By Sana Sarr

“I have this little policy about honesty and ass-kicking, which is, if you ask for it, then I have to let you have it.”  – Taylor Mali, Def Poet


“Where Were You?”

Is the question that Gambian President, Adama Barrow, recently asked. The question was directed at his critics, singling out University of The Gambia professor, Dr. Ismaila Ceesay, who had said in a recent interview that President Barrow lacks the intellectual pedigree to lead the nation, and suggested that the requirements for the presidency include a first degree. Mr. Barrow wants to know where his critics were when “he (Barrow) challenged and kicked out the dictator in 2016.” Forgetting that Barrow had to flee Gambian territory and had to be sworn-in in neighboring Senegal while opposition leader Halifa Sallah took charge of proceedings and reassuring Gambians during the political impasse.

I’ve tried to stay out of the discussion because it has been shown to be very divisive and promotes classism between the “educated” and the “uneducated.” However, with the following line, it seemed as if the President genuinely wants, or needs, an answer to his question.

“I have asked a lot of people, and I’m still waiting for the answer.”– President Adama Barrow

Dr. Ceesay may be too classy to respond, so I’m happy to let President Barrow know where he was during the change. After all, it’s rude to keep our President waiting.

Dr. Ceesay was…

Somewhere in a classroom – teaching, shaping and inspiring young minds. The same young minds who got up to walk into the voting booths, one by one, and cast their ballots that got Barrow elected.

No, the change did not begin when Darboe was arrested. It was triggered by factors that began years prior to that, including discussions held in classrooms and lecture halls at University. Discussions that inspired young people to look at things differently, then carried those ideas in conversations at home and in the streets, and subsequently sparked some changes in the minds of many voters who again cast their ballots when the time was right. With a Doctorate, the man could have easily stayed abroad, away from NAWEC and Malaria, but he chose to come back to contribute to this “change” that you now so proudly brag about.


If anything, President Barrow’s animated response to Dr. Ismaila Ceesay only served to support Dr. Ceesay’s suggestion that Barrow lacks the academic pedigree to lead the nation. While I would not make an undergraduate degree a constitutional requirement for the presidency, I certainly agree with Dr. Ceesay that Barrow lacks the intellectual capacity to be a head of state, and it’s not only because he did not attend university. After watching his speeches and actions for almost 2 years, Barrow has not demonstrated a satisfactory understanding of national and international subjects. By all indication, Mr. Barrow is not intellectually curious. I wish one of our journalists would ask him when the last time he finished a book was.

This rant by the president revealed a few important issues.

Firstly, the fact that he questions A TEACHER about his contribution to national development shows how limited President Barrow’s understanding of how development works is. It shows that he only sees those who stand on the political pulpit, including himself, as the drivers of change. He does not even understand all that’s involved in getting them elected. Obviously, Mr. Barrow, with his limitations, took it literally and believed that like Moses to the Israelites, he single-handedly saved Gambians.

Secondly, accusing a TEACHER of doing nothing also shows Mr. Barrow’s lack of appreciation for education. Of course this should not be a surprise. Those who never obtained higher education can fall in one of two categories. Some admire those who obtain higher education, and strive to improve themselves in other ways, and make sure their offspring do not miss out on opportunities. Others develop this insecurity and harbor a resentment for those they fear look down on them. Sadly, Mr. Barrow, with no more than a high school certificate, belongs to the latter group. The worry here is for that mindset to negatively affect his approach and attitude to the national education system. With a leader who does not value or even understand the value of education, we’re in for a long ride trying to rescue our failing school system.

Finally, the rant served to debunk the misconception that Barrow is this mild-mannered, humble man. Character is revealed only when one is truly tested. With statements like…

“I am the one who made this change…”  – forgetting the thousands who came out to vote.

“I financed 80%…and nobody can say they sponsored us…” – I know there was a GoFundMe that many Gambians contributed to.

“We only received 3 applications to lead the party (no intellectuals applied)” – forgetting that he just told us that he needed persuading to take up the position.

His Accidency, President Adama Barrow, revealed his true self – a thin-skinned, insecure, uneducated man who lacks not only the intellectual pedigree, but also the temperament to lead.