Sierra Leone’s Deputy Minister of Labour; Gaima, Displays Humility on the Campaign Trail
We often hear stories about how some government Ministers in Africa and in other parts of the world display acts of power drunkenness against the very people that they are supposed to serve. We’ve seen innocent and defenseless Sierra Leoneans being brutalized upon the orders of some of our Ministers or other government officials in high places over simple things like refusing to acknowledge their presence or say “Yes Sir” to them. I had just arrived in Kenema town last Saturday from the United States through Liberia and I had the opportunity to witness the complete opposite of this behavior in one of President Koroma’s Ministers – the Deputy Minister of Labour, Honourable Daniel Gaima, while I was in his company on our way to Kailuhun the next day, Sunday, where the President was going to spend the night on his campaign trail of the Southeastern region of the country. This was after the President had been treated to a surprisingly massive crowd of APC supporters in Bo town the Friday before. (Photo: Deputy Minister of Labour, Daniel Gaima)
The first sign of humility and care for others was demonstrated by Minister Gaima after he observed that his official driver was tired and needed some rest and the Minister decided to be our driver from a place just a few kilometers to Segbwema and he drove us up to Kailahun. The Minister decided to put safety first ahead of power and authority. After listening to several stories from him of his involvement with grass root organizing against the excesses of the RUF rebels and against some of the politicians in the previous SLPP government, we arrived at Segbwema and he decided to make a brief stop and talk to the people about the APC and President Koroma. He engaged the people and lauded the President’s development initiatives in the Kailahun District; citing the ongoing construction of bridges along the road and the road construction project that will soon kick off around that area after the rains. He also shared with the people that he is Mende; he is skinny and without a protruded belly; his mother and father were not friends with the President and he was a member of the PMDC party before this time but President Koroma cut across those barriers and still appointed him a government Minister in an APC-led administration. “Such are the kinds of leaders that this country needs; and if I have to lay my life for him, I will; and I will do so with the greatest pleasure ever because I know I would be doing so for someone who is well deserving of my precious life”, the Minister stated amidst thunderous applause from the surrounding crowd.
After his speech, a few of the workers at the nearby “Safety First Road Construction Company”, shared with the Minister some of their conditions of service, citing low salaries as part of such conditions. Minister Gaima promised to have a dialogue with the management of the company and he wasted no time in driving us to the company’s construction site where he was hoping to have a closed-door discussion with the management of the company.
Upon arriving at the site gate, the Minister introduced himself to the Security Guard that he is the Deputy Minister of Labour and asked to be let through into the site; but the security guard, a young and seemingly arrogant fellow, whom I later come to know as Foday Sae, refused to open the gate, stating that he had had orders from his bosses not to ever open the gate without their permission. Minister Gaima climbed off the vehicle and approached the young security guard and again, in a very polite manner, introduced himself as the Deputy Minister of Labour who had come to see the management of the company for unofficial discussions over employee-related issues. Foday looked to the other side and was not paying attention to what the Minister was trying to say to him. Minister Gaima went back to his vehicle and sat there for a few minutes. Luckily, one of the managers, a Korean-looking middle age man, arrived at the scene in his vehicle and asked why the Minister’s vehicle was parked in front of the gate. I explained to the manager that his security guard refused to open the gate for the Minister stating that he had had orders from them not to open the gate for anyone without their permission. The middle age manager stated that he and his fellow managers never gave such orders; and apologized to the Minister for such rudeness from their security guard.
It was at this time that Foday Sae started shaking from his head to his toes. He started apologizing to the Minister and to the middle age manager; and was sweating profusely, fearing that he would lose his job at that instant. Minister Gaima stood there and stated to Foday in Mende and translated into Creole that Foday’s bad behavior to him would have been enough to have him sacked from his job but he turned to the middle age Korean-looking manager and apologized on Foday’s behalf, stating that he, Gaima, would rather take the humiliation and embarrassment from Foday than see him lose his job which, the Minister added, is perhaps Foday’s only source of income from which he supports himself and his family. I was blown apart by such humility from a government Minister, given the history of how some government Ministers, particularly in Africa, would react crudely to such open humiliation by a subordinate. I stood there with goose bumps all over me.
We went back into his vehicle and the only thing I could say to him was this: “You made my day, Mr. Minister, and I hope others will emulate your kind of humility and compassion for the less privileged”. He looked at me, smiled, and he stated – “It was nothing, in terms of political and financial status, and President Koroma turned me into something politically and financially relevant. The least I can therefore do is to do the same for others for the rest of my life”.
This was the best part of my trip to Kailahun because I have, on several occasions, championed similar causes that seek to restore the dignity of the ordinary man; and nothing can be more honourable than this!
I therefore salute you, Minister Gaima for your sense of humility and compassion! I pray that God continues to bless and protect you.
Brima M. Turay, Asst. PRO; APC North America
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