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City of Banjul
Monday, January 18, 2021

People get easily offended these days

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By Aisha Jallow

They say that these are the times when people are so easily offended so you are afraid to even open your mouth. This happens when people take themselves too seriously and are unable to stop for a while to consider what has been said.

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I read an article in this newspaper where the presidential adviser Dou Sanno told Ousainu Darboe to not offend President Barrow. I read both statements several times to see what was the problem, and found that Mr Sanno had jumped into conclusions. He seems to be so eager to defend the president at any cost, so he doesn’t take a while to consider what has been said or not.

Mr Sanno refered to a statement said by the leader of UDP, Ousainu Darboe, when Mr Darboe said that Barrow’s father didn’t give him an estate which he could use to benefit the people. This is a fact, Mr Sanno, and not an insult. You really need to stop and think for a while, but perhaps you wish to pick easy points. What is the purpose of your statement? That President Barrow will pat you on your shoulder and call you his favourite? Will he give you some treats, some dalasis or an extra T-shirt with his name and picture on?

I find it embarrassing and ridiculous of a public official to speak out in this manner. If President Barrow has an opinion in the matter himself – then why not speak out? Is this once again a sign of his incapability to communicate? Why couldn’t Mr Barrow have asked Ousainu Darboe what he meant with his statement? It is clear as daylight that this is a matter of misunderstanding and nothing else. Mr Darboe was right when he said that the president hasn’t got an estate from his father for the benefit of the people. This means that Mr Barrow didn’t get an estate as a gift to do whatever he wanted with – like sharing it in small pieces and giving these pieces to the people. It was not meant to diminish President Barrow’s father.

Instead Ousainu Darboe continued by saying that President Barrow is using public funds to give out as favours. The money already belongs to the people, but they are not in the position to question it. President Barrow is picking easy points too, this is an act of corruption disguised as giving favours. We remember this from Yahya Jammeh’s era, and this seems to be an act that is common among African leaders. It would be different if President Barrow would have withdrawn money from his own bank account to give out to the people, but that is unfortunately not the fact. Ousainu Darboe is speaking the truth, and that seems to hurt.

The presidential toes are sore, once again someone has stepped on them, and here I am to increase the pressure. President Barrow is out on tour in the country, stopping here and there to ”meet the people.” What kind of representatives will he speak to? Those who tell him what he wants to hear, or those who tell the truth? The time schedule is busy so only some people are chosen to speak to the president at each place. That is normal, and practical, but perhaps not giving the president a realistic narrative. Those he meets are also so blinded by all the ”pomp and circumstances ” surrounding the president’s visit, so they hardly find their words. What they have thought before, when they complained about their situation, is not what they are able to say.

Too many still believe that it is God who has given the president his power, so they wouldn’t say anything to offend him and by that God.

That even seems to be a fact with Mr Sanno who says:

”No matter what happens between you and somebody, don’t ever forget the past because if you do – you will be going against God.”

It is common to say that if one does this or that one goes against God – but is it true? Is Mr Sanno a scholar who has studied the Holy Qur’an for several years, or is he simply using the same old method used by others? We all know that the respect for the word of God lays so deeply in people’s minds in The Gambia, that hardly anyone dare to question someone who is using that as a ”weapon” in their battle for what seems to be true. As a convert, I have my studies in fresh memory and I know that we, as Muslims, are taught to even question our parents and Imams about their teachings. Not for the purpose of being disobedient or stubborn, but for the simple fact that they might have learnt something that is wrong.

Consider that still around 50% of the Gambian citizens are illiterate. How can you know exactly what the Holy Qur’an tells us if you can’t read it? You have learnt to recite by heart, but the memory can play us tricks and with time we don’t remember everything.

We shouldn’t use either the words of God, or his Holy name, to make others be quiet when they are telling you a truth you don’t want to hear.

Mr Sanno keeps on defending President Barrow and God seems to continue being with him in the next statement:

“They are claiming that you are using public funds but I know UDP. This is because God didn’t give them power and instead give it to you. I will continue to defend you as long as you are doing what is right,” Sanno said, addressing President Barrow”.                                    

In my mind, I can see the president with a satisfied smile, watching his precious defender singing his praise. It must be a boost for the self confidence to hear every day how great you are. Just be careful, because this praise has a purpose and that is to come one step closer to the fountain of favours. Mr Barrow, you haven’t achieved enough to earn that praise, but you will get it as long as you have your position. Why? Because scratching your back gives benefits. In The Gambia it is not so much a matter of WHAT you know, but WHO you know. Singing your praise and defending your so-called achievements can help people to earn some extra. You don’t see that, do you? This seems to be clear for everyone but you, Mr President, and it’s a sad fact.

Ousainu Darboe didn’t speak out because ”God didn’t give them power”. He spoke because he can see right through you, Mr President. You are the only one that is transparent and Ousainu Darboe is old and experienced enough to read your mind. The transparency you promised us, at the beginning of your term as a president of The Gambia, is not of the right kind. You know that, because so many have told you that even if you don’t want to hear them. The warning signals have come from not only citizens of The Gambia, but also international observers.

In the old times, before the internet, you could hide your actions and pretend as you hadn’t said something less smart. That is impossible nowadays as documents leave traces and words are recorded. There is an old saying, that ”what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” This speaks about Las Vegas, a town in the US, which is well known for gambling and a sinfull living. You see, Mr President, ”what happens on Internet, stays on Internet”, so stop this old fashioned play and begin to act as a modern president instead.

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