Three Sore Points in Koroma’s New Cabinet
Ernest Koroma’s recent cabinet reshuffle demonstrates the work of a masterful tactician, with a strong sense of Machiavellian politics. But beyond this characterization, he also demonstrates that he could afford to anger his party base by not only marginalizing women or increasing spending on his overblown cabinet, but by appointing JB Dauda, an old hand from previous administrations. So far, this is where most Sierra Leoneans seem to have a beef with the President. (Photo: Emmanuel Conteh, author)
It might seem naïve to suggest that President Koroma was pressured to reshuffle his cabinet. It is apparent that politics dictated his moves; he has gotten to position himself for 2012, if he is determined to take back the State House. But he could have devised some better ways other than a cabinet reshuffle that raised three sore points.
At a time when rich and powerful countries are reducing spending, one would have expected President Koroma to shrink his cabinet rather than enlarge it, as he did. Such a move could have save the country hundreds of millions of dollars for use in education, health care, job creation, agriculture and other areas of development. There are ministries that the President could have combined into one in order to avoid unnecessary duplication, such as for instance, lumping together Internal Affairs with Local Government and Rural Development. Some, he could have eliminated like the Ministry of Information and Communications, whose responsibilities he could have transferred to the Independent Media Commission. Had he done this along with the passage of a ‘Freedom of Information Act’ replacing the obsolete 1965 Press Laws, the President would have convinced not only his citizens but also the rest of the world that he is a genuine reformer.
This is not, however, to say that he does not believe in free speech and reforms. He does, even if his enlarged new cabinet indicates that he subscribes largely to over spending rather than trimming the budget. After all, like any African politician, he has gotten to share the spoils of office with all regions and sections of society. This involves expanding the patronage system to even his ardent opponents.
Given this might be the case, yet President Koroma failed to accommodate women, a constituency that has been marginalized by successive post-colonial governments in policy-making. The new cabinet could only boast of a handful of women, in a country where there are 96 males for every 100 females. Whether or not the President realized he has faulted women is something we would have to find out in 2012. But for a constituency that mostly bore the brunt of the civil war for bad policies drawn and implemented by male politicians, a considerable representation of women in Koroma’s new cabinet would have been a sort of atonement. Their meager representation in the new cabinet is the result of the sway patriarchal thinking has on Sierra Leone politics, especially when it comes to governance and decision-making. This shortchanging of women does not qualify Koroma as a sexist. At least, we would give him a Hail Mary pass on this one, believing that he means well for his female counterparts in Sierra Leone, many of whom are far qualified and capable than JB Dauda, his newly appointed Foreign Minster.
The name JB Dauda is synonymous with blemish and ineptitude. Whereas most sensitive leaders would have seen him as politically radioactive, President Koroma does not. In his strategic thinking, JB Dauda would deliver Kenema and parts of the east in 2012. Whether Dauda would do this is something yet to be seen. But it is clear from his past failed appointments that, JB Dauda does not believe in productivity. His entire view of national service is one that is different from improving the lot of his fellow citizens, as he himself has shown this in his past cabinet careers. If anything, his success in politics can be simply attributed to his ability to adapt to circumstances. In this, both his haters and lovers ought to commend him. For he is a recycled politician per excellence! He is the proverbial cat with 99 lives! And each time he appears on the scene, he is ready to do more mischief than he did before. What is troubling about JB Dauda’s appointment is that it tends to infuriate than calm southeasterners, who want to know whether there is none among them who is more capable and unblemished than JB Dauda. While he is aware of the controversy his appointment has created, yet JB Dauda would not be gracious like some politicians, who aware of their limitations, would decide to cut and run before they are put to the test. He has been to the test time and again, each time failing woefully. Maybe he sees this new appointment as his last chance at self-redemption. If he does, it would be a vindication for President Koroma who has really gambled big on appointing him to a very important ministry such as foreign affairs.
Meanwhile, President Koroma would have to figure out how he is going to put out the fires he has created by his new cabinet appointments. He would have to convince his citizens and the international donor community how he is going to pay for his bloated cabinet. He would have to calm his APC supporters both at home and abroad, who are unhappy with his decision to include JB Dauda, whom many see as toxic. And then of course, he would have to re-woo women who perceive his government as gravitating too much toward the patriarchal system that has disenfranchised them for far too long.
Emmanuel Conteh, Mankato, Minnesota
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