Long Read:

You do not need to like everything about a person to perceive wisdom and strategy insofar as you are objective, open-minded, and ready to learn. You may then choose what is helpful and throw out what is not proper based on your principles.

President Barrow has designed to assure and overcome the trauma of a divided and fearful nation caught in a partisan hyperconflict in the era of fake news, tribalism, and toxic politics in his searing State of the Nation’s Address before the hallowed chamber that divides politicians and causes antipathy in the country. 

Thus, it could drag us back into an unspooling kleptocratic administration. Instead, however, President Adama Barrow’s administration still appears to be learning the ropes of statecraft and putting its house in order only to be struck by a shocking impotent technocracy, politicians, and empowering the incompetent and managerial leadership due to executive myopia.

President Adama Barrow State of the Nation Address’s speech of nine thousand and six words of lofty ideas lacked specific act, without patchy execution and abstract exalted goals with prideful rhetoric of unmatched by actions of not official corruption prosecution of those found guilty for corruption or being excused from duty.

And subsequent prosecution leading to return of stolen funds, asset recovery and freezing account (we even have the necessary laws in place in our criminal justice system), only then will Gambians take President Barrow’s legacy seriously. Otherwise, it “was as good as you were saying.”

All the great plans that President Barrow has for The Gambia will be undermined if the spirit of goodwill by the Gambians is broken. Unless corruption is not taken seriously in prosecuting corrupt people before elections, all that the President has said in his State of the Nation speech will lose its value. 

Five years is a long time to live on hope. On more than one occasion, President Barrow has addressed the Nation and promised to fix the country’s fundamentals once and for all. 

However, nothing has come of it. President Barrow makes promises that he cannot keep. I have read that scorched-earth speech delivered by president Barrow’s State of the Nation in the august assembly. 

Adama Barrow is frustrated by the toxic politicking that we have been treated to in recent years. Those who think they can recourse to the politics of brinkmanship as a way of boxing the President to sing a particular tune better think again because his skin is thicker than Yahya Jammeh. 

With the clock ticking furiously on his final term, crafting a legacy that he will be remembered for is front and center of his statecraft.

President Barrow’s half-measures harm the country and his authority as the Commander in Chief of the Gambia besides tormenting Gambians. 

National Assembly

Among other challenges, it creates an impression of a reluctant leader who enjoys the trappings of office but is not ready to get the work done.

In successive governments, the Gambia has been plundered of uncountable billions of Dalasis and foreign exchange while public officers and civil servants are negotiating loans and grants to purchase new expensive SUVs for themselves, their wives, and concubines. 

What are the intentions of the Anti-corruption law? We want the people to understand that poverty is absolute. 

I was puzzled because that line, spouted with nauseating instinctiveness, was reflective of a pernicious rigidity; a self-defeating mentality that effectively obliterates the possibility of a recalibration of strategy, not to mention the folly of pacifying the Gambia (that restive country has been unstable for more than two decades for God’s sakes).

President Barrow should sack more than 75 percent of his team down the line. They have not served him well with their open and embarrassing display of lack of color, grace, and competence. 

For a start, all the Ministers of State with portfolios should be fired and changed. They cannot plead that they are mere spare tires. It is their lack of initiative and ambition that has turned them into spare tires. 

Heads of agencies and parastatals should not be allowed to hang on to the myth that they are occupying contract or tenured positions. The President is constitutionally empowered to fire anyone when he is tired of their services. 

President Barrow makes promises that he cannot keep.

Many of them should be sent home, and that includes the horde of exceptional assistants and advisers doing nothing, occupying space and often causing problems.

Digesting the State of the Nation address, my immediate impulse was where empathy and compassion are lacking in today’s Gambia to solve a lot of our current societal problems? 

All the pillars of our nationhood were tested, and most were found wanting. Some collapsed, some were seriously weakened, while others were desecrated beyond repair. We are talking about the presidency, economy, security, and, most importantly, the people.

I was particularly disappointed and perplexed when President Barrow did not unpack the concept of political will to confront corruption and establish anti-corruption law. He promised an anti-corruption statute two years ago before the hallowed chamber. 

There are laws in our statute books to fight public sector corruption, racketeering, and thievery of the government treasury. 

I am not optimistic in the value of the President’s speech until the Gambia is purged the fear from the small group of elites hegemony designed to state capture with oligarchs -curdling designs of mega sleaze and plundering the Gambia resources. 

However, when the commander-in-chief repeated the same relentless oratorical line after the State of the Nation speech. I wondered again where is the compassion and empathy that was shattered.

That shattering of empathy and sympathy soon gave way to raw anger of three years of unemployment, corruption,bureaucratic incompetence and economic paralysis are the bane of President Barrow’s regime. 

As a result, the Gambia today cries for practical measures to guarantee that the government has seized their concerns.

 In the document, summarized as part of the National Development Plan, Adama Barrow’s vision for the Gambia promised to:

  1. Put food and clean water on every Gambian table.
  2. Ensure that every child in the Gambia gets a quality education.
  3. Create wealth.
  4. Ensure that every Gambian gets quality and affordable healthcare.
  5. Empower Gambian women to take their rightful place in developing this country.
  6. Keep the Gambia safe and secure both internally and externally.
  7. Develop a clear foreign relations and trade policy for the Gambia.

For all his chest-thumping about the resilience of the Gambian spirit, president Adama Barrow betrays his visceral ignorance of the Gambia conundrum and its socio-historic-political complexities. 

For one, the idea that the Gambia’s only hope for stability is our continued engagement and tolerance of corruption and political incompetence is laughably fallacious. 

President Yahya Jammeh tried and failed. If anti-corruption organizations report anything to go by, then that corruption campaign has been nothing short of a disaster. It has led to massive economic calamities that ultimately feed politicians than address them.

President Barrow’s anti-corruption approach to good governance matters because it offers his administration an opportunity to project power, regardless of whether it makes us people of good citizens of high moral standards or not. 

Nobody is suggesting for one moment that we should sit back as corruption destroys and denies Gambian citizens meaningful livings.

President Barrow means well, but he is being set up for failure by greedy people who think they own and can control the Gambia. 

However, I wonder why he did not mention the word “corruption” and why certain public officers were exculpated from actionable recommendations and findings of the commission culpable of corruption. 

What about other lawmakers and public servants whom we all know to receive bribes and participate in corruption, especially in the energy and mining sectors?

Although, President Barrow’s speech was unifying and showed the importance of pulling together as a people. However, even as we unite, people are tired of being broke. 

The Gambian people need money in their pockets. The gap between the rich and the poor has to be narrowed, but this cannot happen when the corrupt use their high position, tribes, religions, and attacks on investigative organs to stall the war on corruption.

Suppose 60% of what Adama Barrow has spoken of in good governance manufacturing and social-economic interventions is carried out. 

In that case, the Gambia will rise to even higher levels than “the projected 6.5% projected at 6.5%, but the pandemic outbreak compelled a revised GDP estimate of minus 1.5%. economic growth”. 

All in all, it was an encouraging speech, and it has shown the resolve of President Barrow has for transforming the Gambia. 

However, president Barrow needs to set a good foundation and set out lofty objectives and records that leave a legacy of high ideals and patchy execution like a visionary and transformative leader of the 21 century because the Gambia needs a President they can trust.

By Alagi Yorro Jallow

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