By Abdoukarim Sanneh
Ethics and political principles are very important in public service administration. Italian diplomat and political theorist Niccolo Machiavelli in his classic work The Prince came up with Machiavellianism which he stated is the employment of cunning and duplicity in statecraft or in general conduct. In The Gambia, political opportunism is deterring our progress for democratisation. John Keegan in his book The Mask of Command stated that “power corrupts, but its real corruption is among those who wait upon it, seeking place, jostling with rivals, nursing jealousies, forming expedient cabals, flaunting preferment, crowing at the humiliation of a demoted favourite”.
From Yahya Jammeh’s APRC to Adama Barrow’s coalition government, the fact is that daily life and condition of the average Gambian is approaching misery. The disclosed venality and horror of these regimes is similar to Charles Dickens chronicles of working class London during the Industrial Revolution. New Gambia and its inherited condition of debt burden is characterised by hopelessness, poverty, inefficient government machinery and ever-growing gaps between the haves and the have-nots. The daily life struggle of most Gambian households for bread is literally like the story of Oliver Twist in the poor house – three meals of gruel a day, with an onion twice a week, and half-a-roll on Sundays.
Years ago when Banjul-based newspaper Today reported about hunger forcing young children to scavenge for food in the Bakoteh landfill site, at a time when they should be at school, they arrested the paper’s editor and publisher and charged him with sedition perhaps because of the embarrassment as the untold or unreported stories of life under Jammeh’s regime. Food poverty in The Gambia now is above 1992 ILO poverty survey, which was estimated at 50% in rural Gambia and 55% in urban Gambia.
When Yahya Jammeh and his cohorts seized power in a military coup on 22 July, 1994, it was The Gambia’s selfish elite class whose only interest is greed for power, position of privilege and wealth and material accumulation, that strengthened the hand of APRC regime in power. When the young soldiers announced on Radio Gambia that they welcomed ideas, suggestions and also sought assistance from people in the various commissions of enquiries about information leading to corruption of former government ministers and officials, it marked the beginning of witch-hunting. For an inexperienced and political immature leadership, they began to craft their plans on how to put the knife on the throat of every Gambian citizen.
A social politics of change, which many presumed would take into account possibilities that our social problems might be addressed both comprehensively and collectively, became a betrayal. The euphoria that accompanied the change of “soldiers with a difference” did not last long. Every thing turned into a fairy tale of fantasies. A Ghanaian development expert, social scientist and human rights activist, Zaya Yeebo putting into perspective his experience of military dictatorship in Ghana, with the political metamorphosis of Yahya Jammeh envisaged nothing other than military rulers civilianising themselves into politicians plagued with corrupting tendencies. In his book, State of Fear in Paradise: The Military Coup In The Gambia and its Implication to Democracy, Zaya Yaabo, documented early warning signals, which he predicted would be an assault on civil liberty and erosion of human right values under AFPRC/APRC rule.
Almost two decades after the publication of that book, Amnesty International published a report “Gambia: Fear Rules”. Within this time line, elitist selfishness and political opportunism strengthened the hand of Yahya Jammeh and his unlicensed brutality inflicted on our people. Many of The Gambia’s selfish elite class, in the early days of the coup, continued to bastardise us that PPP was the problem. They glamorised the military takeover without critically assessing its impacts on our three decades of multiparty democracy because many of them had axes to grind with PPP for lack of promotions and other issues of equal opportunities. They failed to realise that with all its shortcomings, the hallmark of PPP was political confidence, rule of law and functional democracy. Their pseudo ideas and bickering in support of the way forward led many into position of power driven by sycophancy and singing praises to APRC regime. Just after the takeover, our self-styled elite classes were with the illusion that they have found answers and solutions to fix our country’s development paradigms.
They created a think tank to draw a shortfall Vision 2020 – a policy framework document. With their pursuit for greed, power, position, wealth and material accumulation, they joined the bunch of so-called soldiers to cement their grip on power until it things fell apart for most of them. Vision 2020 became a fantasy dream currently replaced by Vision 2016. Their similarity to any student of development planning is its bureaucratic model of top-bottom planning approach. Its shortfalls are that there were no indicators to measure its impacts. Monitoring and evaluative tools to measure its efficacy or putting a correct view or strategic impact assessment of the vision in the context of plans, programmes and policies to address our development challenges in the area of education, health, community development, agriculture, health, nutrition and so forth.
The Gambia and the determinants for any successful political development for our country lie upon the culture of discipline and tolerance. For 22 years, we have seen the coming and going of many uncultured and unprincipled Gambian elites inflicted crimes on our people.
Many of us have lost the count of the number of ministers or secretaries of states hired and fired during the roaring decades of Yahya Jammeh’s medieval style of government. A conservative figure of more than 100, secretaries of state or ministers were fired because of madness. Gambian citizens should stand up to fight and demand constitutional democracy than being hunter dog followers of individual political parties and politicians. Everything about New Gambia is a fake without opportunities. American political philosopher Noam Chomsky said “freedom without opportunity is a devil’s gift and refusal to provide such opportunities is criminal”.
Abdou Karim Sanneh is a native of Brufut. He lives and works in England.