Sierra Leone’s Information Ministry’s impressive performance

I B Kargbo (centre)

John Baimba Sesay – Beijing, China

7 January 2012

Ronald Reagan was the 40th President of the United States (1981–1989). He has always been remembered as the great communicator, as a result of his simple ability to speak to the hearts of Americans and connect with the people. The oratory qualities of President Barrack Obama are of outstanding qualities.

Leadership, it is often said, is about inspiring others through communicating a positive message, which others listen to willingly and then embrace. Good communicators are people who make serious impact by convincing people on issues.

Information is power. This is what President Koroma believes in and today his government has succeeded in effectively running the affairs of the State – from the viewpoint of him and his government, having successfully handled the information and communication aspect of governance.

In democracy and good governance, the importance of information dissemination could not be overstated, especially from the perspective of wanting to ensure the governed are always part and parcel of a country’s decision making process.

We have seen how governments have been elected and how they have woefully failed to effectively use the power of information dissemination, in managing the affairs of the State.

For some, the only way they think they can succeed in their governance effort is by suppressing media practitioners, who are often seen as opponents, especially the critical press, through the use of draconic laws that are not favorable to the practice of journalism.

A good example, being the Public Order Act 1965, which successive governments in Sierra Leone, with the exception of the present government, have used in silencing the media.

The SLPP led government of Dr. Ahmed Tejan Kabba is a perfect example of a government that did not give value to effectively handling communication and information dissemination – key elements of good governance and sustenance of democratic credentials.

When the Kabba led government was in power, we saw the arrest and jailing of several media practitioners: Paul Kamara, Olu Gordon and even the murder of Harry Hassan Yansaneh, a young and promising journalist at that time.

In fact, during that era, the most under-utilized Ministry was – in my view, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, which was headed by Professor Septimus Kaikai. Kaikai was not only frustrated, but was literally rendered non-functional, since the resources that were needed were never provided for the Ministry by the government.

This today, is a different ball game altogether under the Presidency of Ernest Bai Koroma, who has not only added value to the power of information dissemination, but has given a new meaning to the concept of public communication in democracy and good governance.

Today, the government has been successfully taken to the door steps of people, even in remote villages as far as Kapethe village in Bombali district or a village in the Kailahun district.

I B Kargbo (centre)

Today, the poor Vandi Sandy in Kailahun can tell you what the government is doing, as a result of the effectiveness of the Ministry of Information and Communication headed by Ibrahim Ben Kargbo, with the great and outstanding support provided by Sheka Tarawali – aka Shekito, being the deputy.

These two gentlemen have successfully brought a new direction in the Ministry today, that even at the level of Ministries, Departments and Agencies, we feel the effectiveness of power and information dissemination with the presence of information officers.

The manner in which the district councils are working today is being felt by all and sundry, as most of them have seen the need to not only employ Information Officers, but to create the enabling environment for them to fully and effectively perform their functions.

There is every need for Minister I. B. Kargbo and his team of dedicated workforce at the Ministry to be commended because, the fact that the Ministry has been able to effectively continue with its weekly press briefings for the last four years, shows that a lot has been achieved by the government in terms of information dissemination.

I. B. Kargbo’s oratory skills, coupled with his power to convince people on issues of national development, have been of great success in the sustenance of the APC rule.

He has been a good Minister and what we have also seen, in terms of the decision by the President to blend IB’s ability to properly communicate issues to people, with the ability of Sheka Tarawali in terms of writing and addressing issues in the media, is just too great and superb.

Shekito and IB must be the flagship of the success of this government, in terms of propagating government policies. Jim Rohn, an America Businessman once said, thus: “Take advantage of every opportunity to practice your communication skills so that when important occasions arise, you will have the gift, the style, the sharpness, the clarity, and the emotions to affect other people. “

For our Ministers at the Ministry of Information, they have demonstrated that with the political will, (which is now being provided by President Koroma) they can move mountains in propagating government’s Agenda for Change and in the rebranding effort of this government.

President Koroma, as I said earlier, has brought a new meaning to what an Information Ministry should look like. It is through this Ministry that even other MDAs have been communicating their successes to the general public, especially through the regular weekly press briefings.

The fact must be stated also, that since this government came to power, almost five years ago, no journalist has ever been arrested, not to talk of being jailed. President Koroma’s love for the media started years back – since his days in opposition.

In a work titled, “The Developmental Challenges of President Ernest Bai Koroma Significantly Transcend His Posture For A Clear Second Term Victory In 2012”, Ahmed Kanu wrote, thus: “In the aspect of freedom of the press, President Koroma has brought the reputation of Sierra Leone into the higher ranks of countries known for freedom of the press always thriving for democracy. So far, under his leadership, not one journalist has been arrested and detained through his direct orders for reporting libellous information.”

“He believes in the judiciary to adjudicate libel issues. Most importantly, President Koroma is with the conviction that a free press supports democracy and good governance. He continues to demonstrate that, freedom of information is about the people’s voice which is aptly represented by the media…” Indeed, President Koroma is convinced that with press freedom he is bound to succeed in his Presidency.

Today, there has been a unique responsibility that has been assigned to media practitioners by President Koroma, in contributing towards the country’s rebranding efforts. With the presence of media practitioners in the nation’s foreign missions, daily happenings in our missions abroad are now frequently brought to our footsteps.

From Nigeria to Washington, UK, Ethiopia to Liberia, and from Germany to Ghana and to China, and other diplomatic missions, we keep getting information on daily happenings, thus contributing to the rebranding efforts and supporting the Agenda for Change. This is the effectiveness of an Information Ministry in a post war country like Sierra Leone.



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