Liberia Needs A Cummings: Rebuttal To Tamba Brown’s “Critique”

By Julius T. Jaesen, II ||

Julius T. Jaesen,

Tamba Ralph Brown is a kinsman and avowed supporter of Oldman Joe Nyuma Boakai. His recent “critique” of the Oldman’s principal rival in the CPP,  Alexander Cummings, caught my attention.

Tamba’s “critique” is effusive with conjectures and punctuated with obvious biases. It is nothing scholarly. Unimaginative in its effort as a political hack job, Tamba’s attempt at analytical writing is poor and ineffective. It delivers more political punches against Oldman Joe than against the subject of the so-called critique.

I am not a spokesperson for Mr. Cummings. But I am on public record as being opposed to returning our country to the past and do not believe the Oldman, who will be 80-year-old by the next presidential inauguration in Liberia, has the condition of health and needed capacity to lead our country to the new future we seek. Insofar as Tamba’s attempt is an effort to get his aged tribesman elected in 2023, I have taken it upon myself to respond pointedly.

On Tamba’s critique of “lacking public service experience”

Tamba accuses Cummings of lacking public service experience. Of course, Tamba is not suggesting that meritoriously climbing the corporate ladder to retiring as Vice President in a giant global multinational company like Coca-Cola confers no leadership experience. Tamba has to mean that his tribesman has worked longer in the Liberian Government and Cummings has not. The fact is the Oldman’s time of work in the Liberian Government is quite lengthy.

Some followers estimate that he has spent nearly two-thirds, or at least 50 years of his septuagenarian life, working in one position of the government, or the other. For 12 years, beginning in 2006, he served as Vice President of Liberia. Strangely, whilst trying to point to the fact that Cummings has never worked in government, Tamba unwittingly introduces his “critique” by claiming, “Liberia remains one of the poorest in sub-Saharan Africa”, after 174 years of independence. Tamba cites the election of “political zombies and incompetent individuals”, as being responsible for the poverty and backwardness. What, then, is the impact of the more than 50 years of public service experience of the former VP?

Interestingly, the “zombies and incompetent individuals” at least in contemporary Liberian presidential history, have all worked in government, and like Oldman Joe, have all had “public service experience”.  What does it say of Liberians that we will look to return to the same failed “public service experience” criteria for leadership that has landed our country being poor, corrupt, and backward? Comically, Tamba and even Oldman Joe himself are asking Liberians to suspend our collective memories and forget that Oldman Joe was Vice President for 12 years. 

In American politics, the value of experience is an open debate. Some historians see a strong correlation between experience and impact on presidential leadership. Others argue differently insisting that the times in which people lead, and are called to lead, rather than experience, determine the impact of presidential leadership. Whichever side one wishes to choose for their support of a candidate, our country is in very bad shape. People are suffering. Times are extraordinarily difficult, and don’t call for repeating failed “public service experiences”.

Liberia’s situation requires something new, refreshing, bold, and different. Elections, especially presidential elections, are always about the future of a country not a return to the past. Electing an 80-year-old to lead is keeping Liberia chained to its past. 

Lacking experience is always touted by older candidates against their younger challengers. For example, it was used by older candidates against John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama. These younger leaders went on to become transformative leaders, responding to the times and needs of the United States, and placing themselves in history as amongst the most transformative.

On Claims that Liberians Do Not Know Who Cummings is

Trying to explain this ludicrous point, Tamba wanders about nonsensically and blindfolded in the usual minefield of political division that is haunting and hurting the country. First, he enviously attempts to poke fun at Cummings’ wealth which has been acquired honourably working outside of the Liberian Government. The same cannot be said about many Liberian politicians or Oldman Joe. The former VP has and continues to be, dependent on the government.

Secondly, Tamba claims the single largest individual contributor to the Covid-19 fight in the country, Alexander Cummings, is not rich enough because he should have spent more than he has personally contributed. This is without mentioning that Oldman Joe publicly promised to donate “1 Million Masks” to Liberians, and is yet to give out the first one to his driver, let alone his neighbors.

It appears that one of the Oldman’s touted “public service experience” has to be the cunning to promise the nation what he has no intention of delivering, or the capacity to fulfill. Meanwhile, Cummings is supplying hospitals across the country with medical and hygienic essentials to continue to respond and build public health capacities. He is also establishing 6 isolation treatment units annexed to public and private medical facilities for treatment of the infected. This may not be what Tamba wants to hear but it is what the public knows.

Anyway, the most interesting claim by Tamba to make this absurd point is not any survey finding but a return to an appeal to a political division that has kept Liberia poor and backward. Stooping to a divisive code, Tamba calls Cummings a “stranger”. For these people, Liberia must continue along its path of tribal division and religious intolerance. This is one more reason why the Oldman and his experiences of division are not what Liberia needs for the future of unity we must build.

Liberia belongs to all Liberians.  No Liberian is a “stranger” in their home. Tamba and Oldman Joe need to be reminded that division led our country to wars, and contributed to the current desperate condition after 174 years. We need to end divisions not return to it with Oldman Joe.

Of course, after 12 years of being Vice President, the Oldman has name recognition. But his ideas and experiences of dividing us along lines of tribe and religion are stale, outdated, and unwelcomed in the new Liberia.

On Tamba’s Claims of “Single Perspective” And “Desperate”

Tamba’s childish “critique” ends on two points: Cummings brings a single business perspective to managing the country and is “desperate” to lead. Whilst not saying what multi-faceted perspective his kinsman brings to the leadership of the country, sand-cutter Tamba clairvoyantly asserts that Cummings will be a single perspective leader.

Tamba can be forgiven for wrongly assuming business leaders and managers employ “single perspectives” in management and leadership. He has absolutely no clue and is obviously unread about what business management is, or what business leadership means.

It can be logically argued that one of the failures of the Liberian Government is that it has not managed the resources of our rich country very well. This is because leaders like Oldman Joe continue to see government leadership as separate from business leadership, when each should require measurable and disciplined allocations of resources, high standards of accountability for use of resources and trusts, proper standards of reporting for responsibilities assigned, ethically managing individuals and interests to achieve desired outcomes and results, and employing due diligence and high integrity in the performance and delivery of services. Did I mention the continuous employment and adaptability to new technologies and concepts of thinking in forecasting problems and finding solutions?

Oldman Joe and others think only businesses should be accountable, allocate and use resources transparently and responsibly, and only in businesses should leaders need to work diligently and adapt to technology to achieve stated goals and objectives. It is this obvious absence of such “business perspective” that has seen governments repeatedly failed in Liberia.

If, as Tamba did not intend to suggest, Cummings and not his tribesman, Oldman Joe, will work to infuse business leadership perspectives into the decision-making of government and its leadership, this has to be a welcome news for the country and the future we seek – a future of a more accountable, adaptable, disciplined and responsible government.

Finally, Tamba harps on the Oldman supporters’ overuse talking point: Cummings is “desperate” for leadership. Tamba’s proof: Cummings is spending money (he earlier suggested Cummings did not have money) to undermine Oldman Joe’s quest for the presidency. Tamba warns that “people who are desperate for power become dictators.”

This is farcical. What Tamba and the Oldman’s supporting casts don’t understand yet is that Liberia is needful of some serious and unapologetic desperation.

Anyone who truly understands where the country is will be desperate to democratically end the presidency of incompetent George Weah. If the Oldman is not feeling the desperation Liberians are feeling, he needs to rightfully step aside and out of the way of Liberians who are growing in determination to correct the ongoing malfeasance, misfeasance, and gross incompetence currently overburdening the country.

All across the pages of human history, change has come out of a sense and understanding of the desperation people feel. Those who wish things to remain the same have been the ones accusing emerging transformative leaders and change agents, of being “desperate”.  Liberia will not change if we all just agree to settle, get along with and accommodate each other’s wrongs, and not challenge each other on the basis of competence and needed ideas for change.

Tamba is also wrong. Dictatorship is not born out of desperation for change. It is born out of a fear of change – the fear of having one’s ideas privately and publicly challenged. Dictatorship is born and nurtured out of the foolish impression and fallacious thinking by Tamba and his likes that only Oldman Joe is entitled to the Liberian Presidency. Dictatorship is fed by the mistaken notion that only Oldman Joe can “win or lead”, and should therefore not be challenged. 

Tamba and Liberians should be truly happy that at least someone running for the highest office in our country is desperate for change, and not trying to settle for more of the same. The Oldman and his supporters may not like being challenged, but Liberia needs to change. To change, Liberia needs a disruptive and desperate Cummings

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