“The Emperor’s New Clothes”, by Hans Christian Anderson, from Denmark, was published in 1837. Like the rest of Anderson’s fairy tales, the characters learn a significant lesson in this story. In literature, these are known as “morals”, something you can learn from the stories. I have referred to this fairy tale earlier, but it came to my mind when I read that President Barrow will be out on his annual ”meet the people tour”. In the fairy tale, there was no-one who dared to tell the emperor that he was naked, that the beautiful robe he was wearing was only in his imagination. The people who surrounded the emperor wouldn’t dare to tell that they didn’t see the glory which was supposed to cover the emperor. They thought themselves safe if they only agreed with everyone else and praised the emperor’s appearance.
Don’t take this literally, our president is not going to travel around in The Gambia in the nude. The moral of the story is that we need to be realistic and see what is there to see, as well as pointing out when there is nothing to see. The emperor in the fairy tale was foolish enough to believe what he was told – that his appearance was admired. No-one wanted to be the first to tell him that he had been fooled. A foolish person with a low self esteem is easy to fool. Tell him that he is high and mighty and he will believe you. Pretend as you admire his every action and every word and he will believe he is smart.
A foolish leader/emperor/president is always surrounded by yes-men who listen to him with smiling faces. Inside they smile at him, not with him. They smile because they know what to say and do to be in favour, they know how to put their words in a way that is making the ”high-and-mighty” appreciating them and thereby rewarding these people. It is a pity that this is still going on, that nothing is learnt from history and by other’s mistakes. I often say that you don’t necessarily have to do make own mistakes, you can learn by other’s. There are so many books written about leaders from the past, and also recent leaders and their efforts and mistakes – reading them makes one prepared for one’s task.
In the old days, young successors to the throne were prepared for years before it was considered that they were ready to rule their country. They were taught several languages, mathematics, geography, philosophy, history and also the art of warfare. This last part was considered as an art form back then, and it was necessary for the future kings to know. The successors inherited their throne, but they could also lose it in battle. Nowadays many of our battles are verbal, in real life or online. No matter what; there is an art form to be taught to survive in a harsh world. Nowadays leaders need to be well educated, smart and creative. The education is there to help the leader to understand a heated situation and to be able to analyze it you need to be smart. The creativity is crucial so you can find solutions.
Some days ago, I read an article saying that some Gambian NAMs had expressed their opinions about the presidential tour. It was a pleasant surprise to see that not all are singing from the same hymn sheet, that some are actually expressing their honest opinion. This annual tour is a waste of money, it is simply an opportunity for the president to be patted on his back for all his achievements …..eh…sorry, but which achievements? I haven’t noticed any creativity or forward thinking when it comes to President Barrow. Just looking at him you can see that there is not much going on inside his mind. Intelligence is not the word I am searching for when I wish to describe the president.
Adama Barrow is a figure in nice clothes, he is smart enough to climb to the throne long enough so he can earn as much as possible from his position, but he is not smart enough to be a part of the development of The Gambia. Really sad, don’t you think? You had high hopes when you sang and danced on the streets after Yahya Jammeh lost the election in 2016, but never could you have thought that you would remain as poor as you still are. There is a pattern in Africa that presidents promise a lot, but when it comes to keeping the promises the words are forgotten. It is like these promises were never told, so what reason do you have to believe that things would become better? It is said that the last thing that is leaving us is the sense of hope. Do you still feel hopeful though?
Something I love about The Gambia is that it is still very peaceful if we compare the country with other African countries. There are always problems in every country, all over the world, but if we look at the situation in other African countries then you can still feel pride. I think it is important to put things into a perspective and instead of always focusing on what is in front of our noses, we try to look a bit further and see that what we thought was better somewhere else also has its problems. Those who flee through the back-way and end up in what appears more or less like prison camps in Libya, will look back at what they had at home and miss that.
The people who manage to get to Europe will soon realize that life is not easier here. The climate is very different, the unemployment is high for under educated people and the solitude is damaging one’s peace of mind. The only ones who have a chance to get a qualified job in Europe are those who have a higher form of education and a diploma. People in the IT sector can easily get a job, but how many of those do we have in The Gambia? Doctors and nurses can also get a job, but they must be able to learn a new language quickly and their education must be valuated so it is considered to be on the same level as in the European country he or she is settling in.
Instead of President Barrow wasting a lot of money on this tour, he should make a wise decision and say – ”Hey guys, let us stay home this time and use the money on building up our country. Let us change the education system, learn from others and make a new and fresh start !”
Do you think you would ever hear President Barrow say these words? Nope, neither do, I so we must keep on dreaming. Let us not lose hope completely, there will be a new election in some years and it couldn’t be worse after that. Or…..?