Cummings Showcases Plans for Presidency -Tells Nigerian Media: Liberia Will make Dramatic U-turn when he becomes President
MONROVIA – As Liberia braces up for its 2023 presidential elections, the candidates are leaving no stones unturned in positioning themselves for the presidency. Alternative National Congress (ANC) political leader and presumptive Standard Bearer of the opposition Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), Alexander B. Cumming, who has been making his case at home, and now recently in the subregion, specifically Nigeria, has meticulously laid out his plans for his people and country when he becomes president of Liberia after the 2023 polls.
When Mr. Cummings appeared on Nigeria’s Arise News media outlet on Monday, August 29, 2022, he sincerely believes his long service as a topnotch corporate executive in one of the world’s largest business institutions, coupled with his credentials in Finance and Economics, gives him an appreciable understanding of how to jumpstart the ailing Liberian economy, and lead the country to unparalleled socio economic and development nirvana.
Explaining how his government intends to jumpstart the ailing economy and ensure that Liberians are lifted from poverty, Mr. Cummings said his administration’s initial priority would be to nip corruption in the bud.
“The first thing we have to do to address the challenges is we have to find the resources – the money to do that, otherwise it’s just talk. We are going to do the following things to find the money. But first, we are going to stop the stealing, the corruption and redeploy those resources into these areas we talked about. Second thing we’re going to do is to focus on the private sector. I grew up in the private sector. I ran Coca Cola Nigeria, so I am very familiar with this country. I ran Coke Africa; I had a global responsibility for the company’s many functions around the world. So, I understand the private sector, I understand how to attract foreign direct investments.
“I understand what to do to encourage businesses, and through that process we will generate the revenues necessary to invest in education and healthcare. The other thing we will do that is different from what other politicians do is we are going to make choices; we are going to prioritize. We are not going to fix everything on Day One because when you do a little bit of everything, you do nothing as well. And so, in education for example, we are going to focus on teachers’ training and vocational training. In healthcare, we’re going to focus on primary healthcare, because what kills most Liberians are very basic things – malaria, typhoid, hypertension. So, these are the things we are going to do differently, but we will find the resources; we will make choices, and prioritize, and begin to fix Liberia’s problems and challenges.
“We are going to privatize many of our state-run institutions, because governments are meant to create the right environment, and not to actually run institutions. Private sector investment is another way to fix some of the challenges our country faces today,” Cummings stated emphatically.
“But to achieve the kind of development that Liberia needs in post-2023 will require radical redirection of national priorities”, Mr. Cummings stated, vowing to lead by example and uphold the tenets of good governance when elected President of Liberia in 2023. He said Liberians are enduring the worst of economic challenges, and are in dire need of new leadership that will give them hope for a better and more secure future, than to repeat past mistakes that will subject them to more suffering and mystery.
“First of all, we will restore integrity to the leadership of Liberia. I have had the opportunity to manage billions of dollars in my corporate life. I always say that the best predictor of future behavior, future performance is past behavior, past performance. If you look at my past behavior, past performance, you will see that I have delivered results. I have set goals and achieved them. I have built strong teams. I have managed with integrity. I don’t make commitments I can’t keep. So, we will do all those things differently. We will build the right team of people. We will invest in the right things. We will ensure integrity in governance. We will change the dynamics of how our country is being run historically. I am the only person running who has had the experience I have had in the private sector. Because I strongly believe that the private sector will be one of the key drivers of change in Liberia.
“We’ve been too dependent on this thing called government, and government has a key role to play; but we will make sure we embrace the private sector, create the right environment for the private sector to thrive, create jobs, generate new taxes. We need to invest in tourism. In my country, we have 350 kilometers of beaches, so ecotourism can thrive in Liberia. We will do many things differently, but we will make choices in terms of how we go about doing that.
“When people steal, they are rogues. One of the reasons why corruption thrives not just in Liberia is because people and there are no consequences for people who commit these acts. I say to the Liberian people, I say to people who support me that there will be consequences for people who steal the Liberian people’s money. I also as a leader, I will set an example. You cannot tell folks not to steal if you’re corrupt yourself, or the people in your immediate circles are corrupt. So, we will make sure that I set the example, and people around me set the example. And when people steal, they will be punished; we will go after them, we will go after their assets.
“We make things very complicated. I don’t know about Nigeria, but in Liberia we do. When you make things complicated, you create opportunities for people to use that complexity to steal. So we are on a mission to simplify things. We will also make sure to pay civil servants a living wage. We did the math and found that what a teacher makes, at the middle of the month, it’s almost gone. At the very elementary level, they will take money to change grades,” Mr. Cummings averred.
“If you don’t pay police people enough to support their families, they will pull you over, because there is corruption all through the system. But at the senior levels, we will set the example and there will be consequences for it. And in our political institutions, we punish people. They lose their roles, as an example of what will happen when we assume state power,” Cummings said.
On the issue of whether the opposition camp under the tent of the CPP will be successful in making its case to the Liberian people at the polls in 2023, most especially against the background of the prevailing rancor in their CPP camp, Mr. Cummings expressed confidence that the Liberian people will vote for a CPP government based on the bad governance record of the Weah government.
“Of course, we have a lot of work to do; but we are confident that we can make our case to the Liberian people, we can bring together many of the opposition parties, and on that basis, we can replace President Weah. And again, I remind people that his performance has been just abysmal. I don’t know if you are aware, but the United States Government just sanctioned three top officials in the government for corruption. The Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, the President’s Chief of Staff, has been sanctioned by the United States Government; the Solicitor General of Liberia has been sanctioned by the United States Government; and so, has the head of the National Port Authority – all for corruption. This is damaging to the President, the Government. He has not reacted in the right way to the seriousness of the allegations. Another reason why we have a wonderful opportunity to replace him and restore good governance to our country,” Mr. Cummings stated matter-of-factly.
“We’ve done a lot of work in the last five years to make our case to the Liberian people. We have looked at current polling in the country, because we do continuous polling, there are three top candidates – the President, the former Vice President and myself. So, it shows that we have made tremendous progress. Some of the folks that ran in 2017 are no longer running in 2023. But most importantly, we have travelled the length and breadth of Liberia, we’ve made our case to the Liberian people, and the polling shows that we are in the hunt, if you will. And with the next 14 months to go, we are confident that we can succeed him,” Mr. Cummings told Arise News.
On the question of restoring the rule of law, Cummings spoke of the growing public demands for the establishment of a war and economic crimes court to address the many hurts during the country’s 14-year brutal civil war and stop the culture of impunity.
The CPP standard-bearer noted that although some progress has been made in restoring law and order in the country since the end of the civil war in August 2003, more needs to be done to address the culture of impunity, especially with regards to the establishment of a war and economic crimes court to serve as a deterrent.
“It would be unfair and incorrect to say that we have not made some progress. I think historically, typically, when you’ve passed the 10th year mark after a civil war, it’s given a milestone. It’s a good sign that things have settled. And of course, I should say we are approaching year 20, so we’ve passed that. And that happened under Mrs. Sirleaf, the prior administration. But more progress needs to be made. We have never really brought many of the perpetrators of war crimes to justice. So, one of the things we are advocating is for a war and economic crimes court, to actually look at the economic crimes that have been committed; war crimes and punishment to those people who committed those crimes. So, we’ve made some progress, but a lot more can be done in terms of reconciliation, in terms of acknowledging the hurts and pain we caused. I think we can do a lot more in that regard. And because we’ve not to bear true justice, I think this is why this era of impunity continues in our country where you do, say anything against the law and get away with it. And it’s something we’re determined to restore the rule of law into Liberia to invest in the judicial system. Because as I talked about private sector growth, unless you have rule of law, you have a judicial system where there is sanctity of agreements, you are not going to attract the private sector. Those are fundamental things we have to fix. Also, we have to reconcile ourselves and our people. Liberia has only 5 million people. I always tell Liberians, that you don’t pick your tribe, gender and religion. Those things should not separate us. It’s easier said than done, but we must have those conversations to bring our people together,” Mr. Cummings stated optimistically.
Continuing on the issue of rule of law and security in the country, Mr. Cummings said poverty is a major driver of lawlessness.
“Poverty is a contributor to the lawlessness that is happening. But I think it is the environment you create that makes a difference. In the case of Liberia specifically, this government has politicized the police force. What we will do differently is we will have professionals run the police organization. We will make sure they are properly resourced to do their work. We will not politically prosecute anybody. You have to give people hope, the broader population. People have to see progress, however small, in their lives. Those are things we have to do differently across the country. Those who commit crime have to be punished. There has to be consequences. The choices we make, the priorities we undertake will ensure safety and security in the country. Without that, nothing happens. Our president said we should all get CCTV. That was a disaster, literally. It’s on tape. That cannot be the solution from the head of state. Because fundamentally, one of your primary responsibilities is to ensure the safety and security of the country,” Cummings avowed.
Quizzed on the notion that he is a novice that is leading a major opposition party heading towards an election against an incumbent president who is an international figure known all over Europe and celebrated as a former soccer icon, Mr. Cummings stated that although he entered politics 18 months prior to the 2017 elections, he made a lot of progress.
“We entered politics 18 months prior to elections. Before then, I had not been in politics. We came in 5th out of 20 plus candidates. In the Speaker’s political county, we came in 3rd ahead of many other politicians who had been there forever. In six of the 15 counties, we came in second, after only 18 months in politics. Six years later, we’ve made tremendous strides across the country, and a lot of the old politicians have stepped aside and are no longer competing. We are going to build up coalitions around me. We are offering new ideas. Liberians need to do things differently. Our country is 175 years old, and yet, one of the least developed countries in Africa. I keep saying, you cannot keep doing the same things and expect different results; and that message is resonating with Liberians. So, I am not confident because I say so; the facts support it, and the progress we’ve made supports that as well,” Cummings said, noting that among the three top contenders for the Liberian presidency, he prides as the best with the requisite ability, experience and qualifications to grow the economy, create jobs and opportunities for all Liberians.
Cummings said over the last five years, President George Weah’s administration has failed woefully, with massive corruption and suffering and soaring unemployment especially among the youths, who constitute 70 percent of Liberia’s five million population.
He expressed confidence that the new emerging CPP in alliance with other interested opposition politicians and political parties, will make Mr. Weah a one term President at the polls in 2023.
“I feel very confident that we will replace President Weah and make him a one-term president; really because of his performance, his track record over the past five years. You know, when he ran in 2017, he was very famous, he was a footballer, and didn’t have a record to run on. Over the last five years, the economy is going in the wrong direction, Liberians are suffering, unemployment has increased, and so for all of these reasons, and because governance in our country has deteriorated, we’re very confident that we can make the case to Liberians to replace him in 2023,” Cummings said.
Addressing the issue of the controversial new bill that seeks the approval of the legislature before they can approve the retirement of an electoral magistrate, an action that the public is already viewing as unconstitutional and could spark violence in Liberia, Mr. Cummings said he hopes the bill doesn’t see the light of day
“I hope it doesn’t fester violence. You know, Liberia has had a history of civil wars which destroyed the fabric of our country. I hope we do nothing that will cause that to happen; but it is indeed a risk. But here is the point though. This is another method the government may be using to change the magistrates. I don’t think constitutionally the legislature can do that. There is some debate in the legislature about whether or not they have the right to make these changes. We have called that out; we’re going to be pushing back. If we need to get folks to protest against it, we will, because it’s another attempt to influence the outcome of the elections by tempering with the National Elections Commission by changing the magistrates in the counties that monitor the electoral process,” the ANC/CPP leader stated, adding, the bill has been proposed in the Senate, he doesn’t think the House will pass it. “I hope they don’t. I hope it doesn’t come to pass,” Cummings said.
On the issue of attracting foreign direct investment under a Cummings-led government, the ANC political leader said he will first attract Liberians living in the Diaspora who sought greener pastures and are well-off to invest in Liberia.
“Liberia has a large Diaspora because of the war, both in the United States, in Europe. Liberians are in Australia, they’re everywhere. And actually, if elections were held today in the Diaspora, I would win. I am serious. There is no competition there. We want to encourage Liberians to invest back in Liberia. We have to have a good environment for them to do that. First, we have to start with us,” Cummings said.
Disclosing one of the main reasons for his visit to Nigeria, Mr. Cummings said he was visiting the sub-region to encourage Nigerian businesses to come to Liberia and invest.
“One of the reasons why I am here these few days is because I have relationships in Nigeria, and I want to encourage Nigerian businesses to think about coming to invest in Liberia. We are in the sub-region; we are part of ECOWAS. Similarly, we will be visiting Ghana, we will be visiting Ivory Coast, because before we even go to the west, we need to start in the sub-region. And again, Nigeria already has 80 million people, big banks, big businesses, we will encourage them to look within the region. And then of course, we will look at the Americans, the Europeans. But I want to start to focus on the region, including Diaspora Liberians wherever they may be. In the west they have resources, they’ve done well. They can either come home to help or they send us their money and we can invest it on their behalf and give them their return,” Mr. Cummings stated.