By Tabora Bojang
Dembo ‘By Force’ Bojang, the religious adviser to President Adama Barrow has called on imams and alkalolu to ignore claims that they are not supposed to be in politics because there is no law book which says so.
He was speaking at State House Sunday during President Barrow’s meeting with religious leaders from the Kanifing Municipality broadcast yesterday on Eye Africa TV.
The former Bakau parliamentarian went on: “Former president Jawara was in power for more than 30 years thanks to the prayers of the imams and it is the same imams who also prayed for his successor Yahya Jammeh, campaigned for him and stood for his cause until he served for 22 years. But now they are telling you [imams and alkalolu] that you should not take part in politics when you have been politicking for over 50 years. In which law books have they seen that?”
Bojang said the president has strongly recognised the crucial roles of religious leaders in the governance and peace processes of the country, which informed his timely interventions from personal funds to support religious and social issues.
“If someone is standing for you in the sun you should also be standing for them in the shade,” Bojang told the leaders.
He further said losing an election is very painful to swallow because its effect and pain stays long with the individual. “So, I am pleading because this [Barrow] is someone who stood for your cause and would even travel outside seeking donation on your behalf and if we come with those things, people will tell you this is a government property and belongs to all of us but they did not contribute to the coming of that government and instead they are making derogatory remarks against the president when he is investing his personal money in your naming ceremonies, funeral and marriage ceremonies. If one cannot show him gratitude by saying thank you then one should shut one’s mouth,” he urged.
The religious adviser further informed the imams that he dislikes hearing claims that they are not part of politics describing it as “ridiculous.” “So why do they [alkalolu and imams] hold a voter’s card if they are not part of it?”, he asked
Bojang, who was once a UDP national president, said President Barrow has been held to account over his term in office and scored 9 out of 10 to earn him re-election in December.
“In fact, that pending 1 percent was because it was a coalition government. But if he wins again on his own, then you will come to know who President Adama Barrow is. You have already seen since he came to power there has never been water or electricity shortages in the country and this is just the tip of the iceberg.”
Also speaking, Imam Muhammad Lamin Jaiteh expressed gratitude to the president for giving the imams a “conducive atmosphere to propagate their teachings” without any intimidations by the security as it used to be under Jammeh.
“During the past prayers [Tobaski] all the imams prayed at their own will and there was no police intimidation. And we all know this president also retains the same powers but he sat on them and allowed us the enabling environment. Win in 2022 [sic] is certain for Barrow,” imam Jaiteh added.
The alkalo of Serekunda, Serign Baboucarr Mass Jobe who claimed he was speaking on behalf of all the alkalolu in KM, said the president has proved himself to be a leader of development and sincerity with several development projects in Niumi Hakalang, URR and Banjul.
“Banjul was all muddy with potholes but Barrow’s swift intervention has elevated the city. So, if he [Barrow] is able to achieve all these things in a short term then you the scholars should know that this guy ought to be trusted. If someone offered you breakfast and lunch and promised you dinner, then you have no reason not to believe them,” Jobe stated.
On his part, President Adama Barrow described the meeting as historic and informed the religious leaders that he is aware that imams have the widest followers and most listened to in the society. “When I took office my first task was to order the release of at least 3 imams who were illegally arrested and detained in prison by the former regime. I have always been sensitive to the imams; this is why during this Covid-19 we supported the majority of imams with D15,000 to support them and also undertake a D5 million annual subvention to the Supreme Islamic Council and we are also thinking of providing a subvention for the imams,” he disclosed.
The president also used the opportunity to renew his criticism of opponents, saying this election is a litmus test for people “who think they own this country, belittling others and thinking that they are the bonafide and highly educated citizens who should rule this country and no one else. Yes, they can claim they own their parties but to say they own the people is a lie”, the president said.