By Mathew K Jallow
Beyond their simple and ordinary definitions, ideas and concepts of government are intellectually profound and mentally challenging for the simple-minded to comprehend. This congenital inability to grasp the most basic theories of government and nuances of governing, belie the leadership crisis that fittingly conferred on Africa its marquee incarnation as the den of corruption and greed. When Adama Barrow made a nescient reference to authoritarian rule, last week, he unmasked his infinite incapacity to reflect back to a sad chapter of Gambian history, still fresh in our minds. By naming the military, police, National Security and the ECOMIG forces as his power base, Adama Barrow revived memories of the violent human rights abuses committed by the combined police, military and National Security forces. What seemed like an innocuous reference to Gambia’s security forces, was, in fact, a clear break from politesse; an implicit threat that left Gambians dumbstruck, further reinforcing the belief in President Barrow’s unfitness for office. In one fleeting moment, in time, it seemed as though a dark, ominous cloud, from another era, had come back to hang over Gambia, one more time. The Gambia’s transitional president, in threatening authoritarian rule, has, instead, became the living embodiment of everything pernicious about Africa’s insidious political systems. Adama Barrow’s jarring comments, made before an audience of UDP party supporters, are a living memory of the political conformism that, for six decades, has plunged African into endless conflicts and permanent state of underdevelopment. More consequential than what Adama Barrow parroted out, is the anecdotal evidence of hubris, often explicit, sometimes implicit, by which Adama Barrow is underhandedly and consistently struggling to engineer his entrenchment in power, by politicizing the public service and the institutions of government. When Adama Barrow further made reference to a second term in office, he essentially unveiled the depth of his ignorance, and perhaps hastened the humbling end to his ignominious, accidental political career. For suddenly, by these two words, “second term,” Adama Barrow instantly morphed from innocuous daftness, to an existential threat to political stability in Gambia.
Under the Memorandum of Understanding by which a Coalition to remove Yahya Jammeh was constituted, Adama Barrow was elected for a transitional period of three years; just enough time to allow for multiparty elections, and return to party rule. By their very nature, Coalitions governments are notoriously unstable, and are; therefore, not the preferred forms of managing and establishing government control, due to their inherent, systemic, structural weaknesses. This has often fostered a climate of partisan political bickering, which compromises national security. These visceral impulses are manifesting themselves in Gambia, as the Coalition has all but completely disintegrated, rendering the government, illegitimate, without the legal glue of the Coalition. In any functioning democracy, one of three things would happen; assemble a new governing Coalition, dissolve the government and call for snap elections, or force presidential resignation, to allow a replacement candidate to stitch together a new governing Coalition. Because Gambian politicians generally have limited understanding of how government functions under a democratic system, it makes the enumerated choices and options a hard sell. This, therefore, leaves Gambians in a state of suspended animation, second guessing the political storylines likely to emerge in late 2019. Meanwhile, the chaos President, Adama Barrow, is in many ways, relapsing comfortably into Yahya Jammeh’s drunkenness for power, an undeniable insult to the democratic norms, which Gambians, over two decades, struggled for, and died. As Gambians seek to seed the norms of good governance in the country, for now and posterity, there is reflective resistance from the very top of government, supported by amateur professionals, and some party loyalists blind to the broader national interest. And consumed by a morbid fear losing power to the educated class, the transitional president has embarked on a program to endear him to the population, using government resources and religion to achieve his ends. Meanwhile, lost in this fog of self-interests, the contours of tribalism permeate, giving Gambia the crippling intensity that is hamstringing the government’s social and economic development programs. But, in this game of subtraction, the main edict of tribalism, no one wins, and everyone loses, in the long run.
If sneering at the 3-year term-limit MoU compromise agreement, which was inevitable in Yahya Jammeh’s removal and exile, is not enough, Adama Barrow’s taste of power has trapped him in a state of political insanity. The soaring rhetoric about national development that now animates his public discourse, conjures up memorable images of Yahya Jammeh’s drive to bring projects to few select communities that commit to advance his goals of entrenchment in power. In reality, for the experienced and educated in governance and development, the Coalition has doubled down on Yahya Jammeh’s most corrupt practices. The absence of human rights abuses, as state policy, are noticeable absent, but occasionally violence, causing loss of human life, has flared up, due to the arbitrary use of deadly force by wayward police. Perhaps the areas of most government indiscipline are the abuses of state resources and the ubiquitous corruption, which anecdotally, are the same as in Yahya Jammeh’s Gambia. Despite putting the government under the spotlight, reinforced by withering criticisms, as a general matter, there is pervasive acquiescing to the lure of greed and an unwillingness or inability to bring government corruption under control. The ham-handed way that government is managed, with such callous indifference to professionalism, exposes the dangerous amateurism that has taken root, and the simmering despair beginning to take hold, particularly, among the educated class and the diaspora, whose remittance is a quarter of the country’s GDP. In spite of Gambia coming out of the Yahya Jammeh tragedy, the lessons of history lack the preamble and underpinning of government’s sense of exercising authority, fairly and honestly. And, even as the persistent blistering ad hominem attacks have rubbed government the wrong way, the forces of greed, combined with the attachment to amateurism, have combined to keep government wedged between a rock and a hard place. There is a touch of madness to moral outrage that government exhibits, but Gambians are not rattled; instead, the public challenge to the lack of professionalism, is motivated by patriotism and undying desire for democracy to take root in Gambia. And until there is commitment real change, the ad nauseam criticisms will continue to be relentless; for we stand as kryptonite to this duplicitous government; wannabe tyranny.