In Greek mythology, Icarus the son of the master craftsman, Daedalus, was warned by his father not to fly too close to the sun because his wings were made of wax. He ignored the advice and the inevitable happened. The moral of that story is about the pitfalls of complacency and hubris.
Mai Fatty’s, Gambia’s former interior minister, fall from grace bears a striking resemblance to the personal over-ambition of Icarus. Like Icarus, he flew too close to the son. Here was a young man that has the potential to be a future leader yet opted for the trappings of an African strongman. In his role as the keeper of peace, he became a controversial and divisive figure. He wasn’t afraid to wield his power where tact and diplomacy would have achieved much desired results.
If we judge Mai Fatty solely on his record in office, he should have been fired a long time ago. His cocksure arrogance and disregard for our democratic gains should have set alarming bells ringing. At the end, his inexperience and overreach were his undoing.
Mai’s sacking was greeted with shock and dismay. Suddenly, comparisons are being made with Jammeh. In fairness to Barrow, he has acted to assert his authority. It’s worth noting that we don’t know the reason( s) for his sacking other than he has been relieved from his post. He’s not an elected official. And it’s a prerogative of Barrow as president to hire and fire a minister without explanation. This is not undemocratic. We should trust Barrow’s judgement to make the right decisions.
However that’d have been the case in any other situation. But ours is unique. We are a fledgling democracy in transition and we have voted for a different status quo. We don’t want a throwback to the previous Jammeh administration’s cavalier approach to governance. He used to hire and fire public servants on a whim. And we don’t want capriciousness in this new administration.
By all indication, it’s clear that Mai was a power behind the throne. For him to be unceremoniously sacked speaks volumes. There’s more to it than meets the eye. In the absence of official explanation, rumours and conjectures are filling the void. There’s a viral post making rounds on social media alleging Mai Fatty’s sacking to his financial impropriety and abuse of office.
In the interest of transparency, Barrow should clarify as to the reason(s) for Mai’s dismissal. He should publish the letter of dismissal to put paid to all the rumours. If the allegations of financial impropriety and abuse of office against Mai Fatty are found to be true then he should be dismissed outright rather than reassigned. Public service is a privilege not a right. And a man with moral turpitude should never be entrusted with public office.
I’m hoping that Mai’s ousting will be an opportunity for the Barrow government to change its direction of travel. It’s not rocket science to see the correlation between his sacking and the granting of permit to the OccupyWestfield protesters.
We understand that the Barrow administration is making the best of a worse situation. Jammeh and his acolytes are still an existential threat to our nascent democracy. The government coffers are nearly empty from the previous government embezzlement and pilferage. But they are not crowning themselves in glory by an array of incompetent actions. The inability to articulate their developmental blueprint and programmes for the country. The naïve rehiring of former Jammeh’s enablers at the heart of the new administration leaves much to be desired.
The pussyfooting in embarking on real systemic change is frustrating. The 1997 Constitution for example is one of the most undemocratic constitution ever and yet the changes are piecemeal rather than whole. It’s mind boggling that political parties that used to be at the receiving end of a document of terror and discrimination are now upholding it as a strong pillar of our democracy. It’s a weak foundation to build a thriving and meaningful democracy on. The cloud of secrecy in the affairs of state, namely the recent donation of vehicle by an anonymous donor, doesn’t create an atmosphere of trust and probity.
No one is under any illusion that the Barrow administration has the silver bullet to institute the necessary systemic change in the next three or five years. It’ll take decades to build strong institutions and a thriving democracy. We just want them to make a start and lay the foundation stone. That’s what the Gambian people have voted for and are now demanding.
By Momodou Musa Touray