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Liberia’s run-off election: Is Alexander Cummings playing games?

24 October 2017 at 04:17 | 3567 views

Opinion

By Dagbayonoh Kiah Nyanfore II, Monrovia, Liberia.

Liberia is really a free and sweet country. Free and sweet in that a person of Negro descent or a Liberian born who is a naturalized citizen of another country can come to Liberia and seek the presidency and that behavior would be acceptable. In other words, a person can violate our constitution and make demands on us and we would allow it.

FrontPage Africa recent article, entitled “Alexander Cummings Conditions before Endorsing Boakai or Weah”, which was published in the paper’s October 19 edition, is not only disgusting, but is also somewhat laughable. FrontPage Africa is a leading news paper in Liberia. Alexander Cummings (photo), the ANC political leader who dismally lost the recently completed first round election, expressed conditions or concerns, which he said must be met or shared before he would endorse a candidate in the Liberian runoff election. I just do not get it. Although in this second round election, every vote counts, how can a candidate who took 5th place with a single digit make such unreasonable and hard demands?

To get his support, Cummings sets three conditions that each final candidate must meet: the candidate must ensure that peace and stability in Liberia will be maintained; that corruption will be fought and government waste will be reduced; and that Liberian businesses will be supported and empowered.

These conditions are conceptual. Did not Cummings know that the peace which we now enjoy did not come from the effort of one person; that the Sirleaf-Boakai administration has failed to fight corruption. Did not he know? Did not Cummings view the candidates’ campaign platforms? The platforms should tell him what each candidate plans to do if elected. The platforms should state the candidates’ respective positions on issues, including Cummings’ concerns. The first round is over; Cummings lost, and others lost. Now is the time for the like minds to come together in the cause and interest of the Liberian people.

Usually in a close election, a kingmaker can negotiate with the final candidates for his/her support. But that negotiation is based on the political strength of the prospective kingmaker. He/she must have something valuable; that is the numbers or votes. Prince Johnson was a kingmaker in the 2011 election because he had the Nimba votes. He took third place. Does Cummings have the strength for his conditions? Let us look at Cummings’ numbers.

Cummings, a newcomer in the Liberian electoral politics, did surprisingly well. He did better than other candidates who have had participated in previous elections. I admired his efforts. However, Cummings did not win a single county, not even his home county Maryland. He came fifth in the national votes, accounting for 7.2% of the total votes. Most of his votes came from Montserrado County, where he obtained 10.4% of the total votes of 590,837. Weah got 48.6% and Boakai received 27.3%. Seemingly, majority of Cummings’ votes came from young people wanting change. In short and analytically, his number, though better than those of other candidates, does not merit his demands.

Moreover, there is a contradiction: the 2017 presidential election is about change vs. continuity. Cummings ran for change; change from the ruling Unity Party failed policies; change from the politics of corruption; and change for a better future and conditions. Cummings along with leaders of the other opposition parties, signed the Ganta Declaration, which said that if an opposition party is in the runoff with the ruling party, the other opposition parties would support the opposition. Though the declaration’s goal to formulate a coalition structure did not materialize, the conceptual agreement for solidarity remains.

What is Cummings now debating or thinking whether to support change or continuity? If he is wavering, and cannot be trusted on an agreement, how can he be trusted on a treaty or agreement as a national leader? Did he break business agreement or understanding with other business entities when he was an executive of Coco-Cola? Is Cummings showing his true color here?

Lucky Boy
Cummings came into Liberian national politics by what I call a lucky boy phenomenon. He had lived abroad for over twenty years. There are credible reports which allege that he is a US citizen. He never denied the accusation knowing that to deny US citizenship willingly is treasonable in America. With his millions, he somewhat bought the leadership of the Alternative National Congress, ANC, a breakaway group from the Congress of Democratic Change, CDC. He became ANC standard bearer for the 2017 elections.

Cummings got on the National Elections Commission list of qualified candidates for the elections, thanks to the Supreme Court u-turn ruling, which made the Codes of Conduct useless and toothless. He got lucky also because the high court failed to apply the ten year residency clause and failed to apply the requirement that only Liberian citizens can seek the presidency. Cummings got away with these constitutional requirements because of the view that Liberia is a free and sweet country and you can violate her laws and go free. However, operating and living by lucks does not always last.

But Cummings and the likes of him are making a serious mistake. They cannot successfully hijack the runoff election. The Liberian people have spoken; they have rejected the candidacy of Brumskine, Urey, Cummings, Jones, Cooper, and the others. Despite NEC failures and the problems of the first round election, these candidates must accept the results and support change as campaigned. They must nevertheless submit their concerns and seek legal redress if needed. I support their concerns.
Cummings received the buck of his support from the youths who believed in his campaign for change. He was the new kid on the block. He is rich, was energetic and an ex-international business executive who won the hearts and souls of poor and jobless inner-city youths. He must not disappoint them; he must not play political game for selfish and personal gain.

Should he and others continue to play game the opposition party in this runoff election can appeal directly to the youth voters of the opposition parties to vote for change. Cummings and his gang would have no power to make demands. Cummings should learn that in most cases, the party members or voters do not follow their standard bearer when he/she loses in the first round. The members vote their conscience or interest. Some members also may not vote.

Vice standard bearers of losing parties can also independently support any of the winning candidates. The candidates can pursue the vice standard bearers who have numbers and not bother with the political leaders. For instance, in 2005, Winston Tubman won Bong County because of his running mate Jeremiah Sulunteh of Bong. While Tubman supported Weah in the runoff, Sulunteh backed Sirleaf and delivered Bong to Sirleaf. Sulunted was rewarded with a ministry position and later ambassador to America. This proves my point that Cummings really does not have that level of power, which he is trading with and asking candidates to come to his feet.

It would be in Sulunteh’s best interest politically to support the Coalition, CDC, since the senatorial position of its Vice Standard Bearer Senator Jewel Taylor of Bong would be vacant if the senator is elected vice president. Sulunteh could run for that post with CDC support. He could however, for ethnic and regional interest and solidarity, support the ruling Unity Party. The later interest would not yield greater political benefit, for it would not give him anything better than what he had before. Politics, as we know is about interest. But the interest must make sense.

The recent announcement of the youth wings of the opposition parties to pledge to vote for change is in the right direction. They are following their reason for the campaign. They are being honest! A candidate should be consistent with and not deviate from his/her campaign principles. To act otherwise could hurt later. I will explain and give example in the following paragraphs.

Some viewers on social media are advising Cummings not to endorse any candidate in the runoff. He can listen to that advice. That is his right. But he should know what happened to Counselor Brumskine in 2005.

In 2005, after Brumskine disappointing loss in the first round in that election, he opted to support neither Sirleaf nor Weah in the second round. Some observers blamed him for Weah’s defeat due to what they called Brumskine’s cowardice behavior not to take a stance against Sirleaf, who was considered by some voters as a contributor to the civil war. Though Weah lost, other candidates including Varney Sherman and Tubman supported Weah in the runoff.

The Liberian electorates did not forget Brumskine’s behavior in 2005. In 2011 election they buried him to an embarrassing fourth place decreasing from 13.9% in 2005 to 5.5% in 2011. In that campaign, Brumskine was the strongest critic of the Sirleaf-Boakai administration. But in the runoff he endorsed Sirleaf to an easy UP victory. He was rewarded with big legal contracts.

Brumskine came out of retirement and ran in this election. But again the people did not forget his betrayer to the opposition and his contradictory behavior. As we know, he was again defeated in a first round which he was expected to be in the second round. Like in 2011, he obtained a single digit percent in this election. Liberian voters can praise you, wear your T-shirts and eat your money and food during the campaign. But they can beat you or punish you mercilessly at the polls for your game playing behavior and for betraying their hope.

A word to the wise is sufficient.

The writer, Dagbayonoh Kiah Nyanfore II

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