Letters: Evaporating candor and statesmanship in the presidency

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Dear editor,

When a leader, no less a head of state travels and give speeches, citizens need to be both inspired and mesmerized by substance, candor and statesmanship. They are supposed to represent the honor and hope the citizenry, among others. Arguably, Gambia has not had one since Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara.

Yahya Jammeh is remembered (the coward is remembered for many bad things by the way) for his long, rambling speeches replete with threats, arrogance, disrespect and illusion. The guy had never given any extemporaneous remark that was uplifting, electrifying or hopeful. The notable exemption throughout Yahya Jammeh’s presidency, however, was the ‘famous’ speech he delivered in Nigeria and this was prepared by Momodou Sabally. Yahya Jammeh had desecrated the Presidency in ways far beyond governance both in words and in deeds.

Then came President Barrow, the Comedian-in-chief of all time. Even when presiding over official functions, President Barrow’s lack of understanding of and connection to the prepared remarks is depressingly obvious. But there is some interesting particularity in his off-the-cuff statements. The President’s self-adulating indulgence and recognition for or obsession with servile flattery are on another level. We have seen it before during his State House meetings with various constituents and it’s again unfolding before our eyes in his Constitutionally-mandated countrywide tour. Aside the fact that Barrow is fixated on imaginary crowds perhaps to assure himself of the kind of political support he doesn’t have, his utterances are sometimes so infantile, so exaggerating and so devoid of substance that they pose serious ethical concerns to the Presidency and denigrate the honor and respect of the office he occupies.

As he traverses the country, we expect more personal attacks, little substance, even more politics and promises upon promises that he has neither the capacity, willingness nor the resource base to keep.

The President is also blatantly refusing to look at Gambians in the eye and tell them the truth: that his Presidency has made them poorer, highly indebted and increasingly vulnerable and shockingly hopeless; that his administration is not only notorious for wasteful spending but is about to table a budget that sinks our country deeper in debt while impeding Health and Agriculture.

Barrow and his entourage have little or no spine to tell Gambians that his administration plans to borrow D5.6 billion in their name in 2020 which represents a teary 221% over the amount borrowed in 2019 and spend D9.4 billion ( about 37% of total tax and other revenues ) to service the loans. The President is also not being honest to inform Gambians that he is not interested in improving their worsening health care system or revitalizing the collapsed Agriculture Sector when his government is allocating a paltry sum of 5.7% and 1.7% of the total budget respectively on Health and Agriculture.

The President is right about one thing though: more Gambians will need blood pressure medication under his Presidency than at any point in time in history due to several distressing factors associated with his administration.

The President is also planning to expand the bureaucracy and redundancy of the Presidency by adding Special advisers to the cadre or pool of already inundated and incompetent advisers with no discernible reason other than to reward his political sycophants at the expense of Gambians.

By voting President Barrow out in 2021, we are taking a step closer to bringing about responsibility, honor, maturity, service, integrity, candor, transparency, care and statesmanship to the Presidency of the Republic of The Gambia in particular and government as a whole.

Zakaria Kemo Konteh
Queens, USA