Friday, September 29, 2017

Is President Barrow beginning to flex his muscles?

Gambian President Adama Barrow 
"A leader takes people where they want to go.  A great leader takes people where they don't necessarily want to go, but ought to be" is a quote attributable to Mrs. Rosalynn Carter, America's former First Lady is appropriate to reflect upon during this critical period of Gambia's political transition.

Under normal circumstances, when the government is majority-led, to be a great leader is extremely difficult, much less when the head of government is leading a multiparty coalition of 7 +1 political parties and an unaffiliated independent candidate with different manifestos, programs and agendas, each pulling in different directions requiring a strong-willed head of government to hold the center.

Unfortunately, holding the center alone will not suffice after what continental Africa's smallest country had to undergo over 22 years of our of the world's most violent and corrupt dictatorship the world has ever seen where the country's institutions were willfully dismantled to create a chaotic environment for the military to exercise extrajudicial powers and for corruption to thrive.   It created the perfect environment for both to grow exponentially.

Supporters and critics of the Barrow administration may differ in strategic approaches to solving the myriad of problems facing the country but they all agree of one thing: that solving the systemic and structural problems facing the country will take a generation or two because of the extent of the damage inflicted on the economy and to the national psychic by Jammeh that has shaken the confidence of Gambians to the core.  

The lack of governance experience of the leader only adds to the daunting task facing the new president.  Public and candid admission immediately following his unexpected electoral victory admitting his lack of governance experience served both as a warning and an appeal to Gambians for patience and understanding.  It also concurrently served as a means of managing public expectations.

President Barrow must be aware of criticisms of his government's lack of direction and its apparent lack of the wherewithal to solve the country's chronic electricity and water supply problems.  There are signs during his recent trip to New York to attend the 72nd United Nations General Assembly that the 'humble' president is beginning to flex his muscles by refusing to boycott attending a mosque led by a Gambian Imam considered to be supporter of the previous government of Yaya Jammeh.  

According to those present when he was being advised to select from a list of options, he refused to follow advise of party stalwarts by reasoning that he has prayed behind the Imam of Banjul who was a staunch supporter of Jammeh.  He opined that he was the leader of all Gambians and not of a certain section of the population.  Factionalism is not in Barrow's DNA and he has demonstrated it amply previously and again in New York.

Insignificant as it may seem, the fact that he stood his ground against overwhelming odds in the atmosphere he found himself in New York, is an important development in the evolutionary cycle of the leadership challenges facing President Barrow.  Although he was elected as the head of a coalition ticket of several political parties, he was legitimately elected as the sole and legitimate leader of the Republic of The Gambia.  He must start exerting himself to signal his independence.

We hope his New York trip is the beginning of an era of renewal and vigor in Barrow's leadership. For a start, Gambians are yearning for a leader and that leader is President Barrow to lead us where Gambians want to go.  Ultimately, we hope he'll be a great leader, as defined by Mrs. Rosalynn Carter, to lead us where we may not necessarily want to be, but ought to be.   Gambians who put GAMBIA FIRST will support you in that journey.