A little over four months ago, on the first day of December 2016, the majority of the Gambian electorate chose you, Adama Barrow, to be President of this country, bringing to an end 22 years of dictatorship, tyranny and social torment. As the choice of the coalition to challenge the incumbent, you were not initially willing to take on this huge and risky undertaking, probably because you did not consider yourself fit for the task, or afraid that you will be no match for him, but since God had ordained that you would lead this country, it has come to pass. Did you ever envision becoming the third, duly-elected President of this nation? Well, today you are, and so it will be recorded in the annals of this country for posterity.
Mr. President, what God has ordained, no man can deny, prevent or alter. So, if you truly believe that God ordained that you should govern this nation, then ask God to give you the confidence, fortitude and wisdom to do His will of leading the Gambian people to where He wants us to be. You cannot and should never cede what God has conferred on you to no other person. Deferring to and being beholden to your so-called godfather’ and ‘mentor’, who everyone knows is not as nationalistic as he wants people to believe, and whose ambition is selfish, is a sign of weakness on your part, lack of confidence in yourself, and not trusting in God.
Mr. President, you were elected by the Gambian majority to serve as this country’s President for a term of 5 years and you should strive to fulfill that mandate. Don’t ever entertain any thoughts, or suggestions from any quarter, to abdicate your presidency. Whatever agreement was made by the coalition for you to serve for the 3 years and then step down is constitutionally invalid and unacceptable by the people who elected you. You must serve your full term, and do so with dedication and resolve to make the land of your birth a better place for the present populace and future citizens.
Mr. President, we all know you assumed this office with no political or administrative experience, but you can and will, in due course, learn how to govern and run a country, if you allow experienced, honest, well-meaning, incorruptible and patriotic citizens, who would like to see you succeed in your administration and management of the affairs of our beloved country, advise and guide you in the right direction. Wouldn’t you want to leave a legacy that your grandchildren and future generations will be proud of; as the person who ousted and forced a brutal dictator into exile; who restored civil liberties and cherished peace in the country and fostered oneness of the people of this nation?
Mr. President, it is an open secret that your so-called ‘godfather-cum-mentor’ has been dictating the choices you make for leadership positions in your government and administration. We know, he and his clique have pushed you into making not-well-thought-out decisions which have put you in very bad light and enabling people to vilify you unnecessarily and unfairly. Appointments that have been made, so far, to the numerous positions of Managing Directors of parastatals, Governors of the Regions, and, more especially, Ambassador to the United States, clearly point to him prevailing over you, and for most of these appointments, we see the ethnic card at play which has not gone down well with a broad cross-section of Gambians, both at home and abroad. People are keenly waiting and watching to see who your five nominees for the National Assembly will be in following the elections. Please, be mindful of the fact that this country is ethnically and religiously diverse, so make choices that will reflect this mix and the gender composition which has females in the greater number.
Mr. President, you cannot and should not allow the one you call ‘godfather and mentor’ and his clique to usurp your presidency and render you impotent. Show the Gambian people that you are not obligated to any political party, or its leader, but to the nation which has chosen you to serve as its President. Remember that you ran for the office you now hold as an Independent Candidate on a coalition ticket, and that it was on this basis that you were overwhelmingly voted for and your historic victory ensured. You did not run as a UDP, PDOIS, PPP or NRP candidate, so do not consider any of them as the one which has enabled you to gain this position and therefore, you must accede to their every whim. Assure yourself that you are the ‘people’s choice’.
Mr. President, you do know that as President you have the constitutional power and prerogative to fire any member of your cabinet whom you do not feel comfortable or happy working with, or whose actions are a potential threat to your position, or whom the electorate considers as a stumbling block to a successful presidency. Consider exercising that prerogative in the interest of the nation and restore the waning public confidence in you and your administration! You don’t have anything to lose by taking such a bold action. Instead, it will strengthen your leadership position, endear you more to the people, and win you the respect of world leaders that you deserve and must enjoy. Are you ready to do this?
Mr. President, if you are able to solve the country’s perennial electricity problem within your first 180 days in office, and by the mid-term of your presidency partially solve the youth employment problem, your national rating as President would skyrocket. And you can do it! There are well-meaning people, Gambians and non-Gambians alike, who are poised to support your efforts to provide uninterrupted power supply, within the shortest possible time, and end the shortage of electricity which has bedeviled this nation for the past 40 years, if only you would welcome and work with them. But we all know that the selfish and greedy ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’ surrounding you, would do everything they possibly can for this not to happen.
Mr. President, in as much as you respect and look up to your ‘godfather-cum-mentor’, you cannot allow him to upstage you and diminish your authority and power as ‘The Gambia’s President’. Gambians are not happy that you defer to the leader of the UDP, whose party you once belonged to, and to which people sense you still owe allegiance. We know you hold him in high esteem, but you must distance yourself from him and his party, as this closeness is damaging your credibility and standing as our elected leader, both at home and abroad. Stand up to him and let him know that you, Adama Barrow, are the de jure President of The Republic of The Gambia and that is how it will be until 2022 when we go to polls again. There is no place or room for a de facto President in the present scheme of things.
Mr. President, in a way, the things the person you refer to as ‘godfather and mentor’ is doing or having you do, and what he is saying or having you say, tantamount to you bringing about your early demise as President. The Gambian people want and expect you to be firm, decisive and act as the one and only President of the country and not playing second fiddle to someone who was not elected to this high office. The Gambian majority who elevated you to the presidency are beginning to lose confidence in and respect for you as their chosen leader, as a result of what they see happening.
Mr. President, you have charisma, the stature of a leader, and exude the aura of a President. The Gambian people see you as a God-fearing, decent and well-intentioned person, who has the interest of the country at heart. The people want you to succeed as their President and Commander-in-Chief, but they are getting disgruntled and disappointed with your slow pace of effecting the necessary and desirable changes that would move this country forward. Capitalize on your positive attributes! Do not be afraid to do what you have to do as the legitimate leader of this country. Do what is right!
Mr. President, friendly governments want to see you succeed and are ready to support you in every way they can. But they will only help if they see fair and equal treatment of the various ethnic groups that make up the country which you have assured in a previous pronouncement. The international community is taking close stock of what is going on in your government, in the country, and of the people’s reactions to the state of affairs. You cannot afford to lose their goodwill which is manifested in the tremendous financial and material support waiting to be had. Be decisive and firm and ensure your administration is playing fairly and transparently.
Mr. President, ask yourself sincerely if, so far, you have been living up to the expectations of the Gambian people who have entrusted their future, and the future of their homeland, in your hands. Be true to your conscience and exercise the authority that you have as President, without fear, favor or ill will, for the good of the nation. The Gambian people have not totally given up on you. So, try to salvage the confidence and trust that has been eroded by doing what should be done.
Finally, Mr. President, I am convinced that the Gambian people are behind you and do not want to see your presidency collapse. Be wary of those around you who are craftily digging your grave. If you succeed in changing this country for the better in the course of your tenure, I can see you staying on as President for a second term – unless you do not wish to. If you sincerely desire to continue in this position after the expiration of your initial mandate, you should start considering forming a political party, as soon as possible, now that your popularity is riding high. Your party will, undoubtedly, attract the youthful majority of this country who identifies with you, and whose overwhelming support made your victory possible. Their continued support is critical to your political future, if indeed, you wish to remain in the political limelight. The youth seem willing and ready to make the sacrifices necessary to ensure that your government succeeds where the previous ones have failed. Do not let them down! I would dare suggest that your nominees for the National Assembly be young professionals, particularly women, who are considering or have expressed a future in politics.
Have a fruitful day Mr. President and GOD bless you and bless our beloved country!
Burang Goree-Ndiaye is a concerned patriot, a political and social commentator, and a weekly radio talk-show co-host, STRAIGHT TALK, which airs on Wednesdays on West Coast Radio 92.1 FM from 7 to 8 p.m.