President-elect Barrow needs to be a strong leader in order to be successful

Thursday, December 08, 2016

President-elect Barrow needs to be a strong leader in order to be successful. The new president-elect of the coalition party has a rare opportunity to catapult The Gambia on the track of development and unity.

The atmosphere is ripe enough to stimulate support from home and abroad. Ordinary Gambian citizens at home and in the diaspora are hopeful and willing to invest and help develop their country.

Nations around the world were astonished and impressed by the concession and maturity of the outgoing president, in addition to showing strong signs of willingness to assist and cooperate with The Gambia.

There is no doubt that President-elect Barrow now has the blessings of the Gambian people and the world at-large to be an effective leader in our country.

But there are some real obstacles that he needs to avoid. Firstly, he needs to stay focused, maintain a strong personality, and make conscious decisions in executing policies that he believe will be complementary to the country. It is no secret that president-elect Barrow is surrounded by two influential realities within the coalition. These are stakeholders from the respective parties and activists in the diaspora.

All members of the opposition parties on the ground (with the exception of Mamma Kandeh), in addition to known activists in the diaspora make up the coalition party.

Difficulties in reconciling individual party agendas within the coalition as they transition into the third republic might be one of President-elect Barrow’s biggest challenges.

It is important to note that the coalition will dissolve in 36 months (3 years), and each party within the coalition shall be given the opportunity to run against each other.

This transitioning period might be utilize by skilled politicians to build cases for the upcoming presidential election. The incoming president needs to listen attentively to stakeholders within the coalition, but must remember that he is the man in charge who will be held accountable by Gambians if anything goes wrong.

Making policies that has the potential to impact the lives of ordinary Gambians for generations to come, while under the umbrella of eight different parties within the coalition, calls for a leader with a strong personality who is not afraid to follow his conscience.

It could be argued that president-elect Barrow was the least experienced member at the convention, but was elected as a flag-bearer based on the fact that he hailed from the largest party within the coalition. If he shows weakness, he will find it difficult and even stressful to argue or oppose the skillful and more experienced politicians of the coalition.

Furthermore, what role will the default leader of Borrow’s party (UDP), lawyer Ousainou Darboe play in the transitioning process? Will he sit on the sideline and limit himself to an advisor, or will he pull the strings of the president-elect behind the scenes? That again will be based on the wisdom and character of the incoming president.

Secondly, the president-elect needs to deal with Gambian activists in the diaspora, some of whom are indirectly showing early signs of entitlement. Monetarily, the diaspora was the backbone of the coalition. They impressively raised close to $70,000, enabling the coalition to execute an effective campaign against a resourceful incumbent.

Majority of the donors were ordinary Gambians, but there were head figures who were responsible for rallying Gambians from mostly Europe and the U.S to donate and canvass via social media.

These leading personalities ranged from former government officials, journalists, radio personalities, entrepreneurs, and more. Some of whom are already contemplating their return to Gambia. It could possibly be challenging for the president-elect to deny positions to influential members of the diaspora who campaigned rigorously.

The president-elect should prioritize merit over fame, influence, and internal connections. Again, he should consider all Gambians irrespective of party affiliation. This is about nation-building, and shall be dealt with as such. It will be a great mistake if he feels indebted and starts rewarding those in the diaspora with positions.

Most Gambians voted for Barrow because they wanted change, especially inclusiveness; not partisanship. President-elect Barrow should consider keeping some professional civil servants who served in the previous administration.

Many of these knowledgeable civil servants are Gambians who served the previous administration with good intentions for their country, and they will can make the ride much smoother for the president-elect, especially now. This will not only make the incoming president look good, but it will help unify the nation.

To state the obvious, tribal tensions are at their highest in our beloved nation. Preserving the position of talented Gambians who pledged allegiance to the APRC is a sign of mercy and virtue.

Gambians should not get the impression that the incoming president is going after his enemies who ought to be fired from all positions. If the president-elect fails, then Gambia fails!

I encourage all Gambians to pray and to rally behind our new president. We hope he uses this rare privilege to heal and unify the nation.

This, nonetheless, requires a leader with a strong personality who is not afraid to make conscious decisions without the influence of partisan politics and ideologues.

Author: Buba, The Gambian inquirer.