By Lincoln G. Peters, with additional files from Othello B. Garblah
Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will not be on the ballot box for the 2023 battle for the Executive Mansion, but reports of her likely influence hold key to who becomes Liberia’s next President.
In 2017, it was glaring that the country’s immediate past President who served two terms threw her weight behind incumbent President George Weah against her then vice president and party’s standard Joseph N. Boakai.
Nearly five years down the line, the story appears to have taken another narrative as there are speculations that this time around, she may be throwing her weight behind former Coca-Cola Executive Alexander B. Cummings of the Collaborating Political Party (CPP).
Much has not been said in the press as to what may have led to the crumbling of the perceived marriage between President Weah and Mrs. Sirleaf. But in 2017 the relationship between the pair was very visible, an example is the famous groundbreaking ceremony of the Lofa road at the height of the 2017 presidential campaign with then-candidate Weah-that alone spoke volumes as to where her support was.
However, barely a year to the 2023 elections, many of her former stewards have begun jumping boats declaring their support for Mr. Cummings as if they have been given marching orders even though there are just mere perceptions at this stage.
But regardless, Mrs. Sirleaf’s influence is a key factor in deciding the winner of the 2023 presidential election.
Some of her former stewards who have declared their support for Mr. Cummings are already being quizzed as to whether their decision to do so was based on the Iron Lady’s influence.
Mr. Lewis Brown is a former Minister of Information and Ambassador to the United Nations who served under ex-president Sirleaf’s regime. When faced with similar question as to whether his decision to support Cummings was triggered by Mrs. Sirleaf, he denied the claim.
Speaking on a local radio program on Tuesday, September 20, 2022, Amb. Brown explained that his decision to support Mr. Cummings was based on the wrong direction that the country is heading, noting that his decision was never influenced by Mrs. Johnson – Sirleaf.
Amb. Brown who formerly declared support for Mr. Cummings last week described the CPP leader as an icon of integrity and a great asset to Liberia.
Although Cummings has also come under criticism for embracing these former regime officials, Amb. Brown maintains that his decision to pledge support to Cummings is based on his (Cummings) leadership experience.
“We have to celebrate him for that because Mr. Cummings is an asset to Liberia that comes with leadership experience and [no] government experience. We need to contrast that because people are saying the man has not worked in government before,” he said.
Mr. Cummings heads the opposition Alternative National Congress (ANC) and the once formidable Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), which is now divided into fragments.
Amb. Brown believes that Cummings corporate leadership experience, especially for a man who came from nowhere after several studies to head such a giant-sized company makes him an asset.
Amb. Brown argued that the comparison between corporate leadership and public leadership against Mr. Cummings is very weak because there is more accountability and transparency in corporate leadership than it is in public leadership.
He claimed that being an ex-executive of Coca-Cola company, Mr. Cummings brings more accountability to public service.
But Amb. Brown has not been the only former Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf-led government to support Cummings, former Foreign Minister Gayeweah McIntosh and others have either openly or quietly declared their support for Cummings.