What’s happening before our eyes is that president Adama Barrow and the Public Service Commission are adopting the American attitude, system and philosophy of diversity and tokenism in government appointments. This is a negative philosophy.
Now instead we have a country that is spatially polarized, that gets its bureaucrats from highly partisan, political loyalties and patronage that confronts the appointments in government. The results of these appointments are breaking the Gambian civil service — destroying public confidence in government — and paralyzing the Gambia’s civil service policy. It will take more than a change in attitudes to address these concerns. It will take fundamental institutional reform.
The merit-based system of filling jobs in the government bureaucracy elevates ability and accountability over political loyalties and patronage. Unfortunately, over the past few months, old rules of merit-based appointments have broken down under President Barrow.
If you complain too loudly in America that the picture is too white in an office, they find one black or Asian or Latino employee to mix things up a bit and keep you quiet. Diversity accomplished.
Every time President Barrow parsimoniously makes appointments he does not want to make – I think the president prefers sole administratorship – he works from the American script of tokenism diversity and throws in one name selected by ballot from the three B’s (Banjul, Bansang and Basse) – which he drowns in a sea of three B’s appointments.
No problem. There is ‘Masala’. However, a few points must be made for the record so that it shall not be said that those who want him to succeed kept quiet while he was digging needless graves for himself:
Tokenism diversity may quieten the storm in America where President Barrow studied the script, in the Gambia, it sets a fire and pours petrol into it. It causes disaffection. It makes governance difficult or impossible. It causes endless distraction from more urgent issues.
More urgent issues like corruption – which is what we mainly hired President Barrow to do. Fight corruption and restore integrity to our system: that is the primary job description we gave you, President Barrow. Everything else is secondary. You cannot do that if you make every appointment from Central River Region, Upper River Region and 3 B’s.
As is, in the Gambia is one of the most unfair and most unjust countries on the face of the earth. To fight corruption, you have to work very hard to increase the feeling that fair and just have begun to return to the polity. How are you going to increase the fortunes of fair and just in the Gambia when even your most ardent supporters will have to assume that other Gambians are stupid to be able to defend, justify or rationalize these new appointments?
Adama Barrow, there is a level of national consensus and goodwill you need to fight corruption. It is difficult enough as it is: all sorts enemies of progress have become veritable obstacles to the anti-corruption war. the distraction that the enemies of the anti-corruption war are causing is massive. And there is also those who support anti-corruption so long as it does not touch those they have turned into saints in government.
We need to work on those psychologies and convince them that anti-corruption must not have exceptions. How can we do all these when you are making lopsided appointments – the easiest way to “heat up the polity” in the country!
How do you create a critical mass of support for the anti-corruption war when you always deliberately worsen your perception problems, arm the enemies of the anti-corruption war with the infuriating ethnic lopsidedness of your appointments? Adama Barrow, why is it that every time your supporters and those of us who are genuinely investing our souls in this anti-corruption war want to go to town with your efforts, you take a Kalachnikov, aim it at your own head, and open fire?
President Barrow, why do you always take a petrol shower whenever your enemies are ready with matches?
Here is how it goes, Adama Barrow. I’m all for merit and I dream of a Gambia where it would be all that matters. We shall get there, and one leader must be bold enough to set us on that course. I think you could still be that leader but there are foundation stones you are ignoring.
I am realistic enough to understand that we will have to take baby steps, careful steps, towards the Gambia of the future. That the Gambia where quota shall be a thing of the past; where all 14 Ministers only two female ministers, and it wouldn’t matter, so long as they are competent and meritorious.
But our leader must understand that the building blocks towards the Gambia involve a great deal of national healing, of national trust building, of national confidence building, of atonement, of appeasement, of addressing unaddressed grievances and silenced tragedies of our past. These things need to be done methodically and painstakingly so that everybody will come to have a patriotic stake in Project Gambia.
You cannot frog march the Gambia to this destination overnight by making all your appointments from Banjul, Bansang and Basse. The enabling psychological atmosphere of confidence in the country – built on a system which most of our people see, feel, and agree is just and fair – must be put in place first.
For now, you must do things, bearing in mind the fact that:
We need our fair and qualified people in appointments. There is no ethnic nationality, no geopolitical region without competent and meritorious appointments. For the sake of the anti-corruption war and to avoid the distraction we do not need, stop this lopsidedness in what is left of your appointments and try to create a sense of fairness, justice, and balance by looking appointments beyond the three B’s.
There is no conceivable excuse for all appointments Government not to have come from outside the three B’s!
President Barrow not even you, have the right to put needless and unwanted problems on the path of the anti-corruption war that is now in motion. Lopsided appointments can derail the anti-corruption war faster than the Youth Movement by poisoning the national environment with perception issues.
This is about The Gambia.