It should always be a privilege and honour to serve your country in whatever capacity, if you are called upon to do so by the Head of State or government. When that honour is placed on you, it is a sacred responsibility to serve your people and country, and in no way should be taken for granted. The Head of State in any country has the prerogative to hire or fire anyone he appoints to position of authority. And if at any point he chooses to relieve that person of that position, it is his right to do so, and one should be thankful for the chance to serve.
The recent cabinet appointments in Sierra Leone by president Ernest Bai Koroma, saw the Information and Communication Minister, I.B. Kargbo, not retaining his portfolio. To put it crudely, he was sacked. Reason for his sacking is not yet public knowledge, but after the recent article by a local rag-tag sheet called the Global Times, one can only assume that I.B. Kargbo did not take his forced exit lightly. The article was quite revealing. The Editor catalogued some of the former Minister’s so called achievements as if he was privy to such information. And the Editor happens to be the attack dog for the now defunct political union, the SLPP. The ignorance of the Editor was obvious as he may have inadvertently revealed that he was not the sole contributor to his rather shabby attempt to implicate the Head of State, when he suggested that President Koroma was an obstacle to the liberalization of the national gateway that facilitated the World Bank funding of the landing of the Fibre Optic Cable in Sierra Leone to the tune of US$33m.
The article has all the hallmarks of a disgruntled public servant who didn’t want to go down quietly, or alone. I.B. Kargbo seems prepared and determined to settle a score with the Head of State, and as the Global Times put it, “for his disgraceful sacking”. The Global Times Editor would want you to believe that Kargbo’s sacking has stunned the nation as he puts it, but no, far from it. In fact it brought massive relief to some media professionals and a lot of people who saw him preside over a derelict and shambolic media strategy that saw the very opposition media taking turns to fabricate lies with intent to damage the reputation of the sitting head of state, for political advantage. Kargbo was a spectator in the SLPP’s ruthless agenda to cause havoc to the state’s reputation. When an Information minister decides to use the opposition media apparatus as a personal tool to advance his own political ambitions, then you know something is crucially wrong. And on many occasions, the Global Times was the perfect conduit for Kargbo’s tabloid interviews, a camouflaged way to express himself and be heard.
Some of Kargbo’s supporters would say he helped transform the media landscape in Sierra Leone. But they will have difficulty providing any material evidence of a lasting legacy that is of any symbolic value. The Open Government Initiative has always been an integral part of President Ernest Bai Koroma’s Agenda for Change. It could be that I. B Kargbo may have played a role in its design, but the Global Times’ suggestion that he was the architect of such a project, is to say the least, a bit misleading. It is open knowledge that Kargbo was always at loggerhead with the State House Communications Unit, because he saw himself as the rightful authority to disseminate all information from government, and often threw tantrums if not informed prior to any official state house announcement. Kargbo carried out his duties with an air of authority that may not necessarily have conveyed his job description, but rather, exposing his true character.
There are rumours that Kargbo bragged that he was going to be the next Foreign Minister before the recent cabinet appointments. And these rumours of his desire to become the country’s chief diplomat have been floating for some time now, actually since the days when Zainab Bangura was at the helm of things at Foreign Affairs. It is no secret that Kargbo was not happy with Zainab’s appointment and was fervently keen on seeing her removed and be replaced by him. But the cabinet reshuffle that saw Zainab moved to another ministry didn’t make way for Kargbo to become Foreign Minister. This may have led to a more laid-back approach in defining an efficient media agenda that was in line with government policies. For any effective implementation of government policy, the media agenda has to be in tandem with it. But, Kargbo was only taking things as they come, a day at a time. Offering cosmetic solutions as he sees appropriate without taking into consideration long term ramifications.
Being the government’s voice is something the former minister is definitely going to miss. As the mouthpiece of the APC government, Kargbo was always in the limelight, and he relished the frequent opportunity to present the government’s case in the media. It provided a platform for him to showcase his influence. Wanting to be seen as the best defender of the presidency meant Kargbo would isolate the pro-APC media in order to take all the credit of the sometimes blistering assault on the useless opposition SLPP media machinery. I.B. Kargbo never once acknowledged publicly, well not to my knowledge, the fantastic work the pro-APC media has been doing to promote and protect the legacy of the presidency. Kargbo chose his media acquaintances very insidiously as the recent revelations show, with the SLPP media buffoon at the Global Times acting as his unofficial spokesman.
The I.B. Kargbo era is gone, and whatever chances that existed for a political comeback, has been blown into the wind by a rather unbridled and pugnacious attempt to hit back at his master who has provided Kargbo’s political lifeline for the past five years. At his age, Kargbo may well be advised to contemplate retirement, but whether his political ambitions have been well nourished over his tenure in cabinet, only time will tell. But being a journalist himself, settling down on the coffee table to pen down his memoirs may provide a fascinating insight into the workings of government, but that temptation may well be tampered by the risks of falling out with his political masters for good. And Kargbo knows too well that such acts will instigate his political obituary. There is still the unanswered questions over the World Bank funds for the fibre optic cable layout project, which despite the intricate attempt by his friends at the Standard Times to paint gloss over the seriousness of the matter, by portraying him as the victim not the perpetrator, may well come to hunt him as rumours are that the Anti-corruption commission is prepared to lift the cloud over the matter, and put Kargbo to the task. The legacy of President Koroma continues, but Kargbo and his henchmen may now begin to scramble for a way out to save his face, as his name seems to be waiting for the punitive act of the president’s red pen for lasting obliteration.
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