Monrovia - Racing against time, former Coca-Cola Executive Mr. Alexander Cummings is on a whirlwind tour of the West Africa sub region in hopes of shoring up support for his quest for the Liberian Presidency.
FrontPageAfrica has gathered that Mr. Cummings who is currently in Abuja, Nigeria has held meetings with former President Olusegun Obasanjo and several key stakeholders in the West Africa power house including CEOs of major companies and legislative leaders in Abuja.
He is also slated to travel to Abidjan, the Ivory Coast in the coming weeks where he is expected to meet with President Alhassan Ouattarra, a source speaking on condition of anonymity told FrontPageAfrica.
Mr. Cummings, considered to be a dark horse to succeed President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, has already acknowledged some of his lapses heading into election year.
“I guess, I disagree with the premise that I don’t understand Liberian politics and problems; I know the challenges Liberians are faced with, the proposal we receive demonstrates that the challenges of our people are centered on young people, this is why we are taking the issues of young people serious,” Mr. Cummings told FrontPageAfrica recently.
The visit comes as the Alternative National Congress is said to be making inroads in rural Liberia.
Reports out of Abuja suggest that Mr. Cummings’ visit to the two countries is aiming to give the candidate a chance to show his mettle among regional leaders. “Our rural game plan is tight and we are making inroads in our discussions with several opposition political parties in a bid to build a strong coalition, said the source.
Mr. Cummings has credited the party’s “bottom-up” development platform as a magnet that drove him to the party and has spearheaded initiatives to provide skills and create jobs, provide childhood education, invest in housing and infrastructure along with its support of the country’s agricultural sector.
While on the campaign trail, he especially stresses the importance of early childhood education, vocational teaching training and teacher education. He also has not shied away from answering questions about how he would deal as President with the issues of widespread corruption and nepotism.
During the interview, he said that he knew that this would be a “hardball campaign” and already had demonstrated his perseverance. “There are three working days in 24 hours,” he quipped, pledging to reach out to as many of the 4.5 million Liberians as he can.
Since announcing his candidacy, Mr. Cummings has toured several counties including Nimba, a county he has ties with through his mother, Bassa, the county of the Party's National Chairman, Lafayette Gould, Bong, Lofa, Margibi, River gee, and Maryland his home county.
He told FrontPageAfrica at the start of his candidacy: “I believe that my background, my experiences, my love for and commitment to Liberia compels me to make my case to the Liberian people to lead them.
And, so I have been encouraged by all of the conversations I’ve had, the meetings and groups have met and of course you take a little bit with a grain of salt; in politics, I understand that.
But I say unbalanced very encouraged from all of the different constituencies I’ve met. Of course the work is just beginning and I have a lot more to do, a lot more travel. I want to get to all 73 districts, the work is still ahead, but I’m encouraged by where we are today.”
FrontPageAfrica has learned that in recent weeks that Mr. Cummings, a product of Maryland County, has been reaching out to the likes of Ambassador Jeremiah Sulunteh, credited with helping Winston Tubman win Bong County in the 2005 Presidential elections, Senator Prince Johnson and factions of the Margibi belt.
The party is reportedly eyeing a strong show of force in Nimba, Bong, Margibi and portions of the Southeast as a path to victory in 2017
“Mr. Cummings wants Liberians to take over the economy themselves and not foreign nationals, the source added.
“He wants Liberians to take charge of their own destiny and his experience and background in corporate America coupled with his passion to restore Liberia’s economic drive is key to his plans for Liberia.”
Mr. Cummings, who turns 60 on December 7, launched his candidacy last March shortly after retiring from 18 years at Coca Cola joining a potential field of more than twenty Presidential aspirants.
In celebration of his day, aides say the former Coca-Cola executives is using the milestone to give back targeting sixty marketers from a diverse background who will each be given $LD60,000 to start up a business.
Additionally, Mr. Cummings is undertaking a pilot program in January, to dole out grants to empower Liberians.
Mr. Cummings is trumpeting his accomplishments in corporate America as well as his loyalty to his native country during the campaign, which he launched shortly after his retirement from an exemplary career at Coca-Cola.
He first joined Coke in 1997 as deputy region manager for Nigeria after serving in a variety of roles for the Pillsbury Co.
Among his career high points are his role as President of Coca-Cola’s Africa Group from 2001-08 during which he oversaw investments in marketing and infrastructure across 56 African countries and territories.
As President of the Africa Group, Mr. Cummings oversaw the creation of the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation, implementing a continent-wide response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which supported prevention and awareness programs as well as establishing a healthcare program for Coke workers affected by HIV/AIDs.
In July 2008, Mr. Cummings was named executive vice President and chief administrative officer to consolidate oversight of key global corporate functions ranging from human resources to strategic planning, security and information technology.
Mr. Cummings has pointed out during his campaign that he is eminently qualified to oversee Liberia’s budget of slightly less than $560 million after having had the catbird seat for Coke’s annual revenues of more than US$44 billion.
Stressing the essence of a government of inclusion, Mr. Cummings has stated his desire to serve in an inclusive manner the Liberian people who suffered 14 bloody years of civil unrest and hundreds of thousands of deaths until 2003 with the arrival of United Nations peacekeeping forces, which soon are to depart.
In Liberia, Coca Cola came to Liberia’s aid during the height of the deadly Ebola virus outbreak and recently unveiled a new bottling line at its facility in Paynesville, a suburb of Monrovia, as well as a technical school in his name — Alexander B. Cummings Model Science and Technology School — which was praised by local officials for teaching skills providing the school’s graduates with access to jobs.
Additionally, Mr. Cummings and his family have set up a family foundation — the Cummings Africa Foundation, which is focused on empowering and uplifting Africans in the sectors of education, health and agriculture.
The foundation recently opened a handicraft showroom, giving emphasis to Liberian paintings, handicrafts and textile.
The Foundation in collaboration with one of its partners, Game Changers, collects artistic works that promote Liberian arts and culture and also provides a marketplace for craftsmen and craftswomen can take their products to be sold.
“The whole idea of setting out a non-profit organization, Cummings Foundation, is to claim some space in the governance sphere in Liberia, where Liberians can also be responsible for empowering themselves and empowering each other,” says Fatu Gbedema, Country Director of Cummings Africa Foundation
The Cummings Africa Foundation has already implemented 27 projects, some of which have impacted people within the 15 counties. Its focus is in the areas of health, education, agriculture and arts & craft, a decision reached after a rigorous period of consultation with stakeholders.