Mamudu: The 1997 Constitution creates the office of the Vice President. The President of the Republic appoints the Vice President and acts as the President’s Constitutional successor in case of a vacancy. Still, there is always a pair of contradictions and extremes in picking a Vice President in the Gambia. They were classical Thomas Hardy’s ‘sinister’ mates in the ‘Convergence of Mark Twain,’ his poem on the sinking of the Titanic.
One was a ship, confident in his invincible hull, royally ruling his hemisphere. Moreover, on the other side was the vast polar iceberg, deadly, lurking “in the shadowy, silent distance.” The state soon became a street of bloody fights; broken limbs and lost heads became signposts to its health; the victim was everybody. Even Kings and Princes abandoned their authority for the Crowne Prince to rule.
However, the King did withdraw into the Palace and planted a ‘Situation Office’ where real power resided. At that crisis, Twain went poetic: he said deputies anywhere were spare tires. If you were to choose between your spare tire and the car’s brain box, which would you pamper? At the time, Mark Twain employed that metaphor for a deputy, the most influential person in the line of authority called Chief Personal Assistant, a very brilliant, cold gentleman and gentlewoman. Persons who run governments are rarely seen; they are the brain boxes of governmental engines. The boss trusts them absolutely because they are no direct threats and no potential widow inheritor in the marriage of power. No one, apart from the boss, likes them, but just as our brain is encased in a bony box, they are always well protected from the shocks of bumpy rides.
The power of metaphor can be awesome. It is the jewel carefully wrought “to ravish the sensuous mind.” Sometimes metaphor comes disguised as in Peter van der Coelen’s ‘Imagery of Proverbs.’ Mark Twain did not (and does not) disguise his jabs and darts. He is a verbal pugilist almost of the Mohammed Ali school. So, if the deputy is a spare tire, think about what you do with your car’s spare tire. Where do you keep it, how and for how long? The white man who designed the spare tire had his purpose. It is to save the vehicle and its users from accidental paralysis occasioned by burst or flat tires. However, that is where it appears to end. Blow-outs are metaphors for fatal occurrences. Except the immanent let them happen, the spare is useless.
Mamudu: The appointment of the Vice President of the Gambia choice should be a person of an outstanding reputation, a person of courage, a person of principle and loyal deputy, a person who is reliable, faithful, and a loyal ally to the President who has a track record of being unwilling to listen to dissent, a person of strength, a person of character, a person of decency, a person of moral rectitude, a person with strategic vision with the ability to execute, a person who demonstrates leadership presence and maturity, a person of impeccable judgment and ability to make a sound decision in a fast-paced, dynamic setting, a person of love for the country, as well as their administrative prowess and organizational skills combined to fetch them perhaps the essential task in the quest for positive change in the Gambia.
A choice of Vice President for President Adama Barrow’s choice of deputy should be within the context of the person with the best democratic credential and ideals, considering the enormously-positive reactions from the general public to the choice of the Vice President. Therefore, the Vice President pick should be a person who will rekindle the aspirations and hopes of the citizenry and revive their belief in democratic ideals.
Consequently, we believe that President Barrow should choose a Vice President that will complement the sterling qualities of the office of the Vice President. Nevertheless, we must confess that the choice is tough, considering the array of eminently-qualified and outstanding Gambians that President Barrow had to choose from.
Mamudu: The United States Senate has an exciting view on the vice presidency of that country. In most elegant prose, it x-rays what the office has been. The characters of those who had been there: “Holding the least understood, most ridiculed, and most often ignored constitutional office in the federal government, American Vice Presidents have included some remarkable individuals. Fourteen of the former Vice Presidents became President of the United States—more than half of them after a president had died. One defeated the sitting President with whom he served. One murdered a man and became a fugitive. One joined the Confederate army and led an invasion of Washington, D.C. One was the wealthiest banker of his era. Three received the Nobel Peace Prize, and one composed a popular melody. One served as a corporal in the Coast Guard while vice president. One had cities in Oregon and Texas named after him. Two resigned from the office. The people never elected two. One was the target of a failed assassination plot. Another was mobbed in his car while on a goodwill mission. Seven died in office—one in his room in the U.S. Capitol and two fatally stricken while on their way to preside over the Senate. And one piano-playing Vice President suffered political repercussions from a photograph showing him playing that instrument.
At the same time, a famous movie actress posed seductively on top of it.”Think of our former Vice president, Ajaratou Isatou Njie-Saidy, a standard run-flat tire for Yahya Jammeh for more than two decades. Ajaratou Fatoumatta Jallow Tambajang and Lawyer Ousainou Darboe and how they ended their Vice Presidency they were ditched spare tires. However, do not bother to think of today; the sun is searing enough for all to feel the unwantedness. So, should President Adama Barrow change spare tires on the side of the highway?
Mamudu: Those who copied the American presidentialism for the Gambia did not do a good job. Why didn’t they create a good, secure position for the vice president? Instead, they caused the mess presently, assailing our nostrils. At least, in the United States, if the President does not like the smell of the vice president, he cannot stop him from performing his duties as the President of the Senate.
Roger Sherman, one of the framers of the American constitution, noted this fact in his famous argument for giving a role to the vice president. He said starkly: “If the vice president were not to be president of the Senate, he would be without employment.” However, despite having employment in the Senate, what has been the experience of previous officeholders? U.S. presidential historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. once described the country’s vice presidency as “a resting place for mediocrities.” As uncharitable as that is, he would appear to be echoing the frustration of the past and the hopeless apprehension of the future. I will quote a few of these U.S. vice presidents.
America’s first vice president, John Adams, famously said: “My country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived…I am vice president. In this, I am nothing, but I may be everything…” Another Vice President, Thomas Marshall, added his voice, telling a morbid story: “Once there were two brothers. One ran away to sea; the other was elected vice president of the United States.
Moreover, nothing was heard of either of them again.” Harry Truman, another V.P., said: “Look at all the vice presidents in history. Where are they? They were about as useful as a cow’s fifth teat.” Dan Quayle, who was vice president to George H. W. Bush, said, “the job is just awkward, an awkward job.” Indeed, to Theodore Roosevelt, who was vice president in 1901 before moving up later to be President, it was a matter of regrets: “I would a great deal rather be anything, say professor of history, than vice president…” it is “not a steppingstone to anything except oblivion.” He was not entirely correct. He stepped on that stone to become President in 1905 – just like his predecessor, William McKinley. However, in regrets, another vice president, John Nance Garner, said: “The vice presidency is not worth a bucket of warm piss.” For him, taking the job was “the worst damn fool mistake I ever made.” Joe Biden was Obama’s Vice President. Early October 2014, he was at Harvard, Massachusetts, taking questions from students. Then a young man got up and introduced himself as the vice president of the students’ body. The man asked his question. Biden looked intently at him and said: “Isn’t it a bitch, I mean … that vice president thing?” When he saw the audience erupting with laughter, he readjusted himself and added: “I am joking. I am joking. I am joking. The best decision I ever made.”
Mamudu: The Gambia’s presidential democracy is funny and befuddling. It post-answers many bad questions so much it endangers the deputy. When do you think the spare tire becomes useful? Is it at all times when a working tire is found flat? You know it is not in all cases. You know that if a vulcanizer – its doctor – is nearby, except the damage is severe, the sensible thing to do is to mend the flat tire and re-commence the journey. In that case, the spare tire can continue its rest, sleep, and snore in its redundant pouch. It enjoys the coziness of its oft-forgotten room. Stress and strains from brakes and clutches are rarely its portions. Do not ask the spare tire to give evidence on any minister’s claim that awful roads are not as bad as wailers shout.
The spare tire’s evidence will be pure hearsay. It cannot help because falling into craters and gullies is not its portion; it has never been. All the disabilities around the office of the vice president of the Gambia become uglier when dipped in the shit of ethnic conspiracies and treacheries. A male president versus a female vice president is what we are grappling with. We saw the flipside of this championship between 1997 and 2022: A foxy, alert male president versus a serpentine female vice president. The result was an explosion. Unlike that time, no floodlights are beaming on this 2022 boxing ring. I am speaking of the Banjul stories, the denials, the known, and the unsaid. A former U.S. president has declared that he hated “all vices, including the vice president.” We have not heard that here, and we will not listen to it. Americans are blunt in telling the truth and in throwing verbal bombs.
The Caretaker vice president is gene here is different in its ravishing nimbleness with an activism lineage with an intriguing cross-cultural praise name always gets me thinking: Yes, we were spoilt for choice of a deputy, but, in the end, President Adama Barrow’s pick of a Vice President should be a person whose pedigree, nationally, sub-regionally, regionally, and globally, attests to the fact that the Gambia is a repository of high-quality leadership materials and that our country, the Gambia, has no shortage of the very best human resources.
Whether in the academic, legal, or ecclesial world, a Vice President pick should stand much taller than their physical frame and serves as an excellent accompaniment to the President, himself a man of such rare sterling qualities that have stood the test of time, qualities that are now so sorely lacking in our country’s leadership.
The appointment of a Vice President of the Gambia should be a gentleman or a gentlewoman, a much-sought-after public speaker, a tested administrator, a tested public policy influencer, and an excellent ecclesiastical standing. Now in President Adama Barrow’s second term with a new team, he has to present the Gambia with the best possible choices for the exalted position of Vice President. The Gambian people have been yearning for quality leadership; now, President Barrow should use his constitutional powers to put the Gambia firmly on the path to greatness. A country seeking to be among the greats in the comity of nations cannot afford to have mediocre leadership.
Mamudu: Those serving in Cabinet are very vivid enough as alerts and warnings to anyone who wants to deputize anyone. Our presidential palace politics is about preys and predators. A wise person knows that snakes and tigers are stealth hunters. They stalk, ambush, and tiptoe to maul their prey. These politicians sleeping with the Gambia are neither lousy nor are they louts. They almost always win and do not go to bed hungry. They are lined up, looking forward to taking turns on the victim. You will not hear any noise from the Statehouse beyond deniable speculations. Whatever they do, their prey will not play activist politics; they will not shout or struggle with anyone. So how do the powerless fight strong men who bite and soothe with fresh air? How?