An open letter to President Barrow
“There is nothing more difficult to carry out nor more doubtful of success nor more dangerous to handle than to initiate a new order of things,” Machiavelli.
Mr. President, I am cognisant of the fact that there is nothing more difficult than managing a transition from one government to another, especially ours which was truncated or rudely interrupted by the Chief Priest of yore when the old order changeth and yielded place to the new. That notwithstanding, we need to complete this transition if our revolution is to come full cycle, if it is not to remain a mere ‘rebellion’ or a semblance of the past we replaced. We should ensure that the old structures and processes, all the relics of the past, all that sustained the old order, are ‘dismantled’ and replaced with ones which reflect the aspirations of the freedom we fought for, the New Gambia we cherish for ourselves. If we do not have a complete break with the past, if we just put the old structures and processes under the carpet and rechristen them under new names, if we put old wine in new bottles hoping it will be fresh, then we will never realise the fruit of the revolution. We will have the old government merely dressed in new clothes, just a change of guards, no more. A New Gambia is not possible without a roadmap, without strong leadership which is armed with faith and facts, with new Gambians who truly believe in the ideals and spirit of the revolution and imbued with the drive to achieve these ideals, armed with a map and compass and ready to steer the ship of state through the rough weather of transition. The rebirth cannot come without the birth pangs, without a revamping in shape and content of institutions and processes inherited from the past, without the Government treading on toes, with the President taking hard and tough decisions which may alienate and anger others but which are necessary for the growth and success of New Gambia. It is cliché but a veritable one that we have to break eggs to make omelette just as we cannot fly by rooting our legs firmly on the ground.
Mr. President, expectations are very high from the Government and from your person. We want you to accomplish a lot within a short span of time. We know you have inherited a broken system, a broken economy, broken infrastructure, and broken people. All these will need fixing. All these would need money to fix and our treasury is dry and empty, completely and thoroughly milked by the former President. It is natural that we have high expectations from our new Government, having endured indignity and brutality for nearly a quarter of a century. It is the Government which should tamper these expectations and channel them through avenues which would make them realisable. But much more, it is the Government which should tell the people what its priorities are harmonise these with the expectations of the people. The Government’s priorities should align with the expectations of the people. That the Government would fulfil their expectations may have made many to cast their votes and put their all for New Gambia. Managing these expectations is therefore crucial.
Mr. President, there seems to be a disconnect between the people and our new governors. The people seem to be in the dark about what the governors are doing, about what is happening in the corridors of power. The Minister of Communication, who I assume is the Government Spokesperson, is not talking to the people. State House is not talking to the people. When the people dearly need information, when they need to be comforted or their fears assuaged about the happenings around them, the response is a blank, a news blackout. The only one who is talking to the people is the Minister of Interior; the only one apparently busy and having a ‘work plan’ to implement. Opening up lines of communication between the governors and the governed should not be difficult. In a fragile situation as ours, when things are trying to fall into place, the President can be addressing the nation at least bi-monthly and answering their concerns, putting paid to whatever fears they have. The social media provides a great avenue for dissemination. The Radio Gambia and the National Television, being state owned, should take the lead. Every man and women should feel connected to the Government, should feel the presence of the Government in his or her life, should feel that she or he matters in the scheme of things and that this is a Government which belongs to him and her.
Mr. President, effective communication is the bedrock of any long lasting relationship and ineffective communication its death knell. It drives away suspicion and unnecessary speculations as well… Without it, misunderstanding grows and relationship is strained between people. When the communication link between the governors and governed is effective, open, transparent, strong and live, horizontally and vertically, top-down and down-up, frequent and broad based, the nation’s sense of collective self-efficacy, of ownership, of social cohesion and capacity and capability increase in leaps and bounds. We grow in the belief and confidence that together we can success; that Sovereignty lies with the people and the government is responsive of and responsible to the people.
Mr. President, the Gambia decided on 2nd Dec 2016 but it seems The Gambia has not, to all intents and purposes, decided in greater part. There is ‘motion’ but slow action. The ASSED, the Think Tank you talked about, should accelerate its work so that it produces whatever blueprint it is working on. For development to happen, to become sustainable, the Government will have to provide the framework, the roadmap and vision within which such development must take place, aligned with the initiatives spelt out in the Coalition’s MoU and the promises made during the elections. Apart from the blueprint, every Ministry must develop and implement its own Strategic Plan which would serve as a vehicle for the actualisation of the national blueprint. We have a terrible habit in this country where Plans that are drawn are put in the back burner and rarely influence work that is done on the ground. In fact, there is sometimes a disconnection between what is planned and what is implemented. Setting up a Unit or a body which would engage in performance monitoring and policing and making implementing bodies fall in line with the vision of the blueprint may be necessary.
Mr. President, all the Government ministries and departments must be galvanised and spurred on to move with the tide, the new dawn. Apparently, it seems some of them are still in the Yaya Jammeh mode. Lethargy is enveloping them. They are wallowing in indecision, to change or not. There is the need for you to send a clear, strong and unequivocal message to the Permanent Secretaries, heads of Parastatals and Government Departments and the High Command of our armed and security forces to fall in line, accept the change and work towards the goal of your Government. That the High Command of the armed and security send similar message to all the barracks and Police Stations and to every battalion and platoon commander. It is intolerable to have men and women in the civil or military services still swearing loyalty to the former President or unwilling to recognise the legitimacy of your Government. There is none so dangerous than men and women working in an organisation whose values, mission and vision they do not share and whose leader they do not recognise as theirs.
Mr. President, something dangerous is doing the round and I think it is important that you know. There is an erroneous belief that Yaya Jammeh has gone into banishment with all the laws that were promulgated during his reign or which were governing our lives. That since they are ‘Yaya Jammeh laws’ no one should obey them now. I have been in conversation with people who indicated that crimes and criminals hitherto hidden are resurfacing and making neighbourhood dangerous. Some people reported seeing young men smoking weed in the open. Law and order is taking some knocks. We need a reversal before things reach the lower watermark…. A strong message needs to be out that a regime change does not mean the laws of the land have been jettisoned and that the Police remain the enforcers of the laws.
Mr. President, we are arguably the smallest country on mainland Africa but indisputably home to one of the smartest people who are direct descendants of Adam. In the country and the Diaspora there are men and women, some of them retired, who have the genius, the experience and the expertise to support your development plans and make you succeed. You only have to call upon them and assign them work to do for their motherland. I am sure some of them would be willing to help at no cost to the State. All they may need could be some space and independence and valuation of advice they would give. A good coach is often successful with a good team, diverse and focus.
Mr, President, your task is arduous and challenging and listening to all these numerous, conflicting and competing priorities and expectations is certainly not enviable. But this is our REVOLUTION and we can make it successful through effective leadership, team work, consultation and cooperation, inclusiveness and partnership and upholding the principles of probity, accountability, transparency and participation.
Allah be with you….. I pray for you as Dr. Tai Solarin, that Nigerian philosopher, prayed for his people: may your road be rough. And if it is rough, may you have the aptitude and stamina, the tools and resources and the committed men and women to support you calm the roughness.
A Sovereign Citizen