By D. A. Jawo
President Adama Barrow was quite well known for being a humble person who hardly spoke much when he first assumed the presidency. However, he seems to have now changed quite drastically, becoming not only quite outspoken, but also giving too much credit to himself about almost every achievement registered by Coalition 2016 as well as his administration.
Also, as a result of some of his unguarded utterances, he had been causing some controversy, the latest being his threat to “order” the Inspector General of Police to deny permit to all political parties to hold rallies after he wins the forthcoming presidential elections in December. However, after a lot of noise about that threat from virtually all sectors of the Gambian society, the Government Spokesperson, Ebrima Sankareh came up with a press release to try and give it a different interpretation.
Of course, Mr. Sankareh was quite in order to issue such a press release because by the very nature of his job, it is his responsibility to do everything possible to always give a positive image of the administration as well as the President. However, he needs a lot of help from President Barrow himself if he is to succeed in portraying a positive image of the administration. If President Barrow continues with his present attitude of using his frequent meetings with various ethno-linguistic and other parochial groups at the State House on weekends to freely tell all kinds of stories and making unguarded comments without considering the implications, it would be hard to see how Mr. Sankareh or anyone else would be able to continue to brush his image. He speaks in a language that virtually everyone understands and it would therefore be quite hard for Mr. Sankareh to convince people that he meant something else and not what he said.
While we can understand that President Barrow is still learning on the job and he needs to be given chance to adjust to the situation, but, after almost five years as head of state, everyone expected him to have learnt the rudiments of protocol and know that as head of state, his every action and every word he utters would be subjected to scrutiny. Therefore, he should stop talking freely in such gatherings as if he is in a village bantaba where he can say anything and no one would hold him to account. He should understand that even though he is a good story teller, usually punctuating his stories with innuendos and cliches, he needs to understand that as head of state, it is not always to his advantage to narrate everything he was involved in. For instance, his recent stories about being indirectly involved in desecrating graves to use spiritual means to help obtain the release of Ousainou Darboe and his colleagues, as well as narrating how as a child he used to climb 500-metre tall ‘kaba’ trees, were subjects of public ridicule which he should try and avoid.
Therefore, in order to minimize such gaffes and controversies, President Barrow needs to often consult with the Minister of Information and/or the Government Spokesperson before any public speaking engagement so that they can guide him on what areas he should avoid. This is particularly important for this period when the elections are less than four months away.