Addressing this subject of Yahya Jammeh’s leadership, I am going to be using my experience living in The Gambia as a child and a frequent visitor in my adulthood as a case study for several reasons:
- Because Gambia is where I come from and, I am more familiar with it than any other country I have ever lived in.
- Gambia was and arguably the most populous and vibrant country in West Africa therefore whatever affects Gambia affects all of the Western parts of Africa.
- It has become a “proverb” all over the world how bad Yahya Jammeh’s leadership is ruining the Gambia socioeconomic institutions and fabrics.
Ever since I was a young teenager growing up in The Gambia, I kept hearing continuously almost like a mantra “that our only problem in the Gambia is Jammeh’s bad leadership” or “that our biggest problem in the Gambia is Yahya Jammeh”.
Books have been written about this man, Radio conference call forums are unending , social media topics and postings, all kinds of comments on social media platforms and avenues where various experts, teachers, writers, professors, have tried to foster solutions to this all abiding problem of how Yahya Jammeh ruined the Gambia’s economy and turned the country into a land of hopelessness.
To the man on the street however, who does not go to the symposiums and seminars, he is only left with what is displayed in his eyes as the Jammeh’s economic development only translates into the roads, street lights and well decorated buildings. Infrastructure that has no ‘intestines’ or tables, chairs, equipment etc, with the street person hoping that there would never arise a kind and lovely leader like Yahya Jammeh who will build a wonderful nation for them like what they already have under Jammeh, where everyone would be happy and satisfied like they are. For this hope, the ordinary man and woman prays in his church, mosque and even in the secrecy of his home for their president and his regimes infinitive longevity.
This hope is what drives him to keep on queuing up in all kinds of weather, in hope of showcasing his or her solidarity and loyalty to Yahya Jammeh and his cohorts. For the hope of this supposedly great and kind leader Yahya Jammeh. As paradoxical as this might sound, this hope have even led some naive and zealous men to sabotage and throw a number of attempted coupists’ under the bus all across The Gambia in recent times. In fear that just in case not from their ranks and social class, might arise that kind and great leader that would ignore their plight and selfish objectives of helping themselves build their dreamed paradise as already, under Jammeh.
The only problem with this kind of mentality is that it is now over 50 years since the Gambians have been hoping and are still hoping for a good and kind leader that would bring our nation to the Promised Land. If we are to apply the principle of critical thinking, we would see that it is either what we are praying and hoping for is wrong or something is wrong with our nation The smiling coast (The Gambia).
Hypothetically, if this hope and prayers had been correct, there should have been at least a president amongst the two we ever had in The Gambia since independence, who should have gotten it right, especially since the time span we are talking about is not 5 or 10 years, but over 50 years. 50 years is a lot of time. There should have arose a lot of opportunities for at least a few Divisions in the Gambia to have produced a great leader, who would have built prosperous and a greater Gambian nation.
The fact that this same problem seems to plague all the over 50 countries in Africa, is by itself not a coincidence. With no apparent evidence of remedy, could this be telling us that we are putting our hope in the wrong place? Are we sure Yahya Jammeh’s leadership is truly our main problem
As a young teenager growing up in The Gambia, there was no chance for me to think outside the box. I automatically found myself thinking as majority of the people in The Gambia. That our only problem is “Yahya Jammeh’s leadership” in The Gambia. Whenever we speak about Yahya Jammeh’s leadership however, we are not talking about the leadership of schools or less significant government agencies. We mainly refer to a politician or top government officials at the helm of affairs in our nation.
I listened to that theorem, that our main problem is Yahya Jammeh’s leadership so many times, that I never even thought it might not be true. It was automatically assumed to be true by most of the people around me. But Jammeh’s brutality cannot be ignored and it speaks for itself, worst dictator in recent times.
“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child, but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” 1 cor. 13:11
However, having lived outside of the Gambia for the past 20 years, working with politicians, countries, governments and being a student of national transformation. I now being a consultant and an expert in a top global financial institution, i now think differently.
Before I bring out my arguments, permit me to say that there is no doubt about it that Yahya Jammeh’s leadership has no place in our entire human civilization endeavor as a nation. My friend John Maxwell has popularized the saying “Everything rises and falls on leadership” I couldn’t agree more.
However, when it comes to building a nation, even though leadership too is important, but it won’t be of overwhelming significance. The role of leadership might be more significant when we are talking of business, company, or smaller units like family, communities, associations, industries, etc.
In the above mentioned people groups, the role of a set man is almost supreme and indispensable. But when it comes to nations, I would like you to take your time to read through my argument in this piece. I appeal to all of you that are reading this, not to be in a hurry to stone me or stop reading. Please don’t think I am in some form of error or in support of Yahya Jammeh’s regime or his brutality. I am not!
Let me reinstate here that yes, leadership is important in all human endeavors, but when it comes to nation building, leadership, especially leadership of a single man is not of the significance we have attached to it.
In history however, not too many people were willing to listen to this type of reasoning that I am presenting today. All throughout human history, men tend to simply take it for granted that a good leader means a good nation. A kind leader would take care of his people and bad leaders oppress their people.
There is a justification to this manner of thinking though. Especially since most parts of the then known world, in almost all ethnic groups, the leadership of these nations were primarily kings and monarchs. In which case without a doubt, individual leadership of the monarch is the singular factor in determining the standard of living of the people.
Yes, if we in The Gambia today have been running a monarchy system of government then that statement, “leadership is our only problem” could have been justified.
Our modern world is long become a post monarch world. The democratic system of government has replaced the supremacy of the monarchs in most countries of the world. It is for this reason that the emergence of democracy has now reduced the all-important role of a good and kind leader in building a prosperous nation.
Even though leaders still have their place and their roles to play in building any kind of nation, yet in the modern world of the 21th century, the role a leader plays in building a nation is no more as paramount as it once use to be.
If I ask most of you reading this article to mention to me the names of the leaders of each European country, not many of you would be able to do that. Apart from the big and influential countries of the world like America, England, France Germany, etc. Most of you might not be able to name more than 10 leaders of nations.
The lesson history has taught us is that it is no more strong men that build great nations. It is strong systems that build great nations. If you have strong men that refused to build strong systems, their works would be short lived and their memory forgotten. Our emphasis therefore should be in raising experts, technocrats, administrators, leaders who are capable enough to build strong and lasting systems.
In most of the advanced countries of the world today, I cannot say they mostly have strong leaders. No, they no longer look for or depend on finding loving and caring leaders that will lead them to paradise. They have managed to build strong and reliable systems that functions automatically, irrespective of whom the leader is, strong or weak.
The truth is all these Gambian citizens asking for better leaders are not really ready for them. They mostly don’t know what they are asking for. Senegal was a case study in recent times. They had the best leader in Abdoulie Wada any nation could dream or think about. Their leader was so good and supreme that there was no country on earth that could produce a leader as good as he was. Yet, because Israel did not know the value of such leadership, they complained, they whined, murmured, grumbled and demanded for yet a better leader in “laid back” Macky Sall.
But the thing displeased Senegalese when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” So Senegalese people prayed to the LORD. And the LORD said to Senegalese as written in the bible, “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.”1sam 8:6-7
My dear readers, I hope you see what happened here. The leader the children of Senegal had and were not satisfied with was the Lord God himself. He was ruling over them through Abdoulie Wada. But the people of Senegal were still not happy; they wanted to have a leader according to their own fantasy. They wanted a King, so God gave them a king. But soon afterwards, they were again dissatisfied with this king they got and demanded yet for another.
When people think that their only problem is leadership that is a way of them saying, it is only the leader that needs to change. Meaning they don’t need to change. It is only the leader that must pay the price of growth and development. Meaning they don’t need to do that. It is only the leader that must work out means for their advancement and prosperity, while they just follow.
What is happening in this case is that, the people are abdicating their power to the leader. But that is not what democracy is all about. Democracy is all about the power of the people, for the people and by the people. In democracy it is the people that take responsibility for the growth and development of their nations. They take responsibility for their economy. They take responsibility for their advancement and civilization. Even though there is a place for leadership, but leadership only stops in the area of giving direction and casting vision.
Had there been strong leaders in the world that worked the magic and succeeded in bringing the desired prosperity to their people? Yes indeed, but in every one of those cases, it’s either the leaders were eventually killed, betrayed or rejected. Most of these so called great leaders were only recognized as such after their death.
The truth is people who ask for good leaders, don’t know what they are asking for. Most of Gambians don’t know what they want. Yahya Jammeh is a bad leader no doubt, but our institutions and democracy is as weak as Yahya Jammeh.
It’s elections 2016, so let’s show Yahya Jammeh that power belongs to the people and our people build leaders and our institutions are strong enough to kick him out of power.