Monrovia – Top opposition leader Alexander Cummings says in spite of the enormous challenges grappling Liberia owing to bad governance, Liberians can create a new future and build a prosperous nation.
In a special independence day message on Tuesday, Mr. Cummings, who heads the Alternative National Congress (ANC) said this can only happen when Liberians rethink and do away with the past negative behaviors that have led the country backward.
“I know we cannot change our past, but we can create our future.To do this, we must change the mindset that got us to where we are today,” he said.“We must adopt a new national perspective that Liberia belongs to all Liberians. All Liberians, therefore, owe a duty to the country to be good citizens – to work as hard and as honestly as we can to make Liberia better for ourselves and for our children.”
In less than a week, Liberia, Africa’s oldest nation celebrates its 174th independence anniversary on July 26. Traditionally, the event is observed with fanfare, programs and grand speeches. It reminds Liberians and the world that it was on this day that a new nation was born on the ‘dark continent’, which over the years served as beacon of hope and refuge for the oppressed and reservoir of knowledge for the continent’s children.
In his speech, Cummings congratulated Liberians for their contribution and endurance over the last 174 years; and acknowledged some of the ‘successes and firsts’ he says Liberians should be proud of– the first African to graduate from Harvard University, the first elected female President in Africa and the first and only African female to head the United Nations General Assembly among others.
‘We Lost Our Way’
However, he said, “Somewhere between the Declaration of Independence and today, we have lost our way. He said despite the resilience, tenacity and hard work, the conditions Liberians are living through do not reflect the age of their country.
Mr. Cummings: “We have not managed ourselves and our resources as well as we could. We have not been as accountable to each other as we could. We have not invested as we should in building strong human and institutional capacities. And of course, we have not invested in improving systems and processes for continued democratic governance, and guaranteeing Liberia remains an independent and inclusively developed nation.”
As a result, he noted that too many Liberians are very poor; while common and treatable illnesses continue to kill too many of women and children, adding “We are losing too many to the inadequacies and lapses of a broken system every day.”
Speaking further, he said God has blessed Liberia with an abundance of natural wealth; yet, at 174 years, it continues to beg for budgetary support, including from nations far less endowed than it is, and whose public officials and legislators are paid way less than Liberia.
“We are so rich, and yet, we are so poor. Too many are suffering with more than half of the population living on less than US$1.25 a day. And at least 7 out of every 10 Liberians in urban areas lack access to improved water, improved sanitation, sufficient living space, or housing durability.”
He said despite the country’s woes, and regardless of who we prefer to blame, the truth is that we are all in serious trouble. “At 174, Liberia does not need some of us. Our country needs all of us. At 174, our country does not need to settle more ethnic and political scores. It needs all of us to work together to achieve higher national goals.”
Creating A New Future
The ANC political leader said despite the downward trend of the country, it can still get better only when the people are united and work together for a common goal.
“At 174, Liberia is in a difficult place. Regardless of who we prefer to blame, the truth is that we are all in serious trouble. At 174, Liberia does not need some of us. Our country needs all of us. At 174, our country does not need to settle more ethnic and political scores. It needs all of us to work together to achieve higher national goals.”
He said it was time for Liberians to change their mindset and adopt a new national perspective that Liberia belongs to all Liberians. He said every Liberian owes a duty to the country to be good citizens – to work as hard and as honestly as we can to make Liberia better for ourselves and for our children.
Cummings: “Good citizens do not steal from the people. Good citizens do not deceive the people. Good citizens stand for that which is right for the country even if they anger a few friends and political allies. The fundamental duty of citizenship – of belonging to Liberia and being called a Liberian citizen – is to build a better country.”
He said obedience to the law is a duty of good citizenship, adding that good citizens take responsibility and accept the failures of getting it wrong just as they will accept the benefits of getting it right.
He called on National leaders – political, religious, community, and traditional – to be more accountable to each other and to their country. Leaders must lead by good examples so that others are encouraged to follow, he urged.
Mr. Cummings, a successful businessman-cum-politician joined the Coca-Cola Company in July 1997 as Deputy Region Manager for Nigeria and quickly advanced to become President of Coca-Cola’s Africa Group in 2001.
By July 2008, Cummings was named Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer to consolidate oversight of key global corporate functions including Legal, People, Strategic Planning, Information Technology, Strategic Security, Sustainability and Technical, positions he held until his retirement in 2016.
Speaking further, he said: “We will not grow until we allow our visions, expectations, dreams, and aspirations to also grow. Therefore, national goals must be bigger, allowing us to set our sights higher, and extend our collective endeavors further.”
He added: “In corporations or governments, there are no shortcuts to success. Irrespective of a tribe, family name, the name of the village or city in which a Liberian is born, or the choice of one’s religion, success in Liberia must come to belong to every Liberian who is willing and ready to work as hard as they can to achieve success. Opportunities must be fair and equally available to all Liberians.”
He noted that too often, Liberians have let themselves settle for what is easy and not for what is right; and continued to choose the path of least resistance, which neither tests our collective resolve nor deepens our commitment to achieve the future we seek.
Liberians, he said often yearn for change, but have let themselves be frightened by the hard work required to get the changes we seek. Too often, we have allowed ourselves to compromise easily rather than set good precedence and examples for the future.
He said change is hard, and it requires hard work and determination and it takes time.
“But like success, change can happen. Liberia can be better. We can build a prosperous future for all. We can unite ourselves. We can expand the economy. We can grow the national budget. We can fight corruption. We can genuinely reconcile our fractured nation. We can heal the wounds and pull ourselves together. We can end the culture of impunity and establish a war and economic crimes court.”