By Momodou Sabally
Good evening Mr President,
With utmost respect Sir, I salute you thou Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Republic of The Gambia. Surely your feet are gradually filling the royal shoes handed over to you by the poor and vulnerable masses of our country. And I testify that as of today I know that you are ready to stamp those shoes on the powerless masses without remorse.
It was a few minutes past 8pm and as I finished my evening meal at the end of the fasting Tuesday, your speech to the nation was being aired over national tv. I must acknowledge that you have improved your delivery of speeches and you did quite well with a short and precise speech that came with quite simple words with a clear message.
Having said that, Your Excellency, I must state that the content of your speech is worrisome. Why do you have to invoke powers conferred on you by the Yahya-Jammeh constitution to act unilaterally even when you do not need to do so. I am not an expert in constitutional law but it is my contention that such clauses that empower you to act unilaterally were never meant to be a first, second or even third option in the scheme of our governance operations. These clauses are meant as last resort to be used in the national interest and not any powers to sooth/boost the ego of the occupant of State House.
Your Excellency, contrary to your prepared rhetoric, the rejection of the second 45 days of a State of Public Emergency (SoPE), has nothing to do with partisanship in the National Assembly. The reasons for the rejection of your second request for extra lockdown of the poor and vulnerable people from free movement to seek their livelihoods was based on the fact that your government failed implement the regulations that came with the previous approval of the SoPE. Moreover, you failed to provide the necessary cushions and social safety-nets needed to lessen the burden and suffering of the masses that came with the restrictions imposed by the SoPE.
Furthermore, the National Assembly’s rejection of the proposed extension for the State of Emergency was voted for by members of different parties. In addition to this fact, it was clear from the floor of the Assembly that members were open to approving a reduced version of the SoPE bill with a period of 21 days in the interest of the masses.
However, we know that the rejection of this SoPE bruised your Attorney General’s ego and therefore, he would not return to the Assembly of the people’s deputies to resubmit a bill. With palpable aiding and abetting of the National Assembly Authority, your Government shut down the window of consultation and compromise in this matter, paving the way for you to get even with the National Assembly in what is now evidently a power struggle.
However, the timing and manner of your action is counter-productive to your own long term interests and the interest of the nation.
The National Assembly actually acted conscientiously and in the true interest of our country by rejecting your 45-day SoPE bill. The corroboration of this reasoning was in the very middle of the GRTS news that broadcast your address to the nation. This news programme reported that residents of the West Coast Region had just commenced receiving food aid from government this very day; 4 months into the COVID-19 crisis and beyond the first 45 days approved as initial SoPE. How do you expect the people’s representatives to approve further restrictions of the movement of the masses when your government cannot efficiently distribute the little food supply bought for their relief?
In view of the foregoing, Mr President, what you just did in your speech is what we call ‘jaye dolleh’ in ndongo parlance. But what should we expect from a President whose chief advisers include Banjul street captains like Lands Minister Musa Drammeh, Mambury Njie, and the brainless anachronistic orangutan called Saihou Mballow. You may feel triumphant in this particular battle but this expensive bullet you just fired might be the one to cost you the ultimate war prize in 2021. Hubris has been here for long and it has taught potential leaders, and humanity in general, a lot of lessons, yet it is also trite that “history teaches us, that history teaches us nothing.”
At a time when you and your team of advisers are whining around town that our new draft constitution “discriminates” against you and gives too much power to our National Assembly rather than “favouring” you, it is not wise to show the public that you would misuse and abuse any powers bestowed on you by the constitution; and that you will not accord the people’s representative, at the National Assembly, the respect and honour that they deserve.
Your Excellency, The irony of all of this is that you have thrown down the gauntlet to us and declared that you are the most powerful man among us on this 26th Day of Ramadhan 2020, being the night preceding the 27th day of Ramadhan, generally considered by Muslims to be the Night of Power.
Actually, what I expected, tonight, was for you to ease the restrictions and reopen our mosques as done by your counterpart in Senegal. But, no, you chose to restrict us further using your sweeping powers. But all power and sovereignty actually belong to Allah as solemnly declared in verse 26 of the third Surah (chapter) of the Holy Quran: Say, “O Allah , Owner of Sovereignty and Power, You give power to whom You will and You take power away from whom You will. You honor whom You will and You humble whom You will. In Your hand is [all] good. Indeed, You are over all things competent.”
And since this is a Night (or one of the nights) associated with the revelation of the Quran. Let me share with you a Quranic principle called ‘istidraaj’. Knowing the wisdom behind this concept could save you; but it does not look like you are interested in the application of any divine principles right now as you flaunt your muscles.
In parting, I would like to share with you a comment made by a taxi driver this evening upon hearing that you have further extended the State of Public Emergency, thereby, worsening their already dire financial circumstances. These are his words, unedited, “su don Yahya Jammeh la; ndikon fompa na sugn rongogn-yi; wai Barrow morm deffaa dugal baaraamam-yi sugn birr bot-yi.” (Yahya Jammeh would have mopped our tears and cleaned our face; but President Barrow is now sticking his fingers into our eyes.)
God bless you Mr. President and may Allah guide and protect our country.