An Open Letter to President Barrow Please. I beg you, don’t run for a second term. Go home with your honour intact

By Fatou Boye

Kindly permit me to be as brutally frank as possible. As a concerned citizen who made his modest contribution to your emergence as President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, I owe you nothing but the truth. I was not a member of your party when I volunteered to support your mission and ambition in 2016. I was elated when Gambians succeeded in chasing away the profligate and reckless government of the AFPRC, led by President Jammeh. I never expected that our situation could ever get worse under the Coalition government that almost literally promised heaven and earth. But it has become evident that it is easier to govern by mere words than concrete action.

It is indeed shameful that those like me who supported you so vociferously have become butts of jokes everywhere we go. Sir, I plead with you to ignore your acolytes who may be telling you that all is well in The Gambia. My unequivocal verdict, without any fear of contradiction is that things are VERY BAD. While I will not, in all honesty, totally heap the blame on you, there is no doubt that your government has been LESS THAN COMPETENT. I’m reasonably convinced that you have not availed yourself of the abundant talents it has so pleased God to endow The Gambia with. Rather, you’ve chosen to saddle yourself with hungry lions and dead woods that you have resurrected from penury and oblivion. Leadership should be about managing people and resources. Most of the people you are working with are already retired or tired and with little or nothing new to contribute.

It is grossly unfair that it was very convenient for us to lampoon and scandalise Yahya Jammeh, yet most of us have remained funereally silent and unreasonably complicit in the evil that the current men of power are perpetrating and perpetuating under your watch. Unknown to you Sir, SOME PEOPLE ARE MERELY USING YOU TO RULE BY PROXY. There is no evidence of discipline in your team, one of the greatest things you preached so fervently about in your first coming as head of state. Your acolytes are virtually getting away with every crime. Someone, somewhere, sat down with birds of the same feathers, to conjure and compile the most disgraceful list of political appointees ever and yet nothing has happened to those who brought such perfidious insults on our nation. Instead, we are being regaled with tales by the moonlight to gloss over serious maladies in the polity and damning treachery against our nation. No serious apologies. No penitence. Only some foolhardy cockiness from those who will repeat the same nonsense when tomorrow comes.

Your Excellency, it has become very difficult, if not impossible to defend the excessive shortcomings of your government, please, permit my oxymoron, sir. We definitely want you to succeed but it seems some demons are desperately determined to make you fail by all means. The more your administration unravels, the more ridiculously hopeless it seems. You have waltzed from crisis to crisis instead of from glory to glory, as most of us expected. We thought you truly possessed the magic wand and talismanic effect to make all our problems evaporate and vamoose in a jiffy. We did not expect to be regularly mesmerised by IMPOTENT EXCUSES GALORE.

I sincerely doff my hat to Honourable Halifa Sallah for his rare and uncommon courage. Regardless of what his detractors may say, he is the only insider who has been trying to say it as it is. Even if some of his critics feel he’s seeking for relevance in your kingdom, it is still within his rights. I’m sure that when the day of reckoning comes, you will remember and appreciate him timely warnings. Without mincing words, what Honourable Sallah has been trying to tell you in clear terms is that this government is swimming in a big foul mess and that you should not be carried away by the fake adulation and false adoration you see all around you. There is no government in The Gambia that did not enjoy the services of praise-singers who disappeared as soon as the government itself collapsed like a pack of cards. Ask President Jammeh!

Even if you are being forced by circumstances beyond your control to compromise and capitulate on your known principles to contest in the upcoming presidential election, don’t try it. Is it not better, and more profitable, to return home, triumphantly, with your reputation intact than to win a Pyrrhic victory with everything you ever stood for wasted on the altar of vainglorious aggrandisement? What guarantees do you have that you will win the next election even if you agree to sell The Gambia to the political gladiators?
Sir, I’m pleading with you in the name of God, the Merciful and All-Powerful, that you don’t need two terms, or ten years in power, to prove your greatness. Nelson Mandela spent only one term in power and retired to superlative glory as the world’s most respected and revered and idolised statesman.

Robert Mugabe spent about four decades in power, yet he returned home in total infamy and unenviable disgrace. It is a lesson of life that we must all learn, sooner rather than later, that man shall not live by power alone. I know my preaching is not likely to touch you and your hardened supporters but, at the very least, I want it to be on record that I spoke publicly, out of genuine love and concern, while you were being goaded on by those who stand to gain more if you win a re-election. For most of those asking you to continue, by fire and by force, it is always about THEIR PERSONAL AGENDA AND SURVIVAL. They know their political careers would come to a shuddering halt and abrupt standstill should you fail in your bid to come back. In their DESPERATION to come back at all costs, they are going to do exactly what AFPRC did, or even much worse. What moral authority would you then have to justify the continued detention and harassment of some of the AFPRC operatives accused of wasting government resources and killing innocent souls during Jammeh’s regime?

The upcoming election promises to be an interesting one. You will soon discover how treacherous human beings can be when some of those hailing you today as the authentic messiah begin to show you their true colours. Our country is bleeding dangerously while some over-pampered politicians can only think of winning elections by hook or by crook. The quality of your appointees in recent time points to how DIRECTIONLESS your government has finally become. In a country overflowing with so many amazing brains and talents, it is incredibly shameful that those are your best representatives for our country. The easiest way for a leader to fail is to continue to attract those much worse than himself. Conversely, the best way to succeed is for a leader to recognise and attract and surround himself with those much better in all aspects of human endeavour. This does not erase or take anything away from the leader but it actually enhances his personality and how he is perceived by everyone.

The Gambia has never been in short supply of electricity but The Gambia started dying when our leaders stopped respecting merit and preferred to enthrone mediocrity. The truth is mediocrity begets further mediocrity. The few good leaders in your government have not been able to display their wizardry out of fear and trepidation that some cabal would mark them out and hack them down so ruthlessly. It is a sign of the times that the courage, astuteness and brilliance that made them stand out in the political crowd has suddenly taken flight and they are now little more than wimps in your insipid government.

If I were in your shoes, I would consider that it is not too late to groom and propel some of the best brains in The Gambia even those living beyond the shores of The Gambia to succeed me. You do not need to look far in this regard but I will not make any suggestions today, lest it be misinterpreted that I am touting any particular individual as a worthy successor. I’m reasonably convinced that you have worked very hard and seem to have reached your peak. To God be the glory. In a country of nearly three million people, God has been too kind to you. You will be able to justify this unmerited favour by leaving The Gambia much better than you met it. The only way you can do that in the next remaining years is to SACRIFICE YOUR OWN PERSONAL AMBITION and hand over the country to proven and tested modern and cosmopolitan technocrats. The world has moved beyond the backwardness that we are being saddled with in The Gambia today. The world expect us to be the true example in Africa not by words but in deed.

My appeal to you is to urgently do a self-assessment to determine and decide on whether you are what The Gambia needs at this time and age for our country to join the community of other nations in their march towards technological advancement, political stability, social security and economic prosperity.
With all due respect, sir, if your answer is yes to the above, you may go ahead and contest but if in all honesty, the answer is no, my prayer is that you will find the courage and selfless spirit to quit the stage while the ovation is loudest. That in itself would be a deserving legacy. I’m watching and waiting for your patriotic decision with bated breath.
Thank you, Mr President, for your attention and kind consideration of my latest memo to you, Fatou Boye.


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