Alagi Yorro Jallow
Fatoumatta: First Lady Mrs. Fatoumatta Barrow and Second Lady Sarjo Mballow Barrow, the two wives of President Adama Barrow. They are beautiful, classy, smart, assertive, warm, fun-loving, elegant humanistic, and liberal-thinking. They have shown that they cannot be silenced in almost five years and that their husbands cannot confine them to the kitchen. However, Fatoumatta Bah and Sarjo Mballow kick off a serious campaign push on behalf of their husbands. The question remains: To what extent the First and Second ladies can translate their popularity into actual votes? The First and Second ladies can help, but at the margin that a First Lady may be the President’s most valuable surrogate, but surrogates do not win or lose elections. They have been praised for being modern wives who can speak up and exercise their free speech rights. They have been called fearless and self-confident.
Fatoumatta: I have not heard from some of the “Hasido” and hypocritical commentators that First Lady Fatoumatta Bah Barrow and Second Lady Sarjo Mballow would be good Presidential candidates after their husband leaves office. Unlike President Barrow, the First Lady
Fatoumatta Bah Barrow, who has a strong character, her capacity to motivate, inspire and call others to action is rooted in her strong personality. Therefore. First Lady Fatoumatta Bah Barrow is more popular than her husband. However, the survey aside, there is something about the two wives of President Barrow, both of his wives Fatoumatta Bah and Sarjo Mballow, who are loved and most admired women and well-liked who had consistently had higher popularity ratings than their husband. They have earned the accolade of the most venerated women in philanthropism. One of their celebrated qualities: women and youth empowerment and good caregiver in education, environment, and health care for women and young people in dire need of improvement.
Fatoumatta: There is a game called Fish Eat Fishes. It is a predatory game of domination. A fish uses guile and subterfuge to hunt and eat smaller fishes. It does this repeatedly until it becomes the biggest fish in the sea. Moreover, you remember the exchange between two fishermen in Shakespeare’s Pericles: “Master, I marvel how the fishes live in the sea.”
“Why, as men do a-land – the great ones eat up the little ones.”
That is the meaning of Gambian politics – from the bushes of Niumi to the Mangroves of Foni. Words, sometimes, can deliver unpleasantness with the same degree of lethality. That, precisely, is what some Muslim clerics engaged in partisan politics. When you wrap every awesome thing around yourself or your children or your mother’s children or your clan – excluding the unprivileged, how do you think it will end? I wish someone would forward the cleric’s words to our President, who is on the campaign trail in the rural Gambia amid December 4 presidential elections. So, in vain, our cleric sends coarse warnings to men who have climbed the tree of life to the very top. Falcons who have conquered the earth and its elements hardly hear the falconer. They are birds of prey; they rule the world with armored confidence. That is why it is said that unchallengeable power corrupts absolutely. You know, when sheer luck pushes a laggard to the mountain top, he mocks the humble steps of the past. He tells the struggling others that he is already seeing the end of the world from his vantage position.
Furthermore, there is no more fear when you can see the farthest end of a perilous journey. So, tell the Muslim cleric to please stop looking at the honey in power. He should stop his cruise-missile curses against the chosen. Gifted leaders fear neither the people nor the future. Therefore, there is no reason for fear.
The Muslim clerics have a colleague in the two wives of President Barrow, added their shrill voice at another political gathering in the Greater Banjul areas in Sanchaba Sulay Jobe and Kombo Kitty village campaigning. By definition, a first lady has a unique opportunity to tout the President’s strengths- as a husband or father, for example, in a way the President himself cannot. She often serves as someone who represents the more minor policy-oriented elements of an administration and has a power of connectivity that the first lady brings to the voters. The two wives Fatoumatta Bah and Sarjo Mballow, told their husband’s ‘brigade commanders’ that the chickens of injuries repeatedly done to the poor had started coming home to roost: As a result of a long time of injustice done to others, most of us today cannot go to our villages and sleep with our two eyes closed. However, we all know that our husband has a lot to offer, moving forward and forward to the country. So Gambians, we should fasten our seat belts (or) get up and do the needful to re-elect Adama Barrow, or we will all regret it very soon because the country’s democracy, power, politics, and liberty are perilous.
Fatoumatta: It is good and cool to have a warning cleric and a speaking First Lady agreeing. However, doing the talking has an impact and consequences. For example, a loud US First Lady was derided with as many negative names as the public could coin. Eleanor Roosevelt was called ‘Madam President,’ ‘Lenin in skirts,’ ‘Stalin in petticoats,’ ‘Empress Eleanor,’ – even “the most dangerous individual in the United States today” – all because she broke the hymen of silence and stillness around the President’s wife. Even the New York Times would write a whole editorial on her outspokenness with the demonstration that “the very best helpers of a president are those who do all they can for him, but keep still about it.” Before her, there was Abigail, President John Adam’s wife, who saw her husband writing the US Declaration of Independence in 1776 and told him point-blank to “remember the ladies.”
Fatoumatta: President Barrow’s two wives’ primary duty is to help their husbands. Historically, this has indeed been the duty of First Ladies. For instance, First Lady Mamie Eisenhower covered up for her husband. Jackie Kennedy had to endure her husband, President John F. Kenndy’s shortcomings. Hillary Clinton saved president Bill Clinton by standing with him in his most challenging moment. Not every President would ask for a First Lady Grace Mugabe, who pushed her husband out of office, or a First Lady Lucy Kibaki who made Mwai Kibaki of Kenya look like a domestic victim.
Closer home, former First Lady Zainab Jammeh and Fatoumata Barrow share little in common other than lofty positions and powerful hubbies but vastly different women. First Lady Fatoumatta Bah builds a compelling argument and negotiates with opponents. Unlike First Lady Zenab Yahya Jammeh, being a political spouse only attracts attention or holds an audience’s interest-based in her look and her willingness to defer to the commands of others. She was terrific for being a trophy wife.
The tradition has been for our First Ladies to stand by their husbands through thick and thin. However, Fatoumatta Bah and Sarjo Mballow are probably the first Gambian First Lady to cultivate the public persona of an assertive, irreverent, independent-minded, critic-in-the-other-room, aggressive, resident, and privileged “wailing wailer” in the Statehouse.
Fatoumatta: I do not consider this a praise-worthy development. I stand by the cautious, conservative view I expressed in my previous article on President Adama Barrow’s sweetheart. However, from initial concerns about her haute-couture fashion appearances, Gambians have come to regard her more for her occasional but striking political statements or such statements that may be attributed to her. Are the times not tough already? Let her work in grace. Tough times demand decent people. If a man discovers a cobra under his pillow and faints, what shall we say is wrong if it is his wife who gets up and kills the snake? Then, at least, we have someone in action out, especially now that all the loud voices of the past have gone dumb, quiet. We do not even know what has taken their vocal cords away? Is it food or fear? Both, I think.
First Lady Fatoumatta Barrow stood out as one of the most passionate and accomplished First Lady in history because of her charisma, compassion, philanthropism, and powerful speech-making. First Lady Fatoumatta Barrow has established that she belongs to the present. In that wise, she has not been disappointed with her contemporaneity, cosmopolitanism, and politics. She has turned “pillow talk” into a tool of power. She has shown that the other room can be a place of truth. She has had her public moments of doubt, but we can all see that she is enjoying the place where she is. She is a strong and courageous woman.
Elsewhere, First Ladies also support their husbands. With all the reported cases of dalliance and cuckoldry during the Bill Clinton Presidency, Hillary Clinton stood by her husband. Michelle Obama has also proven to be an excellent role model in this regard. Certain positions require careful grooming.
The First Lady Bah Barrow seems to assume that her only mission is to promote and work for the Barrow administration. On a positive note, however, she does not want anybody to hijack her husband’s Presidency, and she believes those trying to do so do not mean well. However, what does that say about her husband? First Lady Fatoumatta Barrow is not joking with her husband being elected for a second term in office. So Gambians should watch out for her. She is not among those wives of presidents who stay home, bake cookies, have English tea in small cups and saucers with their friends and get babies, or whatever it is that wives of rich and powerful men do.
Fatoumatta: Feminists and critics of misogyny have protested over this, quite rightly too, at a time when women are leading countries and corporations; it is incorrect and insensitive to say that the best place for a First Lady is to be a cook, a living-room-soap opera-watching detainee, and a bedroom object. However, given the cultural circumstances involved, this may well be the future of the Statehouse fate of First Lady Fatoumatta Barrow. She could be marked out as an ambitious woman who wants to share power with her husband and as a threat to her husband’s politics.
First Lady Fatoumatta Barrow is a political hack who is campaigning and politicking as well as reaching out to the electorates about their needs and aspiration such as healthcare, women’s empowerment, youth development, scholarship for young people to further their education abroad, and environmental programs in a bid for a second term for her husband.
Fatoumatta Barrow is also on the campaign trail, vigorously campaigning for her husband on the December 4, 2021, presidential election to seek re-election. She sounded pleased with what was being done to ensure security and stability in the Gambia. Still, she gave the impression that she believed that her husband had done enough to merit a second term in 2021.
Fatoumatta: So, like that fiery cleric, the President’s wife is not just a trumpeting warner but also a prophet. Fatoumatta Bah Barrow will not be the first First Lady to sense and warn repeatedly. Shakespeare insistently shows us Julius Caesar’s third (or fourth) wife, Calpurnia, as a worthy seer in the bosom of power.