Liberians searching for a leader who understands their problems

MONROVIA-THE jockeying for the presidency and, more importantly, who would present the best challenge to President George Weah in October 2023, is far from over.

But things have been looking up for Alexander Cummings, the leader of the Alternative National Congress (ANC), following his recent foray deep into the stronghold of the Unity Party (UP) of another prospective presidential candidate, Joseph Boakai.

Earlier this month, the ANC organized a rally in Gardnersville, Greater Monrovia at which a number of supporters of the UP announced that they had switched allegiance to the party of Cummings.

Their decision, they said, was based on their assessment of Cummings being the best person to lead a country that needs proper management of the economy and improvement of its general administration.

They cited Cummings’ long experience with the Coca Cola company, a multinational business with an impeccable reputation.

He joined the company in 1997, and rose through the ranks to become president of its Africa Group in 2001.

Between then and 2008, Cummings took charge of Coca Cola’s operations in Africa, ensuring strong growth and investing successfully in marketing and infrastructural development.

He grew from strength to strength at Coca Cola, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Apart from his Coca Cola experience, Cummings has served on the boards of a number of influential business and non-profit organizations mainly in the US, including SC Johnson, Chevron, Africare, the Africa-America Institute and the Corporate Council on Africa.

So, it is clear that these are the attributes the UP supporters who decamped to the ANC have seen that convinced them that Cummings is their man for president.

But being a top manager at Coca Cola, an efficiently run company, and being at the helm of Liberia are completely two different things in outlook.

Nevertheless, the experience that Cummings garnered while at Coca Cola should stand him in good stead to weather the storm that attends running an African country.

The problem has always been that of getting the electorate to buy into a leader’s policies, and also to act in a manner that will benefit the whole country.

Sectional interests are the bane of African politics, and these are compounded by corruption and mismanagement.

The UP supporters who moved over to Cummings argued that he had the pedigree to tackle these problems.

But this is easier said than done; political leaders in Africa do not necessarily enter State House intent on lining their pockets. Far from it.

However, society itself has been so entrenched in these disorders that a leader will have to work extremely hard to get rid of these negative behaviors, and ensure that transparency and accountability take root.

In Liberia, as in most African countries, the state is the most important vehicle for individual capital accumulation – through the political system or the government bureaucracy.

This explains the fierce contestation for political power, often characterized by corruption, bribery, intimidation and violence.

In all this, though, the ultimate losers are ordinary citizens.

So, although the Gardnersville UP supporters have thrown in their lot with Cummings, it is now down to him to prove that he would not go down the route of many African leaders who promised one thing and ended doing something else.

Odysseus Diakpo, a UP supporter who spoke at the Gardnersville rally, said Cummings had shown over the years to be a trusted Liberian who was committed to stimulating the economy that would in turn attract investments, create jobs and other opportunities that would help lift Liberians out of poverty.

In fact, with Liberia and many African countries now focusing on the neo-liberal market system, there is very little value in talking about the ideological differences of political parties.

Thus, the position of the Liberian electorate is quite clear: Cummings and Boakai, for that matter, have to prove that their quest for the presidency is not for their own personal interests.

The electorate would like to see a leader that understands their problems and can make a difference to the socio-economic problems they are undergoing right now.

The obvious message is that Liberians will no longer vote for a leadership that is not committed to fulfilling the people’s intentions.





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