Politics is local, interest-based, race-based and ethnicity-based

By Jerry Wehtee Wion

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
February 16, 2017


Sen Prince Johnson, VP Boakai and Clr. Gongloe

Politics is local, interest-based, race-based and ethnicity-based. If not, why do the Gios and Manos in Nimba County always vote for Senator Prince Johnson; the poor for George Weah and his CDC; and why do we say that Grand Bassa is expected to go to Charles Brumskine; Lofa will go to VP Joe Boakai; and Bong may go to Weah-Taylor or to Cummings-Sulunteh if Sulunteh is VP to Cummings, etc?

The same reason Congua were afraid and denied the native majority to right to vote and to form their own political parties from 1847 to 1980. Because natives will largely vote for native candidates. And some critics of mind who profess to be "educated" have not figured this out but are now talking "no more CONGUA-NATIVE divide." I wish it was true, but the complete opposite and you can deny it all you want.

Out of more than 20 presidential candidates, non of the half dozen Congua candidates is willing to be VP under a native, but it is okay for native politicians to abandon their own and rush to the Congua to be VP? You have Charles Brumskine, Benoni Urey, Alex Cummings, Mills Jones, and the other lesser known Congua all begging natives to be VP under them but they cannot be VP to natives. Why, and they are a minority?

The same reason blacks in South Africa will always vote in the majority for black candidates over whites. The same reason blacks voted 90 percent for Barack Obama. The same interest-based reasons blacks in America vote largely for Democrats. It is derived from common sense and from historical experiences.

The reason it has not caught on in Liberia is due largely to illiteracy on the part of natives, the same reason Congua neglected to provide quality education to all Liberians from the beginning of our nationhood. But natives are gradually beginning to get the message despite the outcry of Congua to downplay the constant marginalization of native/tribal Liberians. And this is my mission and you Congua better start getting ready to adjust and accept ultimate reality of your role as minority and natives as majority.

This is Political Science 101 that the Congua never taught at the University of Liberia especially under the ruthless dictator William VS Tubman. The same reason Tubman relocated Cuttington College from Maryland County to Bong County to keep in check and an eagle's eye on nationalists he termed "agitatir/radicals." 

So yes, we remember how the Grebo warrior Nettie Sieh Brownell was stripped naked and paraded in the streets and sent to jail. We know how Henry Boima Fahnbulleh Sr, Tuan Wreh, Horace, D. Tweh, Juah Nimley was starved to death, Jackson F. Doe was passed over for the VP slot and it went to Congua James E. Greene; or the slaughters of natives Sam Dokie, Moses Duopoe, Enoch Dokoleah, Jackdon F. Doe, the great journalist/genius Tarty Teh, Gabriel Kpolleh. HB Jr, and Dr. Togba Nah Tipoteh. Or still, even progressive Congua nationalists who had to pay dearly for wanting to change Liberia to an all-inclusive society--the likes of David Coleman, Wilmot Blyden, Albert Porte, Gabriel Baccus Matthews and others.

And this too is our sad history and you Congua want us natives to believe it doesn't matter anymore and we natives should continue to serve you on bended knees despite our numbers: 95 percent of the population as compared to your Congua 5 percent? 

And you are going to call me a tribalist? It is all I am, all I have known, all I have been and will forever be. Bring it on because we are grooming a new generation of young thinkers at our colleges. The likes of Martin Kollie, Vandakark Patrick's, young militants Mulbah Morlu, Jonathan Koijee and in the ever-present revolutionary SUP (Student Unification Party) at the University of Liberia. No more turning back. We are marching forward until final victory.

About The Author: Jerry Wehtee Wion, Journalist and Political Commentator, Washington,,DC, USA

Theodore T. Hodge
Brother Jerry Wehtee Wion, thank you for another thought-provoking article. But please allow me to make two quick observations. Firstly, to address a factual error:

The decision to close and eventually relocate Cuttington College was not one that President Tubman made or had anything to do with. Cuttington College was closed in February, 1929 and reopened in 1948. According to Dr. Elwood Dunn, who writes in the seminal work, "A History of the Episcopal Church of Liberia: 1821 - 1980", "...the beginning effect of the world depression forced the curtailment of funds to overseas work, and Cuttington was affected. With the physical plant already in a dilapidated condition, the school was closed for renovation and not reopened..."

That was the official version. But there were many other unofficial reasons that led to the closing of the institution. As a matter of fact, this is what President Tubman said at the first graduation ceremony in Suacoco, Bong County in 1952:

"...When the old Cuttington was closed down, many hearts all over the country were pierced, men groaned and women wept; petitions, resolutions and memorials were sent forward... praying for the reopening of that institution that had been a great beacon of education in the past, but they were all to no avail."

Again, please read the aforementioned book to understand the history, politics, drama and histrionics that led to the closing of the school, but Liberian presidential politics did not come into play at all. So, please separate the opinions from facts.

My second point is to address the strategy you have prescribed for the indigenous people to win the presidential leadership in Liberia. Your prescription is a bit too simplistic; as a matter of fact, it is a losing strategy for one small fact: The tribes of Liberia are not one monolithic group, but many diverse groups.

Let's assume all the folks in Nimba vote for one candidate that hails from Nimba and the folks from Lofa do the same, and so on and so on... how do you win on the national stage? Didn't we see this division play itself out when President Tolbert was assassinated? Did all the tribes come together in unison to oppose the return of the Congau or Americo-Liberia? No. Each had a loyalty specific to a narrow orientation. The infighting among the various tribes was even more fierce than it was before the coup.

What we need in Liberia is coalition building among the various groups to assure that the next leader comes with high accolades, track record and qualifications, not simply wearing the badge of ingenuousness or nativity. I do support the idea of returning power to the true natives of the land, but if each tribe is supposed to vote for other members simply based on ethnicity, then we will still be haunted by the "Animal Farm Syndrome". Remember at the beginning of the revolution on Animal Farm, the animals were told that "All animals are equal". Then later it became "All animals are equal, but same animals are more equal than others..." You will recall that some of the animals began to dress in suits and walk on two legs, instead of four. Personal interest interceded group interest, leading to failure and collapse.

In Liberia, we have a responsibility to first build coalitions among the various tribes and groups. The emphasis should be on "interest", not simply on ethnicity. That will certainly move us beyond Politics 101. At this point, it seems like we are stuck on lessons provided by Politics 101; definitely, it is time to move forward. It takes hard word, dedication and commitment. Thank you again.
Theodore T. Hodge at 11:06AM, 2017/02/16.
Andrew Worth
Jerry, you say "even progressive Congua nationalists who had to pay dearly for wanting to change Liberia to an all-inclusive society--the likes of David Coleman, Wilmot Blyden, Albert Porte, Gabriel Baccus Matthews and others."

While I agree with what you say about how people vote, my position will always be that people should support the candidate that they think is best person for the job, irrespective of ethnicity etc.

So here's a question: If there's a David Coleman or a Gabriel Baccus Matthews standing for President, a Conga who even natives believe is the best candidate for them, do you argue that they should vote for a different candidate, simply on the basis of ethnicity?
Andrew Worth at 12:40PM, 2017/02/16.
Kandajaba Zoebohn Zoedjallah
Neither a call for MAJORITY RULE nor a STRIKE-BACK by a MAJORITY against THE TYRANNY OF A MINORITY is advocacy for "tribalism" nor is it a suggestion that each and every single member of a given tribe should or shall vote for the presidential candidate from his or her ethnicity/tribe! But this can in no wsy alter nor supplant the natural politics 101 phenomenal phenomena of ETHNIC/TRIBAL/GENDRR/RACIAL/RELIGIOUS/REGIONAL/COUNTY STRONGHOLD which may ne a natural or ascribed edge or advantage of a given candidate ovet other candidates! Secondly, Jerry you are quite right to call for the end of this bigotry of Congaus always believing it is the oot of the natives to okay the fiddle for the Congaus because it is the divine right of the Congau to be number one as is the case with Sulonteh obsequiously accepting to play the fiddle to Alex Cummings of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's created Alternative National Congress or Charles Brumskine politically masturbating that the man of THE PEOPLE George Manneh Weah should ne his Brumskine's number 2.
Kandajaba Zoebohn Zoedjallah at 08:16PM, 2017/02/16.
Theodore Hodge
I wonder what does George Weah have to say about agreeing to play second banana to Winston Tubman? Perhaps he didn't realize he been crowned " Man of the people". Perhaps he too has yet learn about the legendary "Politics 101". People, the issue here is not to argue for or against the masses; the issue is how to conscientise the masses and moving them in the right direction to form coalitions of power. Simply bad mouthing Congau people without educating the masses is in bad taste. The Gios and Krahns and Grebo, Kru and Vai need to see themselves as one monolithic group, instead of as enemies. Until the groundwork is done, all the grandstanding leads to nothing substantive. The challenge is to accept the responsibility to lead, to teach... not to burn oneself out with anger.
Theodore Hodge at 09:50PM, 2017/02/16.
Jerry Wehtee Wion
Interesting to read the rebuttal to my article from Mr. Theodore Hodge and his reference to a book written by Dr. Elwood Dunn on the history or closure of Cuttington College in Maryland but mysteriously "reopened" not in Maryland, but more than 100 miles away in Bong County.

And since he is talking about some of the "unofficial reasons" that he left out that contributed to the closing/relocation of Cuttington College, here I come with "MY history" following research on the closure and relocation of Cuttington College.

Ever heard of the names and graduates of Cuttington College when it was in Maryland County? Many who were lawyers and were Associate Justices and eventually some Chief Justices of the Supreme Court of Liberia? Natives of the Grebo tribe that graduated from Cuttington in Maryland County: Hermien Shannon, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia; H. Russell, Chief Justice of Liberia; graduates Natty B. David, lawyer T. Geblee Collins, S. Raymond Horace, former Solivitator-General of Liberia who Tubman jailed from 1955 to 1965, Nettie Sieh Brownell who was the VP to David Colrman of the Indepedent True Whig Party against Tubman and was killed and his son by Tubman, and others who graduated from Cuttington in Maryland who William VS Tubman branded as "agitators and radicals?"

Has Elwood Dunn, the historian ever written about the 1955 case, the trial and its outcome: Paul Dunbar, Raymond Horace, Nettie Sieh Brownell, Natty B. David, T. Geblee Collins and others versus the Government of Liberia that eventually became "The Plot That Failed" and the trial that Tubman interfered with unconstitutionally?

That is the root history of the closure of Cuttington College of Maryland and its eventual relocation to Bong County. As President, and if the school was "closed" due to global financial crisis, wouldn't it be prudent that it be reopened in President Tubman's home County of Maryland where the old campus and structures were already in place?

Tubman who didn't attend Cuttington, barely finished high school, was a "Senator" and before that the "Poor Man Lawyer" as he was known then.

Presidrnt Tubman was recalled from his trip to Europe by the True Whig Party, fearful that the government was about to lose the cooked up coup plot case against the natives. Upon his return, President Tubman used his bully pulpit office to unconstitutionally removed the Grebo Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Hermione Shannon and the other native Associate Justices on the Supreme Court of Liberia.

Tubman said Shannon was not or needed to be confirmed by the Senate in the middle of the trail nearing its conclusion. When did he Tubman know that the Chief Justice was not confirmed when he Tubman had been in office 11 years by 1955? Tubman also said the other Grebo Associate Justice Russell was "too old" and that Associate Justice Grebo man Russell was owning debt to other people.

And what did the tyrant Tubman do? He brought his cousin, Senator Dash Wilson from the Legislature and made him Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia.

It was Lawyer Nettie Sieh Brownell who organized and led the protest against the government of the "border-jumper" President from Sierra Leone, Charles DB King for selling over 7000 natives as slaves for $20.00 per head to Sao Tome and Fernando Po as a cattle rancher would auction off his cattles/cows.

More to follow on the CONGUA-NATIVE divude.
Jerry Wehtee Wion at 09:53PM, 2017/02/16.
Jerry Wehtee Wion
It is interesting to note that some natives are the ones who fiercely are defending the genocide of the Congua against natives. I did not read or was never taught in high school in Liberia the history behind the closure and relocation of Cuttington. It had nothing with do with global financial meltdown as this school was started by the Episcopal Church to educate mostly natives to turn the tide of their suppression became the main reason Tubman and the Congua shut it down.

Just ask Liberians who are living today: Mother Mary Brownell, daughter of Nettie Sieh Brownell and mother of Dr. Henry Boima Fahnbulleh Jr, and whose late father, Henry Boima Fahnbulleh Sr Tubman lied on and treated less than a human. Even son Fanphnbulleh went to jail and was forced into exile by Tubman and thd congua. The history of Liberia is replete with native marginalization and is still to today through other forms.

I did not read in any book written by Dr. Dunn the summary executions of dozens of mostly Kru and Grebo nationslists from the southeast who resisted the Congua domination. They were brought to Minrovia, executed on the South Beach and dumped in mass graves. And you want me to read a one-sided book written by the victor? Many of the Grebo and Kru were routinely locked up in their traditional huts and the huts shot at and then set on fire by the government Frontier Force Army that preceded the Liberia National Guard and eventually became the Armed Forces of Liberia.

That prominent native politicians are flocking to Congua political party leaders is not by accident. Its history is rooted in the marginalization of natives for nearly 200 years from 1822. These half-baked educated natives are willing to compromise their human dignity, manhood, history and allow themselves to be hookwinked by the Congua. It has moved from applying physical brute force to mind games and using money as bait. And the Congua know who to carry their nonsense to.

They will never take their nonsense to a Dr. Henry Fahnbulleh Jr or to a Dr. Togba Nah Tipoteh. And why aren't the Congua building coalitions with their kind but to divide the natives as it has been since 1822? Talking about Political Science 101 that they Congua never taught natives at the University of Liberia. But we shall overcome one day. Oh, how I will forever miss Bloju Tarty Teh, but one thing he told me is that we natives must continue to fight/resist the Congua in their latest tactics of divide and conquer.

And that is the real Political Science that needs to take root in Liberia but we natives are our own worst enemies when some of us have to defend the genocide and the brainwashing imposed on natives. I am a simply a footprint in the political sand of our ugly history trying to walk in the footsteps of the great ones who walked before me. Good luck as you keep trying to dissuade me, but it ain't going to work.

Jerry Wehtee Wion, Father Kru and mom Grebo

Jerry Wehtee Wion at 04:28AM, 2017/02/17.
Theodore Hodge
Cuttington was closed in 1929 and reopened in 1948. It was run and controlled by the Episcopal Diocese of America, not the government of Liberia. Tubman became president in 1944. 4sIf you can find any evidence to the contrary, I shall be happy to read it. I simply attempted to correct a factual error, but I see that instead of having an intellectual exchange, you are all over the place emotionally. There is more to the story than you ran over. In studying the history that you are trying to teach me, ask for the name Edwin Gahie Hodge; I think he played a small part in the process too. I'm not trying to fight you and defend any Congau people, I simply want you to do better research and publish the facts, not your opinions in educating the people you claim to love; by doing so, you do them a terrible disservice. Please don't tell me half-baked stories you heard from a cane juice table. When you are ready to discuss history, please give me a call or I'll call you. Have a nice day, Brother Jerry.
Theodore Hodge at 07:23AM, 2017/02/17.
sylvester moses
It was in the England of 1681 (which uncannily shared our postwar political environment), the thesis of author Wehtee Wion, and anti – thesis of commenter Theodore Hodge were anticipated and reconciled by the creation of a Whig, and a Tory political party. Faced with the fraught factionalism brought about by Oliver Cromwell’s violent defeat of absolute monarchy, those two parties became the vehicle through which English citizens forwarded their various “interests”.

It was a giant step “toward government by the people" that would later develop to democracy as we know it today.

With the above as background, one can understand from whence the identity politics sentiments of the author sprung. To compound it was the momentous failure of President Sirleaf to bridge the widening ethnic and class divides, which she unashamedly admitted to in her Farewell Message with the following: “Let me say, straight out, two areas have continued to pose major challenges for our administration: corruption and reconciliation”.

Author Wion is too intelligent and worldly to adopt the majority – take – the – spoils attitude as the drift of all the comments seem to suggest. And as we noted in Daily Observer regarding a headlined statement by presidential candidate Dr. Mills Jones that “Tribal Politics Is The Refuge Of Failed Politicians”, the Congua and Natives are like indivisible Siamese twins: one “heart” (as someone reminded us), one mind, and from one womb together.

Once again, for heaven's sake, and sustainable peace, no one should try to separate them.

So the earlier we accept that self – evident fact, and move toward mending our mainly economic grievances, the better for reconciliation, rehabilitation, and reconstruction. Which in spite of a supposedly USD $16 billion investment were never remotely realized. The Congua – Native divide is bridgeable, and national unity is achievable. It is working swimmingly in Sierra Leone between the then settler more educated Krios, and the natives. However, Liberians can’t wait for politicians who strive in the divide to initiate the process.

Thank you, Mr. Jerry Wion for starting a necessary conversation.
sylvester moses at 08:18AM, 2017/02/17.
Theodore Hodge
All I say is: seperate the facts from opinions. I know we do live in the Trump era where facts are becoming more and more irrelevant. But it is unacceptable to expect anyone to take a false thesis and generalize based on one's personal opinions. Again, how are the natives going to fight against a common enemy when they themselves are so far apart on issues? The first step is to get to the fundamental business of educating them. We can't wait for elections to roll around and expect people to be suddenly enlightened... that's throwing the cart before the horse. Good day, folks.
Theodore Hodge at 11:15AM, 2017/02/17.
Kandajaba Zoebohn Zoedjallah
Certainly theo, "we can't wait for elections to roll around and expect people to be suddenly enlightened". This fact is precisely what dooms your choice of candidate Joe Boakai, and has nothing to do with Liberian voters who despite the reality of ethnic, religious, or county, stronghold generally do not cast their ballots based on ethnicity as proven by and through the largest grass root following commanded by the man of the people - George Manneh Weah.

So, Mr. Hodge, instead of others "educating the natives to be monolothic" it is you who must "accept the responsibility to less and teach" Joe Boakai' supporters since he kept sleeping for the past decade "waiting for elections to roll around" and now expect overnight popularity to win election! Secondly, George Weah's offering his first place to Winston ultimately proved his Weah's knowledge and experience vis Politics 101 - compromise and selflessness! Thirdly, you are badly mistaken to believe that debunking the bigotry and selfishness of THOSE Congau politicians who have not mentally grown to accept the VP slot as the man of the people compromised with Winston labels the 5% Congaus as "the common enemy of the 95% indigenous natives. Pointing out another's irregularity doesn't necessarily make him am enemy whether on the spiritual, intellectual, or political realm! Hence the issue is not about Natives or Congaus bring "monolothic" as you propose, nor the awakening of the political consciousness of the 95% Natives - since achieved and demonstrated during the National confrontations of the 70s against the tyranny of the Congau minority, BUT RATHER THE ISSUE IS ABOUT FAIRNESS, EWUALITY AND CONDENT, AND NOT WHAT WAR LORD WILLIAM HANSON AKA JONES NHINSON WILLIAMS BELIEVES IS DRMOCRACY - WHERE ONLY THE VOTES IF ELITES MATTER.
Kandajaba Zoebohn Zoedjallah at 02:27PM, 2017/02/17.

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