SANNIQUELLIE, Nimba â€“ The senatorial bid of the 41-year-old Liberian entrepreneur, Taa Wongbe, got off to an enthusiastic boost on Saturday, Jan. 18 with the launch of the â€˜Moving Nimba Forwardâ€™ movement in Doe Zuaplay, Nimbaâ€™s ninth electoral district.
Speaking at the event, which its organizers say will raise awareness and help mobilize the county ahead of by-elections later this year, Wongbe said his movement was a call to action and a plea to all Nimbaians for unity.
Wongbe is a self-made entrepreneur and CEO of the research firm Khana Group. For his election, he is trumpeting the messages of unity and empowerment for his fellow Nimbaians through agriculture.
â€œThe first thing this movement seeks to achieve is to unite Nimba,â€ he said. â€œI believe that without unity, we cannot move Nimba forward. We need only one Nimba, a united Nimba. The second focus of this movement is to see how our people can be empowered. Our people cannot be empowered if they donâ€™t have money, and how we are going to raise the money is through agriculture.â€
He further added, â€œWe will ensure that each of the nine electoral districts in Nimba has a district development fund through agriculture. They will give us the land. It will be a partnership with the district so that we can build these agriculture projects that will enable them get money from the proceeds to develop the district â€“ thatâ€™s how we are going to move Nimba forward.â€
In recent years, the call has intensified in some quarters to partition the county into three smaller counties: Upper, Central, and Lower, in the belief that this will produce more jobs and economic development for Nimbaians.
First reported in the county in 2011 following that yearâ€™s presidential and legislative elections, the call was believed to have the backing of influential candidates who were defeated in the polls. It later resurfaced in 2014, and has since intensified.
Wongbe seized the occasion to confront this matter head-on. He said that in spite of the challenges facing the county, dividing up the Nimba is not the solution to the problems, adding that there is strength in unity. Simply appointing more Nimbaians in government will not automatically develop the county, he also noted.
Using Lofa as a case study, Wongbe observed that in the previous Ellen Johnson Sirleaf-led government, several Lofians were seen in top positions of government, including as vice president, minister of defense, finance minister, and foreign affairs minister. However, today Lofa still struggles with bad roads, poor health system, and other problems.
Wongbe also lamented the artificial divisions created among the people of Nimba by politicians who want to exploit those divisions for political purposes. On this issue, Wongbe promised to take the lead in preaching a message of peace and oneness ahead of the October 13 senatorial election in which he will be contesting.
He continued: â€œThe reason why we are where we are today and people start to talk about dividing Nimba is because we have not been preaching a united message and thatâ€™s what my campaign is pushing. I have been on the record consistently for Nimbaâ€™s unity and oneness, and I want for us to continue that.â€
Commenting on his participation in the ensuing senatorial election, Wongbe said with the level of support he has received from across the county, he is confident of winning against the incumbent Sen. Thomas S. Grupee, who will be up for re-election.
As part of his election promise, Wongbe vows to raise the countyâ€™s budget from US$3 million to US$10 million through agriculture, if elected as Nimbaâ€™s next senator.
He plans to register the â€˜Moving Nimba Forwardâ€™ movement as a non-profit that will lobby both local and international actors to get involved with Nimba to ensure his dreams for the county are realized.
Featured photo by Jerry Myers