Gambia’s President Adama Barrow says when he first shook dictator Jammeh’s hands back in 1995, during a visit he made to the state house in Banjul to witness the July 22nd military takeover celebrations, “ Naa systemo balangta) meaning in English his system freezes. “I immediately knew that this man was not the right President for The Gambia. I could feel it in my system. My system freezes immediately I shook Jammeh’s hands. I had the feeling that he was not the right person to lead The Gambia,” President Adama Barrow remarked in the local Mandinka dialect during an interview with Paradise TV’s Haruna Drammeh.
Barrow admits during the interview that he was a staunch supporter of the former military junta that toppled Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara’s thirty years rule. He remarked that President Jawara and his PPP regime had overstayed in power.
“I was among the people, who supported the coup. Jawara had overstayed in power,” Barrow remarked, adding that he was invited to the State House to attend the celebrations of the junta’s one year in power back in July of 1995.
“I shook the hands of the AFPRC junta leaders, and when I reached to Jammeh, I noticed something strange in my system. It freezes immediately when I shook Jammeh’s hands. Naa systemo balangta. I said to myself that this man is not the right President for The Gambia,” Barrow said.
Barrow’s “self-mystification” has set social on fire. His former supporters and defenders online—the United Democratic Party (UDP) yellow folks, now turned Barrow nemesis, bombarded their timelines on Facebook, caricaturing The Gambian leader. Some even questioned his “maturity and sanity as a leader.”
The interview, which ran for about two hours, featured Barrow, talking about his early life as a rural boy; growing up in the countryside; with challenges of acquiring western education; with mass opposition from his family.
It was only his late Dad, who was in support of him going to school, but the rest of the family were opposed to the idea of Barrow being enrolled in a Christian missionary school in Mansajang Basse, he says.
Barrow was finally enrolled at the Mansajang missionary school. He later suffered an illness and was out of school for some time. He said he was denied readmission into the school upon recovering from his leg illness. He had to be transferred to a government public school in Basse.
Hailing from a mixed ethnic background, poor Barrow later found himself in the city Banjul, where he attended Crab Island Secondary School, before proceeding to the Muslim High School, where he attained his high school education.
Upon graduating from high school, Barrow said, he traveled to the UK, Belgium and then Germany, a country, he said, was the promised land for youngsters like him, who were eager to “earn fast money” at the time. Barrow wouldn’t elaborate as to what he meant by “fast money.” His interviewer Haruna Drammeh never pressed him on that either.
“I applied for an asylum when I arrived in Germany. My asylum was rejected. I was later deported to The Gambia,” Barrow said.
Barrow never gave up. He spent few years in The Gambia, before travelling to the United Kingdom. He was living in East London, when he arrived there.
Barrow found a job. He said he used to travel for three hours to get to work, and three hours to return home. He was placed on a fifteen-hour schedule for one year. He had only three hours to eat, and sleep, when he gets home. He has done that for one year.
Barrow returned to The Gambia, in 2006, and set up what he calls a “small Real Estate office.” He had people on his payroll.
He said he was able to built his new Yundum home before returning to The Gambia, through his hours long hard eared money from his East London job. His friend one Mr. Sheikh Omar Giggo, a local architect contractor built the house for him. He says he was encouraged by Giggo to develop the property.
He also said he built a house for his family in Mangkamang-Kunda, including his brother.
Barrow also used the interview to talk about his membership with the UDP, and the role he had played to keep his party alive, when Ousainou Darboe and co were jailed by Jammeh. He said he was never a coward as portrayed by his critics. He said he was told by Ousainou Darboe to stay behind, while the leadership of the party marches towards West-field to demand for the body of the late Solo Sandeng.
Barrow said he and some UDP supporters had even organized a protest march when Darboe and co were taken into custody. They marched from West-field to the American Embassy along the Kairaba Avenue.
He said he uses his money to finance the party, when Darboe and co were in jail.
Barrow also said he was told by the former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf that if he doesn’t leave The Gambia, dictator Jammeh was going to kill him. He said he was invited to Mali, to meet with the ECOWAS sub-regional leaders during Gambia’s month long political impasse back in January of 2017.
” I wanted to return home after the meeting, but Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, told me, my son, if you go back to The Gambia, this man is going to kill you. She calls me my son. She told me that I had three options. One, to travel with her to Liberia; two, to travel with President Buhari to Nigeria, or to travel to Senegal with President Sall until the situation normalizes. I opted to travel to Senegal, since we are neighbors,” he said.
Barrow also talked about the UDP flag bearer-ship selection process prior to the 2016 elections. He said at first he was not keen at applying. He had to be compelled by Aji Yam Secka, Yusupha Cham and co to put his application. There were two other applicants: Boo Jarju, and one Mr. Darboe, a staffer of the MRC.
An in-house voting voting was organized. Barrow claimed that he captured all the twenty six votes. His opponents had zero votes, he says.
The committee that was tasked to oversee the voting later decided that they should give four votes to Mr. Darboe to avoid being accused of rigging the polls in favor of Barrow, he claimed. He says that decision to allocate four votes to his opponent Darboe of the MRC, was made by Aji Yam Secka, Yusupha Cham and co.
Barrow had served as UDP Deputy Treasurer prior to ascending to the Presidency. He says he had earlier wanted Isatou Touray to run for President, but his backers in the United States, such Alkali Conteh, insisted that he must represent the UDP at the Convention, which was held at the Kairaba Beach hotel.
He says Conteh was impressed by his maiden speech in Brikama during his first address to the UDP supporters. The likes of Aji Yam Secka also proposed to him to represent the party in the 2016 elections.
Paradise TV is yet to record its part two interview with The Gambian leader.
WRITTEN BY PA NDERRY M’BAI
EMAIL: [email protected]