Fixing Liberia’s Governance Mess -Cummings Targets Jobs Creation, Inclusive Government -Will do things differently to “Change Hearts and Minds”
MONROVIA – Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) presidential hopeful Alexander B. Cummings says the most immediate problems that his administration will solve when the Liberian people give him the mandate to lead them for the next six years after the October 10, 2023 polls is to ensure jobs creation for the highly jobless youthful population of the country.
Mr. Cummings said Liberia, like Kenya and most parts of Africa, is a relatively young country where the median age is about 18 and the level of joblessness is very high.
“Our top priority is on job creation and growing the economy. There are several ways we are going to focus on doing that. One is to fix infrastructure. Fixing the issue of electricity, roads, and running water will create jobs; but we will also invest in agriculture. If you look at our neighbours like Ghana, Ivory Coast and Ghana, those are agriculture-based economies that are a bit more stable, more resilient. So, we are going to invest in agriculture as a means of creating jobs for our people and ensure food security,” said Mr. Cummings when he appeared in studio on Capital FM 98.4 DriveInn programme in Nairobi, Kenya on February 15, 2023 to speak on a wide range of issues affecting his native land Liberia.
The CPP presidential hopeful furthered that, although his administration would focus on fixing the educational system, healthcare system, infrastructure, among other priorities as well, he intends to engage the hearts and minds of the Liberian people also.
“It’s what we call engaging hearts and minds. Oftentimes when people think about leadership in Africa, you think about the obvious. Fix the educational system, fix the healthcare system, fix infrastructure. We talk about all of those things. But we also say: how can we engage the hearts and minds of Liberians to think differently about themselves, to think differently about the country, so that we can push each other, so that we can hold each other more accountable? We are also thinking about how we use things like music, religion, sports, arts and culture, to change minds and ingrain a certain way of behaviour, a certain way of thinking.
“We also think about leadership beyond politics. Yes, we want the right political leaders, but we’re also identifying leaders in civil society, churches, other organizations who exhibit the same behaviors, who have the same goals and aspirations. So, how do we support each other, how do we work with them so that they can inspire in a different way of thinking?
“That what we’re thinking about differently, in addition to fixing the infrastructure, healthcare, is how we develop the people. In our political party, we say, if we develop the people, then we develop the country. It’s a different way of thinking. We are building our plans, our manifesto from the bottom up. It’s longer, it’s more deliberate, but if you get ownership from the bottom of the pyramid, it’s sustainable. People own it, as opposed to top-down. Those are some of things that are doing differently in terms of not only the campaigning, but how we are supposed to govern.
According to Mr. Cummings, another focus of his leadership is how to use communication not just to win, but to effect real and lasting change through the use of social media, print media and radio.
“How we use those platforms to move the country forward, how people think differently about themselves, about the challenges, and being honest about themselves – those are some of the unique differences we want to bring to leadership in Liberia to move our country forward.
“And that’s how you get rid of corruption. One way is through technology, but the other way is through transparency. Everybody needs to know how much money we’ve gotten, where it is being spent, so they can hold their officials accountable. In Liberia we are organized by counties, like you are here. We don’t call our county leaders governors, we call them superintendents. What we will do differently is that every county citizen will know this is the money allocated, what we propose to spend on education, healthcare and infrastructure, and monitor that on an ongoing basis. Full transparency minimizes the opportunity for people to steal. But when people steal, there will be consequences,” Cummings stated emphatically, boasting proudly that he has been blessed with his personal money, so he is not going into government to make money.
“I am sincerely going to help. In fact, I have said publicly I will spend my salary as president of Liberia on some charity – give it back in some way, and it will be transparent as well,” the CPP Standard Bearer said.
On the issue of continuity of projects after his administration’s six years mandate and whether he might ask the Liberian for another six years to complete unfinished projects, Cummings said he only intends to leave a legacy or roadmap that successive administrations can follow, and that it is left with the Liberian people to decide for him to continue another six years in line with his constitutional mandate.
Free, Fair and Transparent elections
Mr. Cummings said although he is fully aware that the pending presidential and legislative elections are laden with huge risks, he and the opposition will not fall asleep during this critical period.
“It is a huge risk. So, we are going to spend a lot of time and resources, trying to ensure the elections are free, fair and transparent. That means hiring and training poll watchers, giving them the technology and everything they need to monitor the elections; because unless we do that, the risk of fraud is quite high. But we’re going to buffer them through our own efforts to ensure that the vote of Liberians is reflected in the election results,” Cummings stated.
Quizzed on the advantage of incumbency that he will be going against facing President George Weah in the October elections, Mr. Cummings acknowledged the risks, but assured that the opposition community also has some added advantages.
“President Weah was an outstanding football player, so as a Liberian, he made all of us very proud. But that has not translated to being a good President. We are going up against an incumbent, and that’s always challenging. But there are few things we have going for us. One is that his performance has actually been very bad. It’s not about the statistics and numbers. Liberians are actually suffering and are worse off than they were five years ago. That’s a fact.
“And I’ve often said, if President Weah was doing a half decent job, he would get re-elected. But he’s not. So, we have that going for us. The second thing we have going for us is that we are very organized, deliberate, strategic about how we spend, where we spend because we can’t match them as they have access to state resources. We have mapped out our country, so we know where we are likely to get votes and not. When we look at our polling, every time we do polls, our prospects increase.
“We’re also going to focus on monitoring the elections for integrity. We are going to train and equip our poll watchers, and have them everywhere in the country to have the election process monitored to ensure that every vote is reflected in the outcome that is announced in the elections. Those are some of the things we are doing to minimize pressure from the fact that we are going up against an incumbent.
“But again, there are some examples in Africa where incumbents have lost their jobs. Gambia, Kenya, your last election, and it depends on your perspective. So, it can be done, but it can be a challenge,” Cummings admitted.
The CPP frontman said although he has been blessed by providence, hard work and dedication to lead a successful life in the corporate world, he decided to enter into politics to think differently about leadership in Africa, and in Liberia.
“I think some traditional politicians have done a good job. But I often quote Albert Einstein about keeping doing the same things and expecting different results. We need to do some things differently in my own country Liberia to change the dynamics and to move our country forward.
“This is not about bemoaning the current presidency, but it’s just a fact that the situation in our country has deteriorated over the last five years. But beyond that, I think we can do so much better. One of our slogans is that: Liberia deserves better. We are a relatively small country, 5 million people, the population of Nairobi I think, is even more than that. We have a lot of natural resources; yet we are among the poorest countries in the world.
“When I look at my blessings, my success, my experiences living and working around the world, I want to bring that to bear to help to move Liberia forward, to work with Liberians to help to change our country. I often say, for me, the presidency is not the destination. The presidency is a means to an end. The destination is to use the road to work with Liberians so we can change our country and move it forward. And I think the skills and experiences I bring – the corporate business experience, how you fix things, how you engage people, how you build teams, those are the practical experiences that we can bring to bear to change Liberia and certainly do a better job than it is being done.
“In business and in government, you have to deliver results for your people. In business you have your consumers and customers, and in government you have your voters. To be successful in any large organization, you must have the right team. Whether you’re in government or in business, you have to hold people accountable, and you have to be clear about what you’re trying to solve. And you have to make choices and prioritize them. If you try to do everything and fix everything, you do nothing well.
“It is that combination that we have, in bringing some structures, whether with politics or business, to embrace all, even those who didn’t vote for you. Too often in Africa, it is the winner takes all. But I believe it’s a win-win situation. Even for people that will not vote for me, we are going to reach out. We want a government of inclusion.
“We talk about this big tent, this big hut where we want as many people in the hut as possible because we’re going to make some tough decisions. And the more people that are in there, the more they will explain and go back to their constituencies. So, my approach is to be inclusive. Yes, to get the job, we’re going to fight each other figuratively. People are not going to vote for me, and they will tell lies. Once we win, I will become president of Liberia, not of my political party. I want to be president of all Liberians. That’s when the change can happen. We want to guarantee all Liberians the freedom to opportunities. It is what you do with the opportunities that matters. If you don’t follow the rules and the law, you will not benefit,” Mr. Cummings proudly stated, while rapping on the added advantages that Liberia holds, especially when it comes to ecotourism, which he promised will be part of his administration’s agenda.
“Because we don’t have the infrastructure for five-star tourism, we say eco so people know they are coming to rough it out. We have a lot of pristine beaches and tourist sites in Liberia,” Cummings said.