Support for Rep. Johnson Gwaikolo’s Deputy Speaker Bid Gains Momentum

Following the election of the current Deputy Speaker to the Liberian Senate, Rep. Johnson N. Gwaikolo (District #9, Nimba County) has emerged as one of the favorite contenders for the post.

Monrovia – As the race for the Deputy Speaker position at the House of Representatives heats up, a group calling itself the Conscious Think Tank on Capitol Building Leadership (CTTCBL) has thrown its support behind Representative Johnson Gwaikolo of Nimba County District #9.

Rep. Gwaikolo, who currently chairs the House Committee on Education and Public Administration, has emerged as one of the favorite lawmakers to replace outgoing Deputy Speaker Prince Moye (Distrit #2, Bong County) following his election as Senator of Bong in the just ended Special Senatorial Elections (SSE).

Rep. Gwaikolo is among several other lawmakers that have been tipped to express interest in the Deputy Speaker position; some of which include the House Judiciary Committee Chairman, Cllr. J. Fonati Koffa (CDC, District #1, Grand Kru County) and fellow Nimba lawmaker, Rep. Samuel G. Kogar of District #5, amongst others.

In a statement issued in Monrovia on Monday, the group through its head, Mr. Nelson Jackson said, Rep. Gwaikolo is the most suitable candidate for the position to assist the Speaker owing to his vast experience and pragmatic approach to bridging the divide among lawmakers at House.

On the news of Rep. Koffa’s intention to contest the Deputy Speaker post, the group said although, it is the right of every member of the House to contest, the Grand Kru County lawmaker should back off because it will not be prudent for the two top members of the House to come from the same region.

“We have heard through media outlets that Hon. J. Fonati Kofa has declared his intention for the Deputy Speaker position. In as much as any of the Representatives has the right to contest for the position, it is not prudent for someone from the Southeast to contest for this position at this time,” the group said.

“Already we have the President, Speaker and President Pro Temp all from the Southeast. Deputy Speaker from the Southeast will mean the top brass of the country are from one section of the country. The CDC should consider this and withdraw its partisan.”

The group continues: “National leadership should reflect national character. The position of Deputy Speaker now is the opportunity to give the government that national character. There are aspirants from Nimba, Lofa, Bong, etc. who are qualified to be Deputy Speaker. Therefore, Hon. Koffa from Grand Kru should do the honorable thing to withdraw his candidacy, especially when the President and Pro Temp are from the same Grand Kru.”

Further in the statement, the group said although its members do not have voting rights because they are not lawmakers, they will petition their respective lawmakers from the 73 electoral districts across the country to support Rep. Gwaikolo.

“We are comprised of members from across the country, and truth be told, we do not hate Rep. Koffa, but in order to balance the leadership of the House, the Deputy Speaker post should be occupied by someone from another region. And we believe the best candidate is Rep. Gwaikolo,” said the group’s Chairman Nelson Jackson, also a former Representative aspirant.

Another member of the group, Tony Mentor Johnson, Jr. said Rep. Gwaikolo’s impeccable character and vast legislative experience place him above his peers.

“He served in the legislature during the turbulent years when others were fleeing the country because of the war; he also has vast experience in government and academia. He would be very instrumental in assisting the Speaker to make the House that vibrant body it ought to be,” Johnson averred.

Members’ Endorsement

Rep. Gwaikolo is yet to break silence over his stance for the number two position at the House, but sources say since report of his candidature emerged, several of his colleagues have pledged their support to him.

A source close to the lawmaker, requesting anonymity, said the former President of the United Methodist University (UMU) is currently having series of consultations with his colleagues before officially announcing his intention.

Legislative Experience

Before joining the Executive Branch of Government, Rep. Gwaikolo was a member of the Interim Legislative Assembly (1991-1992) which later evolved into the Transitional Legislative Assembly (1993-1994).

He served as Presiding Officer of the Legislative Assembly at which time he provided Administrative direction to the Legislative Body until a Speaker was designated by the appropriate Party. 

Under his leadership, the structure of the Legislature was organized to reflect the unicameral nature of the Legislature at that time. 

While at the Legislature, Hon. Gwaikolo also diligently served as Chairman, Committee on Foreign Affairs, providing oversight responsibilities for agencies implementing the foreign policy of Liberia. 

He headed delegations that represented Liberia at several Inter-Parliamentary Union Conferences in Chile, Cameroon, Denmark, Sweden, France, India and Italy. 

Hon. Gwaikolo also served as Chairman, Ways, Means and Finance with oversight for Government’s fiscal agents. As Chair, he directed and supervised approval of the National Budget as well as mobilized resources for the work of the National Legislature. 

After serving in several positions in Government and academia, he is back at the Liberian Legislature, representing District #9, Nimba County following his election in 2017.

He currently serves as Co-Chair of the Nimba County Legislative Caucus, Chairman, Committee on Education and Public Administration, and Co-Chair of the Committee on Public Works.

He is highly respected by his colleagues, and as one of the elders of the House, Speaker Bhofal Chambers often rely on his counsel when in mitigating some of the tensions at arise at the House. 

General Government Experience

In the Public Sector, Rep. Gwaikolo served in several government responsibilities, ranging from Executive Director of the National Investment Commission (1999) to Deputy Minister for Administration at several ministries, respectively:  Ministry of Foreign Affairs (twice) (1997-1999; 2007-2009), Ministry of Labor (2000-2003), and Ministry of Public Works (2009-2011). 

In those positions, he was responsible for the daily operations of the Ministries. He supervised the Divisions of Finance, Human Resource, Security, General Services, and other related divisions; he also ensured that other programs of these ministries were successfully implemented.  He supervised the preparation of annual reports and annual budgets.

In addition, he served as Deputy Minister for Revenues (1995-1997) at the Ministry of Finance during which he directly supervised and directed the generation and collection of revenues for the Government.  He insured compliance of the business community with relevant provisions of the Revenue and Finance Laws. 

He designed ways by which to make compliance easy and reactivated revenue collectorates outside of Monrovia, e.g. Buchanan, Tubmanburg, after the civil war.  As Deputy Minister, he participated in ECOWAS conferences regarding regional trade cooperation among ECOWAS countries.        

Private Sector and Academia

Prior to his election in 2017, Rep. Gwaikolo served in various capacities in the Non-Government sector.  He worked with the United Methodist University, rising from Vice President for Business and Finance (2012-2014) to President (2015-2017). 

As President, he was the Chief Executive Officer for the University and had overall responsibility for the university.  He provided leadership and oversight for all aspects of the university, including academics, finance, planning, student affairs, enrollment, advancement, athletics, and other key areas. 

Hon. Gwaikolo worked closely with the Board of Directors to ensure that the strategic direction and policies of the university are aligned with its mission.  Under his leadership, the United Methodist University established the Institutional Review Board (IRB) to govern research activities at the University.

Education

Rep. Gwaikolo has an Associate of Arts degree in Accounting from North Hennepin Community College in Minnesota (1982); Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration from Augsburg College in 1984. He returned to Augsburg College and in 2005 graduated with a Master of Arts in Leadership.

He completed doctoral candidacy (EdD(abd)) in Educational Leadership at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska (2017).

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