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Corruption: The Chichidodo Bird as a Machiavellian Symbol in Politics

Fatoumatta: Ghanian author Ayi Kwei Armah, in ‘The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born’ (1968), describes the chichidodo bird that detests excrement profoundly but feeds solely on maggots, which thrive best within a lavatory. This paradoxical behavior symbolizes the bird.

The chichidodo, native to parts of Ghana, abhors human waste yet subsists on maggots, which flourish in feces. Despite its aversion, the bird lingers near excrement, visibly distressed by the stench while scavenging for larvae. Ayi Kwei Armah, a Ghanaian author, draws a parallel between this bird and an honorable individual serving a corrupt regime.

Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka occasionally satirizes his detractors by likening them to the chichidodo. This legendary bird loathes feces but consumes only worms. He once characterized a critic as the ‘human embodiment of the chichidodo.’ Echoing this sentiment, Gambians may have deems to have an opinion on President Adama Barrow and his administration’s inability to combat corruption and end impunity in both Yahya Jammeh’s past and his own current government as akin to ‘a contemporary human embodiment of the chichidodo.’

The term ‘Chichidodo’ refers to someone who detests a vice fervently, yet benefits from that very vice, directly or indirectly. The Gambia has endured corruption since its first and second republics, and it persists in the third republic under President Barrow, akin to larvae thriving in filth, a byproduct of corruption. The true ‘Chichidodo’ in bribery and corruption are those who profess to despise it but refrain from combating it, thereby facilitating its practice. They reap benefits from it and desire its continuation. President Adama Barrow, through the Janneh Commission of Inquiry investigating former President Yahya Jammeh’s financial activities, aimed to eliminate the corruption, complacency, and arrogance associated with prolonged power, and to renew the public sector’s service to the citizenry by eradicating corruption. Yet, his precipitous actions and naivety may have muddled his intentions of reform.

President Barrow’s campaign, which is predicated on a notion of political sainthood, and his government’s vision of a utopia, portray him as an impeccable figure. This stance is seen as a major political deception. It represents a grave misjudgment by President Barrow’s administration, as Gambians now attempt to depict him as amiable but ineffective against corruption, with allegations of economic and financial misconduct. It is said that one cannot offer what they do not possess; only the divine can claim infallibility, and no politician or civil servant of merit would base their campaign on sanctity.

Fatoumatta: President Barrow’s true nature is contested. A thorough examination of his past and present is said to reveal a character resembling the ‘Chichidodo’ from the novel “The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born,” suggesting a discrepancy between his professed and actual personas. The manner in which President Barrow has distanced himself from… real estate business industry. Can a poor man contest for National Assembly elections twice, not to talk of a Presidential election?

President Barrow often appears committed to combating corruption and ending impunity, only to be swayed by those with alternate agendas in governance and politics. For instance, years ago, President Barrow covered all election campaign costs for his former political party, the United Democratic Party (UDP), spending millions of Gambian Dalasis for the 2017 National Assembly and Local Government elections. Additionally, Adama Barrow financed coalition partners with new vehicles for their campaigns. He provided funding for election campaigns and gifted new cars to all National Assembly members, excluding PDOIS members, claiming these were donations from an anonymous benefactor.

Does President Barrow truly grasp the concept of corruption?

Is it possible for Adama Barrow to follow a nefarious path yet maintain innocence? Will such a paradoxical approach to politics endure? President Barrow ought to possess the conviction and compassion to address corruption, rectify past wrongs of previous and current administrations, and eliminate impunity. Yet, Barrow, being human, must also find the strength to reject those who use him as a pawn for their own objectives. His administration seems disinterested in investigating past and current corrupt officials, focusing instead on securing a second term. Consequently, his anti-corruption stance from the 2016 election no longer resonates.

Fatoumatta: Corruption in The Gambia poses a unique threat, with missing millions reported at the Banjul City Council, Kanifing Municipal Council (KMC) and other rural municipal council and widely discussed on social media, which has seen unprecedented levels of confessions and resignations.

We wholeheartedly endorse the investigations into all Municipal Councils in the country regarding the serious allegations of missing millions, aiming to uncover any concealed financial frauds forensically. Indeed, the investigation not only arrived too late but should have resulted in the immediate indictment of all those implicated in corruption.

Fatoumatta: As a vocal critic of President Barrow, I find his delay in addressing crucial national issues troubling. This delayed decision is a prime example.While acknowledging that the Municipal Councils, especially those in Banjul, Kanifing, and Brikama, have done commendable work in purifying and refreshing the administrative bodies, leading to stronger Councils, they still need to exhibit the calm demeanor, dignified conduct, and authoritative presence expected of them. Instead, they have often behaved more like arrogant and self-important politicians, tearing apart Council policies and finances with glee.

Therefore, I urge President Barrow to act appropriately, legally, morally, and constitutionally, to combat corruption and to remove any government or local government officials implicated in the alleged corruption scandal for further investigation. Failure to do so would be tantamount to creating untouchable figures or monstrous entities from non-compliant public officers who challenge their government with flamboyance and delight. What an irony! What a paradox.

Can anyone truly claim that the numerous violations of Financial regulations do not amount to serious misconduct? Shall we permit a domineering majority or a vociferous minority that dominates the media to dictate our standards of justice and humanity?

During the 2016 and 2021 presidential elections, Gambians campaigned against public sector corruption.

Fatoumatta: We must move away from a state of moral uncertainty. It is our duty to uphold high ethical and moral standards within our society. Certainly, no individual has the right to undermine our societal morals. As citizens, we have the obligation to preserve our nation’s integrity; as parents, to pass on the moral values instilled in us; and as individuals, to honor God and ourselves by living up to these high ethical standards.

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