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Barrow, the Barrownites and the constitutional impasse: Jangfaa of the century

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By Momodou Sabally

I am not a fan of the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC), and I have never been too sanguine about their project of drafting our next constitution. I still have reservations about some inbuilt imbalances regarding the separation of powers and the system of checks and balances that is supposed to hold our national governance architecture in equilibrium.

However, despite the reservations which I hold strongly to date, I respect the views of the vast majority of Gambians that have been reflected in our draft constitution after nationwide, direct consultations that cost the national treasury upwards of two hundred million dalasis if you factor in opportunity costs and other non-tangible expenses. Therefore, I would not support any process aimed at sabotaging the work of the CRC and, ipso facto, the will of the majority of Gambians just to cater for the whims and caprices of a voracious power-hungry ingrate and his minions.

At the heat of the debate on the draft constitution in the chambers of the Assembly, I never posted any strong opinion but I insisted on people respecting the divergent views being expressed in the process. I certainly abhorred the hectoring of the NAMs that opposed the draft constitution. Indeed, the process and its associated brouhaha simply reminded me about the prophetic utterances of our resident philosopher who wrote an interesting opinion piece published in 2017.

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The sagely man from Kiang Jali, wrote at the height of the irrational exuberance of the mob during the halcyon days of the coalition and our so-called New Gambia; in an article titled “A Farewell to Consensus”, he asserted:

“I will be the first to acknowledge that I will never get a mention in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. So allow me all the humility I ask for to note that I argued in a 2009 article Laws of Democracy that, “Yes, from time to time, democracy can be messy, noisy, and inconvenient.” Four months later, the 44th president of the United States, in his first State of the Union Address, told the Joint Session of Congress: “Democracy in a nation of 300 million people can be noisy and messy and complicated.” Even in a nation of only two million, it can still be.”

Fast forward to 2021 and here we are dealing with the greed of the incumbent who has total disregard for the views of the very people who voted him into power with the key goal of doing away with extended rule by one man and its obvious consequences of self-perpetuation in power.

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If President Barrow argued against the draft constitution on the basis of key principles of the inadequate checks and balances between the different arms of government; especially the attempts to unduly dilute the powers of the office the President, he would have earned my support.

But this man who promised the whole world that he would not even contest a single election after the transition, now has the temerity to tell us that he would torpedo a whole nation’s constitution if this draft does not give him the leeway to stay in power for as long as he pleases. What a travesty of justice and decency!

Barrow showed us signs of what he wanted to do by placing piecemeal attacks on the draft constitution on the front pages of the Standard Newspaper way before the draft landed at the National Assembly. And the narrative was all about him as a person. His crybabies continue to sing from his malicious and obnoxious hymn book: the retroactive clause limiting Barrow to two terms including his current term is discriminatory. What a joke! Do they even understand what the term “discrimination” means? I doubt that the Barrownites would know the true meaning of the term they are bandying around.

Surely my heart bleeds for a people that fought for more than two decades to bring in change that can only be sanctified and protected by a new constitution. By deliberately sabotaging the constitution building process, President Barrow has cheated, hurt and insulted the people who voted him into power. I just don’t know how this man can deal with the ghost of Solo Sandeng, which will surely haunt him some day.

But in the midst of these dark political clouds hanging over our nation-building process, there are sparks of bright light piecing through from sound minds riveted to the truth. Jimmy Henry Nzally was quoted by the Standard Newspaper in one of their lead stories dated, March 17, 2021:

“It would be utterly hypocritical for anyone to blame anyone for the current stalemate. We all know that majority of the parties have always supported and campaigned for the draft to pass in the assembly but it was President Adama Barrow and his sympathizers in the Assembly who threw it out and even celebrated its defeat. If anyone should be blamed, it has to be President Adama Barrow. As the case maybe – it is Barrow and his government that are accountable for this constitutional impasse.”

Momodou Sabally is an author, economist and former Presidential Affairs Minister

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