On the Recent Cabinet Reshuffle: the President’s Report Card (Part 1)

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On the Recent Cabinet Reshuffle: the President’s Report Card (Part 1)

It is about that time of the year when the performance of our students is presented to them by the West African Examinations Council. I am no exam board but some people count on my assessment of developments in the state architecture due to the little experience I garnered in the past regime where I served as Secretary General and Head of the Civil Service among other portfolios.

To be honest, I tried to refrain from commenting on this most recent reshuffle of public servants among different portfolios because my comments can be biting and create bad blood sometimes due to my insistence on speaking the truth regardless of the personalities that truth affects. 

After 24 hours of hesitation, I have decided to come up with a few thoughts on the subject matter this blessed rainy Friday morning, hoping to at the very least, speak out my most honest thoughts even if those thoughts might sound controversial or wrong by some people.

First I must assert the fact that the current Cabinet reshuffle as well as previous redeployments and sackings in this administration are all symptoms of the insidious virus planted into this administration and its unsuspecting head by the very people he trusted. We can all recall that from the get go Barrow told us that he wanted a good competent Cabinet and civil service; he also told us that he didn’t have the knowledge or experience to run the show but he kept repeating his favourite words at the time “I have a TEAM”. To use a Halifa Sallah word the FUNDAMENTAL question to ask is “What did this TEAM advise President Barrow and what part of the advice did he implement?”

Whatever the answer happens to be to the above question, one thing is very likely now: unless something drastic happens and he breaks away from (to use a lawyer Darboe word) whatever POISON that may be in the system, this administration just might go down into history as the one that gave us our weakest cabinet and also our most polarised and inefficient public service since the colonial era. But that blame cannot be shouldered by Barrow alone.

The problem started with the first Secretary General appointed by Barrow, the chess game this guy played in Cabinet appointments and redeployments of permanent secretaries is still hurting Barrow and instead of taking decisive action on this man’s malevolence, Barrow rewarded him with an Ambassadorial job at a station of the beneficiary’s own choosing; even though another person had been identified for that job at the time.

That leads us to the appointment of the current Secretary General. A poor choice has been made, and for that I give the President a score of 49%. The new S.G  may have a long record of service in the system but the ministry he is most associated with has given us our most intractable crisis right now #Education. 

Moreover, he is to be supported by two top civil servants at the office of the President and both were jockeying for, and expecting to become, Secretary General. He should not expect their goodwill and support; and the S.G does not have the nerve or demeanour required to run that most complex office. But the vested interests that pushed for his appointment will surely benefit from this and President Barrow will pay the price.

The appointment at the Defence Ministry is also questionable because the gentleman chosen seems to have lost all touch with anything military. He seems to have been doing quite well in the foreign service and I would have recommended him for a promotion in that cadre and deployment to Turkey, a country with which we have strong military ties. The person putatively  appointed to go to Turkey could as well be redeployed to India where he studied. 

The defence ministry requires tenacity and familiarity with the current structure of our defence institutions. To appoint someone whose last stint in that department was some 25 years ago and the 1994 military takeover happened while he was in the top echelons of that army is quite disingenuous;  the leadership of the military at the time badly managed the army and the events that led to the Jammeh-takeover, leading to junior officers kicking out one of the finest democracies in Africa.

It is a fact that the President’s recent appointments have a lot to do with self-preservation, which is not too bad a reason, human nature being what it is; so long as that instinct does not morph into self-perpetuation. So loyalty should be the President’s top priority in his appointments during our these troubled times. Is the man appointed as Defence Minister a loyal man? What is his report card in terms of loyalty to his former Commanders-in-Chief? Well history, they say, teaches us that #history teaches us nothing.

Our new Defence Minister could have been someone of the calibre and stature of former ADC Lamin Gano who served the army and left on his own accord (I am glad to have facilitated his resignation from the Army when I was S.G, even though that came with some calculated risk). He left just a few years ago and still walks, works and talks like someone who loves military discipline and service. He cares enough about our men and women in uniform to publicly support them where they deserve support and to criticise them when they deserve it; all in the interest of making our army better without having to throw away the baby with the bath water.

The Army in which the new Minister served was a clean and neat small unit (with few high school graduates and lots of school dropouts) but blessed with the training and regimentation of real experts like Sgt. Major Sellers and Colonel Jim Shaw of the British Army. The one he is going to oversee is a bloated one composed of myriad facets; from jungulers to former rebels and also highly trained university graduates in military sciences, the liberal arts, aviation and even medicine. He is about to inherit a Frankenstein’s monster; and may Allah guide and protect him in his new duty.

So on this one particular appointment at Defence, a 45% score would not be too mean for the President, and my prediction (Allah knows best) is that the appointment would not last beyond two years at the maximum.

And now to the big elephant in the room: the controversial appointment of Yankuba Sonko, former Inspector General of Police under President Jammeh! Yankuba seems to be the opposition-activists alliance’s new-found bête noire

Perhaps this one has created the most adverse reaction ever exhibited in Barrow’s appointments. Yes Yankuba Sonko was the IGP when the late Solo Sandeng was arrested and subsequently tortured to death, and that is a concern worth our attention…

Momodou Sabally

Former S.G and Presidential Affairs Minister, Momodou Sabally is former  duvet Director at the Ministry of Finance also erstwhile Head of The Gambia Radio and Television Services.

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