Njundu Drammeh

Dear President Barrow, Lend Me Your Ears

I hope you are making the right connections, negotiating the funds and signing the appropriate projects while attending the UNGA 2017?

Momentum is a leader’s best opportunity. You, nay New Gambia, is the darling of all and while this sunshine lasts, you should cash in but bearing in mind the best interests of The Gambia.

Beware the snares of some these multinationals, multilateral institutions and the hawks. They take advantage of new Governments and those in transition, throwing at them juicy loans but with poisonous strings. Am sure your technocrats are being mindful.

Mr. President, I learned you are accompanied by a high powered delegation to the UNGA 2017, tens of participants. There is a loud cry about the adverse effects of such trips on an economy which is not only at rock bottom but is broken and damaged.

You have been singing this dirge from the word go. Foreign, official trips must be made by the Government. It is a fact that it is Mahomet who must frequent the mountains, to seek support. And undertaking any such trip would require that public money is used to finance it. It is for the public good. Per diem or DSA must be paid. It is paid in Civil society, Government projects and private sector although at varying rates. But my query isn’t with the per diems or DSA paid.

My trouble is with the number of delegates, often the unnecessary, that huge number whose absence wouldn’t be felt and would not minus anything to the greatness of a meeting. They burden the treasury. Small and relevant is sexy and bearable. I have never been part of such delegation but those who have told me often half of the delegate do not attend any session, are out and about shopping or travel to visit friends and relatives in other States.

They rarely share trip reports even with their colleagues. Ask those who attend the annual U.N. Conference on the Status of Women. See the lobbying everyone engages in, to be part of the delegation. We should cut down the excess baggage; everything must be value for money.

Mr. President, I think to ensure austerity and prudence, every Minister, Permanent Secretary, Director et al should justify, in writing, why they must attend such meeting, expected outcomes and what the State would gain in concrete terms. You would come to realise they are often not the appropriate to attend.

The Ministry of Finance must insist on full retirement or liquidation of every per diem given. When officials know they would have to fully account for every butut given and spent, they are careful. Without such brakes in place, these foreign trips will continue to be money making expeditions. But Mr. President it falls on you to set the example, to both limit the number in a delegation and the frequency. In must-attend meetings we want to see our President; in urgent but not important ones, Mr. President should delegate representatives or his emissaries to or in these countries.

Mr. President, 1st December 2016 was supposed to signal a break with our inglorious past, the birth of New Gambia and New Gambia. However, I am deeply concerned about and troubled by the presence of high profile Jammeh enablers in your Government, not those who were unfairly dismissed and/or imprisoned for “disloyalty” or “disobedience” to Jammeh.

One schooled in feeding and running a dictatorship for 22 years cannot be expected to sincerely and democratically run a new order, one diametrically opposite to what they are accustomed to. Those who groomed the Jammeh dictatorship from the morning to the evening of its life cannot be trusted to successfully midwife a Barrow revolution or systems change. Pigs might fly but unlearning 22 years of servility, malfeasance and dictatorial tendencies is difficult. Resistance to change is all you get. Think about this, Mr President.

Mr. President, there is near universal unanimity that you are a finer gentleman with refined character, humility standing tall. You are exhibiting these in your daily dealings with people. Please remain who you are. Power is corrupting, especially Executive powers. There would be people in your cabal or inner circle who would want you to act like a giant, to misuse your strength. Refuse. Stand your ground. Uphold those same virtues we admire in you. You would have few friends but loyal ones. Listen to everyone but be your own man.

May your road continue to be rough. Ameen

Citizen Njundu