Once again, the Gambian public has been treated to another very long list of socalled national awards recipients; 325 individuals and institutions altogether, as usual, comprising overwhelmingly of APRC militants and sympathizers as well as institutions with connections to those in authority. While there is no doubt that some of the recipients of these awards have contributed positively to national development, and therefore deserve recognition, but it is also quite obvious that the vast majority of them have not done much for this country that would warrant them to be awarded such awards.
It has been estimated that since the coming into power of the APRC/APRC regime in 1994, well over 3000 people have been given such national honours, more than double the number that received such awards during the nearly 30 years of PPP rule. As a result therefore, the honour and prestige that used to be attached to these national awards has completely been deflated and hardly anyone now takes them to be worth more than the pieces of metal being given to the recipients.
Even though during the PPP era, the yai compins and other party stalwarts used to be prominent among the recipients of the awards, but at least then the distribution was much more transparent and fairer within the society than what we are witnessing today. We can now quite easily predict with a high degree of accuracy who would be included in the next annual awards list, with the supporters and sympathizers of the APRC usually being over-represented in every list.
Another interesting phenomenon is seeing the same names appearing on the list for two or more years consecutively, thus indicating that these socalled national awards are now reserved for a particular category of people rather than based on one’s contribution to national development. Comparing the lists for the last four years, for instance, we can clearly see a few names that have appeared consecutively for two or more years, receiving the same award in all those occasions.
Therefore, apart from the naked inefficiency clearly manifested in the handling of this important national institution, it also shows how far down the ladder these hitherto prestigious awards have been reduced to. As a result therefore, the pride and prestige that used to be associated with receiving these awards have virtually dissipated and many people now see them as being exclusively reserved for APRC supporters and sycophants, as well as relatives and friends of those in authority. Nowadays, it seems as if one’s support for the APRC and closeness to those in authority count more in being included on the list than one’s contribution to national development.
It now appears that sycophancy and praise singing pay more dividends in present day Gambia than genuine contribution to national development, and as a result therefore, instead of rendering honest services to the society, most people have now resorted to doing things in order to catch the attention of the authorities so that they can also benefit from a piece of the national cake.
“What is the point of wasting my time and energy to sweat and die for this country when all that I will get at the end of the day would be harassment and even detention for being ‘unpatriotic’ and an opposition sympathizer?” a young civil servant asked. Therefore, he said he had decided henceforth to behave like the most loyal supporter of the regime so that he too can benefit from the bounties being occasionally dished out, as well as continue to maintain his job and personal security.
This is yet another clear manifestation that this country is heading on the wrong direction and there is an urgent need to change gear and ensure that all Gambians are given what they deserve rather than being divided into ‘supporters’ and ‘opponents’.