Imagine a patient has been suffering multiple chronic illnesses compounded by an unhealthy lifestyle for 50 years under various incompetent doctors and their assistants. Can a newly appointed doctor bring the person back to full health in 60 days? This is what many Gambians are expecting from the Barrow government now. It’s impossible, made worse in the absence of a united goverment and no clear majority in the National Assembly which has been a rubber stamp body for so many years.
It’s very easy to criticise from the outside. An example could be taken from football, with an imaginary team. The last manager was sacked twenty years ago and replaced by some one with no knowledge or experience of the game. He hijacked it for personal profit and fame, appointing players on the basis of family and loyalty. After driving the team to the very bottom of the league by fear and bribery, he refuses to go. When finally forced to leave, he loots the teams assets and bank accounts leaving the club bankrupt and in debt, with no credibility. No matter how competent or otherwise the new management, it is impossible to see a winning team within the first season. There is so much to be done that they would be lucky to get even a draw in their first season, let alone their first match.
Politics is the art of working with an inherited situation and getting the show back on the road TOWARDS progress. In the words of a Senegalese president “booga demm tahoolah demm”. Wanting to go will not make you go.
Looking at what President Barrow has inherited:-
A bankrupt and disfunctional economy plagued by years of staggering mismanagement and corruption
An angry and divided electorate with a broken political system
A divided and partisan judiciary charcterised by mercenary judges in high places
A polarised and politicised civil service
Abused and failed government institutions and parastatals
A poorly trained divided army which cannot be relied on until re-organised/disbanded then re-trained.
A huge number of incomptetent civil servants and functionaries in high places
Huge demoralization at every level
Just to mention a few issues.
Looking at President Barrow himself, who has no obvious qualities that make him suitably equipped for the office. A businessman with no preparation for the job either in education, character or experience. His main qualification as the coalition candidate was that he was the only acceptable candidate to the majority of people concerned. He is the ultimate compromise candidate dependent on his political appointees. For all his faults and subsequent demise, Jammeh had worked closely under Jawara and unbeknown to anyone, learned how to operate the levers of power using manipulation, deceit, coercion, bribery and intimidation. He also learned to suppress the truth and promote his personal popularity. His twenty years in power is a testimony to his evil skills. It’s much easier to be a dictator, and Barrow may be tempted to go down this route, but it is not a viable option in the new Gambia.
Barrow’s problem seems to be that he has little idea of what do to and is dependent on others around him. He has not yet tapped into his own character and skills which made him a successful businessman. It’s probably in him, but he has no self-confidence to assert his leadership. A businessman’s instinct is to buy support, influence and expertise. His currency as president is extended to include positions, lucrative business contracts, appoint family members to positions of influence and favour. In this he is acting in like Donald Trump, also from a commercial background. Both share the same problem in that government works very differently from business. Government decisions have to go through many layers of bureaucracy and must comply with a huge amount of laws. It’s a very steep learning curve for both, but Trump has the advantage in that he is a populist and is a master of manipulation. Barrow is not a “people person” but he must have management skills and the capacity to make decisions or he would not have succeeded in business. In short he must have “transferable skills” which could help him make the grade as a good president.
My purpose here is to bring things into a more realistic perspective, especially to the armchair politicians with no experience of government, management or even administration. Let alone the reality on the ground. Whatever we may feel, Barrow is the freely elected president, with the job of getting Gambia turned around and rebuilt after 20 years of a nightmare government. He needs our support and encouragement to form an effective government out of the the ruins of the previous regime. He is a million miles better than Jammeh at his best, so let’s give him a chance, 3 years at least.
Mr. President, you have had much advice, some good some less so. What I would encourage you to do is regain your confidence and assert your leadership. You are the head. Listen to what others have to say, weigh the whole picture then make a consensus decision. It is almost impossible to imagine a worse candidate than Jammeh yet he left his infamous mark. He was a failure in almost every field, including his chosen career as a soldier. You have a good track record in business, socially and in your family. Build on these and rise to the challenge facing you. God and the Gambian people have chosen you for the job. You CAN do it!! Jawara used to speak of the Gambian people as “MY people”. Think of every Gambian as a member of your extended family, whether they love or hate you. He was trained as a vet, but grew into a statesman. So can you sir!
Your biggest problem right now is the image of a weak (if inoffensive) leader and a lack of clear direction for your government. It is understandable, but needs to be addressed urgently. With the National Assembly elections this week it will be an opportunity to get a clear majority in the house and stamp your authority on the presidency. Richard Nixon was a small town lawyer made famous (and perhaps sponsored by Coca Cola). He knew wasn’t up to the job but chose his advisors carefully for their skills and expertise then managed them wisely. Ronald Reagan was an actor who learned to rule as Governor of California, likewise Arnold Schwarzenegger. Regan was famous for his lack of education, but he made up for it by having his advisors summarize every issue on a single sheet of paper in simple English that he could understand. He became one of America’s most popular presidents.
With the right attitude of humility and desire to improve the lives of every Gambian and person who lives within it’s borders YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE. Or you can simply ride the gravy train with a select few friends and family and be another missed opportunity to change the lives of over 1 million people and incur their hatred. The choice is yours. Personally I’m neither for or against you. I support everyone and everything that improves our country and the lives of those living in it.
Famagg Kumba NDoffene Joof
PS: Not looking for job, money, or anything from Gambia. Just it’s betterment!!
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