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Saturday, January 23, 2021

Dou Sanno Barrow’s ‘Action Man’

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With Alagie Manneh

He’s the marmite man in The Gambia’s current political circus. Love him or loathe him, Dou Sanno is one of the most influential political players as he has the considered ear of President Adama Barrow. In this edition of Bantaba, anchor Alagie Manneh first asked him:
Officially, you are designated as the deputy political adviser to the president. Critics of the president, and there are many of them, say the administration has failed because of the improper advice the president gets. In your case, what qualifies you to serve as adviser to the leader of the country?
The qualification that they are asking about, what I can tell them is that I came to this world before them and I have been moving in this world. Even with all those qualifications that they have, I am ahead of them. The most important thing is that since I became Barrow’s adviser, nobody came forward to say that the president has done X and Y which was not in the interest of the country. Whatever the president does is always guided by principles. The people who advise him, and the thoughts of the president himself, are all the same – to take the country forward. These are the most important things we look at. It’s God who gives positions. My advice to the president is political, not about how his government should work. I have been in the political arena for 22 years and I have a lot of experience. The experience I have in politics is my qualification to advise the president on how he should run his politics.

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What about the other advisers, would you say all of them are competent?
Yes, I can say that because the people of the country did not come out at any point to say that Barrow did this and that and it was not in line with our ways. That means the advice he gets from these people is very correct. In that regard, they are competent.

In other countries, advisers to the president are highly educated specialists. That is not the case in The Gambia.
Tell the people who are saying that, that those are ‘other countries’, this is The Gambia. When The Gambia was fighting with the dictator, where were those educated specialists? Why didn’t they come out to fight the dictator because we expected our elites to fight dictatorship but that did not happen. It was the uneducated who came and uprooted dictatorship. So, the strategy and prudence they showed, that is the same prudence they will use to take The Gambia forward.

In an audio recording circulated online you were alleged to have told the president to start instructing his agents to beat up people like Jammeh’s, was that recording authentic?
This is news to me. If you heard such an audio, you must have heard it through a different voice that it is Dou Sanno who said such. It is an accusation. Dou is a Gambian and wants peace and respect for all and sundry. That is my wish. The people who are circulating those things, I know them.

Who are they?
They are the people of the UDP. I don’t hide or mince my words. I don’t make mere allegations. Even if your eyes emit fire, I will tell you the truth and face whatever the consequence. The people of UDP are the ones saying those things and their supporters, who are sitting outside of the country, are still not able to do anything for themselves talk less of doing it for the country.

In a recent interview, you gave the genesis of the Barrow Fan Club, which has now metamorphosed into a political party. This was at a meeting in Banjulinding when the Sabally family defected from APRC to UDP. It appears like you started President Barrow on wanting to continue in the presidency post-2021. Do you see yourself as a kingmaker?
In fact, it was at that meeting that Aji Yam Secka, the deputy party leader of UDP, declared that 2021, Ousainu will be the UDP’s presidential candidate. That was a very big surprise to me because less than one year into Barrow’s presidency, these people already declared who should be UDP’s flag bearer. Adama Barrow heard it, I heard it and Ousainu, who was also seated there, heard it. When I heard that, I said no, I can’t believe this. After the Banjulinding meeting, the same Aji Yam Secka had an interview with Pa Nderry Touray of Star FM, and repeated same words. It appeared that they had already excluded Adama from their things. That was when we realised that Adama was in for a big betrayal, and that was why we added our one and one and founded the Youths for National Development, which founded Barrow Fan Club which founded NPP, the National Peoples Party. As to whether I see myself as kingmaker, I can tell you yes, I am a kingmaker but you Alagie, you are also a kingmaker. We are all kingmakers. It is all of us who contributed to make Barrow what he is today, in that regard, we are all kingmakers.

Realistically, why do you think Gambians will vote for Adama Barrow instead of Halifa Sallah, Ousainu Darboe or Mamma Kandeh?
If you tell me Halifa Sallah – we were with him in the 2016 Coalition and even at this moment, he doesn’t disturb anybody. He only tells it as it is. He is doing well. On the side of Barrow, you the journalists asking me these questions, you are aware of your state in this country during the dictatorship. We were in a very terrible condition, even a mere announcement in the radio for opposition rallies was not possible. You give it to newspapers, they are afraid to press it in the paper. Today they are free and doing whatever it is they want to do. So, somebody who gives you that freedom, in turn, should you not praise that person? Shouldn’t you? Place your journalism aside and answer my question. It’s God Who said if a person does right by you, praise him. From you to the Press Union, all of you should be grateful to President Barrow.For that and many other reasons, Gambians will vote for him.

But Gambians are saying they brought these changes, not Barrow.
It is the critics saying that. People should be honest and admit the truth. For those critics, even when it is white, they will say it is red but we all know in our hearts what is right and what is wrong. Gambians should be grateful to the president and say, ‘Mr President thank you, yesterday what we didn’t have today we have because of you’. It will push the president to do more for and in turn, the people should pick their votes and cast it for him.

What is the source of funding for your youth movement, fan club and now political party? People change the government because they want proper transparency. Don’t you think lack of disclosure of how you get money undermines the claim of a ‘new Gambia’?
I will tell you one thing, the stage at which The Gambia is right now, let us try to help each other. Both journalists and citizens, let us come and work for the country. The people who are pushing you to ask these questions are they themselves in the system, corrupting it simply because of their disdain for the president. Let them not think that they have done it to President Barrow, they have done it to themselves and the Gambians. They cannot make this government fail. I know that’s their intention. This is a Coalition government but some parties are no longer party to it however, they still have their members working for the government. Those people have shown that they are bent on damaging the system and in turn disseminate lies through journalists and Gambians to attack this administration. Let them bring forward evidence and stop making [ungrounded] allegations. There are people still undermining the system and I am warning them to stop doing that.

But who are these people? Call names.
I am not going to sit here and disclose or call names for you. Let them just stop it.

Answer the question, where is Barrow getting money for his political activities?
Barrow’s money, where he gets it from … the people who told you to ask this question, have they disclosed to you, to your satisfaction, where they get theirs? When they do, then come back to me and I will tell you where Barrow gets his money. You know that Barrow is working. Wait until a department comes out and accuses the president of taking their money, then ask me that question. Even before he became president, Barrow had his own office, lands, cars, companies and he has helped a lot. So it is clear that God did not deny Barrow possessions.

You once said that [during the Jammeh presidency] you were offered one million to set the IEC on fire, who offered you that?
I am not going to name that person yet. But yes, I was called to devise means to burn down the IEC. I laughed it off. Could you believe at the time that that person was telling me that, he had already faked me into sending him all my political activity videos through which he secured [political] asylum [for himself]. He hasn’t called me since. He didn’t say a million, I didn’t tell you a million. In fact, I never said a million in my talks. What he said was that he was going to give me one thousand dollars. Imagine, at a time when Jammeh was brutal and my family was still here, why should I do that? It was then that I suggested to him that he should return home for me to give him that amount so that he will burn the IEC himself. Since then he never called again.

Reliably, sources have indicated to me that President Barrow and his people are talking to the APRC with a view to forming an alliance or a coalition for the next elections. How truthful is this?
The right that the people of the GPDP, UDP and GMC have to come and see the president, it is the same right that the APRC has. He is their president. What they came for was their business. The time for politics is not now. When that time comes, the NPP has been formed… UDP is part of it and even Ousainu Darboe we invite him to join the NPP. Fabakary Tombong Jatta is invited. Anybody who has a political party is invited to the NPP, whose flagbearer is President Barrow. But if they tell you, NPP or President Barrow, sat with APRC, I am not aware.

Why do you say Ousainu Darboe would not make a good president?
I didn’t tell you that. I have never said that in any interview. You see you journalists, you can put off the fire, but you can also start a fire you cannot put off. What I said was that I, Dou, have done everything possible to make him president, but God said otherwise. What I said was that I love him and he loves me and I don’t ever want to see anything that will make his life miserable. My own child, I gave it to him and he named the baby after his own daughter. I tried everything to make him president but God said no. What God did was took somebody from within Darboe’s own camp, somebody Darboe trained just like me, and made him president. That person wiped his tears and made him a foreign minister and vice president. This was what I said.

You know Barrow from childhood. Recently, there has been mixed messages about his ethnic identity. Is he a Fula or is he a Mandinka?
Barrow is a son of Mandinka. His father was a Mandinka. I am a Mandinka but my mother is from a different tribe [Jola]. Adama Barrow – nobody can beat your chest about being more Mandinka than him. So what reason are they bragging about being a Mandinka? Which community is in The Gambia that doesn’t have a different tribe marrying there? Even if Adama is a Manjago, doesn’t he have the right to be president? If you are a Serere, Aku or Christian or Muslim, you have the right. These are the most important things we should focus on, not tribe.

But Imam Baba Leigh said otherwise, that Adama Barrow is Fula?
That is Baba Leigh’s view and he is entitled to it. Baba Leigh brags. They [Fulas] have a stake there, so it’s okay if they claim ownership of Barrow. For us Mandinkas, we also have the right to say we own him. What is important is that God made him a person who doesn’t believe in tribes. He believes in nationalism and love for country.

You have been vocal in your attack on the 3 Years Jotna people, and now they say they are coming out again on January 20 to ensure the president keeps his promise and step down. Will the government give them the permit?
If they come out as Gambians and say they are demanding for their rights, let them give them permit. If they are people of peace, let them go out and spread their mats… The others who are calling for five years, they should allow those people too, to protest to express their views. These people in the 3 Years Jotnaare just like a mist, and you cannot compare the rain to a mist. They have already come out and we have all seen their level of support. Now, it’s time for Five Years. People will determine who has majority.

If they come out and demonstrate without permit from your government, what will be your reaction?
Thank you very much, but I have no business in that as a political adviser. We have something here that governs us, which is the law. That is what we will defend. It’s what we breathe in and out. We will defend the Gambian constitution at any cost. President Barrow wants to rule us through the rule of law, if others come to ambush that, it is the right of citizens to say no. We don’t want to take advantage of anyone, but we will not accept others too, to take advantage of others.

Some say Barrow and his people, like your good self, are frightened by the 3 Years Jotna and that is why you asked the police to abort their fundraiser at Tallinding. Is that true?
Would you Alagie, till your farm and allow monkeys to destroy it? Government is working and people want to destroy everything. Every time demonstration, demonstration. The Police Intervention Unit has the right to dismantle such [a fundraiser] if they weren’t informed.

You are one of the people behind the Five Years, what do you exactly hope to achieve?
What I want to see is for every Gambian to come out, no matter where you are. On that day, I am not coming out as a political adviser, but as an ordinary citizen who wants to defend his constitution. On that day, I will be there.

The UDP calls you and your colleagues“betrayers” who have tasted power and forgotten where you came from. Is that a fair comment?
Let them go and search in their midst, betrayers abound there in large numbers. The big fish never touches me, it’s the small fish and the goat tails of the UDP who keep pestering me. There is nothing but respect and harmony between me and the UDP leadership.

Apart from you and Barrow, who are the other prominent members of the NPP?
Whenever we are ready, the spokesperson will come out and explain everything. Forgive us for now. We will name names later.
Thank you .

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