Yahya Jammeh: How does he measure up?

A decade after Yahya Jammeh took over power in a military coup; I am wondering what leadership qualities (if any) that Tony daba has learnt in his stint as a Lieutenant in the Gambia National Army. The military is believed to be one of the most efficient institutions in grooming leaders. So how good is Yahya Jammehs leadership skills? To accomplish this exercise, we will use certain benchmarks that good leaders adhere to:

  • Delegation of authority and taking responsibility: Good leaders delegate authority to subordinates with the understanding that decisions made by those subordinates is an extension of their own judgment and thus the final responsibility falls on their shoulder. In essence the buck stop at their desk.

How do Yahya fare in this realm? Poor. Since he took over we’ve seen a pattern of irresponsibility beyond belief. He refused to take responsibility for the orders he gave on that fateful day in april of 2001, when 14 students were murdered by the security forces. Yahya is unable to take responsibility for his failings. The Gambia is an economic hellhole due to the endemic corruption that pervades his administration with him as the chief “dirimo”, the fracas with our neighbor because of his un-diplomatic behavior. He always has some one to fire from a job for lack of performance. It is never his fault. He fired people from the agriculture and energy portfolio; appoint himself the overseer, only to get the worst result.

  • Lead by example: Don’t demand of others anything you wouldn’t want to be subjected to. A good drill sergeant will not order his men to do a 10-mile march and then drive alongside in a jeep; he is on the ground with them the whole way. He is usually the leader of the pack.

Again how did our yahya measured up to the above benchmark? Again not good at all. He as recently as last year set up a commission of enquiry to purge graft in government, have every public official and their mama testify to the source of their wealth but he refused to set the record straight as to how a person with a background like himself become so rich in such a short period of time.

  • Team determines success: The competency of the people around any given leader and how much latitude they have in expressing their views when it matters determines how successful the venture gets. A know it all, dictatorial leader like only sets up his team for failure.

Yahya isn’t faring well in this department either. He has vital government agencies staffed by incompetent tribal loyalist and sycophantic technocrats who will sell their soul for the back kicks that comes with the job in an environment endemic with corruption. Famara Jatta, Lamin Bajo and the disgraced doctor Janneh are examples of this phenomenon.

  • Solicit Feedback: Get out of your square. Listen and actively solicits information from sources outside of your inner circle. Chances are that you are not getting the full picture from those around you.

The chance that Yahya Jammeh will ever do something like that is beyond me. Sycophants who constantly remind him that he is the best thing that ever happen to that country surround him.

  • Make good decisions and be flexible about them: A good leader solicits ideas from all sources, weigh his options and make a decision. Sometimes, you don’t have time to react, so you make a quick decision. Sometimes, you have the luxury of planning and intelligence assessment, and can take time to make a good call. But no decision is final- the field is fluid and you need to be able to react, even if it means countering a previous order.

Well yahya is just a different animal. He doesn’t make decisions well, and when he does and they are bad he always has someone else to blame. Remember his promise about the electricity problem? He took over the portfolio, ordered some used generators from South Africa, pour libation on the machines and that was the last we heard about them. Gambians still live in darkness.

  • Serve the interest of your people: this point is self-explanatory. A political leader is a public servant. You take care of the governed, serve their interest and not your own.

If you look at the state of affairs in the Gambia, yahya has flunk this benchmark as well. He has the ancient “Mansa” (king) mentality down packed. He is to be served period.

There are many more leadership qualities that one can use to compare and contrast with the disastrous rule of yahya Jammeh, so fell free to add yours to the list. Here is my summation of the leadership acumen of the man keeping Gambia hostage:

– He doesn’t and will not take responsibility-
-He doesn’t lead by example
– He surrounds himself with unqualified tribal cronies and sycophantic technocrats
– He is out of touch with the needs of the average Gambian
– He makes poor judgment in decision making


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