Alagie Saidy-Barrow

Even for those among us who may not subscribe to religious narratives on the beginning of humans, we have all heard about the story of Adam and Eve or Adama (not your president; I mean the original Adama), and Hawa or Awa or Awa Yombeh or whatever you call them. The story goes that they were in the most ideal of places and were told by God to partake off all the trees except one enticing “apple” tree. Somehow, the serpent who happened to be chilling like a villain nearby, convinced our mother Awa Yombeh to eat off that forbidden tree and she, perhaps based on her humanitarian inclinations, gave some of the apple to Adam as well.

When questioned by God, Adam blamed Eve and also kinda sorta blamed God Himself by saying something along the lines of “The woman you gave me made me do it.” Eve in turn blamed the serpent whom she blamed for “enticing” her into eating the apple! I guess the serpent would have blamed someone if it too was asked why he made Eve eat from that tree. There is much more to the story but by now if you don’t get my drift, blame your education system.

The point is to show that our tendency to avoid taking responsibility by shifting blame elsewhere is nothing new. If we cannot outrightly deny because we were caught red handed while at it, we look for others to blame. And that’s alright up to a certain point. All normal people have some desire to maintain a good image of ourselves. That includes all governments and politicians. That’s human nature. But maintaining a good image of oneself must never devolve into blame-shifting or outrightly refusing to take any responsibility for what we do or say.

Enter the Banjul floods. It’s not that floods in other regions don’t matter to me, they do. This is also not the first time that Banjul flooded. But it’s because it wasn’t long ago that our Adama, not our forefather the prophet, I mean our contemporary Moses, our president. President Barrow was quoted to have said “Banjul is our City, our Capital City. We have nowhere that is more important than Banjul as far as we are concern.” This was after he inspected the so-called roads and drainage rehabilitation work that he was so proud of. In fact our president would go on to say that some German visitors , told him that they visited many capitals but Banjul stood out because it’s very nice. I don’t know which capitals that those Germans visited but they should be charged with giving false information to a public official.

I wonder what the Germans would say today if they visited our very nice Banjul only to realize that underneath the so-called niceness, lies some very shoddy work orchestrated by those who made the city supposedly nice. Banjul is flooded and videos I saw of homes there break my heart. Barrow said when Haddim Gai sold him the project to rehabilitate Banjul, he felt it was too good to be true! Well you know what they say about something sounding too good be true!

When Barrow’s former minister for works Bai Lamin Jobe visited that same road and drainage rehabilitation project to get first hand information, the Point Newspaper reported that one Abdou Jane, who was the project manager of Gai Construction Company, “assured the minister and team of delivering the project on time. He further told the team that almost 60 percent of pavement work on the total 14-kilometers of roads to be constructed in Banjul is completed. Mr. Jane further clarified that once there is heavy downpour; Banjul will experience a flashflood, but this will flow into the drainage network and finally be pumped out into the sea.”

Well, Banjul flooded and the water remains in the people’s homes and not in the sea. Certainly not what the project was meant to do! Was he misled? Did Bai Lamin Jobe and his ministry conduct due diligence to ensure that Gai Construction could actually do what they promised? If not, why didn’t the ministry do that? Bai Lamin Jobe vouched for the competency of Gai. Bai Lamin said no one is more competent than him to make the decision on this rehabilitation project!

The people are suffering and we have to ask questions. Was this flood preventable? Could it have been better managed so Banjulians don’t end up seeking refuge in their own city? If this wasn’t preventable, what about the response to it? How effective was the response?

Are those responsible for the rehabilitation project going to ask questions of each other or confuse themselves in the the art of blame-gaming. When the suffering people ask for answers, are those responsible going to be like Adama our forefather and blame Hawa. Or will they be like Hawa and keep the blame game going by blaming the Serpent? My point is between the government of Adama Barrow, his ministry of works, ministry of finance, Haddim Gai and his project manager Mr Jane, and whoever else took part in this grand rehabilitation project, someone should take responsibility. I learned that some pumps have since been installed over the last few days. Why now?

Who will stand up and take responsibility and tell us what they should have done differently? Or shall we just shift blame and establish a fact finding mission that will never reveal any facts but will bank on our short term memories to soon let this too pass? Or better yet, do we just say it’s Allah’s will and pretend we have nothing to do with it? That no one is responsible?