by Alagi Yorro Jallow.
Mamudu: During one of the saddest moments of any nation’ s history, the spirit and strength of the First Lady’s actions and image are forever etched in all of the hearts and minds of the citizens during times of uncertainty. We require people to be able to stand in empathy and guide to cultivate compassion and the key to our survival.
The Gambian people need some inspirational strength and hope at this moment of dark, fear, and grief amid the deadly Coronivirus pandemic causing great suffering that plagued globally. The fundamental problem with hyperbolic optimism like the Gambia government even own standpoint–is that it is self-undermining. In a time of national crisis, it may be appropriate, even necessary, for the national leader to express somewhat greater confidence than a strictly realistic analysis of the situation would allow. Morale is always essential and may be all-important.
Mamudu: One of the First Lady’s duties is to serve as Comforter-in-Chief. However, an occasional photo op of her doing a charitable deed is not enough. Every First Lady who held the title before her has understood that. The Gambia deserves a First Lady who sets an example as a strong woman able to tackle adversity head-on, not one who runs for cover and acts like a victim when the spotlight gets too hot.
Mamudu: We want our First Lady to be determined, focused, and committed to a cause, whether we agree with that cause or not. Sure, we like talking about the clothes she wears in public, but it is her work promoting the values she stands for that endears her to the people’s hearts. There are indications that the First Lady is a stronger woman than she recently has appeared to be. It has been reported that her husband was initially attracted to her independence, her ability to think for herself and stand on her own.
This kind of thing must, however, be used very sparingly (as First Lady ) to remain proactive. After a certain point, it just sounds ridiculous. The government passed that point long ago and has not stopped even now when they seem–finally–to be adopting somewhat more rational words and deeds.
Mamudu: We call on the First Lady of the of Gambia, aka Wife of the President, Fatoumatta Bah Barrow, and Lady Sarjo Mballow Barrow to step forward and inspire Gambians today or tomorrow at the latest. Gambians need to be touched and a HUG as making a life.
It is excellent and refreshing to have a warning unifier, also a watchdog and an energetic and motivated First Lady agreeing to show good leadership Now. However, doing the action and talk has consequences. There was a loud US First Lady who 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 to point-blank to “remember the ladies.
So, like that fiery journalists, the President’s wife is not just a trumpeting warner, but also a unifier of the nation. 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.
Indeed, the nation’s Commander- In- Chief and his government did not think so sufficiently prepared to respond in the coronavirus pandemic preparedness. However, First Lady is right to take the tone and remain this period’s moral imperative to take responsibility and help in the campaign of fighting the deadly pandemic. That threatens our conscience and global security.
Mamudu: Mrs. Fatoumatta Bah Barrow and Sarjo Mballow Barrow, the wives of President Adama Barrow, are probably the most loved persons in the Gambia today, especially by critics of their husband’s administration.
Historically, it has indeed been the duty of First Ladies. Mamie Eisenhower covered up for her husband. Jackie Kennedy had to endure her husband, JFK’s shortcomings. Hillary Clinton saved Bill Clinton by standing with him in his most challenging moment. Not every President would ask for a Grace Mugabe, who pushed her husband out of office, or a Lucy Kibaki who made Mwai Kibaki of Kenya look like a domestic victim. Closer home, the tradition has been for our First Ladies to stand by their husbands through thick and thin, with perhaps the exception of Zeinab Jammeh, took the additional step of staying off the radar. She never bothered with the Gambia’s pity.
Fatoumatta Bah Barrow is 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 number 1 Marena Parade.
Mamudu: With all, we hear about how the coronavirus pandemic will strain and may overwhelm our health-care system, we should remember that we will continue to need our health-care system for all sorts of other things too, unrelated to this novel virus. Car crashes will still occur; people will still get heart attacks; cancer patients will still require treatment. We suppose all we can do is try to be extra-careful in general, in addition to taking those precautions specific to the coronavirus.
This coronavirus pandemic is taking a toll on our mental as well as on our physical health, and it is universally agreed that mental and physical health greatly influence one another. Malaise and depression pose real dangers. One thing we can do for one another in the Gambia is to point out as many reasons for hope as we can think of embracing compassion and humanity. We can share the elements of good news out there (e.g., life in China seems to be returning to normal). We can suggest fun things we can do to cheer ourselves up while still respecting the MRC and Ministry of Health’s guidelines on social distancing (e.g., go for a walk by yourself in the woods). We should not pretend that the situation is less complicated than it is. Nevertheless, to dwell only on the bad news is an excellent recipe for making things even worse.
Mamudu: Gifted leaders fear neither the people nor the future. There is no reason for fear. The watchdog has a colleague in the wife of the President. Fatoumatta Bah Barrow must add her own shrill voice at this time of fear and grief on this deadly coronavirus pandemic. She should tell her 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 the Gambians today cannot watch the deadly pathogen, the coronavirus kill our people and sleep with his two eyes closed. We all know that the government and it is moving forward and forward. Mamudu: First Lady Fatoumatta Bah Barrow must remind her husband has two more years to go. President Barrow should fasten his seat belts (or) get up and do the needful, or they will all regret it very soon because, at the rate in which things are going, things are entirely out of hand. The vice president is here; ministers are here. They are supposed to do everything within their constitutional duty to respond to whatever needs and aspirations of the people in times of these dark times. People cannot afford potable drinking water in this country. We have ministers and government agencies to address responsible for protecting from the scourge of this pandemic.
Mamudu: Gambians are in panic mode over the Coronovirus pandemic, rightly so but without a human face to reactionary decisions. Food markets are being closed; supermarkets are jittery; banking services are restricted; public transportation remains unsafe, and air travel is suspended; employers are announcing redundancies; employees are sent on unpaid leave. In small business has stopped.
Governance is hard. Where there is no substance, the shortfall is usually covered by endless public relations and winding press conferences. Sometimes, even outright ‘alternative facts’ are told. In such a situation, everyone promises, but nobody takes responsibility. Empty public relations is the hallmark of President Adama Barrow’s administration. The celebrated heroes of this administration are not behind the scenes domain sector experts but loud motormouths with the affinity for the camera. This government is one huge “talking” and “promising” enterprise. Telling ‘alternative facts’ without blinking is now accepted as an official tool of trade in public administration, since the advent of the “dynamic” National Development Plan.
Mamudu: Prosperous economies have set up emergency safety nets for citizens, providing survival funding and assistance for job losers. In the Gambia and other developing countries, it means citizens are left at the mercy of nature and God. Thirty, fifty, sixty, ninety days of a shutdown will spell doom to the poor of the poorest. Without access to food stalls and limited access to medical services, hunger and ill-health might cause more deaths than the virus would. While the government call for social distancing and self- quarantine, they are silent on emergency relief plans for the most vulnerable communities.
Mamudu: The first lady would instead we close our eyes and give her a pass. She instead, we allow her to focus on being a watchdog and proactive philanthropy, not stepping out only for special occasions like New year’s Eve in a designer outfit to deliver baskets to newly born babies.