Njundu Drammeh

An army of stags led by a lion is more formidable than an army of lions led by a stag’ says a Polish proverb.

Thus, leadership is very important. Everything rises and falls with leadership. A fish rots from the head down. It is also true that the effectiveness of an organisation or State is in direct proportionate to the effectiveness of its leader (J.C.Maxwell’s ‘Law of the Lid’).

Ours has been a classic case of leadership failure from the beginning of time. Otherwise what can explain the decadence of the 22 years of Jammeh rule and the apology which is being exhibited by the Barrow Government. Jammeh abused and misused the power and trust of the people and eventually became an unbearable, stifling, insufferable albatross around our neck.

The APRC higher echelon, at party and National Assembly levels, were doormats, mere cogs in the turning wheels of the hulking machinery. ‘How high should we jump?’ was their frequently asked question to their Caesar. Their docility, apathy and connivance, during the most traumatic episode of our history, speak volume of not only their betrayal but serious leadership failure. When the nation needed them the most, to speak truth to power and salvage the remaining relic of their dignity and respect, they cowered and sold us down the river.

New Gambia was supposed to be a complete break with the past. Even if everything wasn’t new, all things should be bright. But alas, in many parts we only have a ‘re-christening’ of the ‘who is who’- the old older changeth but yielded place to the old. And the overall leadership from State House? Yesterday some hope; today, apathy which borders on unconcern.

Like Nero playing on his fiddle while Rome burns. Where firmness is required, President Barrow is exhibiting quiescence or a certain ‘things would work out themselves’ attitude.

Leadership is also about taking tough, unpopular decisions when the circumstances demand them, as long as they are in the ‘best interests’ of the followers or group and according to due process.

A leader is not expected to fawn upon or pander to the caprices or every motive of the followers, especially where these are very well known to be detrimental to the very existence of the group.

A leader who is too pleasing will seldom be able to take firm decisions. Firmness is not tough talking. It is about taking firm, well informed decisions and carrying them out; it is about consistency, readiness to be ‘unpopular’ at times, ruffling feathers of friends and allies and paying a heavy price for the truth and what is in the best interest of the collective. Leadership is about courage too. A leader must have antithesis clearly marked: be firm and gentle; soft and tough.

The issuance of statements or press releases expressing regrets over the incidents which happened in Mankamang Kunda and Busumbala fall short of what I expect. I expect firm decision, a directive which orders the police to expeditiously investigate and bring to book those who are alleged to have mastermind and committed the ‘unholy’ acts. Neither the Office of the President nor the Ministry of Interior or even the IGP convened a press conference to address the burning issues. And if it is true that some people alerted the Police about the possibility of a fracas in Busumbala but failed to act on it, that is a serious failure of leadership.

A greater crisis though is the inability to confront the truth, to say it as it is. Political expediency or rather an eye on the next election seems to be given high premium. The story below encapsulates the dilemma.

The Truth Shop

I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw the name of the shop: The Truth Shop.

The saleswoman was very polite: what type of truth did I want to purchase, partial or whole? The whole truth, of course. No deceptions for me, no defences, no rationalisations. I wanted to buy the truth, plain and unadulterated. She waved me on to another side of the store.

The salesman there pointed to the price tag. ‘The price is very high, Sir,” he said.

“What is it?” I asked, determined to buy the whole truth, no matter what it cost.

“Your security, Sir,” he answered.

I came away with a heavy heart. I still need the safety of my unquestioned beliefs.

(From ‘Reflections on Leadership’)

The story resonates well with me, with what I see around me, with what I read or hear. I see the story in our leadership. Are they always willing to pay the heavy price, even if it is against them, even if it would take away their ‘security’ and ‘gains’? The political stakes might be too high. But the unvarnished, unblemished, unalloyed and hard truth will have to be said, somehow, somewhere, sometime.