirations that the ruling Team would do all within our powers to put in place the structures that would make Liberia work for all Liberians. "Thus, beginning a new phase in our Nation's history where Liberians, in their masses, would finally grasp hold of the Liberian dream of our forefathers, and make it a reality."
Explaining that the world is not seen in absolutes; but in a complex mixture of bits and pieces, her comment was not about government jobs, as it was about making all sectors vibrant enough to evolve the change, we, as a nation, were seeking. "We knew that the mix would include the holy, the good, the bad and the ugly - all of God's children. For it is the only mixture that would include all Liberians, whose only prayer was for a better life for they and their children. Therefore, ensuring that all of us would have opportunities to work for and build the Liberia of our dreams."
Despite the missteps and controversy over her comments, the Vice President says there a numerous challenges facing the administration but some strides are being made. "I must say that the government has challenges- as any new government would. It has its high points in Road connectivity (a robust process) and its low points in economic stability and new job opportunities for middle-class creation."
Nevertheless, the window of opportunity is closing in on the government now limping into its third year. It is one, the VP readily admits is closing fast. "And truth be told, every new government has a 2-year window for getting its feet wet. It is the initial two-year beginner's benchmark. Going forward, I believe that much more can be done; but we must stop the in-fighting, unify, recommit, reorganize, put our best foot forward, put into action the PAPD AGENDA; then begin to run faster in achieving our goals, so that we can still make the difference in the time allotted."
The Vice President expressed some disappointment that things have not gone according to plan. "I want to say if I, in any way, indicated in a negative way that my thoughts meant that we would come to government and Ravage it and misuse our opportunities, it was not what I meant. And I know some people took it to that level. That was not my intention, then it was not my intention now."
The VP explained that the CDC is a conglomeration of many political parties, because there were three main parties. Besides, by the time they got to the second round, a lot of parties joined in an attempt for the opposition block to get back into the governance space and opportunities were made available at different levels and the government started to come together.
As the party campaign across the country in 2017, what they saw, she explained, was a nation in great anticipation of a team of persons who would take them to the next level. "More equality, more united that would provide an environment where, regardless of who you were, at whatever level, you had an opportunity to live and be a part of the building of our country. Some are prepared to be ministers; some are prepared to be local government officials. Some are prepared to just be interpreters. So, our thought was to give different levels of people what they needed, not as CDC, but as Liberia, because, again, we should be one people united together. And so those comments were made. But I knew as we went forward, we should have been looking for the best."