Madi Jobarteh

I demand that Chief Servant Adama Barrow withdraws his question, ‘Where Were You’ and apologise to Dr. Ismaila Ceesay and to all Gambians. He has overstepped his constitutional bounds as an elected president by directly and actively infringing on the constitutional right of citizens to question him. Barrow did not grant that right and he cannot take away that right hence he must respect and uphold that right.

There is news that Barrow donated 11 million dalasi to this year’s pilgrims. Should we question this or should we not? According to the narrative, ‘Where Were You’ this apparent act of corruption perpetrated by Barrow should not be questioned because one did not question Yaya Jammeh. This is why, ‘Where Were You’ is the biggest threat to our democracy because it disempowers citizens from holding their elected officials to account hence undermine good governance.

One may ignore this question when it comes from an ordinary private citizen. But when the president or any elected public official raises the question it is bigger and more severe. This is because the president is no ordinary citizen. The president has power and influence on not only the generality of citizens but also on other public officials and institutions. The president’s words and position on issues has great impact on how the rest of public officials and institutions may behave.

By making certain statements or taking certain positions the president could cause some other public officials or institutions to therefore abuse their powers by clamping down on citizens. We had seen under Jammeh how certain security officers, civil servants or public institutions subjected fellow citizens to all forms of harassment and arbitrariness just because they think they were following the words, wishes, ideas or likes or dislikes of Yaya Jammeh. Therefore, if Barrow questions citizens on their past political activities it means he is directly seeking to not only determine which citizen should question him or not but also, he is endangering the security and lives of those citizens.

Dr. Ismaila Ceesay, like any other citizen is entirely within the limits of the law and his rights as a citizen to question, nicely or rudely, the performance and competence of the Chief Servant Adama Barrow. What is expected from the Chief Servant is to humbly and respectfully respond to that citizen by explaining his functions, performance and what he knows or does not know. It is utterly wrong for Barrow to therefore unleash an attack against Dr. Ceesay by narrating what he, Barrow did in the past and what Dr. Ceesay did not do in the past, and then ignore the real question.

Is Barrow telling us that no citizen should question, doubt, criticise, condemn or disagree with him? By asking a citizen where he or she was means Adama Barrow now wishes to silence voices that wish to hold him to account. Unless if he thinks he is an absolute monarch or god, he must not only accept or allow to be questioned, but also, he must encourage that by creating the avenues for citizens to question everything about him, politely or impolitely.

Today Barrow has donated 11 million dalasi to some citizens for a particular religious purpose. What about other religions to which other Gambians also belong? Why did he not spend that money in our public hospitals? Is Barrow saying that no one should question his ‘donation’ just because in his mind those who question him were silent under Jammeh or did not ‘build anything’? Should a citizen have to be vocal under Jammeh first in order to qualify to question Barrow today? Should our duty as citizens in holding our elected officials to account be determined or judged by what we did in the past or not?

Barrow must understand that even key Yaya Jammeh enablers have a right and duty to question elected officials in the Gambia Government. This is because those enablers are still citizens which cannot be lost just because one aided and abetted dictatorship. Of course, we hold those enablers to account for their own decisions and actions in the past as public officials but certainly they can question the government of the day.

Considering the above, Adama Barrow must apologise to all Gambians! Apology is awaited.

Watch out for Part 2 – The Republic, The Citizen and Accountability.

For The Gambia Our Homeland.