An opinion by John H. T. Stewart
When he announced his intention to contest the 2023 Presidential elections back in 2021, he was widely dismissed by a public generally disgusted with George Weah’s poor leadership and apparently fixated to the idea of a strong coalition of opposition parties to defeat the George Weah led Coalition for Democratic Change(CDC) at the 2023 polls.
“Who knows Gongloe, he aint got no money, Gongloe is alright but he broke and nobody know him beside few Monrovia people”, are just a few of the many public comments sparked by his announcement.
But that was then and was when a so-called dream ticket(Boakai_Cummings) was being touted as the best possible combination to unseat the CDC. But things unfortunately did not go as expected by an anxious public and the proposed coalition floundered and capsized under its own weight, ambition and overblown egos.
Had the coalition held, it is doubtful whether Gongloe would have ever thrown his hat into the race. But all that is now “water under the bridge”. The splintered CPP is for all purposes dead and the LPP candidate Tiawan Saye Gongloe is indeed In the race.
He is in the race notably alongside Unity Party candidate and former Veep Joseph Nyuma Boakai who is currently batting health issues and Alternative National Congress candidate Alexander Cummings whose candidacy still appears to be struggling to gain public traction.
And despite recent calls from some quarters him to have serve as vice presidential running mate to Unity Party candidate, former Vice President Joseph Nyuma Boakai, he has politely turned down such requests being careful to avoid creating false hopes which could turn out to be a mirage.
Moreover, the history of political mergers and coalitions in Liberia’s political history leaves very little to be desired. What most Liberians apparently do not understand is the fact the institutionalization of political parties in Liberia is yet a long way off. It is only at the University of Liberia where party affiliation and loyalty is strongest and where parties are voted for rather than stand-alone candidates.
He (Gongloe) has however committed to support any second-round candidate against President Weah granted of course President Weah survives the first round and granted the former Veep hopefully makes it to the second round.
In the opinion of some observers, Gongloe can rightly be considered the dark horse or the underdog in the Presidential race. Only months ago, he was not even listed among the top five (5) contenders in the presidential race.
Now he is being listed among the top four(4) candidates and his rating is growing. But unlike other presidential wannabes who are either engaged in futile shadow boxing efforts with perceived enemies or renting crowds to create impression,
Gongloe has remained above all such and has instead focused his attention on meeting directly with the people and engaging them in frank face to face interactive discussions.
During the festive holiday season for example, when other candidates were spending time with their families, Gongloe was instead on a road trip to the country’s interior, meeting and talking with local people and even spending nights in various towns and villages.
On Christmas Day he was in Grand Bassa County visiting and meeting with local people in several towns that included Edina, the Headquarters of Compound One(1) .
On New Year’s Day he was in Yarpah Town and Cestos City and then took a 35-minute motorized canoe ride up the Cestos River in the Kploh District where he visited and held discussions with the people of Kpaquah, the birthplace of President Weah’s mother, as part of his charge to visit the peoples of rural Liberia in order to acquaint them with his quest for the presidency.
To date, LPP Presidential candidate Tiawon Saye Gongloe has visited and engaged with and warmly received by the people of 39 towns in Grand Bassa and 28 towns in River Cess. In Bong county from which his mother hails, he has visited 37 towns including Sanoyea, Foquelleh, Gamu, Jorwah, Palala, David Dean Town, Sayweh Town , and Botota, all in Kokoya District.
In his home county of Nimba, he has already visited 106 towns including the birthplace of senator Prince Johnson where he was very warmly received. Overjoyed by his visit, residents at their own initiative made a voluntary cash contribution to buy gas for his vehicle.
Currently, Tiawon Saye Gongloe also widely known as “poor man lawyer” is on a road trip to Lofa County to meet his in-laws. He is expected to be escorted by his lovely wife, Sonie Kolako Gongloe whose mother is Gbandi from the Kolahun District and her father Old Man Kolako a Lorma from Voinjama District.
His first stop was in Corporal Beyan Town right after the St Paul River Bridge separating Bong and Lofa Counties. From there he headed to the town of Zolowo where he was very warmly received at a program that lasted up to late evening.
From Zolowo, candidate Gongloe proceeded to Salayea where he spent the night and where he was again warmly received by the people of Salayea. From Salayea, he moved on to Zorzor to a rapturous welcome.
He is being accompanied by veteran LPP stalwarts in the likes of Dusty Wolokolie, Flomo Yanquoiwolo Kokolo(Doxe) and John Darwolo.
Candidate Gongloe of the LPP is a seasoned lawyer, passionate and consummate human rights defender who has fought for and stood up for the rights of all Liberians regardless of ethnic, religious or political affiliations. And he has done so at grave risks to his health safety and security.
For his stance, speaking truth to power, he has been jailed, first under President Tolbert in 1978 for protesting against US President Jimmy Carter’s 3-hr visit to Liberia, beaten mercilessly under Doe in 1984 during the armed military invasion of the UL Capitol Hill campus where he was a lecturer in law, and under Taylor (2002) tortured, jailed and forced into exile but yet he has remained uncompromising.
Most of all he has demonstrated transparent and competent leadership in various assignments as Executive Assistant to Interim President Dr. Amos Sawyer(RIP), Solicitor-General of the Republic of Liberia and Minister of Labor and including his distinguished service as President of the Liberia National Bar Association.
Presidential candidate Tiawon Saye may be considered by others as the underdog in the race however the signs are clearly pointing to his rise as a TOP DOG in the 2023 Presidential race.
And he is not resting on his laurels because the battle is yet far from over. From Lofa he will most likely be visiting the Southeast which will include Sinoe, Grand Kru, Grand Gedeh, River Gee, Maryland and then of course Gbarpolu, Cape Mount, Bomi, Montserrado, Margibi and the rest which includes Monrovia and rural Montserrado.