Open letter to Barrow; when you become a president
Dear Mr President,
The presidency is the highest office in the land. It is a position of honour, respect and dignity. The truth is that, the seat of the presidency is a seat of trust and honour given to an individual to occupy for, and on behalf of, every Gambian. It is clear that all Gambians cannot occupy one seat; thus, we come together using set principles and means to choose (elect, to use the democratic term) one from among us to occupy it for us.
Such an individual is given all the tools and all resources necessary to run the affairs of the nation.
S/He is paid well and provided with all incentives to do a particular job which is simply to protect our rights and give us all the goods and services we need for a dignified live. Every waking moment of such an individual is paid for by taxpayers’ money. S/He should therefore concentrate his/her entire time to serving us.
A leader of a people is their servant. S/He should serve them with respect, dignity and honour. S/He should provide all the goods and services which will make life better for his/her people. They should have the courage and confidence that when the need arises, s/he will listen to them and solve their problems, console them when they need it, give them a shoulder to cry on.
When a person is chosen (elected in our terms), s/he should have the heart of an elephant and the ego of a bird. The heart of an elephant will enable to him/her to be very tolerant of every type of dissent and even unreasonable criticism. For one thing, not everyone in the country is at the same level when it comes to reason and sensibility. Some are capable of behaving maturely and with a perfect sense of detachment. Yet, there will be others who are not so reasonable and not so diplomatic in conveying their message(s).
The president should have the ego of a bird because s/he should always understand that it is not about him and his person, but about the office, the presidency.
As we have indicated already, the presidency is a position belonging to each and every Gambian and thus we all have a right to speak to it and about it. When we speak, we speak to and about the presidency and not the person of the president. So, when you occupy that office, you must understand the subtle difference. Just think a little while prior to your coming into that office, no one interfered in whatever you were doing. But now that you occupy their seat, the people speak!
It will help if from the start you cultivate the belief that all Gambians love The Gambia. Thus, whoever speaks about the nation, it is because the person wants the country to be better.
Your ideas might differ in many ways and areas, but the intention and destination are the same: a better Gambia. With this perception in mind, the ego (that of a bird, remember?) will allow you to listen to these dissenting views – some put across respectfully with detachment and others not so much – are all precipitated by that love; that intense desire to make the nation better. Even if these ideas and views are misguided in your estimation, listening to them can’t do you or the nation any harm. If anything, they will enhance your performance, your understanding of the issues that you are to tackle. So, what do you have to lose? I used the bird as an example because even though it is small, it high up there, can’t be touched by criticism of its size colour or prowess in flying.
As I said in the beginning, the presidency is a position of respect, honour and dignity and it behooves anyone addressing it to do so with some amount of decorum. But even if someone doesn’t, it behooves the president to act or react with dignity and some form of restraint. We can’t expect our president to respond to everything that is said to, and about him. We expect our president to be bigger than that. Journalists will of course raise these issues to you, remember they are looking to sell their newspapers. That is why they are tempted to follow the sensation.
If the president is to respond to every jibe thrown at him, he won’t have time to focus and concentrate on the real issues of nation building. There is a time and manner to respond to everything. The difficult thing is being able to differentiate the two. At certain times, it is the actions that will respond for the president.
It is not about the president having or not having a right to respond or not, it is about the high responsibility placed to his/her shoulders. It should make him/her better and of a higher moral ground than the ordinary people. After all, you are high up there and we are down here!