“L’etat c’est moi” (‘I am the state’) said Louis XIV of France.
“Dhekabi maako morm” Shouted Yaya Jammeh.
“I am more powerful than Yaya Jammeh. I have the Police, SIS, Army and ECOMIG” Blasted Adama Barrow.
Words matter. Words matter more, especially when they are spoken in anger or in attempt to show off how powerful one is. In either sitiation, the spoken words betray one’s true character and the future orientation.
President Barrow is right that he is the most powerful person in The Gambia. He is the Chief Executive, the executive powers of the Government resides in him as the President. The members of Cabinet enjoy their powers at his behest and pleasure. He is the appointing or nominating officer of most of our very important and influential positions.
The President is the Commander-in-Chief of The Gambia. The chiefs of our security forces might owe their allegiance to The Gambia but certainly enjoy their posts at the pleasure of the President. The instruments of torture, including the prisons, are at his disposal as well. Thus, the President of The Gambia is, de jure and de facto, a very powerful person.
Notwithstanding, I think the President is either not a very good student of political history or not a very good student at reading the minds of Gambians and the trends in world politics. The political facts and social conditions of yesterday and today, of what enabled Yaya to ride roughshod over the lives of Gambians for 22 years and what gave rise to Barrow and his ascendancy to the presidency, are diametrically opposite.
That he is because the people of The Gambia had made a date with destiny, that “NEVER AGAIN” will they allow another political leader to pulverize them, bully them into total submission, violate their rights with impunity, be super man or a Goliath over them.
How soon President Barrow can forget that emphatic warning shot made by the people on 1st December 2016 is mind boggling. The vote for him wasn’t just to oust Jammeh and make him President; it was to make a complete break with the past, irreversibly and irretrievably. We have crossed the Rubicon, the point of non-return and President Barrow cannot pretend he doesn’t know that unadorned truth.
The President ought to know that whatever powers he has or however powerful he thinks he is, in the New Gambia it is rule of law and not rule by law or rule by man. There are men and women who are guarding the “rule of law” and won’t allow its abuse; that no matter how high one is, the law is above everyone, including the President.
Much more, this particular statement of the President, his recent public utterings, the power struggles and political shenanigans being played behind the scene, tell me that in the new Constitution we must insist on both a limited Government and greatly restricted powers of the President, powers that are subject to checks by the legislature and judiciary.
The President’s statement also bring in focus the pride of place that the rule of law must have in our new Constitution and the ironclad safeguards that must be put around individual rights, freedoms and liberties.
It is my belief that the President’s statement is not a slip of tongue or the saying of the obvious or a show of democratic tendency; it is a deliberate, well calculated bravado and message directed at his critics and perceived detractors and opposite camps, to silent, intimidate, send shudders down the spines through a reminder of age of brutality. It is a miscalculation, for “Never Again” has come to stay. Anyone in doubt should try the prowess and patience of the people.
How a once soft spoken man, admired for his humility, has become a hector is intriguing but not surprising. Give a person power and he or she manifests that true character.
Interesting times ahead.