What A Strategic Cabinet Reshuffle?
Having read and heard various comments by pundits and ordinary citizens on the latest cabinet reshuffle by President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, (in photo) I have deemed it fit to render a contribution to the subject matter.
My take on it is that in the first place, the cabinet reshuffle was long overdue, judging by the performance of some of the ministerial appointees. Adding to that is the fact that, I consider it a strategic reshuffle that can not in any way be unconnected with President Koroma’s poise to clinch a second term.
I hold the view that an effective or competent president is judged by the team he puts in place…just like a good coach would do. It goes without saying that this country has been deprived of effective leadership since independence, as evident by the very poor delivery by successive governments over the years. We can only wish for the best.
No president runs a country alone…he needs a team. The importance therefore of having an effective team in place cannot be overemphasized.
In very civilized countries, presidents are elected into office based on the issues highlighted in their campaign manifestos, and cabinet positions are awarded not based on strict political affiliation, but competence. In this case, major changes are often expected anytime there is a cabinet reshuffle. In fact some appointees don’t even wait to be reshuffled…they resign when they know they can’t deliver.
Here in West African and Sierra Leone in particular, it is the direct opposite. Just as presidents are elected courtesy of the popularity of the political parties they belong to, so too are cabinet positions granted at random…in most cases to non-performing and clearly incompetent and untouchable cronies. In this case, a major cabinet reshuffle rarely occurs.
The cabinet reshuffle we witnessed recently, leaves much to be deserved as far I am concerned. This is so because rather than weeding off non performers, they were moved from one ministry to another.
This brings to question the much drummed about performance bonds signed between the president and his ministerial appointees. The basis of the performance bonds was that ministers have to deliver or face the boot.
Since the performance bonds were signed, the public has not been updated on anything. We therefore are in the dark when it comes to figuring out why two prominent ministers (Attorney General and Minister of Justice Abdul Serry Karmal, and Trade and Industry Minister David Carew) were fired, and why certain ministers and their deputies were reorganized or transposed into new ministries. This has opened rooms for assumptions and critiquing.
My own assumption, as indicated earlier, is that the reason for the reshuffle has not much to do with the national development aspirations of the country, but purely for political gain ahead of the crucially important 2012 general elections, which the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) would not afford to lose…but have to anyway.
J. B. Dauda, for instance, has no business being made Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister, when it is crystal clear that the man has outlived his usefulness insofar as running that strategically important ministry is concerned. The man has been in the political lime line for decades and I am sure all that the nation has seen from his stewardship is personal aggrandizement for himself. He’ll no doubt take great pleasure in embarking on the extensive trips his new office is renowned for. He is a known politician. Although a failed one, he still has the ability of disrupting the SLPP vote in Kenema District…the reason why upon accepting the position, he was forthwith slammed a suspension from the party. I know he doesn’t care about that because he has a history of being a perambulating and priceless politician.
Musa Tarawalie, the former Resident Minister South and now Minister of Internal Affairs, is said to be thuggish in nature and with him in control of the Sierra Leone Police force for instance, is a cause for concern especially giving the anticipated high political tempo that is going to be built around the 2012 elections. As Resident Minister South, he allegedly personally led an attack on the SLPP regional secretariat in Bo, following the defacing of the portrait of Ernest Koroma, reportedly by anti APC support. He can do anything to have his way, including acting underground. It still remains a mystery how he got himself into the APC government, knowing him to be a full fledge member of the SLPP.
Moijue Kai Kai, my dear friend and one time colleague in the struggle, has been made Resident Minister South, after a short while at the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, as deputy minister. A former diehard supporter of Chares Francis Margai’s People’s Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC), Moijue Kai Kai is one man that is prepared to face the worse for what he believes. He currently believes that Ernest Bai Koroma is the best man on earth, and having made him deputy minister and now the first gentleman of the whole region with a deep rooted political history, he could exhibit the worst manipulative tendencies, just so as to see that his new god-father stays in power while he enjoys the spoils or call it whatever you may. Remember the row between him and the Pujehun radio journalist, who reportedly got a death threat from the former, over a hotly contested bye election.
‘Alhaji’ Alpha Kanu, sometimes dubbed as Agba Satani, after the former vice president of Sierra Leone, Late Sorie Ibrahim Koroma, is perhaps the worst politician I have ever encountered. He is a diabolic liar who courtesy of the reshuffle, has been told to keep a bit quiet or better still, has been cut to size. As Minister of Mineral Resources and Political Affairs, he presided over the formulation of the Mines and Minerals Act 2009, and at the same time contributed in no small way to the breaching of some of the key clauses in it…all in the interest of rogue mining companies and possibly after some palm greasing. As far as he is concerned, Sierra Leone lacks what it takes to mine its huge mineral deposits and should therefore accept anything that comes from the companies that are vesting interest in investing in the sector, saying rather foolishly that “Half a loaf a better than none”…as if we are beggars. Thank God he is no longer in control of our resources. It was even a risk entrusting our minerals in the custody of man who without the fear of God, reportedly tampered with poor people’s Hajj funds. He gave himself so many powers in the Mines and Minerals Act 2009, believing that he will never be removed from that ministry. This is a good reason why I think the Act should be reviewed to eliminate all the hidden agendas contained in it.
While it was clearly an unwise decision by the president to blend the ministries of Mineral Resources and Political Affairs, it still makes no sense to appoint a serving Publicity Secretary of a political party and the ruling APC party for that matter, Minister of Political and Public Affairs. The rightful holder of that important office, in my view, should be a neutralist, and not one with an open political identity or bias. Alhaji Alpha Kanu nearly got stoned in Kono for meddling in the recent bye elections there, in outright breach of the terms of a signed communiqué that prevents politicians like him from unnecessarily going to certain places during polling.
Frank Kargbo, the new Attorney General and Minister of Justice, could not have been better placed as far as the strategic APC plan is concerned. He was one time Attorney General and Minister of Justice under the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) junta, and therefore not knew to that ministry. Frank Kargbo currently runs a law firm that is neck deep in facilitating large and long term land leases in parts of the country. In the case of Swiss based Addax Bioenergy Limited in the Makeni area, Frank Kargbo is representing the land owners (it’s unclear who hired him and whose interest he actually represents), and in the case of Portuguese based Quifel, he is representing the company which has so far acquired up to One Hundred and Twenty Thousand hectares of land in the Lokomasama, Masimra and Koya chiefdoms. The company hopes to acquire more leases for periods nearing 50 years and to produce crops and biofuel for export – with their man or call him tool, now the Attorney General and Minister of Justice. In what was clearly a conflict of interest, Frank Kargbo provided all the legal covers for the land leases referred to, while serving in the office of the president at State House, as adviser. Frank Kargbo is also said to have been at one time the benefactor of the current Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) Commissioner, Joseph Kamara. It was Frank Kargbo who reportedly facilitated Commissioner Joseph Kamara’s flight to England for further studies. With corruption cases having to go through his office for advice before indictments are announced, it is obvious that he will easily steal the show. His appointment to that position puts a big question on the fight against corruption. You could imagine how embarrassing it is for an appointed minister to be roped in for corruption and dismissed as a result. Two prominent ministers in the APC government have so far been convicted for corruption. The list would have been longer…
What special advice does the like of the cocaine-stained Kemoh Sesay, the sacked former Minister of Transport and Aviation, has to offer to a president that worth his salt?
For want of space, let me stop here. But before I go, let me make it clear that the much talked about cabinet reshuffle is nothing to celebrate. In fact it further exposes our business-friendly president’s inability of putting together a formidable Brazilian team to run the day-to-day affairs of the country. Sometimes one is tempted to ask whether he is really sincere with himself or is focused minded. Just imagine that he is yet to separate the offices of the Attorney General and that of the Minister of Justice, and still maintains his vice president Samuel Sam Sumana as head of the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) Council. These were important campaign promises he continues to renege on…and yet talks about behavioural and attitudinal change. The appointment of SLPP’s Kailahun Member of Parliament, Hon. Tamba Borbor Sawyerr to the position of deputy minister of the ministry of health and sanitation rings a bell. Remember the president in his campaigning stated categorically that he will not draw members of his cabinet from the house of parliament. We now know that he was misleading the people into believing that he will live by his words or sacred promises. Many people voted for him based on the numerous pledges…they should be disappointed by now.
Theophilus Sahr Gbenda
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