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Is the President’s ear on the ground?


By Njundu Drammeh, a Social commentator and child right activist

A story is told about a wise king who set out to teach his son, the crown Prince, the wisdom necessary for him to become a great leader.

“To do this, the king decided to send the Prince to the forest alone for one year. The instruction the wise father gave the son were to return to him exactly one year and describe the sounds of the forest.

The dutiful son did as his father bade him to do. He went to the forest and listened to all the sounds he could hear. He returned in one year and happily told his father what he heard: leaves rustling in the wind, leaves falling to the earth, birds singing, need buzzing, insects whirring and chirping, small and large animals coming and going, waters gurgling up from crevices in rocks.

But the king was not pleased. He frowned and admonished his beloved son to go back to the forest and listen some more, and when he had discerned the true sounds of the forest to return home again to report his observations. So the boy went back to the forest.

He sat alone behind gives trees and lay in the forest grasses, pondering his lack of understanding. After many days and nights, the Prince began to sense a strange awareness about him. He knew that at last he could return to his father with honour.

So the young boy ran home, bursting with due excitement of his new learning. He came to his father and reported that finally he had heard the leaves of the trees awakening in the morning dew, the sounds of the woodland flowers opening and closing, the clamour of the earth as it bared itself to the warming rays of the noonday sun, the heartbeats of a thousand animals and birds. His father was pleased.

“My son”, said the King, “to hear the unhearable is one’s best discipline for being a great leader. The best rulers must truly hear unspoken joys and pains of their people. It is easy to hear the obvious and the superficial, but grear kingdoms are built only by hearing the secret sounds of those around you. You have learned well the wisdom of the forest and your life long task.””

Now this story keeps me thinking. Is Barrow hearing the unheard from the citizens of the Gambia? Is he actually connected to the people now? Is he hearing “the secret sounds” that are coming from hoods, from the people who gave up much for him to become the President?

If he really has his ears to the ground, then what can explain the inaction, procrastination or wallowing in indecision which characterises his governance? Does he really have his ears to the ground?Or he hears just the plain and obvious, not the rumbling beneath the earth, the silent whispers in the night, the cries of the people beneath the ground?

Think about these: The Government has declared that the country would face food insecurity but before we could say Lang Sambujang the President jetted off to the UNGA, on a chartered flight and with a big delegation….. And we want donors to put something significant in our begging bowl.

The Fatou Bah Barrow Foundation is mired in “suspicion”, with millions of Dalasis deposited in its accounts from a “mysterious” source. Eye brows have been raised; red flag hoisted; complaints made for some investigation by the Police or the Financial Intelligence Unit. The Government doesn’t seem to care. It is “private”. And the Government claims to have the fight against corruption high on the agenda. What message is it sending? What is it hearing from the people?

The Faraba incident, which eventually snowballed into a tragedy, was not spontaneous. The writings were clear on the walls. The cries of the people were audible. Who listened to them? Who was proactive in resolving the issue? Then that fateful day arrived and everyone swung into action as if that was the first time they knew about the case….. The intervention in the Golden Lead saga came only when matters got to a head. The rumbling was unheard……The voice of dissent was throttled. Who cared about the environmental degradation?….. The SSHFC sabre rattling was dismissed as mere shadow boxing. See what we have on our hands.

There is chorus of complaints and expression of dissatisfaction from the citizens, whether it is about the Barrow Youth Movement, the invisible hands of “anonymous donors”, the milking cow that is the “per diems”, the lack of transparency which is growing by the day, the poor personnel emoluments, the rickety public services. There are rumblings at the centre of our earth but who is hearing them?

When a leader doesn’t know when to act, when to take decisive action, when to strike while the iron is hot, it is likely that nation will suffer inordinate delay in the addressing of pressing, urgent and important situations that afflict its body politic.

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