Alagi Yorro Jallow
Fatoumatta: I keenly listened for clear articulation of these promises to no avail. I waited for President Barrow to verbalize in his prepared ‘State of the Nation Speech’ the promise to put food and clean water on every Gambian table. I am not sure what nation Adama Barrow lives in but the onme most of us live in is not the one described in the seven thousand five hundred and fifty-three words; words that made up a false sense of security and accomplishment and directly contradicted by a majority.
Fatoumatta: :When the Social Research & Corporate Reputation (IPSOS) asked Gambians what their main concerns were back in July 2018, a plurality listed hunger, corruption and the high cost of living as “the most serious problems facing them” including one in five (17%) who “barely have enough to eat”!
While opinion polls have taken a bashing over the last year due to the onslaught of “fake news” and “alternative facts”, any leader would be remiss were they to summarily dismiss or minimize findings that a section of the population “barely had enough to eat”. President Adama Barow, Gambianss are hungry. They are also thirsty!
Fatoumatta: In the winding one-hour monologue, there was no mention or use of the word “food”. There were three (3) mentions of the word “water” but not within the context of the president’s delivering on the promise to “put clean water on every Gambian table”. In what is a metaphor for President Barrow’s first term in office, one of the mentions of “water” was within the context of borrowing money from the twin-brothers, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank as well as China to fund a water project!
Fatoumatta: Corruption, something President Barrow has accurately described as an “existential threat to the peace and security of the Gambia” was mentioned ten (3) times – in a speech five hundred words shy of eight thousand words! And true to his now-patented tendency to obfuscate and misdirect on the subject, he offered, as an update, the mea culpa that he knew…..eliminating corruption would be a journey on a rocky path; that the “seeming lack of progress” is not accurate.
Let me cut to the chase on the subject:
Fatoumatta: There is NO “progress” in the “efforts” against corruption. He promised an Anti-Corruption Act enacted in December. Were that true, the many high-profile scandals during his 1st term would have been addressed swiftly and sans prevarication. The president Adama Barrow’s own wife, his close aides and cabinet ministers would have been hurled before the courts and either prosecuted on corruption charges or exonerated. To date, a coterie of low-level scapegoats has manipulated a corrupt criminal justice system to escape prosecution.
It is quite possible that one can go to Edward Francis Small Hospital in Banjul and verify the state of a the Accident and Emergency Care Centre and some of the promises the conditions at the hospital entails.
Fatoumatta: What is unmistakable and has repeatedly played out over the last three years are images of Gambian, all of them rich and well-connected, being ambulanced to Senegal, India, United States and United Kingdom, in search of better medical treatment. What President Barrow promised was quality affordable healthcare for every Gambian – key words “every Gambian”.
How President Barrow can reconcile the foregoing dichotomous realities from his first term in office escapes me. It is the same alternate reality that explains why it took him almost four hundred words to explain his campaign’s succinct nine-worded campaign bullet point “Ensure that every Gambian gets quality and affordable healthcare.” The president’s State of the Nation Address spiel on healthcare is illustration of the crisis management adage (that) “if you are explaining, you’ve already lost the narrative”.
Fatoumatta; President Barrow almost sprained his arm congratulating his administration for “delivering honest exams.” That any society; any administration would tout the delivery of “honest exams” in a singular academic year as an accomplishment is just sad and an apt illustration of the Adama Barrow’s government has fallen to. Unfortunately, the corollary of the corrupt educational system is plain for all to see:
Fatoumatta: Incompetent and/or unqualified personnel, fake degrees and certificates, rampant physical, sexual and psychological abuse of students – happening inside some of the country’s top institutions including High Schools. Again, how the president can reconcile the foregoing set of facts with his campaign promise of assuring that “every child in the Gambia gets quality education” escapes me. It simply does not add up.
Fatoumatta: The same disconnect exists for the remaining two of the promises President Barrow and his 2016 Coalition made to the Gambian voters.
The 2019 State of the Nation was a slick blend of wiz-bang prose that did not and does not align with the reality facing many Gambians. People are dying of hunger and thirst in “the nation” where most Gambians live. Schools are failing, corruption is rampant and the teachers are underpaid and disrespected.
Fatoumatta: A handful of well-connected oligarchs own virtually all the wealth in the country,
patients who don’t have any money are left to fend for themselves and doctors are threatened with termination when they agitate for better wages and working conditions,
Fatoumatta: The Gambia is a nation shunned by her neighbors who see her leaders as selfish unprincipled demagogues who act with impunity, not in the interest of their subjects, but to protect themselves from being held accountable.
I am not sure which nation President Barrow was referring to in his State of the Nation address but it certainly wasn’t mine nor of people I know.