Samuel Kofi Woods who made his name as an advocate before turning tables for a government job is one of a handful of current government officials being tipped to run on the 2011 Unity party ticket as a running mate to incumbent President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. In the wake of the speculations, Woods is finally breaking his silence, dismissing an immediate interest in political office but strongly declaring that he is exploring his options and leaving them open.
Absoluteness belongs to God
In the midst of strong and continual speculations, coupled with some public perception that Woods could bevSirleaf’s running mate come 2011 – and that he is eyeing the presidency, the former Labor Minister now Minister of Public Works Boss has for the first time publicly said that he has no political ambition but his will remain open, given the fact that he does not want to be absolute because according to him, absoluteness belongs to God.
Addressing speculations that he is being enticed with a membership of the ruling UP as an initial step that would see him taking up the likely-post of the party’s vice presidential slot on its 2011 ticket, Woods denied ever being approached by any party executive or member, including President Sirleaf on the matter.
“Is that what they say?” he asked with outburst laughter. “No, no. I’ve not been offered any UP membership, except that there are plans of me being approached on the issue”, he clarified.
When further pressed on what would be his option in case a UP membership, wrapped in a vice presidential slot, comes flying-by as a golden package to him, he said: “Well, it depends on the circumstances and the time of it. Actually, I now want to spend more time with my kids and my family and other things like, book writings and lecturing. But as I said, I leave my option open”.
Woods said that when such a time comes, he would make an appropriate decision but his pre-occupation rests on the huge tasks resting on the Ministry of Public Works where he has already begun receiving positive grading from the public who voted his ministrywhere has spent just seven monthsas the best ministry of the year 2009 on a popular radio show.
The Minister of Public Works, coming from student activism to national advocacy, was introduced by President Sirleaf to work directly as a government official during the early days of the Unity Party-led government.
He was first appointed by President Sirleaf and subsequently confirmed by the Liberian Senate in 2006 as the UP Government’s first Minister of Labor an appointment seen at the time by many as an embarrassment to the man whose advocacy had been very critical on past national governments, especially on labor and other human abuse issues.
The Liberian Leader then transferred him to the then troubled-Ministry of Public Works in May of 2006 after the Ministry was engulfed with acts of corruption, replacing the then embattled Minister of Public Works, Loseni Donzo, who is now an advisor on the hastily arranged post of Presidential Advisor on Infrastructure.
Leaving Room for Political Ambition
Woods, during an exclusive FrontPageAfrica interview, said, “I have no ambition in politics but I leave my options open”. The minister-advocate however said that he will not be definite on the issue, which means that turning to a political ambition cannot be completely ruled out of his mind as, according to him, the world has a way of turning dreams and vision around.
“I don’t have a desire now to say that I will be contesting a political office, but I leave my options open because I will not be absolute”, he said. Woods further continued by adding, “I will not be absolute because absoluteness is with God”.
The minister added that since he does not know what might motivate him in the next years to come, he will not completely rule out the possibility of him contesting the Presidency or any key political office in the future. He cited what he called his dramatic-career swap from that of his college ambition of being a civil engineer to one of a lawyer as a case-in-point from which he has learned to not make absolute statements.
Following the path of Woods, it is normal in the typical Liberian setting that any individual trending such path on both the national and international levels would want to ascend to a political post, with the Liberian Presidency, the highest political seat, being no exception.
Serving as a student leader at the University of Liberia (UL) and Executive Director of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) of Liberia, Woods was the founding Director of the once-vocal Catholic-owned Justice and Peace Commission (JPC) where he took his advocacy for human rights and other abuses to the highest level with many thinking that he was having his eyes on the governmental circle.
With his appointment as President Sirleaf’s first Labor Minister, some political observers were convinced that Woods had finally found his entry into national government as the stepping stone to gradually ascending to the Executive Mansion. This was further bolstered by his acceptance of the ministerial posts which many had previously argued he would reject and continue in the direction of advocacy.
Desire to serve country
In recent weeks, Woods has been dubbed as President Sirleaf’s ‘correction fluid’ when he was asked to take over the image-tainted Ministry of Public Works apparently following a good performance and probably an impressive job at the Labor Ministry. Woods has since been placed in the perfect position of overseeing one of the major challenge of the ruling party- road rehabilitation and construction which remains very vital to Sirleaf’s election pledge and re-election.
Woods said that his commitment and dedication to working hard is not aimed at any political position but rather on his desire to serve his country.
“I’m not serving my people only with the goal of wanting to be president of Liberia or with a political ambition in mind, but I’m serving our people because of the call to service”, Woods declared.
The minister boasted of serving Liberians in the past with dedication when he worked on other non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) prior to taking up a governmental post.
On his political future, Woods appear to be buying his time, suggesting that time will tell. Political observers are keenly watching to see what happens in the near future. In his capacity as Minister of Public Works, Woods has been familiarizing himself in various counties and ensuring that the government fulfills its pledge to the people. Though he was a successful advocate, what remains uncertain is whether such success could be translated when he fully considers the presidential quest in the future or as UP vice-presidential slot in 2011. For many political observers, Woods has left open not only his options but the political future, which from all indication points to a long-waiting game mired in uncertainty for the advocate minister.