Liberian Senator Prince Y. Johnson, one of the leading candidates in this year?s presidential election, says he?s back on the campaign trail after reports indicated he had been nearly paralyzed from a stroke.
Johnson, noted for the capture and murder of President Samuel Doe during Liberia?s civil war, says the issue of his illness was exaggerated by the local press.
?I?m okay, but my illness was over exaggerated by the local press, which perhaps was bought by the ruling [Unity] party,? he said.
Johnson says his blood pressure went up after receiving a jubilant welcome from voters on a campaign trail.
?I developed pressure a few days before New Year and my pressure went up to 200/190. It was very serious, certainly it was serious. It would have landed me into a coma; it would have led me into having a stroke. But, as God would have it, His grace survived me,? Johnson said.
He says his campaign has not lost any momentum even though he has not been on the trail for weeks.
?Not at all," he said. "The people of this country will like to see not only change of leadership, but change of the system, a system that will designate power to the people of this nation. Power in Liberia is highly centralized and Liberians would like to see decentralization to give some political autonomy to the counties [political subdivisions]. I am the only candidate to have a decentralized platform.?
Johnson says his return to the campaign trail is giving the ruling Unity Party of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf sleepless nights.
?Whatever was happening to me, the people of Liberia unanimously prayed [for me] to get well, and through their prayers and the prayers of the faithful ones, I am revived and I?m okay now to contest. In fact, my coming back strong and intelligent once again is giving sleepless nights to the ruling party right now because all over the country, everywhere, there?s national reception of this party [his National Union for Democratic Progress party],? Johnson said.
He says his party has been holding talks with three other opposition leaders on the possibility of a merger before the elections, although he says nothing has been finalized.
?Well, we are holding a series of consultations. Deliberations are being carried out amongst us, and our doors are opened. We?ve been fortunate to meet Counsellor [Charles] Brumskine [of the Liberty Party], Ambassador Dew Mason and Ambassador George Weah, and we are still talking and, until we conclude, I will hold my comment,? he said.
Johnson says he will defeat President Sirleaf in October because he says the Liberian people are yearning for change and because President Sirleaf broke her promise to Liberians that she was going to serve one term.
?I am definitely prepared to take on Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The belief in Liberia by many people in many quarters [is] that it would be difficult to defeat the incumbent; I am telling you that the wind of change is blowing over Africa where incumbent leaders have been voted out because she asked Liberians and announced to the whole world that all she wanted was only one term. To come back and renege on her promise, on her vow, and want to run for a second term, I think a true leader should not be a dribbler. We are not on the football [soccer] field,? Johnson said.
He says his campaign platform to decentralize the government, if elected, is being widely received by Liberian voters.
?In Liberia, since 163 years, power has been highly centralized, thereby, impeding development. Everything in Liberia that has to do with development is the prerogative of the president. So, they [Liberians] have now realized that there should be a change. And so, with the decentralized platform that will give some political autonomy to the counties, they are very happy about this platform,? Johnson said.