It is indeed heartwarming to hear and see the barrage of beautiful homages paid to the late Vice President Badara Alieu Joof. It was indeed spectacular to see long lines of public officials, political leaders, and citizens take to the desk to write farewell messages in the condolence book for the late Vice President. These inspiring and solemn eulogies from a diversity of Gambians and, above all crowned by the eternally loving and touching words of his daughters, truly indicate that Badara was in his own league! May his departed gentle soul enjoy eternal rest in paradise.
Badara Alieu Joof was appointed Vice President in May 2022. Before that he was minister for higher education since 2017. He was indeed an accomplished technocrat as a national and international civil servant spanning decades. Indeed anyone who interacted with him cannot fail to realize his depth and weight of intellectualism, expertise and experience. Therefore on a day like today, we cannot fail to realize his relevance and contributions, especially when he became the occupier of the second highest office of the land.
In his inaugural address as VP, Badara took all gloves off to bluntly lament the poor performance and corruption in the Government that he himself served since inception. He admonished his colleagues to realize that business cannot continue as usual, rather they must serve Gambians as efficiently as possible as required by the law and their mandates.
Many applauded his statement for its timeliness, urgency and necessity and hoped that this was going to be the beginning of change for better governance for a government that has been notorious for illegality, ineptitude and corruption since 2017.
The fact that Badara could openly take responsibility for the failures of his own Government attest to the eulogies that he was a man of truth, humility and honesty. We saw Badara in another spectacular performance when in June 2022 he hosted the first ever cabinet retreat. On this occasion too, he came out bluntly and directly as he proclaimed that he was ready to be sacked for telling the truth. And indeed, he did tell the hard truth to his colleagues.
“We have to get it right by doing what is right. I will say it and I say it as it is, and I have been saying it as it is in the cabinet that is the only way you can get it right.”
Badara did not only admonish public officials to do things in the right way and get them right, but he also empathized with the masses of our people when he reminded them that,
“We are already in a very difficult situation and it’s impacting on the health and wellbeing of people. The cost of living could break marriages because it brings animosity in the family; because people will begin having one meal per day instead of three meals. Then people become agitated and emotional because they have nothing in their pockets.”
These may be words, but words can inspire as they can discourage. Words can build as they can destroy. But Badara’s words indeed did inspire and build widespread public confidence that change was coming. Above all, Badara’s words exposed his sense of humility and honesty that he was able to publicly criticize himself by acknowledging the failures of the Government in which he served.
How many of us will accept criticism from others much more criticize ourselves openly for failure? Indeed Badara did set a high bar for all of us, but more so for the elected and appointed public officials of this country.
Unfortunately, from June to his demise, we witnessed how Badara’s public engagements kept reducing until the final end. In this regard, we can confidently give Badara the benefit of doubt that if indeed sickness and eventually death had not taken him away, surely, we would have seen a different government this time. If he was alive and well today, I have no doubts that Badara would ensure that he implemented his vision of transparency, accountability and delivery in the public service. On that score, we have missed an irredeemable opportunity as a nation in his passing.
But Badara has thrown a challenge to all Gambian citizens, at home and abroad – to ensure that his vision survives and lives to fruition. To honour this man therefore is to demand that there is an open, honest and results-oriented government. If you were a dormant citizen from 2017, and you claim to respect and honour Badara then stand up from today to speak out and demand change! If not, then your eulogies are meaningless.
To Pres. Adama Barrow and his Cabinet ministers and top Government officials who wrote in the condolence book and stood to salute and bid farewell to Badara, if you truly and genuinely wish to mourn Badara it is to uphold and put into practice his vision as expressed in his words. He spoke about the truth and doing things right as the basis for addressing the challenges this country faces. Are you ready to uphold and implement Badara’s vision?
To brandish spectacular three-piece waramba and suits with a solemn face in signing the condolence book is not the end of mourning. To pose at the airport and at the funeral service and the burial ceremony under this hot sun is not the end of mourning. To speak in glowing terms in appreciation of a man like Badara Alieu Joof does not mean you truly respect and mourn him.
Rather, the true meaning of respect and mourning for Badara lies in upholding his legacy and implementing his vision in full. If indeed it is true that Badara’s death was shocking to Adama Barrow as he claimed in his press statement, let him implement the vision of Badara. Now!
Badara’s vision is for an honest, truthful, performing, and open government. That was what he called for. It will be hypocritical and a betrayal of Badara if this Government continues to shamelessly lie to Gambians while engaged in massive corruption and failing to deliver much needed quality services to the people. To continue business as usual would be a betrayal of Badara.
Since 2017, this Government and the National Assembly have woefully failed Gambians. It was indeed refreshing that in May and June 2022 a man like Badara who had been part of that Government decided to break ranks and become honest and straight with the people. That is the true mark of leadership, as great leaders are those who have the courage to recognise one’s weaknesses and errors, and be ready to correct oneself.
We appreciate Badara for that courage, honesty, humility, and patriotism. To uphold his legacy behoves on all Gambians – not only the officials in the Gambia Government and the National Assembly, but also all citizens must demand the implementation of the vision of Badara Joof.
Therefore, as we bid farewell to Badara Alieu Joof, let us demand that public officials are honest and open with the citizens. Badara’s vision was to bring back truth and openness in Government. Thus, if your mourning of Badara is genuine then demand and ensure that the Government is truthful, honest, and open. I call these the Badara Principles for Public Service.
Adieu Badara. May your gentle soul rest in perfect peace.
For the Gambia Our Homeland