With Aisha Jallow
In my mind, I can see you hiding under your bed, keeping the dust and some dead bugs company. You believe that no one can find you there, but that is always one of the first places where we look for cowards. You believe that if you lay perfectly still and don’t move, then no one can hear the sound from your robe rustling. When you lay there you stick your fingers in your ears so you can’t hear people calling for you. You close your eyes so you don’t have to see the feet of the search party coming closer to your hiding place. Don’t fall asleep under your bed, because your snoring will reveal you, and we all know that you like sleeping – we have seen it on plenty of photos.
Are you afraid, Mr President? Are you afraid that this awful Covid-19 will hit you just as hard as it has hit others? You don’t need to worry, you can test yourself three times a day if you wish, you can afford it. Even if you have become infected you can afford the best health care, all the other Gambians will gladly pay for all your expenses. If you need to be transported abroad for treatment, there will be a plane waiting for you. The lockdown doesn’t affect you, as long as you try to be a little discreet. Ah, what the hell, don’t be discreet, you are the President so you deserve to be treated in a better way than anyone else! I think that if you ask anyone in The Gambia, they will agree with me.
People living on the Smiling Coast of Africa have no troubles at all, they know how much you love them and care for all their needs. There are no children falling asleep at night, crying of hunger. There are no mothers boiling water to pretend as if it was food, hoping that the kids will fall asleep before they discover that there is nothing in the pot. There are no unemployed youth in The Gambia, frustrated and fearing for their future, they know you have a plan for them. Right?
There are no worried parents who ask themselves where to get money for their next rent, for school fees and for food. People don’t have to starve in The Gambia, their bellies are full of rice sent from Japan. They bought it for a good price and are very happy about it. No one cares that you got the rice for free and that surely some of your closest got plenty of sacks before the rest was sold to the starving people.
Don’t worry, Mr President, you are safe until December 2021 so you will have plenty of time to fill your bank accounts and your coffers with valuables. We all understand that you then need to rest after 5 years’ hard work, so no one minds that you flee to your house in Senegal. It must be good for you to know that you can rest somewhere on distance where you don’t have to meet Gambians. Some might visit Senegal from time to time, but you will be well protected and can sleep well at night. I hope you have plenty of food in your pantry, as I have heard that you have put yourself in quarantine since you found out that your VP is infected by Covid-19. It would be sad to see that you have lost weight, you have such a large and round belly. How many others do you see with such a belly in The Gambia? Not many, so be proud of your achievement.
If there is nothing else that can be said about you, Mr President, it is that you are at least consistent. You haven’t spoken to the people, in times of need, before so why do it now? People say they need a leader for their country, and they have it – so why are they complaining? They have a leader…somewhere…we just need to find you first. You have had plenty of time to adjust to your task as being a leader of a country where people have been suffering for so long. But why hurry? Take a nap first, or take two and you will see that some pillow talk will give you brilliant ideas. If you lack of ideas, then you have great advisors who can help you. They tell you everything you wish to know, not what you need to know, but they do it out of concern of your sleep. Heaven knows if you would be bothered with the citizens’ problems, it could give you sleepless nights.
It’s good for you that you sleep so well, Mr President, because if you didn’t do that you might hear your people crying. They mourn their dead who have suffered from Covid-19. Your people live in poor houses, they can’t afford either social distancing or health care. Perhaps you saw some of the houses when you were out on tour, Mr President, or did you? Were you warned by your crew to look in a different direction so you could avoid to see the poverty? The advantages with sitting in a comfortable vehicle, with tinted windscreens is that people don’t see you through them. Then they don’t have to be bothered with the fact that you don’t look at them. Whenever you have reached your destination you are met by smiling people who greet and praise you. Crowds of people have gathered to shout your name and to sing and dance for you. Do they really like you, Mr President, or have they come for the food they have been offered? Even I could have sung for you, if I would have been hungry for a long time.
You tell your spokesmen to give a speech for the citizens of The Gambia. Is that because you feel embarrassed that you can’t express yourself? We know that already, but right now it doesn’t matter. Speak from your heart, speak as if you spoke to your brothers and sisters. Speak as if you wanted to comfort your mother or give your father back his strength again. Speak as if you loved your country, show that you care – or at least pretend as if you care. There must be some of your advisors who can write a good speech for you. All you have to do is to learn it by heart so it looks as if it was your own words. If you can’t read that well, it’s okay. Tell them to give you an audio and you can listen to it and repeat the words until you remember them.
Mr President, oh, you like that title, don’t you? You like it so much so you expect to be elected once more. I am sorry to make you disappointed, but don’t hold your hopes too high. You see; being a president is not about you as a person, it is about being a servant to your people. That is what you haven’t understood yet, and that’s the problem. The citizens of The Gambia are not there for you; you are supposed to be there for them. They have been suffering for so long, and they are still suffering. They pay you well for your services, but they don’t get enough back. Under your expensive robes you are nothing more than a man with poor education and a low self-esteem. Isn’t it sad? Is that why you are hiding?
I feel sorry for you, Mr President, you were never fit for the task. Desperate times required desperate measures, but next time we have hopefully learned from the mistakes.