Why Past Liberian Leaders Have Failed: Cummings Outlines Recipe to Fight Graft
Washington – The political leader of the Alternative National Congress, Mr. Alexander Cummings says managing waste and the cost of Liberia’s perennial corruption problem has taken a toll on the country and kept Africa’s oldest republic at the bottom of the economic ladder of the world, because past leaders have failed to finance anti-graft institutions and failed to own up to the task of eradicating the cancer of corruption.
Report by Rodney D. Sieh, [email protected]
Delivering the keynote address during the installation of the party’s USA chapter here Saturday, Mr. Cummings averred:
“There are institutions that exist today to fight corruption but we don’t resource them and give them the funding required to deal with graft. And if we are serious about that, it’s the only way we will get at this thing called corruption.
The leadership has to set example. I am not aspiring to become president because I want or need the money, I have been blessed, I’m not aspiring to lead our country because I want the trappings that come along with the job, I’ve been blessed with all of those things. It is truly about serving and working with Liberians.”
Those installed were: Edward Hoffman, Chairman, Mouna Farhat, Co-Chair, Ciapha Diggs, Secretary General, Magnus Cassell, Treasurer, Arlene Cassell, Spiritual Leader, Ezax Smith, Jenkins Cooper and Welma Redd, members.
Vowing consequences for graft violators
Mr. Cummings pledge that there will be consequences for people who steal from the country’s coffers if he is elected President in the upcoming presidential elections.
Said Mr. Cummings: “We have failed as a people, as a country because all the leaders before us have failed and the reason they all failed is because we have not owned this thing called corruption.
We’ve externalized it; when we do that, it it’s kind of subtlety, we excuse ourselves and when other people do it, we howl. All of us need to get involved. It is so embedded in the culture, and we all need to be involved in eradicating it from our midst. And so, it’s about consequences. We live in a country where there will always be consequences for whatever you do.”
Liberianization: All Talk, No Action
Mr. Cummings also took aim at past leaders for failing to make the much-touted Liberianization policies work to the benefit of Liberians.
“In living up to the motto of our party, Liberia first, Liberians need to benefit disproportionately in the growth of our country and we should not be apologetic about that fact and we should make sure we put in place the system to make sure that happens. We cannot just say Liberianization if we don’t own up to it and implement and if we don’t’ provide the financing to Liberians to benefit. If we don’t’ they will front of others.”
He said government must provide funding and financing to Liberian business if it wants Liberianization to have a significant impact on the lives of the people.
“We have to provide the financing, we have to provide the contacts and relationships with the traders and bankers they have to deal with because that is how they will be able to engage. We achieve Liberianization by doing the things necessary to make it happen.”
He frowned on Diaspora Liberians who do not believe in upholding the laws but rather contributing toward breaking it.
“Part of the reasons many Liberians in the Diaspora go home it’s because they don’t’ want to follow rules, they want to have fun. That is not acceptable, that’s part of the behaviour that needs to be changed.
And, of course as leaders, we need to enforce consequences. So, when somebody steals, somebody is corrupt, there has to be consequences. We also need to be encouraging of people who are not, acknowledge people who are not corrupt and people who have integrity, we need to use technology differently. We need to simplify things.”
Einstein’s Definition of Insanity
Mr. Cummings said it is not enough to just criticize but Liberians must offer alternative solutions and options, something he pledge will be the hallmark of the ANC. “It’s not enough to just ask questions. It’s your right but it’s not sufficient, it’s not enough just to make suggestions. It’s your right but it’s not sufficient.”
He urged Diaspora Liberians to return to the land of their birth and make meaningful contributions to improving the well-being of their people and not just themselves.
“In order to make those brilliant suggestions, you have to come on the ground and help implement those suggestions.
That’s the kind of involvement that is required to change our country. This is the kind of sacrifice required to change Liberia. The time for talking is over. If you just want to talk, I’m not interested in just talking. We have to get involved, engaged, do the hard work and make the sacrifices to change Liberia.”
He assured Diaspora Liberians that it will not be comfortable but they had no choice.
“If we want it to be comfortable to say the same things over and over, the country will not change; if we want same old, same old, same old, Liberia will not change, if we keep selecting people with the same kinds of experiences, we will get the same results. I think it was Albert Einstein that said you can keep doing the same thing and get different results that’s definition of insanity.”
The former Coca Cola executive said the best predictor of future performance or future behaviour is past performance and past behaviour.
“If you’ve been good the most of your life, chances are you will be good the rest of your life. If you’ve been bad most of your life, chances are you will be bad the rest of your life. Now there are miracles that people can change, it happens but highly, highly unlikely.
So, it doesn’t mean just the leaders we select, it’s what you do, it’s the behaviour you exemplify. If we just keep talking, talking that won’t help us. So, it is not just about electing the right leaders then we just sit and wait but let’s all get involved and engaged in changing this country.”
Mr. Cummings said the key to achieving that goal is for Liberians to change their hearts and minds and engage themselves differently.
“This is a prerequisite to fundamentally changing Liberia. We can do it in big and small ways. You have to get involved differently in changing Liberia. The second how is we got to find the money to do what needs to be done.
Resource mobilization, we have to build the revenue base of this country. If we do not have the resources and money, everything is just talk. So, getting full value of our national resources is prerequisite to the transformation required.”
A vessel of transformation
Acknowledging the mounting of challenges required, Mr. Cummings said he is not presenting himself as the saviour of Liberia but rather a vessel toward transformation.
“I do not present myself as Liberia’s saviour. Jesus Christ is our only saviour. All of us got to save this country we call Liberia, all of us got to get involved. I have no Illusions about the fact that we need the help of many to change this country we call Liberia. So, it is very important that we all get involved.”
Mr. Cummings pledged to form a government of inclusion because it is the only way Liberia will progress.
“We need to have as many people in the tent as possible and it’s one of the things we will do differently, we want everyone to be involved in changing this country. We want to focus on private sector growth and entrepreneurship because we are too dependent on this thing called government.
We need to grow the private sector, we need Liberians who are serious to come and get involved in building the private sector. Don’t wait to be asked. We all need to get involved and engaged in the transformation of our country. We will focus on building the Liberian private sector.”
He said it is important to acknowledge where the country is and the challenges ahead for Liberia. “We have to understand the role we all can play in transforming this country.
We have to acknowledge that we have a lot of work to do and I know we are a proud people but we have to acknowledge the fact that we can do this. As I travel around Liberia and I do that rather extensively and continue to do so, I’m actually inspired by our people, I’m inspired by the level of knowledge we’ve accumulated here – even the knowledge of our people Liberia.
We should stop being negative of each other. Our first instinct is to be critical of ourselves. Yes, we should do that but we should build on things that are working, we should build on things that are working, we don’t do that enough.”
Upbeat about Chances
Mr. Cummings sounded hopeful about his chances in the upcoming elections as he says he is looking forward to a transfer of power from the past to the future. “It’s been a long time since there was one democratically-elected government transferring power to the next and it is our hope, our desire is that when that happen next January we will be assuming the authority of this great land.”
Mr. Cummings said it is a very exciting time for the ANC both at home and abroad. “The ANC in Liberia is the most dynamic and the most exciting party in the country. Part of the reason why that’s the case is because of what we’re doing but we also need to acknowledge the fact that part of the reason that’s happening is because everybody else is not doing. And of-course we will take advantage.”
He added: “It’s a wonderful time to be in the ANC, it’s a wonderful time to be working and making the case to the Liberian people to give us an opportunity to serve them because this is truly about serving leadership.”
He hailed Liberians in the gathering at the Israel Manor Baptist Church traveled from several parts of the US for the program. “People have driven from Michigan, from Atlanta, from New Jersey from North Carolina, South Carolina, thank you.
Thank you for your commitment to our country, thank you for your commitment to seeing a peaceful transition of power and thank you for your commitment to get engaged in the transformation of Liberia because Liberia truly required transformation and I want to encourage and acknowledge you, your presence here is a small manifestation of your commitment to our country.”
Not Driven by Trappings of Power
The ANC leader explained that his aspiration for the Liberian presidency is not driven by the trappings of power but by his commitment to change.
“When I think of all of my blessings, I don’t’ believe God has blessed me to take those blessings just to benefit me and my family. I believe I have an obligation to help the country of my birth.
Everything I am today is because of this country we call Liberia.
All of my values, all of who I am, my work ethic is because of this country we call Liberia and I am eternally grateful. And after 170 years, I believe we deserve a better Liberia. I believe we work hard as a people because we are very self-critical of ourselves which I do not subscribe to.”
He added: “I feel very blessed with the family I was born to, I feel very blessed by my wife and my children, I feel very blessed by the experiences I have had of working around the world.
I’ve lived and work in Nigeria, I’ve lived and worked in Kenya, I’ve lived and work in South Africa, I’ve lived and worked in the United Kingdom and I’ve lived and work in the United States and those experiences I believe have been learning and training experience without realizing it.”
Mr. Cummings said Liberia should not be so far behind a lot of those countries. “Liberia\We work hard and work smart and I’ve lived in those countries I’ve mentioned, they are no smarter than we are. I can tell you that for free.
But we deserve a different and better Liberia given who we are and if we work together we can transform this country we all love. I want you to believe that if you leave with nothing from here tonight, you need to believe that we can change this country, not overnight, not be flipping a switch but it can be done. We can change Liberia.”
Unemployment a National Security Risk
He said the ANC government will prioritize job creation, growth and the rebuilding of the economy.
“The number of unemployed, underemployed Liberians is the greatest national security risk we have in our country. You have a large number of populations that have nothing to protect, nothing to own, nothing to look forward to, they are susceptible to any kind of ideology.
It is a power trip waiting to happen. So, we need to create opportunities for the next generation of Liberians.”
He also pledged to make health, education and agriculture a top priority. “We need to privatize, we cannot do it all. Education, health –
“You can have a good job, have a good education and you can feed yourself but if you don’t have health, it doesn’t matter.”
He said that all of these are underpinned by infrastructure.
“That’s almost the first thing we got to do. We have to do power, we have to do roads and we got to do water. These things will create jobs but we need to privatize infrastructures.
It’s a bit controversial for some people. We in Liberia are supposed to be very proprietary but I say to you, zero times zero is zero. We need to be willing to privatize it to the right partners.”
Engaging the hearts and minds of Liberians, Mr. Cummings said is key.
“We cannot stand on the sidelines and wish Liberians to change; we cannot stand on the sidelines and talk Liberia to change. We all have to be engaged, we all have to make the sacrifices require changing what we call Liberia.”