Alagi Yorro Jallow
Mamudu: I carefully read and listened for clear articulation of President Barrow’s verbalized prepared ‘State of the Nation Speech’ address and report on the current conditions of the Gambia and provides policy proposals and achievements over the year to the National Assembly. I am not sure what Nation Adama Barrow lives in. However, most of us are not the ones described in the nine thousand and six words, which made up a false sense of security and accomplishment and directly contradicted by a majority.
When the Social Research & Corporate Reputation (IPSOS) asked Gambians what their main concerns were back in July 2020 and in 2021; a plurality listed poverty, corruption, youth unemployment, and the high cost of living as “the most serious problems facing them,” including one in five (17%) who “barely have enough to eat three times a day”!
While opinion polls have taken a bashing over the last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and onslaught of “fake news” and “alternative facts,” any leader would be remiss were they to summarily dismiss or minimize findings that a section of the population “barely had enough to eat.” President Barrow, Gambians are hungry. However, unfortunately, they are also thirsty and want you to fight endemic corruption!
There was no mention or use of the word “CORRUPTION ” in the winding one-hour monologue reading a prepared speech of 9006 words; there was no mention or use of the word “COMMISSONS .” There were no mentions of the phrase “hate speech, fighting corruption and how to reduce the crisis of tribalism and democratic decay” but not within the context of the President’s delivering on the promise to “on every Gambian addressing measures of rule of law and good governance and government effectiveness.” Instead, in what is a metaphor for President Barrow’s first term in office, one of the mentions of “DEVELOPMENT and ACHIEVEMENTS” was within the context of borrowing money from the twin brothers, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and China to fund a water project!
Corruption is an existential threat to the peace and security of the Gambia. However, it is never mentioned in a speech, nine thousand and six words shy of thousand words! Furthermore, true to his now-patented tendency to obfuscate and misdirect on the subject, he did not offer, as an update, the mea culpa that he knew…..eliminating corruption would be a journey on a rocky path; that the seeming lack of progress is not accurate.
Mamudu: Let me cut to the chase on the subject:
There is NO “progress” in the “efforts” against corruption. He promised an Anti-Corruption Act enacted in his state of the Nation Address on 19 December 2019. Were that true, the many high-profile scandals during his first term would have been addressed swiftly and sans prevarication. President Barrow’s close aides, senior government officials, and past corrupt officials under former president Yahya Jammeh’s administration would have been hurled before the courts and either prosecuted on corruption charges or exonerated. To date, a coterie of low-level scapegoats has manipulated a corrupt criminal justice system to escape prosecution.
Mamudu: It is quite possible that one can go to Edward Francis Small Hospital in Banjul and verify the State of an Accident and Emergency Care Centre and some of the promises the conditions at the hospital entails. The nurse’s strike has revealed the Gambia’s poor health care system and working conditions of health care practitioners without adequate compensation. Unmistakable and has repeatedly played out over the last decades are images of Gambians, all rich and well-connected, ambulance to Senegal, India, the United States, and the United Kingdom, searching for better medical treatment. Instead, President Barrow promised quality affordable healthcare for every Gambian – keyword “every Gambian.”
How President Barrow can reconcile the preceding dichotomous realities from his first term in office escapes me. However, it is the same alternate reality that explains why it took him almost four hundred words to describe his campaign’s succinct nine-worded campaign bullet point “Ensure that every Gambian gets quality and affordable healthcare.” Likewise, the President’s State of the Nation Address spiel on healthcare illustrates the crisis management adage: “if you explain, you have already lost the narrative.”
President Adama Barrow almost sprained his arm, congratulating his administration for “delivering honest exams.” That any society, any administration would tout the delivery of “honest exams” in a singular academic year as an accomplishment is just sad and an apt illustration of the Adama Barrow’s government has fallen to. Unfortunately, the corollary of the corrupt educational system is plain for all to see:
Incompetent and/or unqualified personnel, fake degrees and certificates, rampant physical, sexual and psychological abuse of students happening inside some of the country’s top institutions, including High Schools. Again, how the President can reconcile the initial set of facts with his campaign promise of assuring that “every child in the Gambia gets quality education” escapes me. It simply does not add up.
The same disconnect exists for the remaining two promises President Barrow and his 2016 Coalition made to the Gambian voters. The 2021 State of the Nation Address was a smooth blend of wiz-bang prose that did not align with many Gambians’ reality. People are dying of hunger and thirst in “the nation” where most Gambians live. Schools are failing, corruption is rampant, and the teachers are underpaid and disrespected.
Mamudu: A handful of well-connected oligarchs own virtually all the wealth in the country, patients who do not have any money are left to fend for themselves, and doctors are threatened with termination when they agitate for better wages and working conditions; the Gambia is a nation shunned by her neighbors who see her leaders as selfish, unprincipled demagogues who act with impunity, not in the interest of their subjects, but to protect themselves from being held accountable. I am not sure which Nation President Barrow referred to in his State of the Nation address, but it certainly was not mine or people I know.
Alagi Yorro Jallow