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President Barrow should be commended for naming public buildings after two former Vice Presidents but it was a mistake to name a public building after his mother

President Barrow is to be commended for naming public buildings after two former Vice Presidents in acknowledgment of their contributions to The Gambia, although it was a mistake to name a public building after his mother.

Alagi Yorro Jallow

Fatoumatta: President Adama Barrow has launched an initiative to honor notable Gambians, both living and deceased, who have made significant contributions to the nation. This recognition involves naming public buildings, institutions, and places after these individuals, including esteemed former leaders and dedicated citizens. While iconic landmarks named after well-known figures can enhance a city’s cultural heritage and appeal to both Gambians and visitors, there is a concern that focusing solely on political figures might overlook other worthy contributors such as distinguished athletes, artists, journalists, writers, scientists, and activists. Indeed, dedicating airports, bridges, schools, highways, hospitals, and other public spaces to past leaders is a tribute to their legacy in nation-building. It is hoped that renaming the Independence Stadium in Bakau to honor the late football legend Momodou Njie Biri will create a permanent tribute to those who have shaped Gambia’s football history. However, it is also recognized that not every President or politician will have such places named after them; only those whose influence has profoundly affected air travel and community life.

Fatoumatta: The decision by President Adama Barrow to honor two of Gambia’s vice presidents from the First Republic by naming recent public health centers after them is praiseworthy for its generosity. Recognizing leaders who have selflessly served the Gambia is crucial, as awards acknowledge their contributions and inspire emulation. Excellence in various fields should be celebrated to foster positive change. However, such honors should be reserved for public figures who have made significant patriotic contributions to the Gambia, not necessarily for the President’s mother. The question arises as to what socio-economic, artistic, creative, cultural, or scientific contributions the President’s mother has made to warrant such recognition. Public honors should be bestowed upon those who have served and sacrificed for the country with distinction. While President Adama Barrow’s tribute to former leaders is commendable, the decision to name a public health center after his mother may not align with this principle. Ethical considerations must be balanced when naming public properties, especially concerning family members of public figures, to ensure decisions serve the public interest and are not perceived as unethical or self-serving.

Fatoumatta: The public’s perception of naming choices significantly influences their trust in leaders. If these choices appear self-serving or nepotistic, they can undermine public trust and confidence in the leaders’ fairness and impartiality. Hence, leaders must contemplate the potential repercussions on their reputation and the public’s trust when making such decisions.

While leaders may wish to honor their family legacy, it is imperative to balance this with the broader public interest. This balance is essential to ensure that the public’s needs and concerns are at the forefront of naming decisions. Adopting a more inclusive and merit-based approach to naming public places offers numerous advantages. It can motivate future generations by acknowledging and celebrating achievements across different sectors. Moreover, it can cultivate public pride and unity by mirroring the nation’s varied heritage and shared vision. Naming decisions should correspond with the purpose of the property; for instance, dedicating a hospital wing to a family member who championed healthcare is appropriate, whereas naming a highway after an unrelated relative may not be.

Fatoumatta: The practice of naming public places offers a chance to imbue our country’s public areas and heritage with more names that reflect our national heritage and collective imagination. This initiative aims to ensure that our cities and towns’ public hospitals, airports, bridges, roads, stadiums, and squares resonate with our identity. While every Gambian appreciated the naming of two health centers after two patriotic sons of Gambia for their service, many disagreed with President Barrow’s decision to name the Mankamang Kunda Health Center after his mother. This center, along with others in Basse and Mankamang Kunda, was inaugurated recently, representing an investment of over D82 million. Additionally, a health center in Basse was named after the late Third Vice President Hassan Musa Camara, and another in Baddibou, Salikenni, was named after Vice President and former National Assembly Speaker Sheriff Mustapha Dibba, costing over D41 million.

Ethical judgments are context-dependent, without a universal solution. Leaders must weigh legal requirements, community sentiment, and the broader implications of their actions. Naming public property after family members is not inherently wrong, but it requires careful consideration of transparency, public perception, and the common good.

President Barrow led the naming ceremony for health centers honoring former Vice President and Speaker Sheriff Mustapha Dibba in the North Bank Region, and Basse in the Upper River Region, as well as a center named after another Vice President of Gambia, Assan Musa Camara. This initiative, which may resonate widely, stands as a tribute to the values that form the Gambian Nation’s unique identity. While many public places still carry names from a distant and sometimes painful past, this move inspires chairpersons and mayors to emulate President Barrow’s initiative. Leaders and local authorities are encouraged to update these names, ensuring that our roads and public spaces reflect our national heritage and collective imagination.

The joint posthumous celebration of a child from Badibou Salikene and a native of Basse epitomizes the ‘real Gambia’—a nation inherited from our ancestors, cherished by its people; a single nation, united in diversity, where everyone belongs, embracing and valuing its differences, to foster a sense of national unity and social harmony.

One of President Barrow’s key infrastructure policy initiatives is the substantial investment in a mega project aimed at enhancing the Gambia’s appeal, development, and industrialization. However, it’s vital to recognize that cities and towns are more than just structures of cement, concrete, iron, and glass. They possess a heart and soul, living and expressing themselves. Cities communicate with us through their avenues, bridges, schools, markets, streets, squares, and iconic buildings; they observe and challenge us, narrate their tales, attest to their present, and forecast their future. Thus, linking the names of our leaders and notable individuals to a city signifies a union with its history, present, and future in body and soul.

Fatoumatta: The tradition of naming public places after distinguished leaders and politicians is longstanding in many nations. Such namings honor their societal contributions, providing historical context and a reminder of their influence. A park, street, or building bearing the name of an esteemed individual can motivate citizens to discover more about their accomplishments and aspire to their admirable traits. Locals often feel proud of landmarks named after renowned figures, which enhances community spirit and identity.

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