The Political Leader of the Alternative National Congress, Alexander Benedict Cummings, last Wednesday, January 3, 2021 handed over the mantle of leadership of Liberia’s newest and biggest opposition bloc, the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), over to Liberty Party Political Leader, Grand Bassa County Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence in an elaborate ceremony emblazoned with hope for political renewal amongst the opposition community. After having sailed the CPP through eight months of landmark achievements, the epitome of which culminated to the CPP winning six seats at the just ended senatorial elections and unseating the ruling Congress for Democratic Change in its biggest Montserrado County stronghold, Mr. Cumming’s stewardship achievements have been catalogued in this edition of The Analyst for posterity.
Comprising the former ruling Unity Party (UP), Liberty Party (LP), Alternative National Congress (ANC) and the All Liberian Party (ALP), the collaboration came into existence in 2019 as the Collaboration of Political Parties (CPP), after a breakthrough over some galling issues which threatened to derail the quest of opposition to build a formidable force against the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) government in addressing issues of national concern.
After the collaboration was formalized with the signing of documents binding the four opposition political parties into the CPP, the next hurdle that confronted them was how candidates should emerge against the ensuing Special Senatorial midterm elections to which the Alternative National Congress suggested that the Voters’ Perception Survey(VPS) which would gauge prospective voters’ perceptions on preferred candidates for the process against the traditional holding of primaries where the best candidates are selected. The other three parties rejected the VPS and at the end of the day a unanimous decision was reached for the parties to go the way of the primary which was the accepted method established under the laws of Liberia. The position of the ANC was for the VPS to be adopted while the CPP selects its Presidential and Vice Presidential positions but again it was rejected by the other parties. “We will use consensus and if that doesn’t work, we do primary. However, VPS will be done to inform the process and also help to carve out messaging”, a source in the CPP said after agreeing on how Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates will emerge.
Cummings Takes Over CPP Chairmanship from Urey
After the initial hurdles were cleared and the Framework document was signed by all the parties, Alexander Benjamin Cummings as the political leader of the ANC took over the chairmanship of CPP on May 20, 2020 at a colorful ceremony held at the Farmington Hotel in Margibi County from its first Chairman Mr. Benoni Urey with a call from Cummings on leaders of each and every political party to put their differences aside and work in the interest of the Liberian people.
Earlier in his welcome remarks, then outgoing Chairman, Benoni Urey, political leader of the All Liberia Party (ALP) said despite their disagreement on some political issues among the leaders, the CPP will always put the collective interest of the Liberian people first. He admitted that the major problem of the CPP is the political ambition of its leaders, but for the sake of the country, they should put the will of the Liberian people first. “Fundamentally, I don’t believe there are any differences between the ANC, the Liberty party, the Unity Party and the ALP. Our problem is our political ambitions. We must lay our political ambitions aside and think about the suffering of our people. We must listen to the will of the Liberian people,” Urey urged his colleagues.
In his opening remarks at the signing of the ‘Final Collaborative Framework Document’ at the Farmington Hotel on Tuesday, May 19, the outgoing Chairman of the CPP, Benoni Urey, said despite their disagreement on some political issues, the CPP will always put the collective interest of Liberians first.
He admitted that the major problem of the CPP is the political ambition of its leaders, but for the sake of the country, they should put the will of the Liberian people first. “Fundamentally, I don’t believe there are any differences between the ANC, Liberty Party, the Unity and the ALP. Our only problem is our political ambitions. We must lay our political ambitions aside and think about the suffering of our people. We must listen to the will of the Liberian people,” Urey urged.
Urey described the framework as a living document that will be used by the CPP to ensure the dreams and aspirations of Liberians are realized, adding, “This document is a living document. Nothing in here is carved in stone. This document, I believe will move from imperfection to perfection. Once we have agreement among the four of us, we will certainly make the changes or make the corrections to ensure that the aspirations of the four political parties are taken into consideration in this document.”
He paid homage to the founders of the CPP including the late Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine, whose death he described as the greatest blow to the collaboration.
CPP Achievements under Cummings
Cummings’s tenure as Chairman of the CPP is believed to be the most defining moment of the party so far, ranging from its certification by the National Election Commission (NEC) as a legal political entity to the resounding victories recorded by its candidates during the Special senatorial midterm elections, especially uprooting the ruling party from its traditional stronghold in Montserrado County.
Under his leadership, the ANC political leader was able to decentralize the operations of the CPP around the country by establishing strong structures in eight of the 15 counties including River Gee, Grand Gedeh, Grand Cape Mount, Montserrado, Grand Bassa, and Margibi Counties.
Besides, the CPP under Cummings launched a COVID Response/Food Distribution Committee, met and exceeded the 30% women representation on political parties’ tickets and successfully selected CPP Candidates for the 2020 bi-elections using the VPS in three counties. The CPP also mitigated its Nimba county primary dispute and won six senatorial seats so far, while the party awaits outcome from two counties pending legal cases. Under Cummings’ chairmanship, the CPP also aligned itself with three independent candidates in the December 8, 2020 senatorial elections.
Mr. Cumming’s tenure as CPP Chairman also saw the opposition bloc collaborating with the Rainbow Alliance and CSOs on rejecting the Referendum successfully. The CPP was able to conduct a Southeastern tour to support CPP candidates in hard to reach counties and gave a nationwide address on issues affecting issues arising in the country during the last eight months.
It can be attributed to the leadership of Mr. Cummings that the CPP has also been engaged in speaking on social, political and economic issues confronting the nation. To this end the CPP during the period under review advocated for the Cleaning of the Voters Roll – which led to the VR being significantly cleaned by the ECOWAS Technical Team. The CPP also issued a strongly worked statement on the unexplained deaths of auditors in the country.
During the period under review, the CPP also issued statement on Archie Ponpon self- emolution, while the party contributed financially to Ponpon’s medical bills. The CPP also called for the payment of salaries of all civil servants, amongst other national issues.
Representatives of the opposition collaboration also withdrew from the National COVID-19 Food Distribution Committee due to visible irregularities that had attended the process. The CPP used the time to advocate against the irregularities and lack of transparency associated with delivery of the stimulus package promised the people.
As part of the CPP’s stance on other matters, the collaboration issued a dozen press statements during the period under review to address issues of national concern, ranging from a statement in support of its senatorial candidate Madam Edith Gongloe-Weh and the Nimba Elections, to one that supported Press Freedom especially regarding threats by the government against Radio Bushrod on the December 8, 2020 preliminary elections results and that of the election victory won by the CPP.
Other statements issued by during the leadership of the Cummings were a Joint Statement issued in collaboration with the Rainbow Alliance and Civil Society on the Referendum and VRU, the Cape Mount Electoral Violence, Supreme Court’s granting of CPP Petition, letter to ECOWAS on Electoral Irregularity, the reported Grand Gedeh Violence, CPP Protest letter to NEC on unclean Voters Roll, tainted VRU and CPP Response to the 2021 State of the Nation Address, amongst others.
Other public interactions championed by the CPP under the leadership of Alexander Cummings include legal actions that promote the rule of law, by utilizing the court to act against egregious violations of the laws by the government. Paramount among these actions were writs of mandamus to conduct the elections, cleaning of the voters roll and action against the illegality of the referendum, amongst others.
Despite these remarkable engagements by the CPP under Cummings, there were challenges which encompassed financial difficulties faced by parties that prevented the payment of stipulated dues and fees; the Nimba County primary debacle that posed a risk to the cohesion of the CPP but was handled by the leadership, and fundraising that was made difficult due to the outbreak of the COVID-19.
“This difficulty at fundraising posed a challenge to the operations of the collaboration and funding for our candidates during the bi-election and the 2020- midterm senatorial elections,” a CPP bigwig informed this paper.
The ANC’s Cummings has bagged these successes and sailed through these challenges for eight consecutive months, ending his tenure with the rotational chairmanship baton successfully passed on to the Liberty Party last Wednesday, even as expectations run rife amongst the general populace for the dawning of a new political dispensation that would bring about genuine change.