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Friday, May 20, 2022

The government’s chief spin doctor is hurting the executive

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By Njundu Drammeh

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” Martin Luther King Jr.
Now let us jump in medias res. Mr. Sankareh sent out a press release titled ‘The Gambia Government Clarifies the D11,250, Gift to Gambian Pilgrims’ to counter a previous night’s news item by GRTS in which the announcer/news reader talked about a ‘magnanimous gesture’ from the President Adama Barrow to Gambian pilgrims in Saudi Arabia. The donation was from President Barrow and so the press release subject title is misleading because the donation was not made by The Gambia Government.

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The press release was made ‘following widespread and unsubstantiated claims that Mr. Adama Barrow gave D11,250,000….’ Who is really making ‘unsubstantiated claims’ here? GRTS, Mr. Modou Joof or Mr. Sankareh? Is the claim not true? Didn’t Mr. Sankareh confirm the giving of the D11,250,00 as donation to Gambian Pilgrims in his own press release? GRTS news reader gave the headline and Mr. Modou ‘filed’ in the report from Saudi, in his own words and voice. So it was no speculation or ‘unsubstantiated claims’. The speculation may be on the ‘donor’ or giver but certainly not on the act, the donation itself. In deed what Mr. Sankareh did was merely to ‘clarify the nature and circumstances of the said story’, not deny the making of the donation or the claims.

‘During the memorable visit, some generous and anonymous Saudi philanthropists promised the Gambian President…..” So these Saudi philanthropists were also ‘anonymous’ to the President? Really? The question for me then is: how did the President meet these ‘anonymous Saudi philanthropists’? Or there was a go-between? Or rather the Saudi philanthropists requested ‘anonymity’ from the President? Rubbing vinegar into this wound, the press release then went on to reveal that ‘….a member of those anonymous benefactors generously fulfilled the promised package to President Barrow and presented to The Gambia’s Saudi Amabssador……the sum of D11,250,000 for onward transmission to the Gambian Head of State….’ What head of State goes to receive gifts from ‘anonymous benefactors’? Isn’t this a serious security lapse? (in my deep sarcastic voice). Really the promised package was in Gambian Dalasi? At least Mr. Modou Joof reported that the money was in Saudi Riyal and not Dalasi and I think his is correct.
Then the colourless spinning…..

‘Once news of the pleasant surprise reached the Gambian pilgrims, they unanimously expressed their profound appreciations to President Barrow and his anonymous benefactor for the charity…… Pilgrim after pilgrim commended both the President and benefactor….’ This is both needless and laughable…. ‘….they unanimously expressed their profound appreciation….’ To know that Mr. Sankareh is not in Mecca and did not count the hands that were raised in support. Or did he do a round to solicit the opinions of all the pilgrims, to know that ‘they unanimously expressed their profound appreciation’?
And then more spinning
‘……Evidently, President Adama Barrow stands out as a committed democratic reformer who wants to leave a legacy anchored in international norms and values of transparency, accountability and constitutional due process where all citizens are treated as equals…..’ President Barrow is in the morning of his presidency and only time and history would determine if he really ‘stands outs as a committed democratic reformer’. This is fawning of the lowest order. Our democratic reform processes are in their embryonic stages and except for one or two, most have not seen the light of day yet. Well…. What else should I expect from a spin doctor? And how does ‘a legacy anchored in international norms and values…..’ look like? Good to know that the President is mindful of the ‘legacy’ he wants to leave behind.

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And then the moth-eaten, sonorous, odious comparison….
‘There is therefore, neither moral nor ethical equivalence between President Adama Barrow and his predecessor who looted millions while the Gambian people lived in abject poverty and misery….’
Stop these comparisons. Yahya is not a standard to measure against; he had no progressive standards, no values to emulate, no past to look upon with absolute satisfaction and pride. The President should look up to the stars….. And yes, with the passage of time and an evaluation of his presidency, we may come to take unkindly such comparisons if there are no improvements in the lives of the peoples and betrayal of the promises and expectations, especially when the two become much of a muchness in the eyes of the people.

The Government’s chief spin doctor is doing more harm, inadvertently, to the Barrow reputation than he may know. Each press release muddies the waters more and leaves more doubt than clarity. Each soils the reputation of the President than brightens. With each press release I ask the questions ‘what is the purpose? What objectives do they want to achieve?’ If it is to promote transparency, or rather put things on the table, each press release fails to achieve that. If it is to hoodwink the people, each falls flatly on its face. Each press release makes people question the transparency of the Executive. Anonymity is the enemy of transparency.
I honestly think the Government’s chief spin doctor is not good at spinning. From the word go, he has been fumbling and stumbling and cannot still find his feet in the art of spinning. A government’s spin doctor should be exceptionally good at the job-controlling the narratives, confusing the public, inversing statements, creating conflicts in the minds of people, putting the wool in people’s eyes, brandishing the alternate truth, and insisting the ‘truth is not the truth’. It requires a person without character to do this job; one who does not set any store by his or her credibility or dignity or integrity or personal values and minds not the truth and the dictates of conscience. From the look of things, Mr. Sankareh is not good at spinning or looking at people in the eye and say ‘truth is not the truth’. Pity the man who gets conscience stricken at night but goes about his business in day time troubled but forced to have a Spartan spirit. A troubled man he is.

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