When he appointed his ministers, I am told that President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria requested that they sign an undated letter of resignation. This made it easier to sack them whenever they failed to perform to reach his expectation. Hence a reshuffle became much easier. To save the people from becoming hungrier.
At a time when more and more people are getting hungry here, a reshuffle is what many want to hear. And who will listen to their cry, as hardship leaves them high and dry? It seems someone is, for fear that should he not, they will not listen to his. And that is the president, who yesterday set a precedent.
When President Ernest Bai Koroma was going into a contractual agreement with his ministers, little did the latter realise that heady days would be here one day if anyone falters. For some of those contractors that day of reckoning seems to be near, if not already here.
Less than one year in office, the president has recoiled to the four corners of his State House cabin to look at the contract and the way it has been implemented or sent to the bin. Even though we have not been made to know the exact wording of the contract – it is very important that we do know it – it is a basis for pushing a minister who does not meet his contractual agreement and refuses to jump. They should be pushed.
The president’s meeting yesterday with his ministers might have left a bitter taste in their mouths. But it is one for which we should all be tasting honey, even if we have not brushed our tongue in a long time. But the honeycomb will stay in our mouths much longer, only when the president offloads the idle passengers he spoke about that are on his ship.
The word GLOBAL, I dare say, has become a fig leaf for many government functionaries. Even my illiterate granny in the village can now say it, never mind the variation in pronunciation. Agreed that there is a stormy situation for the world economy; but harping on it has been serving as an alibi for many a government ministers who bask in their status not thinking, not acting. And this was pointed out very clearly to them by the president.
It is that same attitude of nothing-doing and all-wanting that has prompted some of the ministers to do all in their power to lobby the anti-corruption bill out of parliament or have it butchered to suit their convenience. A bill that has gone through cabinet scrutiny. They could not turn the head of the president against the bill in cabinet hence they are using unorthodox and anti-people means to have it killed. They wallow in the notion that as bigwigs of the ruling party, they are untouchables however recklessly they behave. They even fight among each other, at the expense of service-delivery. It did not take the former British Prime Minister a day to notice it, and he sounded it to them in a meeting. And the president must act now before the self-seeking ministers rock the boat for him and for us all.
It is amazing how they have been thinking about elections that are more than four years away, instead of taking time to think about the welfare of the people. Ernest Koroma is serving out his second and final term as party leader, they say, and is therefore not eligible to run again for the presidency come 2012. Kicking off the jockeying. But the president is not without blame.
Many a time we have given excuses exonerating our president and implicating those around him. We said it about Joseph Saidu Momoh, and we did the same about Tejan Kabbah. Now we are saying it about Ernest Koroma. It is an excuse that is as clay-legged as it is patronising. And President Koroma must guard against it. After all the buck stops with him. Being oblivious of that is like reading in the dark.
With six weeks standing between him and his first anniversary in office, the president must take a sober reflection. As he himself put it yesterday, “A year in office is long enough for a minister to have taken care of the initial settling down problems … and create… initial impressions that are expected…”
At times one sits and wonders whether we have ministers in certain ministries. Even the size of the cabinet needs reviewing. Agreed that the euphoria was all over the place in September and October and the jockeying hijacked the president as many bayed for positions. The dust has settled somewhat, and we must face brass task. Soul-searching we must do. Why does every minister need a deputy for example?
If there are difficulties, the captain of a ship should offload to stabilise the vessel to rescue the rest of the passengers. “The captain must take a hard decision”. (Courtesy Mr President). These are paraphrasing and summarising him. And he has to act fast lest his epilogue comes before his prologue, or his epitaph written before his death.
The APC must not see itself as being more powerful than the president. You do not have to like Tejan Kabbah to agree that he was far more decisive in dealing with his party in his second than during his first. That is not to say he did not allow some of his appointees to dabble in state resources. One of his problems, apart from some of the sacred cows he reared, was that he took too long to tell the SLPP to excuse him to govern the country.
When the president of Malawi, Bingu WA Mutharika was faced with the kleptocratic tendencies of his Malawi Congress Party, he swam against a tide many felt would drown him. But his sincerity of purpose brought the majority of Malawians around him. A party only brings down a leader if he is worse than the party. And the earlier the APC comes to grips with the reality that they owe their victory in most part to the individuality of Ernest Koroma the better. The president must be allowed to save the boat, and not allow a few people to rock it, while he is captain. By Umaru Fofana