I am 100% President Adama Barrow, but could he be dyslexic?

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By Samsudeen Sarr

Please bear with me to introduce this piece with an old joke. I think it was either in the 70s or 80s when a detachment of The Gambia Field Force (GFF) was dispatched to the teachers-training college at Yundum College to crackdown on the students protesting about their poor living conditions. However, members of the GFF were not only notable for their intolerance of any form of civil misbehavior or disobedience but were above all notorious for their parochial approach to education of which they coined their principal aphorism that education didn’t matter in their job and that if a recruit had a “Standard-Seven Certificate” he may as well put it in his pocket. By then “Standard-Seven Certificate” was one of the highest educational achievement of a high school graduate with most Yundum College students recognized for passing the final school exam.

So after the lecturers and police failed to control the students, the GFF arrived at the camp with their riot gears and outfits with strict orders to deal with the students. The students thought they could intimidate the troops by speaking to them in the best of their Shakespearean English language which unfortunately never worked. After listening to them the illiterate commander ordered his troops to move into an attack formation and then gave his last warning to the protesters to either disperse or face the dire consequence. He had shouted: “we sabby say Yundum College students sabby book and English like Mercedes Benz; but me no care that; you go go or no go go”? What followed was the severe beating of the resisting students into immediate dispersal and general submission.

Against that decades-old jolly backdrop, I will on this 23rd day of September 2022 declare the government of President Adama Barrow in my GFF mindset of having a cabinet that “sabby” book and English like Rolls-Royce. Hence, there is no justification for the president to continue making the numerous and mortifying mistakes he often makes when speaking or reading in the English language. Unless there is an underlying disorder in him that requires special attention. I will later come to that.

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I listened to his speech at the UN General Assembly yesterday, 22nd September, 2022 which was well crafted by his speechwriter but poorly delivered by the president. Indeed the president made so many inexcusable mistakes that I thought of holding his aides accountable for not allowing him to adequately rehearse the speech before he climbed the UN podium.

When in his introductory remark President Barrow read “head of state” instead of “heads of state” I thought it was a mere typographical error; but the printed copy I later secured shows that he indeed misread the noun like he did on many more words in his deliverance.

I was hoping that after that unforgettable mistake he made at the UN in September 2018 when he misread 72nd General Assembly and said “ 72 second” of the General Assembly his aides would ensure his maximum mastery of any of his future speeches to the UN.

But that has not been the case from what I saw and heard yesterday. In fact I cannot but say that he did worse during the 77th session than he did in the 73rd one that I strongly attributed to the negligence and incompetence of his assistants.

To start with I think somebody out there-the Rolls Royce Vice President, the Rolls Royce ministers, the Rolls Royce Secretary General or any Rolls Royce technocrat-ought to muster the courage and let the president finally realize that “COVID” is pronounced as “COVID” and not “COVICK” as he has been saying since outbreak of the pandemic.

Moreover, for him to read “succumbed” as “succumbed-dead” shows that he was certainly unfamiliar with the word and its pronouncement which should have been replaced with a simpler one. And again, he read “muster” as “moister”, “compound” as “compounded”, “response” as “respond” and “these” as “this” in the same statement where he read “pursuit” as “pursue”. Where the writer wrote “The Gambia has…..”, the president read “The Gambia have..…” Like some Gambian politicians I have noticed that the president always struggles with the third-person-singular-English grammar.

Anyway where in the text the writer wrote about “more gender balanced peacekeeping deployment approach”, the president read “more greater balanced peacekeeping deployment approach”.

When talking about the need to review and do more to address the “frequent deadly attacks against peacekeepers”, the president read “frequency deadly attacks……”.

From there he talked about another need to recognize the sovereignty of Morocco over its Sahara Region of which he misread “recognize” and said “reconsider”.

Rather than to say that we must “come together to jointly assist”, he said “must come together to joint assist”.

In the written text, instead of reading” biting inflation” he said “bitting inflation”, “food and energy security” appeared to him as “food and emerging security” and the “plight of the Rohingyas” read as the “plea of the Rohinyas”.

Well, barely a fortnight ago, the president at the residence of the British High Commissioner in The Gambia pronounced condolence as “congolence” which drew a lot of ridicule and criticism from especially his political adversaries and left me wondering whether our president is not another person affected by dyslexia? It is a disorder that involves difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters and other symbols, but doesn’t necessarily affect intelligence. After all, the noun condolence is a pretty familiar and simple word to say or read but a person with dyslexia may see the “d” in the word as a “g”. And unless I am proven wrong, I may continue to hold on to the possibility that President Barrow might be affected by the global disorder.

Before its discovery by scientists, people had wrongly attributed it to a lower IQ; but since then, a lot of countries in the world have been making it mandatory to test all children for the disorder with effective remedies available to help them adjust to the hindrance. To name a few renown people in the world, Anderson Cooper of CNN, Tom Cruise, Whoopi Goldberg and Jim Carrey-very famous and successful American actors- Albert Einstein, John F. Kennedy, George Washington and George W. Bush all suffered from dyslexia. Hence, accepting and understanding it goes a long way in controlling it.

I think President Adama Barrow needs honest people around to help him figure out whether he is also not affected.