President Koroma’s 20 Months in Office: No jokes with ministers

21 May 2009 at 04:28 | 722 views

By Alhaji Jalloh, Back in Freetown.

Prior to his ascendancy to power, many Sierra Leoneans described President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma as "too gentle a politician with a weak character to take on national issues head-on."

Let me hasten to disagree with them.

When I met him a few months after he took over as President at his State House offices for an exclusive interview, I realized that he has excelled to the highest degree.

Apart from my interview with him, my occasional telephone discussions with him gave me an insight that the President has grown faster in politics than many of our former leaders. I also subscribe to Information and Communications Minister who also doubles as the official government spokesman, Ibrahim Ben Kargbo when he told me shortly before he left for Kampala, Uganda last Sunday that the President’s "decisiveness, thoughtfulness, watchfulness, compassion and the desire to succeed are the magic behind his rapid growth in national politics."

Again, as a journalist who has been following the political activities of this country over the years, I know before he became president, the political brilliance and maturity he displayed in opposition clearly contravened the wrong perceptions many Sierra Leoneans had about him.

I.B. Kargbo

I would also like to draw the attention of my readers to a statement by Ibrahim Ben Kargbo in a recent U.N radio programme when he said: “Most of we the senior ministers in government were surprised at the President recently when he was addressing us at the signing of another performance contract at State House. He exhibited a lot of maturity, he’s now different from his early days in office, he means business more than ever before and no joke about it, he addressed us in a very serious mood which is an indication that the days for treating government jobs with levity are over.”

Ministers Worried?

From what I.B. told me and the UN radio, I concluded that the President was in a very somber mood whilst addressing them and that explains exactly that the days for ministers or government functionaries using personal relationship with the president to play around are over. And immediately I returned from the US a couple of days ago, I was told by a senior cabinet minister that “The President now hardly picks up some of our telephone calls; not to talk about just bumping into his office as it used to happen before.”

The reason for that change I wouldn’t know, but this latest development, according to my information, has made some ministers worried for fear of losing their jobs. If you ask me, I would say there is no need for them to worry because if you perform the functions delegated to you by the president to his satisfaction, no need to worry yourself. Mr. President knows very well that the people who voted him in are keenly watching him and anynobody who attempts to undermine him or using the advantages of personal relationship should know that he or she will be shown the exit door. President Koroma is a leader who has self pride and would not like Sierra Leoneans to describe him as " Failed Leader".

Ernest As Opposition Leader

President Koroma worked hard to be where he is today. So, he can’t allow such things to happen. As opposition leader of the All People’s Congress (APC), Ernest Bai Koroma successfully reunited the party, after a marathon judicial battle that was amicably resolved out of court in less than four months to the 2007 presidential and parliamentary elections. That brilliant move by the President prepared the solid foundation for his overwhelming victory over SLPP’s Solomon Ekuma Berewa.

APC/PMDC Alliance

Besides, President Ernest Bai Koroma’s partnership with the leader of the People’s Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC), Charles Francis Margai, prior to the 2007 polls, enhanced APC’s alliance with PMDC during the Presidential run-off elections in September 2007, which ultimately returned APC to power. The election results also proved that President Ernest Bai Koroma was more popular than his party when his figures in the Presidential vote exceeded his party - The APC-by around 10%. After all these efforts, he can’t really allow that. And I totally agree with him.

Running the country as a business

One of President Ernest Bai Koroma’s pre-election promises was to run Sierra Leone as a business entity if given the mandate to lead the country. His pledge to run Sierra Leone as a business was well entrenched in his vast knowledge and experience in the private sector and the corporate world. It was against this backdrop that the President entered into performance contracts with his Ministers and Deputies.

The Bumbuna Retreat

The performance contracts and target for each ministerial assignment was signed in Bumbuna in January 2008, and the contracts ran for a year period, from the Bumbuna Retreat until January 2009. No wonde President Ernest Bai Koroma reshuffled his cabinet early this year, which affected some Ministers and Deputies who may have performed below their own targets as entailed in their contracts.
Many well meaning Sierra Leoneans believe that the innovative idea has improved the output in the performance of Ministers and Deputies in the APC Government. It’s also a clear indication of the president’s fervent belief in accountability and transparency.

Bumbuna Hydro

Financial cost notwithstanding, President Koroma’s appropriate and decisive move to provide the capital city of Freetown and its environs with electricity supply within ninety days of assuming power was unimaginable to most Freetonians who had been in complete blackout for years. Hopefully, Sierra Leoneans will enjoy round the clock electricity very soon when the Bumbuna Hydro dam will be full to capacity. The President had assured Sierra Leoneans that Bumbuna will start coming on during the rains and he’s doing everything in his powers to make it possible.

Suspended Kemoh Sesay

What is also impressive about President Koroma is his principle of zero tolerance to corruption, equal opportunity for all Sierra Leoneans and promoting a positive attitude among the population. When he said that there are no sacred cows in his cabinet, the doubting Thomases could not believe until he suspended one of his closed friends, the former Minister of Transport and Aviation, Ibrahim Kemoh Sesay, following the cocaine saga at the Lungi International Airport in July, 2008.
He has also worked hard to prioritize the fight against corruption by passing the new Anti-Corruption Act which grants full prosecutorial powers to the commission. There is no more political interference into the way the commission conducts itself and people have started treating it very seriously. And President Koroma has surely taken the lead in the fight against corruption by being the first African President to declare his assets to the commission.

After his declaration of assets, most of his government officials followed suit. Some have thought that the declaration process was a farce but the independence of the commission proved otherwise. Therefore, the President would like to explain to the people his achievements by 2012 and convince them why he would them to vote him in again if he’s interested in running again. And now that 20 months are gone since he took over, it’s high time he prepare before his first time ends. As the saying goes, " Failing to prepare is preparing to fail" and others say : "Time and Tide wait for no man"

( You can reach the writer for comments on 076-619-588 or email- assijay82@gmail.com)

Photo: President Koroma and journalist Alhaji Jalloh.