TIME magazine, perhaps inevitably, named its person of the year for 2016 as Donald Trump some weeks ago.
Also on its list was, among others, Nigel Farage. In fairness to TIME, they were seeking to reflect the narrative and climate of the year: in which case, Trump, given what he is perceived to have accomplished, is a sound choice; even if the sight of a misogynist, billionaire, Goldman-Sachs/Breitbart-backed elitist on the cover, proclaimed ‘PERSON of the YEAR’ is a little unsavory.
Such are the times we live in, I guess.
But I was then thinking about who should really be named ‘person of the year, 2016’. After sidestepping the immediate emotionally-driven response to that question (which would’ve consisted of further canonisation of Carrie Fisher or Muhammad Ali or of the scientist Ronald Henderson), I focused instead on politics to find a better ‘person of the year’ than Donald Trump.
It actually wasn’t difficult.
The person of the year, 2016, is Adama Barrow. You may have heard of Adama Barrow recently, or maybe you haven’t.
Adama Barrow is a 51 year-old from Gambia. He used to work, among other things, as a security guard at an Argos store in Holloway Road, London. Adama Barrow is now the President-Elect of Gambia.
In December, the Arsenal fan won the presidential election in Gambia, securing an enormous popular vote and becoming a national figurehead in just a matter of weeks. Running on a message of change, Barrow managed to defeat president Yahya Jammeh, who has been in power for 22 years in the African nation.
The political fate of the country is still undecided and uncertain: Jammeh, having initially accepted the result, subsequently refused to step down and fears have mounted of either conflict or undemocratic measures to overturn or bypass the election. However, African governments and heads of state, along with international bodies, moved quickly to put pressure on Jammeh to accept the result.
A report yesterday that Barrow had been murdered in the Gambian capital appears to have been fake: though there appears to genuinely be a threat to his life. I’ve in fact been seeing totally contradictory reports yesterday, some reporting he has been killed and others reporting that he is very much alive – though the latter appear to be dated a few hours later than the former and might be more reliable. Much of what may be going on is a deliberate misinformation campaign or propaganda fight, with the former President and his supporters (including the army chief, who apparently is refusing to abandon the defeated President Yahya Jammeh), trying to create confusion or doubt.
While my knowledge of Gambia is very limited and we don’t yet know how this story will resolve itself, I nevertheless submit that the former Argos security guard, Adama Barrow, and not the billionaire celebrity tycoon Donald Trump is the Person of the Year for 2016 in political terms. If the whole (mistaken) theme with Trump is that he was the ‘outsider’ and the rogue who took on the political establishment and won, surely that case is even stronger for the self-made man that nobody had heard of and who just ended a 22-year rule of Gambia.
He did this without the billions of dollars, insider networks, mass media mechanisms and media circus that the American President-Elect had. And he now seeks to take office at significant risk to his life.
That’s the remarkable, inspiring ‘political upset’ story of 2016. Let’s hope Gambia’s president-elect survives long enough to assume his position in two weeks time: and that the reports of him being killed yesterday are fakes.