Liberia: Cummings Endears Himself to Electorates

Supporters of presidential candidate Alex B Cummings gather outside Paynesville Town Hall for the first in a series of presidential debates organized by the Deepening Democracy Coalition.

Like in the words of former US President Barrack Obama who said few years ago, "If you cannot strive to convince those you want to govern, how would you endeavor to govern them?" The presidential candidate of the Alternative National Congress (ANC), Alexander B. Cummings, is making efforts to answer this question in a more positive way.

The ANC political leader has taken upon himself to get to every nook and cranny of the country, using every available platform to speak to the Liberian electorate why he is best suited to lead the country at this time.

Truly, Obama's statement resonates with core values and the mission of the former Coca-Cola Chief Executive who on Tuesday distinguished himself as the only candidate to have participated in the two presidential debates organized by the Deepening Democracy Coalition.

Obama's statement also points to those who are at the front of the queue in the presidential elections but are not willing to avail themselves to convince the citizenry why they should be given a shot at the nation's highest office.

Though many thought that the absence of the perceived three top contenders for the presidency, Liberty Party's Charles Walker Brumskine, Unity Party's Joseph Nyuma Boakai and Coalition for Democratic Change's George M. Weah, would have overshadowed the DDC's second debate, Mr. Cummings, Dr. J. Mills Jones of the Movement for Economic Empowerment (MOVEE) and Madam MacDella Cooper of the Liberia Restoration Party (LRP), the lone woman in the race, stepped up to the platform and made their cases to the Liberian people.

Presenting his argument, Cummings said the fastest way to address the underdevelopment of the country, create wealth and take Liberians out of poverty is to robustly invest in the country's infrastructure.

"And the fastest way to fix electricity, roads, water connectivity and cellular and internet connectivity is to attract investors to have the public, private partnership and we believe that by attracting investors we'll get paid overtime to do we have to do," he said.

At the end of the day, he said, Liberians want to have roads, electricity and running water in their homes and if "we can use private money to do that and we pay over time, I think Liberians will be receptive to the idea."

Tuesday's debate marked the DDC's 2nd, at which candidates were quizzed on the state of the economy, youth and women empowerment, security and justice and peace and reconciliation and of course the economy.

The debate was attended by three of the seven invited candidates, with MacDella Cooper of the Liberia Restoration Party (LRP) joining Cummings and Dr. Jones.

However, George Weah of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), Charles Walker Brumskine of the Liberty Party (LP), Benoni Urey of the All Liberian Party (ALP) and Vice President Joseph N. Boakai of the ruling Unity Party (UP) failed to show up.

The real deal?

After the debate, the Daily Observer spoke with few people who felt that Cummings endeared himself to the Liberian public. "I love the level of intellectualism at this debate. They are all putting forth great ideas. Dr. Jones got a good understanding on how the economy should be fixed but Cummings has come with a clean hand and I think that's one advantage he has in these elections--the manner in which he is also addressing the critical issues is another plus for him," Emmanuel Karway said.

"And we all are seeing how the young people are becoming to love him. They see him as the answer to their problems. He has very practical resolutions to the many problems the young people are facing in this country," Karway noted.

Claudia Williams, an ANC supporter, said, "I think we have some advantage that other political parties may not have. One of these is Mr. Cummings' who offers Liberians a true alternative--a true difference. The messages of our candidate are resonating with the Liberian people."

Liberians are yearning for change, she said, "and Cummings is the symbol of the change that we want--and I think Liberians see him as someone who is like one of them who grew up in this country and got most of his education here before his success on the international stage," she said.

"Mr. Cummings knows practically that hard work is required to win the presidency," Mardea Wheigar, an undecided voter said, "and hard work will also be required to lead and transform our country. So I think he is setting the example by availing himself to these platforms and it is great not just for him, but the ANC and I can say Liberia as well."

'Dr. Jones Part of UP's Poor Performance'

The ANC leader also said that Dr. Jones cannot be exempted from the poor performance of the Unity Party (UP) led government, because he once occupied a senior and lucrative position.

Cummings remark came when Dr. Jones asserted at the second presidential debate yesterday at the Paynesville City Hall that Unity Party should not be reelected because of poor budgetary performance and financial waste.

Dr. Jones served as the Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) for two terms and later made use of the banks' financial inclusion policy to give out thousands of dollars as loans to marketers through a system of village savings and loans throughout the country, which earned him the title 'Poverty Doctor.'

Responding to Cummings' statement, Dr. Jones said the Central Bank is independent of the government and is occupied by financial professionals who only regulate policies that are already in place and do not play any major role in the economic decision of the country.

He said on many occasions the CBL provided advice to the government on policy issues relating to the economy, but their pieces of advice were ignored.

Dr. Jones, meanwhile, indicated that the Coca-Cola Company that Mr. Cummings once worked for as Vice President is laying off thousands of people, to which Cummings said the company, employs more people around the world than most institutions.

The audience listens attentively to the presidential candidates at the 2nd DDC presidential debates. (Photo: Nick N. Seebeh)

Candidate MacDella Cooper also made a strong case with emphasis on the empowerment of Liberian youth. "They have been neglected and rejected so they need to be empowered and reintegrated into the larger society," she said.

MacDella Cooper at the 2nd DDC Presidential Debate

She noted that the young people are the most valuable assets in the country, and as such, they need to be fed, schooled and empowered and adequately prepared to take up the mantle of leadership in the future.

She noted that her government would prioritize agriculture, eco-tourism and the fishery sectors--adding that these are the areas with the most potential to develop and bring Liberians out of poverty.

In the end, the three candidates demonstrated a great deal of the urgency that Liberian electorate should be examining to get their leader on October 10.

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