IMAGE FROM VIDEO In this image taken from video, Gambia's new president Adama Barrow talks during an interview with The Associated Press in Dakar, Senegal, Saturday Jan. 21, 2017, just hours after Yahya Jammeh agreed to step down from office. Barrow said Saturday that he will launch a truth and reconciliation commission to investigate the alleged human rights abuses of Yahya Jammeh's 22-year regime. (AP Photo)

By Sheriff Kora

Leading up to The Gambia’s 2016 general elections, the agreement between the coalition parties was that the flag bearer and elected president of the coalition government will serve a three-year term at the end of which he or she will not run for re- election. After the defeat of Jammeh, and the coming of president Adama Barrow, many pundits argued that the coalition agreement was as hasty and significantly flawed agreement that disregarded all political and legal implications that it could create. This argument followed that as mandated by the Gambian constitution and the political will of the Gambian electorates, the president in the 2016 elections was elected to serve a five-year term and not a three-year term. Consequently, he should be allowed to serve his entire five-year term. Although Adama Barrow has clearly won the legal argument on the three-year term, but by defying the three-year term agreement, he cannot be absolved of immoral and unethical political behavior. Far from the contrary, what this argument has done is to embolden president Barrow and muddy the entire political landscape of the Gambia, shifting focus and discourse from key sectors of national development to the newest political bickering and suspicion that has become a staple.

 

By now, many Gambians have heard the audio messages laced with rhetoric and passing remarks between some of our political leaders. The noise and political bickering has been nothing more than a supplemental disquietude to an already existing frustrating situation. The most disheartening thing revealed in these audios was the clandestine summoning of UDP elements and the flattering statements of president Adama Barrow in some political back-channeling exercise that went at the state house. What has been lurking in the minds of many Gambians over the past few months is what could be the true political aspirations of Adama Barrow. The answers to this question have been quite elusive in the past, but with time the political rift and posturing is becoming evident. There is reason to fear that Barrow will not only get away with the three-year term limit he entered with the coalition partners, he will not respect the agreement not to run for re-election at the end of his term in 2021.

 

As a transitional leader, when focus should be on prepping the ground for the next government to assume power, and not to sustain his stay in power, today, Barrow is morphing into a possible contender for the 2021 elections. Far from the modest rookie president we saw on the political stage, Barrow has assumed an air of confidence that has led him into feats of praising singing and constant reminders about his efforts and political achievements. The formation of the Barrow movement, openly expressing his future political motives have all added fuel to the burning rumors. Like previous African political leaders that preceded him, Barrow has also begun embarking on large infrastructure projects that are physically heavy, costly, and enduring the timing of which could be attributed to an attempt at exerting political influence and to remind the electorates about who controls power. These are all hallmarks and behaviors of a presidential aspirant. In a country saddle with a high debt burden, we should be wary of the cost of such large infrastructure projects we’ve the past regime use as instruments of centralized control and a means of accomplishing their political agenda.

 

It is fair to say that I have been one of the staunchest allies and early supporters of Barrow, and I still am, but the latest news and political developments are concerning and should be addressed not out of political allegiance, tribal identity or regional origin, but out of a moral obligation and common interest to protect our budding democracy and the welfare of all Gambian citizens. As a novice, Adama Barrow should be guided where he falters. After all he is not a saint among sinners. We have undergone 22 hard years of dictatorship. What is evident is that the era that saw the emergence of Yahya Jammeh and the era of Adama Barrow’s presidency are polar opposites. There is a wind of change blowing over the coast of Africa, the impunity and calm waters enjoyed by despots or imperial presidents of the past are long gone. You don’t have to look far to see examples of leaders who have failed miserably to reverse the course of a progressive political change. The Gambia has not only gone through a political transformation but our country is going through a rapid social reformation. Where silence has once reigned, today is replayed by irreverence and questioning. It is easy for half-baked politicians to fall into the cajoling hands of internal influencers or foreign powers that are at an advantage to bargain with less experienced and sophisticated political actors.

 

The intractable political and economic development challenges in our country are enormous, and what the Gambia needs now more than ever, is unity, discipline, loyalty, and the concerted effort of every Gambian in developing our country from Koina to Kartong. We have long begged for time and patience on behalf this new administration, and we hope that precious time will not continue to be diverted towards nesting political feathers or sowing seeds of political discord amongst members of the coalition government and by extension the larger Gambian population.

 

Let our president and his cabinet be reminded that In the hearts of every legend is truth. Time always reveals the truth. To the members of the coalition who came into agreement with president Barrow, be aware that Gambians are keenly watching your actions and inactions. Politics is only a game or a coalition of essential backers and expendables. There is an old African proverb that if a lion adopts a goat as a child, in times of extreme hunger, it will not fail to devour it. You had peers that were once in the coalition, and now they are gone. This is a lesson to teach you that your allegiance should be to the Gambian people and not promoting the political interest of anyone person. Uphold the truth where it is due, and guide the country in the right direction even if it means breaking political relationships. After all, it is better to be politically inaccurate than to be historically accurate.

 

We hope president Barrow and his team of rivals pay their debt of gratitude to the Gambian electorates not by measure of how many bridges are built or roads are constructed, but by upholding the values, promise, and truth that got them elected into office. Mr. President, as a wordsmith and a lover of proverbs I will like to remind you of the saying that it is beautiful beneath the sea, but if you stay too long, you drown. The real opponent you should be wrestling at this point of your presidency are your ungoverned desires, and the bad influence of detractors. Every true Gambians will like to see you succeed and retire respectfully at the end of your five year-term. It will be an honor to see you join the ranks of notables like Nelson Mandela who freed their country and left the political scene after one term. In leadership, you choose two roles: you are either the sunshine that nourishes the plant or the saltwater that destroys its roots. We urge you to be the former and not the latter. God bless The Gambia!