By Festus Poquie
The House of Representatives of the Liberian legislature will transition into its 55th session in January 2024.
Before its first sitting one of its 73 members must be elected by peers to take on the role of a Speaker to prepare for the inauguration of the new President.
Neither of the two main political parties – the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change and the opposition Unity Party enjoys the outright majority to control with commanding numerical strength.
This means the CDC or the UP cannot produce the Speaker on a standalone basis.
Official results from legislative elections held on Oct. 10 showed President George Weah’s CDC won 25 seats in the 73-member House of Representatives.
Former Vice President Joseph Boakai’s Unity Party took 11 seats.
Independent candidates grabbed 19 seats while other parties won 18 seats.
Judging from the numbers and the complexity of the House’s chemistry in the context of its multiparty dimensional look, a candidate for officer of the Speaker must be a consensus leader who commands colleagues’ respect and trust.
With the current House Speaker Dr. Bhofal Chambers still fighting to overturn his Oct. 10 defeat in the Maryland County District # 2 race, current Deputy Speaker Jonathan Fonati Koffa is the pole position to win the race for the top job save pockets of opposition.
He could face challengers like Lofa County District # Representative-elect Thomas Fallah who has served in the legislature since 2006.
Fallah and Koffa are members of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change and has chaired the lucrative appropriation committee – Ways, Means and the Budget.
The odds appear to favor the Grand Kru County lawmaker who entered the House in 2017 amidst a successful law career that has earned him fortunes.
“He is reliable and accessible leader who has the pedigree befitting the office of Speaker of the Republic of Liberia,” one House member who is making his second term told the Oracle News Daily.
He does not want to be identified because the Speaker race has not officially opened.
Musa Hassan Bility, the former football association president and Chairman of the Collaborating Political Parties wants the job, too. His party, which won six seats in the House is allying the CDC in the Nov. 14 presidential runoff vote.
Bility’s freshman status could disadvantage his bid. Seems as manipulative and charismatic, the businessman’s ability to present himself as trustworthy and respectable for the role could overturn whatever preexisting or perceived defects.
But if Koffa wins, what kind of Speaker will he be for the legislature and the country?
This is how the Pan African publication – the African Leadership Magazine profiles him:
Top of Form
Cllr. Jonathan Fonati Koffa, the deputy speaker of Liberia’s Parliament, is an eccentric political leader adept in the science and art of constituent representation.
A Lawyer and political leader whose short but meteoric rise to prominence in Liberian politics show a healthy understanding of politics and the ability to cut across political and ethnic divides to accomplish national goals and objectives.
He has been instrumental in passing crucial gender-responsive bills, including the Domestic Violence Bill and the Female Genital Mutilation Bill.
Cllr. Koffa, or JFK, as popularly known in Liberian circles, was born in then Sasstown Territory (now Grand Kru) County in 1963 into the union of Major Stephen Jaitoh and Margaret Mona Koffa.
The son of a military officer, his family relocated to Monrovia, Liberia, in 1966, where he grew up and began his educational journey
JFK was recently lauded by the Regional UN Women Ambassador for Africa, Madam Jaha Dukureh, over his efforts to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Liberia.
She praised him for being a significant player in the Legislature for championing bills in the interest of women, including the bill to outlaw the practices of FGM.
In her words, “we have seen this as an opportunity for us to interact with you, and we would like to say this as a fact that you are a champion in the fight against female genital mutilation in Liberia.”
“Honorable, I must confess that your stance against fgm is realistic and honest, and since I have been here, I have not found someone who is so passionate and firm on this issue as you: your dedication, your commitment, your passion and your willingness to champion is excellent, “Amb. Jaha said.
Prior, the Deputy Speaker was very instrumental in the passage of the Domestic Violence Bill.
He is the founder and Managing Partner of the International Law Group (ILG), and he has been practising law since 1997, both in Liberia and the United States of America.
Cllr. Koffa was also admitted into the Supreme Court Bar of the Republic of Liberia with distinct honour as valedictorian of the graduating class.
In 2016, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf appointed Koffa as Minister of State without Portfolio and Special Prosecutor of the Sable Mining Bribery scandal case.
A few months later, he was appointed legal counsel to the President of Liberia.
Cllr. Koffa resigned in late July 2017 to participate in the General and Presidential elections as a candidate for the Representative seat in Grand Kru County District 2.
On October 19, he was declared the winner of that electoral process, and in 2021, he was subsequently elected as Deputy Speaker of the 54th Legislature of the Republic of Liberia.
Cllr. J. Fonati Koffa is the immediate past Chairman of the Judiciary Committee of the 54th National Legislature.
He was a member of the Committee on Elections and Inauguration and the Committee on Human & Civil Rights.
He is the current acting Chairperson of the Grand Kru Legislative Caucus at the 54th National Legislature and the Deputy Speaker of the 54th Legislature of the Republic of Liberia.