The top contenders for the special senatorial election include Senator Jewel Howard-Taylor (NPP), Ranney Banama Jackson (Unity Party), Augustus Jonathan Flomo (Congress for Democratic Change), Dr. Henrique Flomo Tokpa (Unity Party), former Senator Franklin Obed Siakor (Liberty Party) and Benedict Sagbeh (Movement for Progressive Change).
A native of Sanoyea district in lower Bong, Senator Howard-Taylor has intimidating credentials. She was the Chairman of the Bong legislative caucus. She has a large followership in parts of Sanoyea district and Gbartala town, a place where her former husband Charles Taylor killed and forcibly recruited Bong residents to the defunct Anti Terrorist Unit.
The Bong County Senator has structures across the county. Many believe the popularity of her former husband could easily propel her to second term and could further capitalize on her former husband’s 50-years upheld sentence to win the apathy of Bong residents. Howard-Taylor faces a stiff opposition from some influential politicians in the county.
The current Deputy Minister for Operations Ranney Jackson finished fourth in the 2005 election with over 11,000 votes and came close to winning after losing to eventual winner Henry Yallah less than 600 votes. He appears to be battle weary but his supporters insist that he is a crowd pillar and a factor in Bong politics.
However, many believe that his closeness with Bong Superintendent Selena Poson-Mappy, arguably the most influential female in the county, may tilt the balance in his favor.
Besides Raney Jackson having some weaknesses, he does not seem to have a deep purse to run an effective countywide campaign. Also, the presence of his brother-in-law, Tokpa, in the race may split Karyata votes.
Dr. Henrique Flomo Tokpa is the President of Cuttington, Liberia’s premier university. Tokpa enjoys immense visibility in his current job. He is a wealthy politician. But Bong County politics is treacherous and unpredictable. Tokpa’s critics accuse him of arrogance, but he rejected the label, saying that his self-confidence has been uncritically confused with arrogance.
Tokpa is receiving a lot of bashing for allegedly using his influence as a university president to target lecturers of the university who have opposed his political ambition as was evidenced by the termination of contract of Mogana Flomo, a father to senatorial aspirant Augustus Jonathan Flomo.
Saybay is a radical Liberian attorney who is serving a one-year suspension by the Liberia Bar Association for an alleged fraud. He is also a protégé of a famous chief in Bong and with the rising apathy in some quarters; analysts believe that he has a good chance. Saybay’s name should not come up for mention as a contender. But tongues are wagging. With the spree of his countywide people-centered donations, his ambition cannot be ruled out.
Siakor is major player in Bong politics. He comes from the background of a classroom teacher. He is a formidable politician beloved by the elderly. The former Bong Senator was a member of the 52nd National Legislature between 2005 and 2011.
He is popular in upper Bong. Against all odds, he contested in the 2011 presidential election as a running mate to Liberty Party’s which finished third in Bong. Siakor has a superior numerical strength and if the teachers who are in vast majority in the county support him, he will shake the county in 2014. Prior to Siakor’s pronouncement to contest the 2014 special election, teachers in Bong have been in the political wilderness in the last two years, shopping for a credible candidate. But a major minus for Siakor is his perceived independent mind.
Flomo, fondly called “the Lion Heart of Bong”, will be running on the platform of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC). . He is an advocate of power shift. Flomo had boasted that the CDC will dislodge the UP and NPP in 2014. “The die is cast between the CDC and NPP in Bong.
Flomo’s debut in politics earned him a third place in the 2011 election when he contested as a Liberty Party partisan and with the “CDC fever” taking center stage in Bong, many believed that Flomo could be a strong factor for the incumbent.