Gambia’s President Adama Barrow will not be adding the traditional title of Alhaji to his name after performing the Islamic pilgrimage of Hajj.
The State House [Gambia’s equivalent of the White House] said “the President does not intend to adopt the title” and would like to be addressed by his official name.
“His Excellency the President does not intend to adopt the title of Alhaji following the completion of the Hajj rites. Therefore, he should continue to be addressed as His Excellency Adama Barrow as inscribed on the official portrait,” Press Secretary Amie Bojang-Sisohore said.
Barrow returned to The Gambia on Wednesday after a two-week religious trip to Saudi Arabia. While he was away the use of the title was briefly the subject of debate on social media.
In a show of humility and service to the country, Barrow did not wear the Arabian scarf holder on his head, as traditionally worn by those that return from the Hajj as an indication of their title.
The decision of the new leader came as no surprise. He is a devout Muslim and seen as a humble and soft-spoken man, who is very open to criticism and listens attentively.
Although a political novice that rose to power after the leadership of his party was jailed, Barrow has emerged to be a tactful politician keeping deeply divided political parties together in his unity government.
The title “Alhaji” has been used by his autocratic predecessor, Yahya Jammeh, who made it part of his official name and was addressed as Sheikh Professor Dr. Alhaji Yahya Abdul Aziz Jamus Jukung Jammeh Babili Mansa.
Barrow’s decision not to use the title will help not to remind the country of Jammeh’s painful rule and egocentric behavior. The ex-despot was obsessed with awards and titles.
President Barrow is so far the opposite of everything Jammeh and what Gambians shunned about their former ruler. He gave his African Union Women Friendly award to renowned gender activist and his Minister of Trade, Dr. Isatou Touray.
Barrow is following in the footsteps of Gambia’s first post-colonial era leader, Dawda Jawara, who did not use the Honorary Doctorate and Alhaji titles in his official name.