The shouting and political noises were all about the $ 32m Haja Afsatu Kabba paid to Income Electrix as Minister of Energy for the electrification of Freetown for just a year but not even the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) called for any serious investigation. For many the interpretation was her connection with the ‘most high’ His Excellency Ernest Bai Koroma. When the ACC began investigating Haja Afsatu Kabba for her actions as Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, and her subsequent trial and conviction, it is clearer that political miscalculations from many in the public including the Haja herself, political arrogance on the part of Haja and bad public relations, saw Olayinka walking out of the dock guilty of 5 count charges and asked to pay Le.450m within four weeks.
So many political miscalculations from members of the opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) about President Koroma’s position on the Afsatu Kabba corruption scandals were heard and read on the radio and newspapers respectively. “How could you expect the President to fry one of his dearest?” they asked. But those who kept asking are now silent. This source of political capital has turned out to be a hoax.
The SLPP also saw an opportunity to make a big catch after Haja Kabba is humiliated as she is now in the era of the All Peoples Congress (APC), but she has spoken loudly that her loyalty to the APC and President Ernest Koroma is unshakable.
The Haja herself never saw this coming considering her closeness to the party and the president. Not even the captain of her shadow PR team Sylvia Olayinka Blyden of Awareness Times deputized by Jonathan Leigh of Independent Observer expected their client would be convicted in the end. Even if they saw it, they pretended presumably it would be waived off by the President. But President Koroma has kept silent on the conviction of his former minister. Like the former health minister Tejan Koroma who was tried and convicted for misappropriation of public funds, Haja Afsatu Kabba says her loyalty to her party and president is constant.
When President Koroma flew to State House on the wings of the votes of the greater majority clothed in the APC attire-red, the first attempt to prepare his Agenda for Change was the setting up of the Transition Team. The job of this team was to examine the work of various ministries, departments and agencies of government. It was here that Afsatu began to demonstrate political arrogance by seeing all others, including the Vice President, as inferiors. She brushed off those she would have listened to in moving upwards in her political journey. Why would she think that her intention to be the running mate to Mr. Koroma before the 2007 elections now equates her to the Vice President? Why would she think her sometimes flawed decisions as a minister in President Koroma’s government supersede expert advice from professionals and academicians? Why would she even think in her widest dream she would have crumbled Lilian Lisk’s Okeke fishing company? Political arrogance, a theory one could draw from how Afsatu conducted herself as minister, explains it.
She lost her balance the very moment she saw that Mr. Ernest Koroma she was moving all around the country campaigning with in His Excellency Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma President of the Republic of Sierra Leone and husband of the First Lady Sia Nyama Koroma. No matter the closeness, there is always a fine line between Mr. President and just Mr. Koroma, but Afsatu ignored it and didn’t conform herself to enable her remain as one of the drivers of the Agenda for Change.
She flouted procurement rules in the Income Electrix bargain and went away with it. She fought Oryah Sankoh her deputy at fisheries and marine resources. An incident that even staff of the ministry were ashamed to explain was when she threw off her hijab the symbol of her closeness to Allah and began shouting in Krio “Oryah na chaff chaff you meet to Ernest…” meaning ‘Oryah you only met the chaff to the President as I have long taken the grain.”
Afsatu took the fight further by vowing to shut down the fishing business of Lilian Lisk but little did she realize then that her political miscalculations and arrogance could both fry her as it has happened today. To convulse on the altar at the outpouring of the anointing in the secret chamber of the most high is no blank cheque to go out fighting people to respect you. What ever convinced her to see herself as the only faithful worshipper of the most high who has had an encounter with the spirit?
Bad Public Relations
In all of these, her vuvuzelas were sounding the loudest even though the scoreboard showed the time was up. Some of the vuvuzela blowers decided to call unprecedented press conferences in the Law Courts Building.
Even when the public seem to forget about the Afsatu issue, the vuvuzelas have kept reminding us about Haja’s misappropriations. Have these vuvuzelas really won any match without a better performance from the players? Did the shadow PR team really know that distracting the public from an issue is also part of PR? Or did they presume that giving the public continuous update on the trial and opinionated views were a better way of winning sympathy for one standing trial for chopping money that could have been used for reducing poverty? These are some gray areas where the PR got it wrong. PR is about the truth or silence about the truth where your client is wrong while finding ways of ameliorating the damage. Sadly, the PR team accelerated the damage and their political friends failed to score any political goal. But the two consolation goals saw the match ending in a 5-2 defeat of Gbasi-Gbasi even though the Gbasi Gbasi supporters are still blowing the vuvuzelas.