Concerns are mounting high about Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor's continues absence from the country exactly two months after she was hurriedly flown outto seek medical help in Ghana.
Not much is being told the public by the Liberian Government concerning the health condition and return home date of the country's first female vice president, who authority said was diagnosedwith COVID-19 in August 2020.
Even the form and manner in which the Government released the information about the Vice President's health at the time revealed the deep seated strain in relations between the office of President George Weah and Mrs. Howard-Taylor.
A leaked communication under the signature of Health Minister Dr. Wilhemina S. Jallah explained that Vice President Jewel Howard - Taylor has been tested positive of COVID - 19 on 10 August, and she had requested to travel out of the country for treatment.
"I am pleased to present my compliments and inform you that H.E. Madam Jewel Howard - Taylor, has been tested positive of COVID - 19 on August 10, 2020, and she has requested to travel out of the country for treatment," the communication which circulated on social media from Health Minister Jallah read.
The communication made its way onto the social media as the Liberia News Agency (LINA) came under intense criticisms for quoting unconfirmed source in its publication that Vice President Taylor had tested Covid-19 positive, disregarding a press release from her office which had informed the public about what it said was her health status. That was then.
Since then, status of the Vice President's health and how she's being treated in Ghana remain a mystery to the general population-not much is heard of her on the national stage these days.
Newly appointed Information Minister LedgerhoodJulius Rennie could not even speak to the issue and referred this paper to the office of the Vice President, when asked about her health status.The Vice President's office declined to speak on her health and return home date, saying any comment about her health should come through the Ministry of Information.
Though sources in the Ghanaian capital, Accra say Mrs. Taylor has been responding to treatment and that she might even return home at the end of the month, most Liberians are not even aware that she is still not back from Accra yet.
A lawyer friend, asked this writer on Tuesday in a surprising tune, "oh where is she? Is she not back yet?" This alone, signifies how fast the Vice President is being forgotten. The Ascension of Jewel Howard-Taylor as Weah's Vice President Vice President Howard-Taylor, is the Standard Bearer of the National Patriotic Party (NPP), a member party of the ruling coalition.
She still remains the head of that party, which is an upshot of the former rebel movement National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) founded by her estranged husband, Charles Taylor who is currently serving his 50 years jail sentence in the UK for war crimes committed in Sierra Leone.
It is her ability to keep partisans glued together after her estranged husband was exiled in 2003, that has made her a key figure in the party and hence her ascension as its standard bearer. And being the second biggest member of the coalition as well as her popularity among citizens of the third vote rich county in the country, Mr. Weah saw her as the most likely running mate to deliver Bong County and parts of Lofa.
Relations between President Weah and VP Taylor after the elections Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, relations between Mr. Weah and his Vice had been strained. It had been speculated that both were not even on speaking terms.
This reported unexplained bad blood between Mr. Weah and his Vice President has even led to the intervention of the religious council of Liberia and yet both have remained on the extreme end of each other.
In November 2018, barley a year after the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) took office, amidst news of strain between the two, the office of the Vice President released a statement reassuring the country of a good working relationship between the two.
"The Office of the Vice President of the Republic of Liberia reassures the nation of the Vice President's commitment and loyalty to the advancement and implementation of the Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development as enunciated by H.E. Dr. George Manneh Weah, President of the Republic of Liberia, an excerpt of the statement released by the office of Mrs. Taylor said.
In that statement, the Vice President was quoted to have said that she is fully cognizant of her role as Vice President in which she serves as a critical support arm to the President.
But relations soon slipped into the mud. At its peak in January, 2020, Vice President Howard-Taylor refused to attend the opening of the National Legislature after complaining of lack of budgetary support by the government in the last two years, a claim that was later debunked by Finance Minister Samuel Tweah.
Tweah explained at the time that the office of the Vice President had received more than US3 million in budgetary support since 2018.
Those feelings of dissatisfaction were glaring weeks later after the opening of the Legislature, at the delivery of President Weah'sannual address, this year. She had driven there in her private vehicle. President Weah on the other hand in that address appeared to have recognized his wife, First lady Clare Weah more than he did mentioned the vice president.
What is the role of the Vice President?
Under the Liberian Constitution, the vice president is the second-highest executive official, and one of only two elected executive offices along with the president. The vice president is elected on the same ticket with the president to a six-year term. In the event of the death, resignation or removal of the president, the vice president ascends to the presidency, which he or she holds for the remainder of their predecessor's term. This is supported under Article 63 (b).
Under Article 63(b), the vice president ascends to the presidency in the event of president's death, resignation, impeachment, or when the president is declared incapable of carrying out the duties of the office. In the event of ascension, the vice president serves as president for the remainder of his or her predecessor's term, though this period is not considered a term for the purposes of term limits to the presidency. According to Article 63(a), should the president-elect die or become otherwise incapacitated before his or her inauguration, the vice president-elect is sworn in as president in their place, though a term of this nature does constitute a term for the purposes of determining term limits.
The vice president also serves as the president of the Senate and may cast a vote in the event of a tie To date, five vice presidents have ascended to the presidency, either due to the president's death, resignation, or removal from office: James Skivring Smith, Alfred Francis Russell, William D. Coleman, William Tolbert, and Moses Blah.
Historically, there have been twelve vacancies in the office, the first of which occurred between October 26, 1871 and January 1, 1872; after the ascension of James Skivring Smith to the office of president. The most recent vacancy was between August 11, 2003 and January 16, 2006, the ascension of Moses Blah.
But not many Liberians pity, Vice President Howard-Taylor for the manner in which she's continue to be sideline by her own government Could this be the Boakai curse?
In 2017, Vice President Howard Taylor then Senator noted that she would not be like Vice President Joseph N Boakai, who has been parked like an old car. She opined that she would have been a functional and more robust Vice President.
While appearing on the Capitol Breakfast show on Capitol FM 2017, as the country prepared for a run-off,Vice President Taylor said former VP Boakai did not have the pedigree to lead Liberia as compare to her current boss, because according to her, VP Boakaiis on records for being absent many times from sessions and he hardly show up for other functions.
"Look at the records of and you will see many times the Vice President showed up to preside over the Senate and you will be shocked. Most of the time he is in his office and would say the topic is too controversial but failed to realize that politics is contentious.
"Everyone wants different things and we will all argue and he did not have the tenacity to see us through. I think when you see what is happening in his political party and how they are pulling our nation apart," VP Taylor said of former Vice President at the time.