With Aicha

I read an interesting article that made my eyebrows disappear high up until they hid in my hair. It was an article about president Barrow and his visit among his fans. It must feel great to have three different organisations that pat his back and give him applauds when he is speaking about his achievements. For me who lives in a country where we have had democracy for longer than anyone can remember it feels a bit awkward to see that a president has a fanclub. Really? On whose initiative? Doesn’t anyone find this strange that a president has a fanclub, just like a rock-star or some other kind if celebrity? For what purpose does a president have this? What good does it do?
If I would have been the president I would have become very embarassed if someone suggested that I should have a fanclub. A president is a public servant, employed and paid by the people to handle matters concerning his country.

A president is not a rock-star or a celebrity who needs his ego rubbed by others. A president should be on a higher level and should be able to avoid people who wish him to be put on a piedestal . A leader with a good self esteem doesn’t need anyone to ”polish his crown”, his actions should speak louder than any fancy words from either him or his fanclub. A leader of a country must hold his head up high, but always remain rooted in the soil of his Motherland. This leader earns to be treated with respect both for him as a person and because of his position, but going from that to a personal cult is to stretch it too far. It is dangerous even, because all this uncritical praise goes to the head and the one people lift up to the skies slowly comes to believe that this is his rightful position. The harder the fall will be one day, because the fall will come. It always comes. No one can stay up there forever if he is not there by his own strength or always supported by new strong arms.
I am sure that I have made a lot of people upset right now, am sorry for that but I need you to stop and think for a while.

Please people; I am not comparing our current president with the former, all I am doing is to plead to your common sense and not letting this go too far. In a democracy leaders come and go, they get elected, rule for a while and at the next election they get replaced by someone else. This is how it works, the leader comes from the political party that is in majority and is a representative of his or her party. In Sweden we have a Prime minister who is ruling the country – together with his party and the others. The number of the representatives from different parties depends on how many who voted for them.

Our Prime minister has a lot of power, but he is not alone on the top. He has a lot of advisors who are helping him to make the right decisions. Sweden is not the Prime minister’s country, he is a citizen and right now chosen to be our public servant. He knows that he has a limited number of years where he can influence the political play, but he also knows that if he doesn’t do a good job someone else will replace him. This means that being on the top is not about enjoying the power, getting praise, or getting a lot of benefits. Being a leader of a country is a huge responsibility and that needs to be taken seriously and with a great maturity.

I find it giving the completely wrong signals to the people of the Gambia when a president has a fanclub and organisations named after him. What happens with these organisations the day a new president is elected?
The article I am refering to mentioned a three-storry house where the president’s fanclub organisation has its head quarters. Who is paying the rent for that? Are the people of the fanclub paying a member fee which is used for paying all expences of the club? Why the large size of the house? Isn’t it enough with a room or two? Are there people employed to work for the fanclub? Who is paying their salaries? Are they working for the whole Gambia? What is the purpose of such a fanclub, and especially as there seems to be a wish that it will spread country wide. Why? We know that everything takes a lot of time in the Gambia, so what if the work with creating new clubs country wide takes more time than expected, and it is not done until after the next election? What if a lot of money has been used for something that is of much lower importance than the well-fare of the citizens? What if the president doesn’t get elected a second time? Will they only change the names of the clubs or what will happen to them?
We know that everything costs money, and the Gambia is struggling with a bad economy, so why use money on something that is not important? Why doesn’t the president say: ”Hey guys, it’s nice that you like me and my work, but let’s focus on things that matters. Let’s focus on my task, not my persona, ok?”
This is what we should expect from the president, the democracy is so fragile and all actions should be taken under the deepest consideration so they won’t give the wrong signals to people.

Those of you who follow my column know that I love quotes and metaphors. In the article I am refering to president Barrow refers to himself as a bus driver and the citizens of the Gambia as the passengers. Well, the thing about metaphors is that they always have a hidden message that goes deeper than it first appears. The choice of the bus-metaphor sounds very innocent and a bit amusing at first, but when we dig a bit deeper we find hidden bottoms. I will begin my ”digging” by copy and paste a part from the article I am refering to.

The first part is a quote from the article in the Standard Newspaper:
”He said in that forward march, he as the proverbial “bus driver” ensures the bus reaches its destination.”
The coming words are president Barrow’s own.
“All passengers on the bus must abide by terms and conditions of the journey if they want to remain as passengers. Otherwise, I will have to drop you off and when I do, please know that it is not personal. It is a part of my task to rebuild a ‘new’ Gambia. So do not get bitter if you are dropped off,” he stated.

I understand why the president chose to use this metaphor, but as my habit is to turn things upside down I immediately found that it missed something. You see, my dear reader, a bus driver doesn’t own the bus and he is not the one who decides where to drive and when. I admit that there might be a very small percentage of bus drivers who actually owns their buses, and prefer to drive them themselves, but that is not common so let’s leave them outside. A common bus driver is hired by a company who owns the bus. The driver gets his working orders by the same company and he has a time table to hold. This time table tells him when to begin driving from a certain point and when to reach his destination.

The driver has to make many stops during the way, but still he must reach the destination that is decided by the company that hires him. He can’t choose when to reach there, he can’t change the destination just because he doesn’t like that place. He gets his orders and he must follow them. There are a lot of different kind of passengers on this bus. Some of them are likable, others are not. Some of them might have some complaints about the condition of the road or the bus, others might not like the way the driver is driving. That are the working conditions the driver has to put up with and as long as the company is paying his salary he has to do his job. All passengers have paid their fee for the ride, so the driver can’t just throw them off if he doesn’t like them. He has a good salary so he needs to focus on doing a good job and ignore the insults he might hear.

Of course the passengers need to follow the rules of conduct in the bus, but if someone really has to be dropped off the driver must be prepared to give a good explanation.
Ok, so if we replace the word bus driver with the president, but still keep the metaphor in the back of our minds, we will see why the choice of metaphor was unlucky. The result of my ”turning-things-upside-down” will be the following:
The president is a public servant, hired by the people of the Gambia. The Gambia is not his country, he is a citizen just like all others here. He is getting his working orders as political decisions and expectations from the people. The time table the president has to follow is the mandate period, and he is supposed to achieve a lot during that time. There seems to be a problem though, that he hasn’t got any time table or maybe it is replaced because we were expecting more of him than he has achieved.

Even if things are taking a bit longer in the Gambia it is possible to speed it up with the right connections. The president must have a lot of connections thanks to his position, don’t you think? The passengers the president is refering to have paid their fee, their taxes, and for that they have the right to expect something back.
The passengers on president Barrow’s bus might be complaining or questioning this and that, but that’s how it is to be working for people. You can only do your best and try to keep your calm. Some of the president’s passengers are his collegues, paid by the same company ”the Gambia”. I’m sure they can be really irritating from time to time, but if he needs to drop them off he must have a good explanation for it. The ”company”, the citizens of the Gambia, have the right to expect it because it is they who pay the president’s salary.
If you hire a person you need to know that you can trust that person, that your employee doesn’t try to use his position somehow.

The ”company” needs to know that the one they have hired for a certain task is doing his job professionally. The responsibilities are much larger for a president than for a normal worker, but that goes on all levels. With so many who set their hopes high December 1, 2016, the awareness of the responsibilities must be larger than normal. Don’t get lost, while you are out driving , Mr President.