"My political opponents have termed me “desperate.” And guess what? I am desperate to see a Liberia where children aren’t out of school because their parents can’t afford it. Desperate for a future where parents don’t have to go through the pain of seeing their children go to bed hungry at night,” he said.
Like his deceased political colleague Cllr. Charles W. Brumskine, one notion that some Liberians hold about Alexander Cummings, the political leader of the Collaborating Political Party (CPP), which has dogged his political life so far, is that he appears too desperate for the Liberian presidency.
But unlike the deceased legal luminary and founder of the Liberty Party (LP) who was somehow bothered by such a tag and often felt misunderstood by his compatriots, an unfazed Cummings accepts that he is desperate but for the good of the country and its people. He said he wants to rescue Liberians from the grips of bad governance, deprivation and corruption.
"My political opponents have termed me “desperate.” And guess what? I am desperate to see a Liberia where children aren’t out of school because their parents can’t afford it. Desperate for a future where parents don’t have to go through the pain of seeing their children go to bed hungry at night,” he said. “Desperate for a country where people don’t have to die of simple, preventable diseases. Desperate for a country that works for all its citizens.”
In an apparent dig at his opponents when he delivered his New Year’s message to Liberians on Monday, Cummings added: “And you know what? If you are a patriotic Liberian, you should be desperate too.”
Many believe the Alternative National Congress (ANC) strongman is often hammered and looked upon unfavorably by his political opponents because of what they perceive as his being overconfident about his competence, ability, and capability to change Liberia for the better — a posture that comes across as being “desperate” and “arrogant” in society where many place popularity over other criteria of leadership.
Liberians’ quests for a better life and brighter future, Cummings noted, are vivid and the only thing that continues to elude them is that leader with the ability and willingness to deliver them.
“I have traveled throughout the country and have seen it. The longing on the faces of people for a better life,” he said, “for a government that works for them. For a government that isn’t just focused on squeezing citizens’ pockets to collect taxes, but to use the state’s resources to actually create wealth for its citizens before taxing that wealth.
For Cummings, he has said on numerous occasions that what sets him apart, and would make him a better leader, are his experience, competence, ability and legacy — and a people-servant leader who is honest, disciplined, and is prepared to do the work.
“These are the qualities Liberians should look for when searching for good leadership. I have a legacy that speaks for me,” the CPP leader, who brags about a wealth of corporate leadership experience, said.
Among his competitors, he said he stands out, bringing his breadth of experience to the table, with the ability to provide a clear vision, build a team, and build systems that will allow Liberians not just to get their beloved country back on track but to finally realize Liberia’s true potential as a people and a country.
“At every single place I worked, I left those companies better than I found them. I entered the Coca-Cola system as Deputy Managing Director in 1997, and by 2001 I was the President of the company for the whole of Africa. When I assumed that role, the Coca-Cola workforce was 70% non-African expats. By the time I left that role, it was 70% African, creating job opportunities for about one million Africans,” he said. “Due to the results I delivered as President of the Coca-Cola Africa Group, I was promoted to become the Chief Administrative Officer of the entire Coca-Cola Company worldwide, managing teams around the world.
Responding to what it takes to manage and operate a giant global corporation with more than 35 billion dollars in revenues, and hundreds of thousands of employees like Coca Cola, Cummings noted, “you have got to be focused. You cannot be everywhere at the same time, and so you have got to build the right systems.”
“You’ve got to hire the right people. You can’t do everything at the same time, and so you’ve got to understand strategy. You’ve got to be able to prioritize. You’ve got to be able to monitor performance — to hold people accountable for getting the work done,” he said, “but most importantly, you have to be able to deliver results.”
“I would never have gotten to where I am in my career by making promises I couldn’t deliver on. To go from a Deputy Manager in one country, to becoming the global administrator of one of the largest companies in the world,” Cummings said. “All of us have our own unique talents and gifts. Some of us have talent for music. Some have talent for sports. For me, it’s a talent for management, leading large teams, and consistently delivering results. No excuses,” he said.
Leadership needed, not gov’t experience
Though the CPP leader agrees that the country's challenges are huge, he noted that those challenges are not bigger than the resilience of the people. He says he is prepared to confront those challenges and turn some into opportunities for Liberians.
“I may not have had experience working in government,” he said on Monday, “but Liberia’s problems cannot be solved by government work experience. If government experience is what’s required, then Liberia should have been one of the most developed countries by now.”
“Mr. Weah served in the senate for three years before he became president, and many of the officials in the current administration also served in previous administrations. The fact that this administration has performed so poorly shows that prior experience working in government is not a necessary condition for national leadership.”
Governmental experience, in some cases, might even become a hindrance, if people become too used to the culture of corruption and mismanagement that characterize much of the current administration.
What Liberia needs, he said, is someone who knows how to lead; someone who knows how to manage people; who knows how to inspire people to deliver results.
“Liberia needs public servants who are honest, disciplined, and are prepared to do the work. The challenges are many, and the road ahead is long. But our collective will to succeed is stronger.
“I have managed people and highly successful teams all around the world. Achieving success in any leadership team requires a set of skills that I have mastered in my 40-plus career in business.”
He indicated that Liberia’s problems can be solved no matter how herculean they might appear. “Trust me when I say this. Liberia’s problems can be solved. And we will solve them. We may not be able to do everything, but we will tackle the most important issues to build a solid foundation for the future,” he said. “We will do this by working with all Liberians from all backgrounds, regardless of ethnicity, religion, or gender. Anyone who has what it takes, and is willing to work; we will work with you in the interest of our country.”