Pirjo Andersson

(JollofNews) – Your Excellency President Adama Barrow, bear with few minutes of your time to read what I think would be helpful to friends, citizens and observers of Gambia and its politics.

Some people might be wondering what on earth has a toubab to do with Gambian politics, especially when the toubab’s forefathers were the very ones who plundered Africa’s natural resources and enslaved its people. Nevertheless, I am a keen observer of Gambian politics; and God knows, I was the happiest when Gambians finally voted for change.

Your Excellency, there is a language no one can hear, but still it speaks loud and clear, and even children understand this part: the body language. It is understood internationally even by very small children who have not begun to communicate verbally. The language of the body carries more than half of the message a person conveys to his listeners. This makes it important for leaders to know its significance. As an actress and drama teacher, I have been taught to observe the body language of people when they speak to me. So I have been observing you.

I do know that many leaders, especially in the West, are trained on how to use their body language. This is nothing to be shameful of; it is a political mission that leaders exploit in order to make their message look relevant.

President Adama Barrow

Your Excellency, you have a beautiful smile, so use it wisely when you appear in front of cameras. Knowing when to smile, how to sit properly by avoiding leaning backward is a good start. Most, if not all the time, your body language tells the observer if you are in full control of the matters in Gambia, as well as yourself.

Your Excellency, you do not need to shove people in order to be seen, like Donald Trump the big bully did when he visited Europe last month. I do not want to remind you, because you know better than me that politics is not a soap opera. In soap operas we often see very exaggerated gestures and facial expressions because the performers only have a short time to tell us their story and we never ge to ask questions.

Your Excellency, the posture of the body tells us if you feel good speaking to us; if you are in full control of your message; if we should trust you; if you wish to be in that seat or wish you were somewhere else, drinking ataya and eating benachin.

Having said this, I must add that sometimes when I see the photos the world share about Your Excellency, I wish that you could be presented more flattering than some of the photos, especially the one about your visit to a mosque in Saudi Arabia. This photo left observers and critics asking, ‘Who is pulling the strings in today’s Gambia?’ I wish someone trained in physical communication can give a piece of advice as to the damage some photos of yours can cause.

Finally, before any photo session or before appearing in front of cameras, if I were by your side, I would whisper: “Dear Mr. President, you know I like you and we are many who do that, but you must show the world that you are a leader we can be proud of. Please, stand up straight, pull your shoulders back, hold your head high and give us that great smile of yours.”
Your well-wisher,
Pirjo Andersson

Pirjo Andersson is a Swedish who teaches, plays, and composes music, but she also works with theatre and drama.