President Jammeh on Wednesday 13th January let it be officially made known that he was rescinding his autocratic and totalitarian directive that no woman working in the public sector was to be allowed to have any part of her hair uncovered during working hours.
The official newscaster on the one and only state-owned GRTS television went on to explain that the withdrawal of the dramatic and much criticized presidential directive was because “women being his friends and he being there for their happiness and well-being at all times, and since the decision would make them unhappy, it has been accordingly lifted.” The newscaster went on to state that, “The general public should be informed that the directive for women to put on head dress, not hijab, in public offices during working hours has nothing to do with religion.”
On the same Wednesday however, Jammeh’s minister of Information, the now known to be notoriously unprincipled Mr. Sheriff Bojang, invited over members of the press to his office to condemn foreign media outfits that have “been filling their newspaper columns and airtime with gross distortions and the most outrageous lies.”
Asked if the December 31st presidential directive making it mandatory for female public workers to have their hairs covered was not at odds with the claims that all was normal, Bojang responded, “absolutely not. In fact that directive has more to do with His Excellency’s social re-engineering crusade than religion.”
Bojang went on with his re-narrating, “The President believes it is imperative for African women, the mothers and moulders of our children, to be proud, conscious and reassert their dignity. That is why earlier on, he banned skin bleaching in the civil service. The covering of hair by female staff is an attempt to discourage the use of false hair commonly known as meche. He believes the use of such things is an affront to the dignity of the African woman and constitutes gross waste of resources. Some of these false hair packets cost in excess of D50 000 and they are mostly unhygienic and messy.”
“But instead of finding out the truth, some of these reporters and editors jump to conclusions making noise everywhere that ‘Christians are being defamed, persecuted and crucified’ as one Senegalese paper put it
“Since when has a call for modest covering of hair during official government working hours tantamount to religious persecution and crucifixion?
“Christians and people of other faiths are freest in The Gambia and do not have any reason to fear intimidation of any sort. His Excellency, the President has Christians in his family, went to a Christian school and even lived in a Christian home. He is well versed in the Bible and its history and believes both true Christians and Muslims worship the same God and except for some doctrinal differences like the nature of Christ and the concept of Trinity, are the same.”
“Blaha, blahaa..” Mr. Bojang’s lengthy lecture continued, with occasional poetic rhymes and the puerile penchant for the use of words for their sound rather than the sense they carry. But that President Jammeh himself relented on the issue of the head-ties as his minister was trying to defend it, simply made it evident that Bojang was trying to defend what even Jammeh came to discover was indefensible.
If he was indeed a man of any self-respect, he would have resigned his position as minister in the Jammeh cabinet following Jammeh’s decision to realize that to force, through legislation. female public servants to have theirs head tied “made them unhappy” and was thus “accordingly lifting it.” The dramatic irony was that while Jammeh was instructing his office to announce the lifting of the ban, Sheriff Bojang was busy defending it in a conference with members of the local press. Disgraceful many think, it served him well some concluded. In fact we would be surprised if worst is soon not coming on to Sheriff Bojang.
Sheriff reminds us very well of a predecessor, another ex-journalist cum writer Nana Grey Johnson, after being squeezed out of all honor, respect and social standing was thrown away like a dried up orange, to be devoured by observers. But luckily for Nana, this is not Senegal or Sierra Leone. This is The Gambia where there is more sympathy for people like him, never mind the horrendous piece of legislation, against the free use of the internet, than the legitimate rancor normally reserved for those who misuse power and authority.
Sheriff, with little doubt, will soon join us all to see what transpires in our dear motherland with ordinary spectacles to soon learn to curse President Jammeh virulently under the breath. Like Nana he will know that though every Gambian he meets in the streets, in public places and in other social occasions either behold him with a mixture of disdain and sympathy but all of them pretend to forget that he was once a minister of state in the government of the country’s mercurial leader, Yahya Jammeh. What people like Nanna and Sherriff Bojang often want others to believe is that they really do not like serving in such a cabinet, but refusing out of hand an offer of cabinet position in the current dispensation is invitation to trouble for oneself. While this may be so in the beginning, they are soon changed by the trappings of power, the fat salary and other fringe benefits, the admiration they seem to see in the eyes and looks of the ordinary citizen, the many other advantages that only those who go through it know it, all help to change them.
But before concluding this, piece, it must be said that chastisement is also owed to the Gambian autocrat Yahya Jammeh who is never done taking decisions that he is often first to rescind. It is a mark of his immaturity that often when he takes impulsive but dramatic decisions, he must, after days of pondering over them, recall them. The pondering should come before taking the decision not after. Governance, now a days, cannot be a one-man affair; policies, at times transcend over many sectors and impact on the lives of so many people; departments are many the decision making process bedeviled with prudent checks and balances that if not adhered to may lead one, government and , in fact a whole nation, astray. Governance is the steering of a nation’s ship of state, not the frequent uttering of attention-seeking statements, not the rush to decision-making.
Remember a few years ago when President Jammeh, inspired by one of his anti-Western twiddles, decided on changing the working hours and days and had to issue directives from his office about four times before finally settling for the current one? The same might have happened with the illegal decision to execute over a dozen inmates in August 2012 only that there was no way to rescind that decision after the poor victims had already been executed. How many such decisions has Yahya Jammeh taken and acted upon?