Let’s be honest – Liberians have not always been represented by the most truthful members of our society, to the point that expectations of integrity in public discourse are really not a thing anymore.
Take the recent story of the driver. Presidential hopeful Alexander Cummings recently announced the arrest of Simeon Davis, the driver of Liberty Party Secretary General Martin Saye Kollah, who ran away with a large sum of money intended to fund a CPP rally in Monrovia. How patriotic!
On the matter, Cummings said, “We have caught Simeon Davies, the guy that stole the US$70K from us and we are going to use this case for Liberians to know that we are serious about consequences and punishing people for corruption and other unlawful acts. We have an internal investigation going on and if there is anyone within our circle who is involved, we will go after them.”
The announcement comes as a surprise to many of us who are used to flimsy accountability in politics, but it is a welcome departure from the status quo. The fact that Alexander Cummings (presumably with larger support from the Liberty Party and Alternative National Congress) chose not to save face, but instead to address the unethical behvior head-on, is yet another example of why he should be Liberia’s next president. Furthermore, it demonstrates that beyond tackling corruption, he is trustworthy– something which is seriously lacking in other candidates, like former vice president Joseph Boakai.
Boakai has a known track record of keeping secrets from Liberians: most importantly, his refusal to share the true status of his health to the specific nature of his business dealings.
In recent weeks, Boakai was admitted to ELWA hospital for emergency treatment related to heart ailments – but he claimed it was for just a “minor fever.” For good reason, many questioned the story. After all, a minor fever is something that can be resolved with ibuprofen, and when one thinks of “relaxation,” there are a number of more appropriate lodges available. Certainly, a fever in a healthy adult wouldn’t result in a weeklong stay in a hospital, or his following emergency evacuation to the United States for further care. So the question arises, is Boakai really healthy? Given rumors about heart surgery and cancer, it seems more likely that Boakai was admitted because he has underlying health conditions that a fever could dramatically worsen.
Yet, Boakai’s press team and supporters work double time to blast any publications or people that ask probing questions. The problem with this is that Liberians have the right to ask these reasonable questions given Boakai’s age and Liberia’s fragile state – of which he aspires to be president. And the more Boakai and his team resist the full story, the more seeds of doubt they sow.
Worse, when combined with his business dealings, the picture Boakai is painting is one of corruption and dishonesty. Just take his recent trip to Nigeria with Benoni Urey (his presumed vice presidential running mate).
According to the Unity Party, the pair went to meet with Nigerian business owners and politicians to discuss their plans for the Liberian presidency and the 2023 elections; yet, details of the specifics around these discussions have not been made public.
President Weah blasted Boakai for the hypocrisy in taking a private plane, while sources say the plane was provided by a Nigerian businessman and friend of Boakai – which makes the situation worse, as it could easily be seen as a quid pro quo. Perhaps it would be worse if the corrupt deal were set up by Telia Urey, daughter of former warlord Benoni Urey. It’s unconscionable that supporters of Boakai can somehow justify this secrecy given the downward economic spiral we are in; simply, Liberians deserve to know what policies were discussed. Because policies affect us, and can threaten the stability we have worked extremely hard to secure.
On the other hand, Cummings has been forthcoming about his policies which aim to reduce corruption.
As President he would undo the Salary Harmonization Policy which reduced civil servant wages, stressing that low wages contribute to corruption. Instead, he would prioritize paying people a living wage; his administration would also create an enabling environment to boost private sector investment and growth, by removing unnecessary bureaucracies in the business sector and simplifying rules and regulations. In turn, there would be job growth and opportunity; additionally, he would adequately fund integrity and anti-corruption institutions where work could be done independent of the government and presidential involvement.
But policies are nothing without action.
That’s why the simple steps Cummings is taking when he isn’t in power – like holding members of his own guard responsible for their actions –reflects the kind of leader he will be when he is president. This is the kind of leader Liberians deserve.