By Lamin Darboe
When Halifa Sallah and his party officials refused ministerial jobs in the new government, there was much hullabaloo, consternation and wailing of betrayal and abdication for responsibility that PDOIS executive were primed to put their vast theoretical experience into test and effect the direction of the embryonic Barrow government to find it bearings at a time of great expectations.
I personally thought Halifa and Sidia were disgruntled saboteurs bent on creating agitation and taking opportunity of any missteps the new government might make and capitalise on it. Alas nothing could be far from the truth. Perhaps they realised that African leaders show their true colours when they taste glory and trappings of executive power. Perhaps they also sensed some whiff of betrayal and the propensity of a power-hungry leader using them for some nefarious agenda and dumping them to destroy their political image and reputation of gnostic purity. Today the wisdom of their rejection is unmistakably poignant.
Mr President, I don’t know whether you are aware or not but there is a creeping murmur of disillusionment in your stewardship of the country’s affairs and you need to find fresh impetus; a fresh passion to restore confidence in your ability steer the vehicle of our nation.
The way your personal style is panning out is giving credence to the initial suspicion many had about your lack of exposure to administrative experience and wider realm of world politics and economics.
Yahya Jammeh too was taunted as a nymph whose lack of experience could cost the country. He grew quickly into the job. Although he came to power on a democratic platform, he started in a militaristic fashion which employed brute force and intimidation. Hence killing and banishing perceived opponents at the earlier stages of his rule and after consolidation of power.
Mr President, you shoulder a huge expectation and the aspirations of so many in the diaspora even the spirits of some gallant men and women of exemplary sacrifice (Solo Sandeng and November coup plotters) – on the eve of the December 2016 presidential election. On that fateful night, your own spirit bore courage, determination, sacrifice and yearning to break the knot of a diabolical tyranny perpetrated by one of the most vicious dictators of this century. The country was fully behind you. We supported you with all our resources, even tears and blood because we knew it is easy to move mountains than to uproot a dictatorship.
Yahya’s dictatorship was unmatched because he confounded all expectations and succeeded in corrupting even our most elect of God, dazzled the technocrats and controlled state resources in a manner unseen in The Gambia’s post-colonial history.
Religious leaders, shameless and nefarious technocrats, local leaders and even jalibas became force of unscrupulous utility to usurp the rights of our people, misappropriation and wanton economic prostitution.
With that spirit and hope, Mr President our wary eyes were fixated on your person to see whether you will live up to expectation and become an imitable model or paragon of not only moral virtue but guiding star in the dispensation of justice fairness and stewardship of our meagre resources.
Mr President, we expected radical reforms and dynamism that will transform our economy by putting a brake on wasteful spending, state resource cannibalism, effective service delivery, good heath care and not the least important provide reliable water and power supply. You should have achieved these by now as the Tanzania president Joseph Magufuli was able to do so with great boldness.
There is an overwhelming feeling, that the directions you took, certain decisions your government took and certain decisions you refused to take or was slow in taking are signs of an incompetence and fire-fighting strides of a clueless administration, struggling to find its bearing.
Mr president, some of us dismissed these criticisms as groanings of ungrateful agitators and bad losers, old alkalolu and defeated wrestlers but when we look into periscope with both eyes open, we begin to discern that there is a palpable nuance of misadventures and poor judgement.
There has been a series of mishaps, one perplexing saga after another, from unexplained dismissal of a pragmatic Interior minister, Mai Fatty, who gave strong credibility to your new administration, then came the preposterous and wasteful youth movement, Faraba saga, dismissal of vice president and agriculture minister, your wife’s foundation saga, Gunjur Golden Lead saga, et cetera. which left an aura of resignation and souring disappointment for many of us, your admirers and foot soldiers
The recent revelations about probity of certain transfers to your wife’s foundation account shows not only poor judgement but an intricate desire to defraud the nation, wider ramification of which may taint your own reputation. There is overt feeling that your wife is the power behind the throne, just like Grace Mugabe, she is infatuated with power. The impression was reinforced when pictures of her surfaced sitting beside you in the UN chamber with other world leaders. It doesn’t herald good governance and percipient political judgement to have your wife seated in an executive posture as if she is your foreign minister, vice president or some political heavy weight. Pictures speak volumes and this one indeed spoke volumes especially as no other world ever propelled her spouse into such distinguishing position of power.
Insinuations are that your family, especially your wife, is interfering in state matters and running your politics. No doubt her activities in Foni have been well-documented and it fits the Mandinka proverb that sisayring merimerila leyka afangno la kilo tei meaning a very active chick breaks her own egg. All these mishaps are creating doubt and disillusionment because the people who fought for new political change envisaged a new dawn for Gambian democracy, rule of law, accountability and responsibility on both political and economic realms.
Mr President, the recent revelation from a UDP NAM that you paid D10,000 to members of the legislature presumably to buy their support is a very disturbing development and even the dictator Yahya Jammeh may be crunching on his chair.
It is a very ugly chapter in our new democracy and smacks of corruption infesting the very heart of the government. The first question is, where is the money from? Was it budgeted? Once again, did some benevolent friend gave you this huge amount of money not for building crumbling infrastructure but political prostitution? What is the cost to the government? This type of stuff is what we hated in the previous regimes and which you swore to avoid. These allegations need to be investigated and dealt with promptly to clear the air.
We cannot say only the negatives about your government. That will be unfair and bereft of balance. We cannot ignore the distinctive contribution you and some of your team have members made.
For the first time, the SSHFC recorded a massive profit yet that parastatal is enmeshed in controversy. Again, it is a manifestation of lack of decisiveness and poor governance input into management of the crisis. That saga should have been addressed by the board which is the appointed custodian paid to arbitrate and take appropriate action to redress grievances in the institution.
Anyone who visited The Gambia during Yahya’s era and then visited The Gambia now, will not fail to notice the breeze of freedom and absence of fear. There is marked improvement in human rights, absence of arbitrary arrest, intimidation by security forces and many other commendable achievements which we are proud of.
Different commissions have started working and the commission of inquiries into Jammeh government malpractices is making mind-boggling revelations of financial malfeasance of unprecedented and unexpected proportion. There is some modicum of infrastructural development, some at initial stages and some already implemented.
The most important achievement is the peace and stability of the economy, price stability and the general stability of the security of the nation that ensure freedom of movement and associations. Political expression is ostensibly undimmed while the vibrancy of the media is unprecedented. All these achievements are saluted and assured of our collaboration and encouragement.
These are not insignificant accomplishments in our nation’s history; our nation has been denied this sort of ambience for 22 years of a diabolical and callous dictatorship.
Yet we are yearning for a more reinforced attitude to reform – institutional reforms that will sharpen the efficacy of service delivery especially utilities and infrastructure that will attract much needed investment.
The author, a Gambian, works and lives in the English Midlands city of Leicester.