HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF: REVISITING OUR ARCHIVES:
On January 18th 2016, we authored an editorial calling former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh “The ultimate betrayer”. We recalled his two decades of leadership and how he started with his group of “Soldiers with a difference”. We narrated how Jammeh systematically eliminated his partners while hatching his plans to consolidate power and rule the Gambia without obstacles from the very people who were the architects of his rise to power.
As the saying goes “those who failed to learn from their past mistakes are condemned to repeat them”. History is forever relevant for human beings to learn from what happened at the time and how it was perceived by citizens and those who witnessed occurrence of events.
The reproduction of this Editorial is significant because of the recent events and recordings of President Adama Barrow of the New Gambia. Two years into his ‘transition government’ President Barrow is manifesting all signs of tendencies that emboldens a leader to believe that he/she is entitled to lead a nation. Mr. Barrow also appears to have taken a page on Jammeh’s play book and started betraying the very people who are the architects of his presidency – the coalition partners of seven political parties including an Independent candidate. Unlike Jammeh who was an outright dictator who ruled by decrees, President Barrow is using his constitutional powers to push his coalition partners away from a success story which probably could never have happened without the other partners. His tone since surpassing his honey moon period has increasingly been isolationist and typical of African leaders who taste power and never wants to look back.
Many Gambians have given Gambia’s new President the benefit of the doubt and an opportunity to learn on the job and shape a different path for the Gambia. Increasingly Barrow has shown he has deep political ambition that he is willing to swallow any words and trust he has assured Gambians to consolidate power. He sounds like any other African leader who comes to power with humility only to taste the privileges of power and consolidate it at whatever cost to the detriment of the nation and its people.
The alleged corruption in the form of paying National Assembly members stipends to apparently buy their long term loyalty without explaining the reason for given them funds shows a direct manifestation of corrupting the system to get his way when the need arises. This is an incredible disappointing move by President Barrow. Already at least two National Assembly members have confirmed receiving the unexplained gift from a President who is not the richest person coming into power. It is a slap in the face of democracy and transparency especially when the Janneh commission costing Gambians millions of dollars are still actively sitting. The alleged corruption is an affirmation of what has transpired over the last year. From the pickup trucks that were given to GRTS, the National Assembly Members, the eleven million donation to the Pilgrims, the secret transfer of millions into the First Lady’s foundation to the chartered jet. These are not isolated incidents for a leader who is supposedly a “transition” leader. This pattern of corrupt behavior will unfortunately be part of the President’s records and legacy.
As if those are not enough warning signs of yet another African leader who the whole world watched come to power in a dramatic way, is slowly consolidating power by eliminating partners and bribing his way through to have a firm grip on the Presidency. President Barrow’s released audio during a meeting with political constituents at the State House left this fragile nation dumb founded. How does a President who was democratically elected to reform a political system feel so entitled to lead a political party much less a nation. Many will see this as a problem for the United Democratic Party, but no, conscious political observers see this as a far greater threat to a young democracy that is yet to establish any independent institutions to check on the powers of elected and law enforcement officials. For President Barrow to boldly say that he must be the leader of a party he resigned to contest as an independent candidate because he is the sitting president is borderline equating the Presidency to his person. There is nothing more scary for a leader to be so bold.
Worse, President Barrow validated critics assertions that his coalition government was all but coalition. In his own words he stated that the positions of President, Vice President and Speaker of the National Assembly consisting of number one, two and three leaders in the country are all UDP. This is a clear reaffirmation of what many said was a UDP government that was denied from all angles. But this being a UDP government is not the problem as majority of these leaders are patriotic Gambians who fought for the freedom of this nation. The problem is that President Barrow is seeing himself as entitled to lead not only the UDP but the nation.
What the President has manifested is that once again African leaders cannot be trusted with power. It took Gambians over two decades to form a successful coalition of political alliances. And most of the objections of opposition leaders to forming a coalition to challenge Jammeh’s leadership was lack of trust that when some people are trusted to assent to power, they will betray the rest of the parties and feel entitled to lead. That is unfortunately exactly what President Barrow is validating. The long standing adage that power corrupts absolutely is raring its ugly head. How can citizens trust any other politician who is given the privilege to lead a nation after this? Where and how will President Barrow explain to the world his move to consolidate power. Most scary is that Gambia does not even have the foundation of institutions that will check on the executive power and prevent the president from using the very constitution designed to protect citizens. Today, many Gambians are ashamed and troubled by this utterance coming out of President Barrow’s mouth. Like Jammeh he is successfully pushing his colleagues and sooner rather than later be the lone wolf to make decisions without objection.
But President Barrow will be met with a rude awakening. Gambians will not again allow an individual or group of individuals seize power and impose themselves on the country. President Barrow and his ilks must be warned that their power is driven from the people and they must return to the people to regain the privilege they are taken for granted. All citizens regardless of party must be alert to stop another seed of dictatorship germinating in this peaceful land. The political battle must begin forthwith regardless of partisan orientation. Stopping the train before it departs would only prevent another leader from taking advantage of the weaknesses of our democratic and social institutions.
Author: Demba Baldeh Associate editor..