CONGO TOWN, Montserrado â€“ The Liberia Basketball Association has gotten a new leadership for the next four years following a recent election that brought Abraham Samukai to the helm of the association as president.
The elections were held over the weekend at the Palm Springs Hotel in Congo Town.
Samukai replaces incumbent Rufus Anderson, who was disqualified by the elections commission headed by Moifee Kanneh. The commissionâ€™s decision to disqualify Anderson, along with his vice-presidential mate for operations, Bruce Quaye, and treasurer, Jairus Harris, stemmed from what Kanneh termed as a fraud.
Kanneh disclosed the commissionâ€™s decision just when Congress was about to convene some three hours late. The Congress and elections activities lasted over eight hours.
According to the commission, the Anderson team reported that its money for election registrations was deposited into the association’s account, instead of making direct payment to the Elections Commissionâ€™s account as agreed.
Upon verification, it was discovered that the money was deposited at the LBDI Bank on Nov. 23, only to be withdrawn an hour later without the commissionâ€™s knowledge.
Such an act, according to Kanneh, was fraudulent and a basis for disqualification of all parties involved.
With this bold decision by the commission, the way was paved for Abraham Samukai to run uncontested as president.
His running mates, Henry Fahnbulleh for vice president for operations, Sampson Bernard for treasurer, Comfort Wilson for financial secretary, and Hannah Harris as chaplain, also sailed to victories unopposed.
As was expected, Anderson, who was seeking a third term along with his running mates, contested the commissionâ€™s decision on grounds that it lacked any authority or mandate to check the accounts of the association without its knowledge, and that the commission overstepped its bounds as a neutral party.
Anderson also accused the commissionâ€™s chair of plotting to oust him, and therefore withdrew from the process until further investigation.
With a â€˜no confidenceâ€™ stance against the commission, Anderson, therefore, questioned the possibility of a free and fair election.
“As president of the Liberia Basketball Association, I have no trust in the election commission going further. As election commission, they were tasked to run the elections and not to go behind the association to check in their account. They exhibited the real fraudulent act and cannot be trusted with
the elections. Therefore, I recused myself from the congress,” Anderson said after being disqualified.
Andersonâ€™s recusal did not, however, mean a constitutional end to Congress, as the associationâ€™s statute also grants the right to preside in the presidentâ€™s absence to the vice president for administration. Therefore, Jake Kabakollie, assumed the role of presiding over the Congress.
Just as many thought the day-long Congress was nearing completion with balloting about to commence, Kabakollie announced he could no longer continue as presiding because other candidates had been accused.
Kabakollieâ€™s withdrawal was also insufficient to abort the Congress.
The stakeholders present continued to push ahead with a vote on whether to continue or abort. The result was a rejection of Kabakollieâ€™s stance. Twenty-five stakeholders voted in favor of continuation of Congress, while 20 voted to end Congress.
One after another, incumbent leaders, from the president to the secretary, recused themselves, leaving Congress with no choice but to appoint one of its Executive Committee members, Alfred Sayon, to preside.
With this move successfully executed, and a presiding officer appointed, the way was now paved for the resumption of Congress and the holding of elections.
Supporters of Rufus Anderson and his team angrily stormed out of Congress as Sayon ordered the commencement of voting.
The result was a landslide victory for Samukai and his entire team.
The new leadership will be inducted into office on Saturday, Dec. 7, seven days following elections.
Despite their victory, Samukai and his team will take over an embattled Liberian Basketball Association struggling to regain national relevance. Its last competitive games were in the 2007 FIBA Africa Championship where Liberia performed poorly.
But more importantly, Samukai will assume leadership at a time when the association has been deeply fractured by an acrimonious election.
Featured photo by T Kla Wesley Jr.