Posted on Jul 12, 2006
By Philip Neville
Sometimes I pity the Minister of Information, Professor Septimus Kaikai for finding himself in such a political predicament which he finds extremely difficult to avoid, though perhaps he may feel content with the situation for the simple reason that it is the predicament that is putting three square meals per day on his table.
It may be argued that the Economics Professor had least expected he would have found himself in such an awkward position at the time he was recruited in Washington for the position of Presidential Spokesman. He must have equated himself with people like Mike Curry, former Presidential Spokesman for William Jefferson Clinton and other past presidents of the United States of America. So when he was tipped that his new assignment was to speak on behalf of the newly appointed President of Sierra Leone, Alhaji Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, the Economics Professor abandoned his teaching job at The Morgan Stanley and Bowie State Universities, where he was tasked everyday to prepare lecture notes for American students who can report recalcitrant lecturers to heads of departments.
Incidentally, when the selection was made, the Economics Professor whole heartedly welcomed the news and with haste he rushed to pursue training at the White House, from where he developed skills in talking and how to turn black to white.
On the day he landed on soil of Sierra Leone, after some years in the white man’s land, the Economics Professor was received by the government, family members and friends who have lost sight of him for more than two decades.
With great ease and enthusiasm he played the role of a presidential spokesman after some months of relatively good tutorship from his White House instructor.
While in Sierra Leone the Economics Professor challenged the late RUF leader and defeated him with words, using every skill available to him. He was like a new born baby to President Kabbah, pampered and caressed for the beautiful image building exercise be undertook to project his new master (President Kabbah).
Those whom he left behind at the Morgan Stanley and Bowie State Universities like Dr. Mbayo, Chuka Onwumechili were proud of him despite his failure to maintain constant touch with them. But with news about rapid advances of the rebels into the city and the task the Economics Professor cum Presidential Spokesman had to confuse the minds of the rebels and project the image of the President, his colleagues understood what he was going through, so not much blame was placed on him. They would say Professor Kaikai is a busy man who is determined to prove himself that he is the right man to do the job. As the Americans would say, “he is the man for the job”.
Kabbah too was happy with his selection, that he has appointed a man who can challenge Foday Sankoh and the International Community through the British Broadcasting Service (BBC) and defeat them. Dr. Jonah too was happy to have somebody with such caliber by him.
The rapport, romance and pep talk among these people was enough to prepare a place for the former Economics Professor in the palace of Allah. In fact, he became a reference material at a very crucial moment in the life of the President, especially after the people of this nation became disgusted with President Kabbah after almost one year suffering in Guinea under very hostile and deplorable conditions.
Towards the 2002 election he became more close to His Excellency, moving up and down like a robot, singing beautiful songs of praise of a hard working president with vision for his people. Least he was expecting was a reward from the man he considered his bone and flesh.
The first shock he received that almost left him in a state of shamble was the secret of Kabbah’s presidential running mate whispered to him as the man to replace VP Joe Demby. He had his reservation about the news, not happy about it as he sees VP Demby as his blood and flesh so how can he play the Brutus— Caesar drama. However, his enthusiasm became uncontrollable as he dashed right, left and center trying to convince the electorates about the fulfillment of the President’s promises. The Lungi bridge, the railway, the housing loan scheme, the free custom duty will all come to reality this time. The president cares greatly about his people and wants to improve the standard of living of his people. “He is my President, your President and our President” he would chant for the people while the people would respond with applause and nodded their heads in approval of the message.
The Economics professor was in no way economical with his words; Kaikai would sing and chant to the people. “He is a genuine President with lots of plans for the people, so don’t allow this golden opportunity to slip off your fingers. He promised to end the war and has done that, the next fight is against corruption so that your lives would be changed,” Kaikai again trumpeting the political ideology of his master.
Prior to the 2002 Presidential and Parliamentary elections, the Spokesman began to observe an unimaginable distance between him and the man whose political agenda and image he had promoted and by the time the election took place, the position of running mate became a bitter pill for him to swallow. Not he alone, the then vice President Dr. Joe Demby, Mr. B. Dauda, alias “Jam Body” Mohamed Daramy and a handful of others were left gaping, looking at each other with dismay and surprises because of the dimension the presidential running mate took. Each of them whose appetite had been watered was asking, “Even you?”
For the professor, he would have been sacked but nature pitied him and was posted to the Ministry of Information as the new minister after Dr. Blake had received his own baptism from his New York friend and brother.
As the Minister of Information, the position of SLPP Chairman Kailahun district was won by him, a position usurped from him by Professor Ngevao after few months. A petition letter was filed by the Minister of information Chief for the attention of the Establishment Secretary quoting relevant sections from the civil service code that debars Professor Ngevao from holding the position of Party Chairman. The former presidential spokesman won the petition but up to this time of writing no action was taken to reverse the decision.
Sadly, this is the very professor who goes to the UN Radio every Saturday to defend the system that has taught him an unforgettable lesson, a lesson that almost reduced him to a grain of sand in the midst of others.
But what baffles this writer and a lot of other Sierra Leoneans is the fact that Professor Kaikai is not defending the nation nor its people but a government that has not only disappointed the people but has cleverly and successfully dumped him in a pit that he is finding very hard to climb to the top again for people to see him. At any time, he opens his month to talk he reduces firstly his personnel pride and the confidence the people of this nation had once reposed on him. The same messages he preached to the people in the early part of 2000 are the same messages he is preaching, making himself monotonous, dull and uninteresting.
The man who was once loved and liked by most people including journalists has suddenly become one of the most hated in the Kabbah administration. This is not because he is called Professor Septimus Kaikai but because he is still defending a failed system. A system that has failed and disappointed him woefully. A system that has no future for the Professor himself, yet alone the people whose limbs were chopped, property destroyed, human beings massacred as a result of the failed system that Kaikai and his team contributed to. A system that the people have no faith in that could rescue them in the event something horrible was to take place. A system that has reduced the personal integrity of the professor. A system that has almost dented his professorship politically.
Listen to the professor on Saturday defending a system that has almost destroyed him, deprived him of a better status and contributed to worsen his health condition. His colleagues in America are perplexed, wondering as to why this fine intellectual material has allowed himself to be dumped and battered by a system that he continues to defend, thus making mockery of credibility.
Just few weeks back the same professor was at the UN Radio station telling the people of this country that his government is going to provide as a temporal measure, “bowzers” of water to the deprived people of the city of Freetown.
It may sound ridiculous for a professor of repute and good standing who was once admired by students of the great world (America) to contaminate the minds of people in a third world country that his government is about to cushion their plight for water with the introduction of “bowzers” of water that will be inadequate to even supply a street in Maryland where he was residing prior to his engagement as presidential spokesman and Minister of Information. The question is when did Sierra Leone become a Cape Verde or a desert state? That its people should line up on the streets waiting for water supply from a bowzer?.
Past Saturdays on the same programme, the same professor highlighted the achievements of the government since 1996 to date. He mentioned Schools, Health Centres, Community Centres, The Masiaka –Makeni highway and so forth. Just one simple question, if the professor has faith in the system and believes that the government has built schools, why did he not bring his children here but prefers to leave them in the United States where they can acquire good and quality education? Also, in the area of health centres when there are few doctors in the country, why did he prefer to go for medical treatment in the United States where he can boast of an improved and dependable medical facility?
It is not only journalists who have become fed up with the utterances of the professor but even the ordinary man on the streets who bears the brunt of the failed system that the professor is promoting. How much as budget allocat1on was given to the minister to manage the affairs of the Ministry of Information? Just six million Leones that cannot even be used by a media house for a week, but here is a professor cultivating enemies rather than friends.
How can a university professor who spent years to acquire his professorship defend a government that cannot provide electricity for its people, good pipe borne water, good roads, good and competitive education for the children who are the future leaders of the country? History will have to judge him, for Socrates once said “Man is born free but wherever he goes he is in chains”. Will the Professor remain in chain.