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City of Banjul
Monday, January 18, 2021

Masquerading newspapers

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By Aisha Jallow

President Adama Barrow has accused the media of bias, especially when it comes to coverage of his development projects, according to an article in this newspaper on December 21.

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Poor Mr President, aren’t the newspapers treating you right? Are they not scratching your back, patting your shoulder and singing your praise? It must hurt your feelings as we all know how terribly hard you are working ……… Sorry, couldn’t continue that sentence, didn’t know what to write without choking. What do you expect from all of us ”activists” as you named us? It is not our role in this play to sing your praise, our role is to keep an eye on you and your government to see that you do what you are supposed to do. Information about any achievements or development projects should come directly from the governmental informants. Journalists get their information from different sources, and if they find something inaccurat it is their obligation to write about it.

You call the newspapers masquerading, just because they write things you don’t want them to. Sir, even if you are the president, this doesn’t mean that you can give a wish list to all media and ask them to only write about matters you have approved. It doesn’t work that way in a democracy, we have different roles and all of us are following the rules we are given. You can disapprove or not, but this is a fact you just have to accept. It must pain you that The Gambia is nowadays considered as a democracy and that you don’t have unmitigated power. For a president with a low self-esteem, it must be irritating that people are allowed to speak out freely about their opinions.

The problem, Mr President, is that we are aware of something that you don’t seem to be aware of: you are too late! You are out on meet-the-people’s tour as you call it, but it is a political rally in disguise. Didn’t you think we have found out? As I have told you before – you are rather transparent. You are simply not clever enough to hide your intentions, and now trying to shoot with your big canons is only going to fail the aim. You expect the media to cover your development projects, and what else? Sing your praise in numerous variations to make you feel good? Don’t you see that you have had four years to achieve a lot and you did nothing?

Suddenly you started in a haste, and you have even said yourself that you are sure people will remember your achievements. Yes, they will remember them because they came too late and were too small.

Mr President, people are starving, they cry themselves to sleep and they don’t know where to get money to pay for all their living expenses. Young people, the future of our country, still use the backway in a desperate attempt to get a better life. They don’t want to listen to any words of warning, they feel that it is worth the risk. Doesn’t this pain you, Mr President? You have failed the future of this country, you and your corrupt ilks have continued walking the same path Yahya Jammeh and his ilks walked.

I must be fair – you haven’t deliberately killed any Gambians, but people die because of hunger, anxiety, poor healthcare and the lousy roads that make the ride to the hospital both slow and painful. Speaking about health; what about our disabled citizens? They need appropriate tools so they can manage in the society. It is hard enough for someone who is fully abled to walk along our streets. Imagine how it must be for someone with problems lifting one’s feet or moving around in a wheelchair? There are no proper pavements, the roads are full of pot holes and bricks sticking up from the ground. The sides of the roads are narrow and often leaning towards a ditch or a gutter. Either there is not enough space for a wheelchair or people risk to roll down into the gutter and injure themselves.

Even if someone who is disabled would be lucky enough to get a job, it would be almost impossible to get there.

All of us know how dangerous the traffic situation is in The Gambia. Most drivers seem to have got their driver’s licences at the back door, for a bunch of dalasi. The rules in the traffic are that there are no rules, at least not many are aware of them – or care about them.

If the work for a disabled person is too far away to get there by foot, or wheelchair, the taxi drivers refuse to help. A wheelchair can very easily get folded and placed in the trunk of a car, but that must be done by the driver and he is not interested. It is also hard for a person, who has paralyzed legs or severe problems walking to get in and out from a vehicle. The driver must help with that too , and he is still not interested. A vehicle can be transformed to easily carry disabled people, but that costs a lot of money. Giving a helping hand is free.

There is a huge lack of empathy in The Gambia, we all know that but we pretend as if we don’t see it.

How is it possible in a country where we are surrounded by mosques and praying people? How come there is more empathy for troubled people in agnostic countries? (agnostic: none believers or atheists)

Do we use our faith as a shield and there is a secret life going on behind it? It seems like that as we have seen too many signs of it.

We have plenty of disabled children in the Gambia too – did you know that, Mr President? Many of them are hidden because their parents are ashamed of them. The lack of empathy makes life hard for both disabled children and their parents. Gossip is a language that all Gambians master, and how people talk about something that is different! Some comments here, some looks there. Heads that turns and then learns towards each other and a whispering conversation begins about what people have seen. Learn that the one who sticks out from the norm is very sensitive to all the whispers and the looks.

We have so many in our country who dream of a better future, who long for the day when they don’t have to worry about everything all the time. The lack of empathy is understandable, life is so hard all the time, continous setbacks kicks away the feet under you. People’s minds are so occupied with the daily fight for survival so the society becomes more of a djungle than a civilization. The laws of the jungle are ”eat or be eaten”. Translating that expression to a context everyone can relate to is: ”Grab as much as you can, while you can”. Mr President, unfortunately you and those closest to you master this game. You would never be able to build up your wealth only relying on your salary. You are already well paid, but that is not enough, is it?

Here is a quote from the article I am refering to:

“A good citizen must love his or her country and do everything to defend it and that is the direction expected from all of us.”

These are your own words, but knowing you they sound like a mockery. No wonder journalists scrutinize your work, you have high thoughts of yourself but we can see through you.

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