Njundu Drammeh

There is something really infectious about politics, I mean realpolitik. Something that easily rubs on. Now I am beginning to understand the real import of the statement “politicians think of the next elections; statesmen think of the next generation”.

The President’s press conference on Tuesday is giving me a new glimpse into Adama Barrow, the man and President. The real Barrow. They say if you want to know a person, give him or her power. Nah…. Power only reveals the rest of what people do not really know about the person, Unknown-Know in JoHari Window. If you definitely want to know a person, look at how he talks and what he or she says in a state of angry, when in high dudgeon. In anger we betray ourselves; we reveal who we are; we say how or what we feel about someone’s else. Guess that is why we are admonished not to get angry.

The President was irritated when he was asked about the Dr. Ceesay statements about him. It was visible. He let down his guards and went ballistic; poured invectives and vituperations; cast aspersions, questioned sincerity; doubted patriotism; made serious broadsides against intellectuals. The President lost his cool.

Yes, the President is human. He has emotions and should be emotive when he wants to. He has a right to reply, and in this particular instance he exercised it as never before. But think about this: should the President of The Gambia, the holder of the highest post of the land and probably the most powerful man, throw back a stone at everyone who throws a pebble at him? The President won’t have time for the work the nation is paying him. And we would hold him accountable for the progress or lack of it in the implementation of the NDP.

Our President is somewhat thin skinned, irascible and highly combustible at the slightest provocation. He does not take criticisms in his stride, especially criticisms he thinks are uncharitable, unpalatable, unfair, undeserved. In Russia, America, where ever he has the platform, he questions the integrity and motive of those who call him out, who take him to task. A criticism is not supposed to a likeable thing, and not everyone should be expected to pander to our “likes”. And there is nothing like a positive or negative criticism- we have only criticisms, what i perceive an issue to be.A leader who expects unconditional loyalty from citizens, public approval and stamp of unquestioned acceptance of whatever he or she does or says, will eventual come to ruin. Such a leader is susceptible to betrayal. So President should know that….

Criticisms, or one’s instructed judgement on a matter, is one way through which citizens contribute their quota to national development.

Censure is the price that President Barrow will continue to pay for being the President, for getting his living out of the consolidated fund of the country. If the President thinks the heat is too much, then he should leave the kitchen. If the President does not want to be criticised, he should say nothing, do nothing.

A leader learns more from the criticisms of its opponents than from the eulogies of its supporters.

….But it also means that we who criticise, point out, nitpick, shout from the rooftop, disagree vehemently should do so without being disagreeable, without insults, without being acerbic or acidic, without questioning the intelligence of those we disagree with. We should be able to “depersonalise” our opinions by not attacking the person or personality. That hurts and is hurting. We disagree with what a person’s says or does; we love and respect the person.

But when we descend that low, and allow the animalistic instinct in us to take charge; when we let the heart rule the head; when we demean and debase people and lower them in the eyes of others, we also forfeit our right to be respected. The reverse golden rule becomes ” I will do unto you as you unto me”.

Aside the temporary hectoring from the President, I am worried about his revelation regarding his financial contributions to the UDP and the coalition. From his postures, he seemed to be alluding that he was the main financier of the UDP and the coalition, the chief bankroller.

Few questions or issues- were there other financiers? If yes, they need to come out and tell their stories too. According to a Press Release dated December 19, 2016, the Gambia Democracy Fund between 27 October 2016 and 28 November 2016 sent to one Fatomata CMJ Tambajang a total amount of US$ 102, 359 equivalent to GMD 4, 201, 425 (amounts included sending fees)- she was recipient of 9 of the 10 transfers made, one Alhajie S. Darboe the recipient of the last transfer. Was UDP supported from these transfers at the time that Barrow mentioned, when the UDP’s bill was GMD1.5M out of which 80% was paid of singlehandedly by Adama Barrow? The truth should be out. Otherwise some of us would simply accept that Barrow was the main financier of UDP, if a business the primaey shareholder. A needed audit exercise, may be.

– knowing that Barrow also used his own money to bankroll the UDP couldn’t a possible conflict of interest arise now that he is the President? Economic power is now blended with political power, and where these mix there is potential for conflict of interest to arise. We don’t know what business interests Barrow has declared, what shares he holds in what banks and businesses and who his business partners; my suspicion of possible conflict of interest remain nonetheless.

Our President is not just emboldened now but is growing assertive, vocal and gradually belonging to the race of “politicians”. The once cagey, reticent man is asserting himself, speaking his mind, pulling the punches. That is a good thing, if you ask me. We want a.”strong” President and now we are getting one, someone who knows how to flex his muscle. Interesting boxing matches i envisage in future.

We are building our democracy and part of that exercise is citizens holding duty bearers accountable through every available, including criticising what they do or say and how they act or don’t act. President Barrow should know that the price to pay for being President. Being thrown dirt and all and shaking them off and moving on. Expect more vitriolic criticisms. In this though, civility must not be thrown to the wind; issues, not persons, should be the butt of our disagreement. There is what is called dignity which no one wants dishonored.

Don’t belittle any person’s contributions to this change. Great oaks from little acorns grow. And if you think “small” is insignificant to be counted, you have never been in a dark room with a mosquito. The gnawing of the rats at the root of evil helped to make it ineffectual when it wanted to strike.

The battle to remove Jammeh did not start in 2016 although it was the defining moment. So don’t ask where he, she, him or her were? Ask rather where is The Gambia, where do we want it to be in the next 10 years, who can contribute to making that vision come true, how can we take it there? We don’t build a nation by demoralizing or demonizing each other. We build by lifting each other up.

If you think the President is “clueless”, take a walk down memory lane of African politics or read deeper the history of political leaders. He is studying “The Prince” and “The 48 Laws of Powers”. He is asserting his powers, controlling his narratives and becoming the “politician”. He has his eyes on the next elections and won’t tolerate any deflection. Haven’t you noticed a marked difference between Barrow of January 2017 and President Barrow of August 2018? The non-communicative is becoming assertive. By the time power saturates….