Leadership is Honesty and Conviction!

Madi Jabarteh

By: Madi Jorbateh 

It is grossly sad that two weeks after the President delivered his State of the Nation Address in which he refused to speak to the terrible socioeconomic conditions in the country, he would go to the world stage only to lament about the high cost of living, inflation, food, and energy crisis around the world. Why would the President ignore these dire conditions at home only to shed crocodile tears about them in front of the world? As if that was not enough, the President decided to unnecessarily carry tens of people including so-called presidential advisor Dou Sanno who thinks the State is a circus and a personal achievement.

While Dou Sanno does not have the required education and awareness and the experience and sophistication to appreciate the meaning and role of the state and his position, citizens should not make his buffoonery a laughing matter at all. As a so-called advisor at the highest level of the State, Dou plays a real and tangible role in influencing the President and therefore the decisions of the State which directly impact on the lives of Gambians. Hence if Dou does not understand the power and impact of his position and the State, citizens must be hugely concerned that such a person in such a position and the damage he could inflict on us.

Thus, let us tell Dou that he is not an advisor to a party leader. Rather he is an Advisor to the President of the Republic of the Gambia. That high responsibility requires that he tempers his conduct with decorum and humility, and refrain from politicizing that high office. As a presidential advisor, Dou has no business in the partisan activities of the President, nor should he be seen and heard in public! Presidential advisors are supposed to be high calibre experts who are behind the scenes providing analytical, objective, and honest advice and guidance to the head of state in the interest of the country. Knowing the unique and heavy role of a presidential advisor, it is beyond sadness that an uninformed and inexperienced man like Dou Sanno could be identified to serve in that role in any government!  

Therefore, what this tragedy indicates is the gross maladministration of Pres. Adama Barrow which is not only hugely costly but also far-reaching with serious ramifications for the future of this country. The failure of the President to speak to the poor service delivery in this country coupled with the high cost of living, the excruciating poverty, high crime rate, high youth unemployment, and the unending high-level corruption is indeed concerning. Who needs to tell the President about the daily struggles that Gambians endure in moving from one point to another due to the terrible conditions of streets that are now fully exposed by the rains!

What is even more concerning is for the President to defend the illegal airport tax when he knew from his own state ministries, agencies, and officials that the Securiport contract was both illegal and counterproductive to the economy of the Gambia. The illegality and discriminatory nature of this contract clearly exposes its corrupt nature. Otherwise, why should some travelers pay while others do not? Is Securiport services aimed for some air travelers and not others when all of them use the same airport? Why should a private company receive payments on behalf of an entire government?

To further expose this worrying nature of the President’s poor leadership is to have him ridicule and classify citizens who are protesting as belonging to a certain party. Pres. Barrow must be told that every Gambian has a right to demonstrate in favour or against his leadership and administration. What he needs to do in that case is to respond to the issues and concerns of citizens. To not only dismiss the voices of citizens but to also go further to label them as belonging to one party is totally irresponsible, divisive, and dangerous. The actions of those citizens were not unlawful. To confine them to one group is to unjustifiably demonize and criminalize them which is unbecoming of a president in a democratic society.

Strong and honest leaders do not dodge, divert, and distort issues and ridicule citizens. Rather they confront them to find a solution. If Barrow genuinely believes that his administration of this country is on the right track, what stopped him from going to the protesters to speak to them as their leader to hear their issues and concerns. Just as he had a rally with his supporters, he should also realize that those protesters are also citizens who equally deserve his attention and response even if they do not belong to his party. After all, each and every political party has a right to peacefully protest for or against anything, individually and collectively.

The state of the Gambia is not only terribly difficult, socially and economically, but it is also extremely worrisome politically. If Pres. Barrow’s Cabinet members and advisors and army of technocrats are not telling him that truth then he is being hugely misled. But Barrow has no excuse not to know. The New York protest alone should have been one opportunity to make him re-think about the quality of his administration even if he thinks they are UDP members. If Barrow had looked at the messages on the banners and placards, he cannot fail to notice these are the same perennial issues many observers have consistently raised since he took office in 2017. But to refuse to respond to these issues in his SONA, and to ridicule the cries of citizens at home and abroad and then create and blame scapegoats is most unfortunate.

Surely this is the typical attitude of leaders who bury their heads in the sand only to plunge their countries in crisis and harm everyone including themselves. Leaders who fail, and only to suffer humiliation at the end are those who surround themselves with sycophants and inept officials, advisors and surrogates who continue to sing lullabies in their ear. Let Barrow be informed that this country is fragile right now due to the very difficult social and economic conditions caused by his Government. People are suffering. It is no exaggeration to say that most Gambians are angry and frustrated. The path on which this country is moving is unsustainable and a clear threat to national cohesion and security. So long as he keeps unconscionable and ignorant people like Dou Sanno and Co close to him, he is digging a deep pit for himself sooner or later! Time will tell.


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