By Madi Jobarteh
I wish to congratulate Ousainu Darboe for his appointment as the Vice President of the Republic, becoming the second person to hold that position since our newfound democracy within one and half years. In congratulating Ousainu, I must say his assumption of this high office is not an ordinary matter simply because of his unique circumstances.
In a nutshell Ousainu is standing at the gate of history to make or break his future and legacy. Hence it is necessary to remind Ousainu that this position carries a huge weight in every sense of the word.
In July 2016 I paid a fitting tribute in an open letter to Ousainu Darboe when he was illegally jailed for fulfilling his historic national duty to protest in defence of human rights and democracy. I still stand by that tribute letter. In his statement that he never got to deliver to the court, he stated his convictions and values among which include his unflinching belief in the rule of law, human rights and adherence to sacred values of humanity. For that matter he put it to the judge that he would not seek leniency from the court for doing that he would be legitimizing injustice and persecution perpetrated by that court.
I had never been more inspired and emboldened when I read that address hence I had no choice but to place my fingers on the keyboard to draw a fitting tribute to him. In my tribute I extolled his leadership qualities and expressed a strong belief that Ousainu is poised to become a leader of our country someday. Today he is a vice president!
There is no doubt that even without the position of vice president Ousainu Darboe is the most powerful and most influential leader in the Gambia. He commands more respect and attention than any political leader. This status is now more than ever strengthened as he combines the two positions of party leader of the biggest political party and Vice President of the Republic. These positions bring huge responsibility, with potential risks or opportunities, on the man for which he needs to do deep reflection as to the way forward.
For example we know that Pres. Adama Barrow has referred to him as his ‘political godfather’. It is believed by many that Ousainu has far more influence on the president than anyone else. It is not farfetched to think that Pres. Barrow talks to and listens to Ousainu more than anyone. Hence it is important for Ousainu to realise therefore that the progress, peace and prosperity of this country are heavily placed on his shoulders.
While Ousainu enjoys huge favourable perception, it is also true that he is probably the most vilified public officer and politician in the new Gambia. He is the most distrusted and misinterpreted politician and there are many citizens who wish him nothing other than the worse calamity imaginable.
These positive and negative perceptions about a politician contain opportunities and strengths on one hand as well as risks and threats on the other. They could enable a smart politician to therefore transform the negatives into positives and strengthen the positives to even greater positives. Ousainu therefore has a great opportunity today to not only raise his own profile and status to higher heights, but he also has the unique chance to change hearts and minds of citizens towards national reconciliation, patriotism and cooperation. The ball is in his court.
If I have to give any advice to Ousainu as the Vice President, I will tell him that the VP is indeed the person in charge of the Cabinet hence the Government. The VP is the technical and action person for the President. The success of the President rests with the quality of Vice President he has. A Vice President is like the captain in a football team. He does not have to be the best player but he must command and lead to ensure team work so that strikers can score the goal. In modern political settings, the President constitutes the cabinet but the head of Cabinet is the VP.
As Vice President, Ousainu must not only provide leadership and coordination to implement Pres. Barrow’s vision, but he has to ensure that Ministers are held to account in order to deliver results. A VP is like a chief operations officer in a business company or a program manager in an NGO. The VP must therefore ensure that Government business is run efficiently and effectively in a transparent manner. Therefore if Barrow is to succeed it is because there is an effective, pragmatic and results-oriented Vice President.
My beef with former VP Tambajang is that she was not running the government as a business or an NGO where performance, results and efficient delivery matter. She created and nurtured this misguided idea and image of motherhood and fatherhood in statecraft hence her inability to make ministers deliver.
There are no mothers and fathers in our statecraft. There are only Public Servants who just deliver services according to the law. It is because of this misconception that Fatoumatta Tambajang did not only fail to provide the necessary leadership but also became out of tangent with her functions and the reality.
Ousainu must therefore overcome this malaise if he is to succeed and prove all the doomsayers wrong. Furthermore Ousainu must realise that his future political objectives are directly linked to this current position of VP. Hence the need for him to deliver is a necessary prerequisite for his personal and party political objectives in future.
Political expediency, maslaha or patronage will not earn him durable and sustainable political goods. He must insist only on the values and standards of good governance, democracy and human rights to ensure that ministers, ministries and departments deliver on their terms of reference.
He must beware of sycophants and surrogates and architects of dictatorship. These kinds of people can be found within his family and friends, in his party, in the government, in the private sector or the civil society and indeed in the wider society as a whole. Either for positions, privileges or fame or out of sheer ignorance or dishonesty such people could derail him severely.
He must not buy into their misguided narratives of his invincibility and infallibility. No human being is invincible or infallible. He must not allow them to massage his ego to assume that he alone can do it. Rather Ousainu must have the strength, courage and honesty to differentiate between falsehood and truth and to remain committed to only truth and justice for the Gambia.
In a nutshell Ousainu must bring about system change. He must seek real reforms in the civil service and security sector. He must guide the Pres. Barrow and the Cabinet to deliver tangible socio-economic transformation and the building of strong institutions. He must speed up the transition process in all facets by making sure that Cabinet Ministers and the Secretary General perform and deliver results. Therefore if Ousainu underperforms or fails there is no doubt that Barrow and his Government will also fail woefully. In that case, Ousainu’s own political future will be doomed as well!