Since the end of the civil conflict, Liberia’s 2023 general and presidential election will mark the fourth time the West African nation will go through a democratic process to select its leader.
By Roland Perry, Perryroland@rocketmail.com, Contributing Writer
With the prevailing situation, the 2023 election is profoundly significant to the stability of the fragile nation of Liberia. It will mark a turning point for the country regarding the numerous challenges that engulf the government under President George M. Weah.
In the last three years, governance and the rule of law have declined significantly. Corruption and the misuse of public resources have become the order of the day. Poverty and economic hardship continue to surge under the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) government.
Liberians are dying from preventable diseases due to the lack of drugs and primary healthcare facilities. The lack of essential social services such as safe drinking water, electricity, and reliable internet services in many parts of the country, including Monrovia, the capital city, creates more hardship.
Given the shadowed leadership by President Weah and his low-profiled cabinet, the compelling need for change in Liberia cannot be overemphasized.
With a little over twenty-four months to the election, the opposition parties must put their acts together and build a vibrant ticket to defeat President Weah
. In so doing, under the Collaborating Political Party (CPP) banner, the four main opposition parties are making frantic efforts to select a winnable ticket capable of ‘bringing down’ President Weah.
Ahead of the CPP convention slated for December 2021, the two leading candidates in the nomination race are former Vice President Joseph N. Boakai of the Unity Party (UP) and Axelander B. Cummings of the Alternative National Congress (ANC).
The two men, Boakai and Cummings, boast of having the strategy to defect President Weah. Lately, both men have taken the airwaves to propagate their plans for the country ahead of the nomination.
But who can take down President Weah remains a big guess? My perspectives on the two candidates will highlight their advantages and disadvantages as they prepare for the CPP race. I will also double down on who I think is best suited to defeat President Weah.
Alexander Cummings ups:
Born in Monrovia, Cummings studied at Cuttington University College in Liberia before leaving for the United States. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance and Economics from the University of Northern Illion and an MBA in Finance from Clark-Atlanta University.
Cummings worked for over 40 years in international business. He retired from Coca-Cola in 2016, after a twenty-year career with the organization.
Cummings’ career in Politics:
Alex Cummings surfaced in Liberia’s political limelight as the standard-bearer of the ANC in 2015. Since then, he continues to win the hearts and minds of some Liberians at home and abroad. Many of his supporters believe Cummings is “clean, free of corruption,” and well placed to be nominated as head of the CPP ticket and eventually be elected President of Liberia.
Cummings is believed to be “wealthy” and comes with a worth of experience in the business. Since the 2017 election, the 65-year-old has been touring the country to connect with Liberians.
Mr. Cummings has been vocal against ills in the Weah administration in the past three years. He has criticized the CDC government for not improving the economy and raising the Liberian people’s standard of living. He also blamed President Weah for not showing leadership in providing security for the citizenry, thus leading to lawlessness, armed robbery, and security brutalities.
Vision for Liberia
Mr. Cummings has vision the fight against corruption, infrastructural development, a solid judiciary system, youth empowerment, agriculture, and inclusion in government as his primary focus.
The ANC leader has also promised to formulate programs to strengthen government revenue-generating capacity and raise the country’s national budget from US$500M to US$1B in three years.
Mr. Cummings has continually placed himself as the best person to “bring down” President Weah over his rival, Vice President Boakai.
Cummings believes he has the connection to rally international support to address the development needs of Liberia. He has always encouraged Liberians to elect people who have a “demonstrated record of achievement” in leadership.
Cummings’ Down Side:
I have outlined most of the positive attributes of Alexander Cummings; however, he has downsides that serve as a menace to his political ambition. Many Liberians describe Cummings as a “political newcomer” who has “no political constituency” in the country.
Cummings ended fifth in the 2017 election, winning only 112,067 votes, 7.21% of the total vote cast. His party failed to win a single seat in the House of Representatives. What makes matters worse for Cummings is that he lost in his native county, Maryland, something political actors view as a “lack of connection” to his people.
Tribal and regional politics is the first line of voting in many parts of the world, including Liberia. The rejection of Cummings by his people in 2017 diminishes his chances in Liberia’s emerging political stage.
Every top-level politician in Liberia has a solid support base in at least one county, especially their county of origin. For instance, former President Ellen Jonson-Sirleaf won her home county of Bomi in 2005 and 2011. Senator Prince Johnson has always won his native county of Nimba in every election. Same with President Weah in Grand Kru County, the late Cllr. Charles W. Brumskins in Grand Bassa County, and Former Vice President Boakai in Lofa County.
History has proven that Liberians elect people who “live,” “love,” and “care” about them to the presidency. In his 40-year business career, Cumming was utterly out of touch with his people; but only surfaced when he decided to contest in 2017.
Lack of Political experience
Cummings has never served in a political position in his entire life. He is a novice when it comes to politics. He has never been tested to manage any political situation on the planet.
He is unknown and doesn’t have a solid support base across the country. Political scholars think that Mr. Cummings has no history of working for the people of Liberia and has ‘done little for the fight for social justice and political emancipation.’
Pundits also believe that Cummings has several political shortfalls that need to be developed over time. They think the ANC leader doesn’t ‘understand the fundamentals of politics in a complex society like Liberia.’ They also assume Cummings cannot make “prompt” decisions and lack the political know-how to lead.
For instance, during the 2017 run-off presidential election, Mr. Cummings failed to support either candidate. Instead, he urged his supporters to vote the candidate of their choice for the presidency.
His failure to support a definite candidate in 2017 showed a lack of practical decision-making skills. Decisive decision-making in politics is a unique set of talents every good leader should possess to lead effectively.
Experience in politics is very vital to a leader’s ability to perform expeditiously. A leader must know when, where, and how to address critical situations. In a delicate nation like Liberia, it is imperative to elect a leader who has a proven record of honesty, hard work, and is up to the task.
VP Boakai UPS:
Joseph Nyumah Boakai is a Liberian politician who served as Vice President from 2006 to 2018, serving under President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. In 2017, he contested and came second to President George Weah in the run-off Presidential polls with 457,579 votes, constituting 38.46 of the total vote cast.
Previously Boakai served as Director of the Liberia Produce Marketing Corporation (LPMC), Minister of Agriculture, and Managing Director of the Liberia Petroleum Refinery Company (LPRC).
Born November 30, 1944, Boakai holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Liberia in 1973. Boakai brings over thirty years’ worth of experience in governance and public sector management.
The former Vice President’s service in government has been characterized with honesty, loyalty, and distinction. His allegiance and admiration for the country have placed him high amongst his peers and earned him the national and international respect he truly deserved.
VP Boakai’s Career in Politics
Boakai is loved and has a solid political base throughout Liberia. Many see him as an eminent statesman who has a true vision to develop Liberia.
Vice President Boakai presided over the Liberian Senate for twelve years without voting except in a tied vote. His stewardship over the Senate led to the passage of several bills, concessions, and financing agreements that helped revive the country’s broken economy due to 14 years of civil conflict.
Mr. Boakai’s charismatic leadership at the Senate resulted in reforms that set the stage for canceling over four billion of Liberia’s extender debts under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HAPC) initiatives.
Under his guidance, the Legislature also ratified several concession agreements that attracted over US$16b foreign direct investment in the country.
Many of these investments are still visible in the country, including Golden Veroleum, Sime Darby (now Mano Oil Palm), Aureus Mining (now Aversso), MNG Gold mining company, and many more.
VP Boakai can be credited for several reforms in the UP government. Liberians can also appreciate him for developments undertaken by the UP regime, including building roads, schools, hospitals, markets, provision of electricity, and water, to name a few.
Although the former VP admitted the UP-led government “squandered” opportunities for developments in the country, but they performed exceedingly well in raising Liberian living standards.
However, Boakai has blamed President Weah for his poor handling of the nation since becoming President. He accused President of wrecking all the progress made by the UP government and has placed the country in a ‘state of backwardness.’
He also criticized the Weah administration for restricting free speech and condemned the government’s action to clamp down on peaceful protesters during Monrovia’s famous June 7, 2019 protest.
The former VP has similarly frowned on President Weah and his government officials for acquiring massive properties in three years with ‘questionable sources of income.
VP Boakai’s Vision for Liberia
According to Mr. Boakai, his vision is to see Liberia developed into a middle-income country where the citizens’ living standards will improve.
The UP Standard-bearer promised his administration will focus primarily on agriculture, roads, tourism, and sanitation as his immediate priority for the country. He added that his government will connect all county capitals with paved roads to afford easy access to goods and services.
Boakai has also pledged that his administration will concentrate mainly on agriculture to lift Liberians out of poverty. He assures that his leadership would increase agriculture’s budget to purchase modern technologies to help farmers grow more food.
He stressed that his government will place zero tolerance on corruption. He noted his regime will use the national budget to provide primary social services such as water, electricity, and healthcare.
VP Boakai Down Side:
Vice President Joseph Boakai is loved and has a solid political base in every county in Liberia. However, he has a downside that stands as an obstacle to his presidential bid.
Boakai is known to be a “race car” parked in a garage. Some Liberians believe he has worked a long time in government, and it is time to leave. Some of his critics think that he is “old” and “unfit” to be President of Liberia.
His opponents also think he did little to develop the country in his twelve-year service as vice president. They also accused him of being “mute on corruption” under the UP government.
His critics also sense that his statement on squandering opportunities by the UP government indicted him and his party.
Moreover, Boakai doesn’t seem to have enough money to fund his presidential bid, which is a big concern. He says he earns his living by acquiring loans. However, many of his supporters believe that they can rally the necessary support to fund the former VP’s bid to the presidency.
Given all that I have outlined above, the two individuals, Boakai and Cummings, are arguably two of the best politicians in Liberia ahead of the 2023 election. However, because of the critical nature of the 2023 election, the CPP must select a formidable candidate capable of defeating President Weah.
Many Liberians are sickened by the lack of leadership under the CDC government and demand change in 2023. They might not necessarily be looking for a perfect candidate but rather someone capable of defeating President Weah and setting the country on the right path.
Going into the CPP primary, it is an open fact that VP Boakai is the best candidate suited to defeat Weah.
Mr. Boakai has been tested and has proven he has the number to deliver victory to the CPP. The CPP will make a grieve mistake to select Mr. Cummings, who obtained only 7% of the vote in 2017 to head the ticket, over VP Boakai, who got 38%.
Mr. Boakai is an experienced politician who has interacted with several world-class leaders on the international stage. For example, he sat with former President of the United States (US), Barrack Obama, Former Vice President, and current President of the US, Joe Biden, to discuss Liberia’s problems in 2014. He has also had discussions with some members of the United States Congress and addressed the United Nations general assembly.
He has also worked with leaders in Africa, including leaders at the AU, ECOWAS, MRU, and many more. Unlike Cummings, Boakai will be no stranger in national, regional, and international politics.
Like I mentioned earlier, Mr. Cummings is still struggling to gain actual relevance on the political scene of Liberia. Cummings has made some efforts in exerting himself into Liberian politics but still needs more engagement to achieve his full potential.
VP Boakai may not have the resources to fund his campaign, but he has the number. On the other hand, Cummings may have the resources but do not have the number to defect the CDC.
Unlike Cummings, Boakai has served in two of the three branches of the Liberian government, the executive and the legislative. He has worked and learned government bureaucratic processes and is ready to perform.
Nowadays, most democracies around the Globe elect individuals who have served in government, especially individuals who are fully knowledgeable about the workings of the state.
The current President of the United States of America, Joe Biden, works in government for over 45 years and is very experienced. Biden was not the best or brightest among the Democratic Party candidates; however, he was elected as their nominee because of his experience. Eventually, Biden defeated former President Donald Trump to be elected the 46 President of the US.
Boakai has said he intends to serve one term to put Liberia on the proper development path. If Cummings supports Boakai to win in 2023, it will boost his chances to the presidency. It means that the ANC leader will be tapping into Boakai’s reservoir of experience as he prepares himself for future elections.
Interestingly, folks in the CDC see Boakai as the biggest threat to President George Weah’s second term bid. As such, they are frightened by Boakai’s presence at the head of the CPP.
The CDC is doing everything in its power to either have Cummings at the head of the ticket or spill division that will break the CPP collaboration.
They are fully aware that Mr. Cummings is a soft spot who doesn’t have the popularity to defeat President Weah even if Boakai and the CPP fully support him. Placing Cummings against the CDC leader will be an easy ride for the ruling party.
The waste case scenario for Cummings would be to contest the 2023 election outside of the CPP arrangement. If he allows himself to be used by CDC’s propaganda and breaks away from the collaboration, it will immediately end his political career.
As you may be aware, Cummings’s political career nearly ended following his defeat in 2017. Political actors say, had it not been for the support of the CPP, Cummings would have had no “relevance” in the political landscape of Liberia.
Notwithstanding, the ultimate goal of many Liberians home and abroad is the unseat President Weah and make him a one-term president. Many of the people who voted for President Weah in 2017 feels led-down and are seeking every means democratically possible to remove him from office.
Liberia is fast degenerating under President Weah in three years. The CDC regime is wrecking all the progress made in developing the country by the UP administration. Liberians are frustrated and feel hoopless that the President they think would prioritize their interest will quickly let them down.
President Weah lacks the experience to govern. Weah has no contact in the international community, especially with Liberia’s traditional allay; the United States of America. President Weah has not officially visited the US State Department, Congress, or the White House.
Liberia has lost respect in the sub-region because of the poor leadership of President Weah.
In view of the preceding, the CPP must marshal the courage to form a reliable ticket that will restore the hopes and aspirations of Liberians, especially the ‘dying mass.’
Delegates to the CPP primary must put aside personal egos and elect VP Boakai, the most experienced leader in the collaboration. Leaders of the collaborating parties must take a balcony look at the candidates and support someone who has the national and international expertise to move the country forward when elected.
If CPP fails to elect Boakai to head the ticket, they will eventually give President Weah a second six-year term in office.
Finally, let me remind Liberians, especially members of the opposition community that the world has taken a new trend, and there is no time for incompetence. The world is experiencing financial crisis due to Covid-19. As such, donor nations are no longer willing to spend their taxpayers’ dollars to support incompetent and corrupt leaders in Africa.
The world is watching Liberia as we prepare to go to the election into 2023 election. Are we going to make the same mistake we made in 2017 to elect a football president who has no demonstrated record of success in politics or elect someone who is well experienced, honest, and up to the task to lead?
VP Boakai is not the brightest politician we have as a nation. He is not free from mistakes he admitted to over the years, but he has proven to have the popularity to pull the required votes to defeat President Weah. Elect Boakai at the head of the CPP ticket and support him to the fullest, or give George Weah another six years in office.
I urged Liberians to follow the example of the American people who voted former President Donald Trump out of office for his incompetence, corruption, greed, division, and lack of respect for human dignity. Like Trump, President Weah is trending on the same path and must not be given a second chance to continue to drain our beloved country, Liberia. He is unqualified to be president and will never make informed decision even if he is given 12 years in office,