Why Is President Barrow So Chilling in A Quiet ‘Social & Physical Distancing’?
Alagi Yorro Jallow
Mamudu: The enemy is here, and our fears are valid. Few of us in our lifetimes have ever confronted this frightening worldwide fulminating peril. We do not think any of us are prepared.
Wisdom is wonderfully gained but generally only retrospectively. Now we know what it might feel like to live in the Gambia amid the Ebola epidemic or in neighboring African nations. Did we ever really feel their fear? Probably not because we can only completely understand someone else’s feelings when we, too, are confronted with them. Do not feel less than about that. That is human nature. What happens in other countries can raise our compassion and concern, but we will not feel the impact until it lands in our neck of the woods.
Mamudu: Several times, as I have walked about in Manhattan in New York City, I wondered what it might have been like to have lived during the Black Plague. Today, we are facing this perilous virus. For several years, we have been concerned about the possibility of a virulent global virus or superbug.
Now it is a reality of living. Confirmed cases of the coronavirus disease in the Gambia and neighboring Senegal are rising, with concentrated cluster outbreaks in some remote outlying villages.
Italy, one of the world’s beautiful country in Europe, is ravaged by this coronavirus and fighting mightily in already overwhelmed medical facilities.
Mamudu: We never believed the Coronavirus disease was happening until it slithered our collective conscience and humanity so deadly into our homes, works places, and in our communities. President Donald Trump of the United States of America was also dismissive of this International Health Emergency. He did not believe it was real at the beginning. Was Donald Trump not the one who said coronavirus victims could get better ‘by going to work’? Now, he is up and doing – shuttering spaces, addressing the nation, talking to his people almost every day. We wish the Gambia had a presidential president too. We have seen world leaders, the Ghanaian President, the South African President, the President of Kenya, the Senegalese President, all addressing this matter, personally. However, President Adama Barrow, where is he?
Mamudu: Real Generals do not lead from the frontline; that is what is taught at military school. Hannibal Barca, who was the last General to do that, what happened to his country? President Barrow is maintaining a safe social (and physical) distance, far from the sickening sick crowd. Or are we saying that keeping social distance and self-isolation are no longer the recommended non-pharmaceutical prescriptions we are told to observe? The reason for the closure of schools, churches, mosques, and large public gatherings?
Mamudu: President Adama Barrow according to the Proclamation of a State of Public Emergency under section 34(1)(b) of the 1997 Constitution in response to the coronavirus pandemic under section 3 of the Emergency Powers Act [Cap.17:04, Vol.4 Laws of The Gambia, 2009, plans to ensure compliance with its directives on coronavirus management.
Mamudu: There is nothing wrong with this; nations use this state of emergency powers to compel reluctant citizens during moments of crisis. The UK just imposed strict regulations curtailing citizens’ movements, and Boris Johnson threatened to bring out the soldiers if people still resist. However, bringing out troops, as we have seen in the case of the UK, is the last option. Over the last fortnight, the government has introduced many strategic steps to manage the crisis. A very critical one is the introduction of palliatives to give economic support and succor amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Furthermore, President Barrow promised and approved an emergency response fund of GMD 500 million to the Ministry of Health for the practical, adequate, and timely response to the outbreak. Since the announcement, nothing has changed. So how does the government that is broke plan to fund these ideas that need to be so urgently implemented without tacit approval from the National Assembly?
Mamudu: Should the government want to use force to get citizens to comply, it must be because it is aware of the implications of the laws; it also must mean the government has put plans in place to support Gambians if asked to stay away from work indefinitely.
Mamudu: Who is the Gambia’s New Coronavirus Czar and management team? The Health Minister? Yes, a medical doctor. The Minister of Health!
President Donald Trump did almost the same thing. He made his deputy, Mike Pence, the head of his team head the coronavirus pandemic. Not exactly. The team coordinator is Deborah Birx, United States global AIDS coordinator. She has been on that beat since the Obama administration. There is also grand old Anthony Fauci, top infectious disease expert since President Ronald Reagan. There are others.
Moreover, who says President Adama Barrow does not have such persons in his team too? Mention them. We know President Barrow must first smell the name and ethnicity of someone for juicy appointments before the person’s competence is considered. It is a shame. So, fighting a pandemic is now a juicy job?
Yes. Much money is involved. They do not give such a job to someone they do not know personally. Remember our Presidents, after elections, and they would give top jobs only to persons they knew personally. Interesting. Nevertheless, why can’t President Barrow learn from President Trump and think the Gambia first? At least until this coronavirus enemy burns itself out.
We are praising the same President Trump who dismissed the problem at the beginning as his enemies’ ‘new hoax’ which would ‘go away…like a miracle’ with the winds of winter. Is President Barrow’s silence not better than such a stupid, uninformed presidential statement?
Mamudu: Was Donald Trump entirely wrong? Scientists have said heat kills – or at least, incapacitates coronavirus. Otherwise, why has it not killed as many on poor African soil as it has done with the so-called developed world? Recently, the world had recorded 12,950 deaths, less than 60 were from Africa. Can we explain that?
It is amazing. Who said the official African figures represent the reality of the situation here? However, the man in charge of health care in Boston during the 1918 flu had the same conviction about heat and viruses 102 years ago. He said ‘a half hour’s sunbath means death to the germs.’ The people believed him. He was wrong. The flu did not go away. It came in three deadly waves and killed both young and old, male and female. On September 25, 1918, Boston authorities reported 105 deaths; on September 28, they reported 152; two days later, 171; in the first days of October, there were 202,191 and 183 death totals. The city lost thousands to the scourge.
Mamudu: That shall not be our portion. Ameen. However, are we scared? Coronavirus hit the White House at Vice President Mike Pence, and his wife had to be tested for the disease. The US (just like the virus) has no respect for power. The White House should have been a no-go area for anyone looking for victims of a contagious disease. Can we imagine anyone asking President Barrow or even a Minister here to come for a test just because one of his aides is positive? The world would have come to an end for whoever suggested that.
Mamudu: Viruses are no respecter of statuses. The 1918 flu maimed president Woodrow Wilson of the US. He was lucky he did not go with it. General Louis Botha, the first Prime Minister of Union of South Africa, was not lucky. He died. King Alfonso XIII of Spain was gravely ill, no thanks to the irreverent flu. The then king of Saudi Arabia lost his eldest son, Turki. This coronavirus demon that moved out of Asia, and now crisscrossing oceans and deserts, has maintained that lethal reputation. Ask the Iranians. They have lost ranking members of their ruling caste to this strange enemy from irreligious China. In the West, the viral rain is pouring. Even the First Lady of Canada tested positive after visiting the United Kingdom.
Moreover, our leaders think their immunity covers this. Leave them with their morbid arrogance. It is the nature of power. It gives a false sense of invincibility until the world comes to an end, suddenly, for the powerful. Sadly, even people are as disobedient as Satan. There continue to be crowding in mosques and churches.
Mamudu: Very foolhardy people. Saudi Arabia was the first to shut its most priced space, the Kaaba (al-Kaʿbah al-Musharrafah). The Archbishop of Canterbury on Saturday posted a message signed by leaders of all faiths in the UK. They asked communities not to ‘gather physically in groups’ because ‘it puts lives at risk.’ They asked their people to ‘pray at home, and connect online…’ The Vatican did its own, but my people are more catholic than the pope. They must congregate and distribute this mass death. There is a saying about stiff-necked people risking sudden destruction. It is in the Bible, but they will not read that. We pray we know that a disease that is eating up the hearts of America and China would blow unmanageable death elsewhere. However, we are too cynical to obey simple rules of engagement with this creepy enemy. But look. If we ask people not to go to church and mosque and they take a detour to crowded marketplaces.
Mamudu: what is happening now? Marketplaces and malls continue their bustling businesses; public buses cabs and ferry services are cramped with people in search of daily bread; fully loaded local flights run their courses; government secretariats are busy as usual – doing nothing. Our President and ministers continue to receive idle visitors and are hosting and attending social and political events. Some politicians were in their constituencies on politicking and sensitizing with crowds of aides. Furthermore, they are the ones preaching caution, safe-distancing. Why are they like this? Do they have immunity? Moreover, we know the meaning? It is the ability to resist infections.
Why Is President Barrow So Chilling in A Quiet ‘Social & Physical Distancing’?