I wish you and your family a blissful New Year and also wish you in advance a successful hosting of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) summit slated to for November 2019. This summit is a fantastic opportunity for the country in terms of infrastructures, tourism and exposure the country will get before, during and after the summit. For the sake of the country, we must all work together to make this a successful summit. Mr President you should do well to avoid it been politicised like that of the AU summit the country hosted in 2006. It’s an international event which we should host with great grandeur to the benefits of the entire nation.
Mr President, I think you may want to agree with me that politically 2018 was a year you may not remember fondly. Your wife Fatou Bah-Barrow foundation was marred in controversy which is not yet satisfactorily explain to Gambians as to the source of the mysterious money deposited in her foundation’s account. Yourself, Mr President, you came under heavy criticism for allowing the few opportunists to use your good name in a youth movement that would have had a better use at the National Youth Service Scheme to help propagate your message of ’youth empowerment’ than in its current form.
Also, Mr President, using state money to effectively bribe members of the second most important branch of the state, the National Assembly. The farcical and undemocratic manner in which the Speaker and some undignified members of the National Assembly conducted and concluded the Supplementary Appropriation Bill process. z Your proposal to build 60 mosques in a year, as well as your ill advice announcement of gifts given to Gambian Pilgrims, which were misleading and untrue, was not well received by the people. And above all, your insults to Gambians living in the Diaspora by comparing them to “goat tails” in effect ‘useless’ are few of the mishaps you will not want to be repeated.
Mr Prseident, Gambians voted in December 2016 Presidential elections in masses to end Jammeh’s reign of terror not because of his tribe or religious belief, we voted Jammeh out because of his dictatorship that he instituted in the country for far too long. We voted against Jammeh because of the ways and manners in which he was running the country and his constant humiliation and denigration of the good people of our country. How do you think Mr President we can allow anyone including yourself to come anywhere remotely close to such a tendency and just watch it without saying or doing anything? We can’t Mr President. We voted you in as our president in other to institute democracy and the rule of law that nobody including yourself can be above.
Mr President, democracy is a participatory process which allows people to participate and contribute in the running of their nation. This may include some people agreeing with you and your policies and others disagreeing. Mr President, but that will not mean those who disagree with you are any less patriotic than those who agree with you. However, Mr President, your recent threats of sacking people from their jobs and or arresting people who disagree with you and your policies is the exact opposite of the reasons why you have been elected as our president. Mr President, do not take our humility and patients as a weakness and remember this is what your predecessor took for granted and when Gambians had had enough we voted him out with all his perceived powers and might. Mr President, the same can be true for you without any hesitation because if you think we are politically unconscious, you are thinking so at your own peril.
Meanwhile, Mr President, the National Development Plan (NDP) that your government launched last year is an important blueprint for the advancement of the country’s developmental needs. However, it should be noted that for it to be successfully implemented it should be seen as the nation’s plan not ‘President Barrow’s’ just as President Sir Dawda Jawara did in 1977 with his own NDP called “TESITO”.
Besides that Mr President, there had to be a personal and public commitment to financial discipline. As President Jawara said in his book ‘Kairaba’: “we were in a situation in which we had so much to do with so little to do with. We could not afford luxuries; nor could we afford waste and fiscal intemperance. Sadly Mr President, after over 50 years of independence the same is true today. You have said it time and again that when you took over in January 2017, Gambia had only two weeks of import cover which goes to show how bad the state of the country’s economy was.
However, Mr President, with all the panels of enquiries you had set up to investigate small or big incidents, private jets you hired to travel to all those meetings and summits, the effects on the economy of the convoys that follow you when travelling within the country, all seems to me, you are beginning to forget the principles of fiscal discipline that yourself and your finance minister announced. Mr President, since it is a fact that the country up to today relies so heavily on aid to plug the gaps in its fiscal budget, I think you should look at ways to reduce the size of the government and its budget rather than hiring all those presidential advisors, most of whom are there for themselves and your political agenda than for the country.
Mr President, recently your tourism minister Hon Hamat NK Bah made some unfortunate remarks in which he warned: “we should not push the president against the wall.” Meanwhile, the head of the State Intelligence Services (SIS) Mr Ousman Sowe, also went on record to condemn people usage of social media as a national threat. Mr President these are new trends in your government but old tricks dictators used towards censorship and dictatorship. You should remember that Mr president, Gambians have gone beyond fear since we ended Jammeh’s reign of terror without a single bullet been fired so no amount of threat and coercion from you, your ministers and or security apparatus will intimidate us again to relinquish our rights to voice out our dissatisfaction in your administration.
Mr President, you are in your third year as the head of state of this small but great country of ours, and I believe you have seen the rise in resentment against some of your recent moves compare to the previous year. Now you may wonder why? The simple answers to this complicated question lie in the question you asked yourself when you said: “where were Dr Ceesays and some of your critics when Jammeh was brutalising Gambians?” Mr President, I can tell you some were in the Gambia, some were in the diaspora, however, you are being criticised not because you are Barrow ‘the businessman’, but because you are Barrow ‘the President’.
Perhaps, Mr President, we also need to ask, where were you when Solo Sandeng and Co were being killed, tortured and Jailed, where were you, Mr President, when the entire executive of the party you were a treasurer to where marching to demand the release of Solo Sandeng and Co.? Where were you Mr President, when men, women, young and old were going to attend court sittings of their fellow strugglers? Of course, only yourself Mr President could answer that but from the thousands of pictures and videos that were posted online, you were nowhere to be seen.
Meanwhile, Mr President, because you have surrounded yourself with people that helped keep Jammeh in power to kill, torture, maim and humiliate Gambians and when the going was tough it was the same people who went against the will of the people and supported Jammeh till the last minute of his stay in the Gambia. Because it was you Mr President who acknowledged the contributions Gambians both at home and the diaspora made towards the coalition’s efforts to outs Jammeh.
Mr President, you may remember earlier in 2017, you were asked: “would you employ any of Jammeh’s former ministers?” Your answer was: “No because you have enough talents within the coalition and the country, you will not need any of those.” However, Mr President, without any form of justice or reparation for the victims of Jammeh yet, you have already broken your promise by hiring and surrounding yourself with the same people like Seedy Njie, Mambureh Njie and Momodou Tangara et al. who aided Jammeh in his crimes. This is an affront to all those who fought tooth and nail so hard to get rid of Jammeh. How can people continue to have faith in someone who never keeps his promises and transmogrifies every time? Trust is a fundamental pillar to any union and if you happen to be someone who always breaks his promises, you will find it hard for people with integrity to trust and support you.
Mr President, your predecessor failed mainly due to his refusal to tolerate any form of criticism. For you to avoid that, allow yourself the opportunity for people to be critical of you and most importantly your policies constructively. It should be seen as a form of communication in which your citizens are giving you feedback. That feedback should lead to a discussion or debate about the steps to be taken in the best interests of the country and her people. Only dictators are scared of criticism but criticism brings new ideas and approaches to the table and facilitates better decision making.
Mr President, there will be occasions when you feel the criticisms are personal and, now and then, you’ll be right. People are fallible and it’s important to remember to not be offended by someone’s remarks. Nevertheless, a good leader is able to take criticism on board and not respond as though it’s a personal attack. They are also able to make it work to their advantage or, if all else fails, politely carry on and complete your mandate and leave with your reputation intact.
In conclusion, Mr President, you will have to go back to the basics of carrying out your duties as the head of state of the Gambia and carry out the reforms you have been mandated to do so. As you have said in your last years meet the peoples’ tour, there is no time for politics but time for nation-building. Mr President, you will NOT have any better legacy than having the Janneh Commission, the Truth Reconciliation and Reparation Commission and the Constitutional Review Commission all concluded and recommendations implemented as required than that. So, Mr President, let you, your government and the people focus on Correcting the wrongs of yesterday for us to move the country forward to a better future.
Thank you, “For the Gambia Our Home Land.”
Ansumana Ceesay, UK”