By Madi Jorbateh
If truth be told, this National Assembly is the best parliament the Gambia has ever produced since independence. It is indeed the dream team and for that matter they cannot fail the nation. In this parliament there exists the necessary knowledge, experience, personalities and wisdom that we require as a nation. Through their personal experiences, with longstanding involvement in the political activities of this country, members of this parliament cannot claim ignorance in any way about what the Gambia needs and where it should go. Hence if they fail to fulfill that responsibility, we must hold them totally responsible for failing us. They would have no excuse in anyway other than sheer dishonesty and huger for power.
In the first place, Mariam Denton, The Speaker is a well-educated Gambian. She is a woman who had fought her own battles with tyranny from the very early days. She knows the law to the bone hence she is fully familiar with the challenges facing the Gambia from a legal perspective. As a lawyer and a political activist under UDP, she knows what that party faced because of dictatorship. Therefore the least we expect from Mariam is to be another speaker who would facilitate tyranny to return to the Gambia. If Mariam fails us, it is certainly not because of ignorance. Hence our lives and destiny are in the hands of Mariam Denton.
The Deputy Speaker is none other than the longstanding opposition giant Momodou Sanneh who had led his own revolution against Yaya Jammeh. He has the experience and knowledge about the National Assembly being one of the longest serving members in the Second Republic. As an elderly Gambian who has witnessed how his children and grandchildren have been destroyed by dictatorship, Sanneh cannot tell us he does not know what kind of Gambia we deserve. Hence we expect Momodou Sanneh to bequeath to his children and grandchildren a Gambia that will be proud of his legacy. If he fails us like APRC, he has no excuse.
Therefore between Speaker Denton and her deputy Sanneh, we expect nothing other than enlightened and compassionate leadership for the creation of a new Gambia. It is now that we will see if indeed their personal and political experiences are worth the salt they are made of.
The greatest asset we have in the National Assembly is the presence of 31 elected UDP representatives. What more can we tell these UDP folks when their members were the most brutalized opposition party. Do we need to remind UDP what is dictatorship? Would they forget Kanyiba Kanyi? Would they forget their experiences at Denton Bridge in 1996 when they were mercilessly beaten by APRC and soldiers? Would they forget Solo Sandeng? Would they dare to forget the mass incarceration of their entire leadership in July 2016? Hence who dare remind UDP that they have a solemn responsibility to deliver good governance to the Gambia?
UDP members must realize that we do not live in the Yaya Jammeh narrative anymore. We live in the UDP narrative now because just as they were the worst victims of the dictatorship, today they have also become the biggest beneficiary of that tyranny. They earned it because they worked for it. Hence it is now that UDP will show us what they are made of. Will Mariam Denton, Momodou Sanneh and Kebba K Barrow use their majority in the parliament for the good of the Gambia or just for the partisan interest of UDP like APRC did? The fact remains that the experiences and expertise within UDP in this parliament offers us a unique opportunity to create the best Gambia ever. Therefore they have no excuse to fail us.
When it comes to the Majority Leader Kebba K Barrow affectionately called KKB we have nothing to do but to celebrate because of the excellent profile of the honourable member. This is a man who has spent the better part of his life in the civil society, working with communities for socio-economic development. Over the years KKB has trained, sensitized and worked with various associations for women, youth, the disabled and children for the protection and promotion of their human rights. A longstanding staff of TANGO, KKB and I have crisscrossed the length and breath of the Gambia going into poor and marginalized communities to empower the masses to defend their rights and demand quality services from local government authorities and the government. We have trained all categories of Gambian society in promotion of good governance and democracy. Hence if that KKB is now the Majority Leader in the parliament, then all must hail the Gambia. KKB dare not fail by turning the National Assembly into a rubberstamp for dictatorship. If he does that then it is nothing other than dishonesty and hunger for power for he definitely knows what are the challenges and prospects of the Gambia.
Minority Leader Samba Jallow must be credited for being that lone party member in the last parliament who stood up with Gambians through thick and thin. He is indeed a man who did not shirk his duty when his motherland called him to do so. He is not Fabakary Tombong Jatta and his APRC NAMs who decided to forsake the Gambia for Yaya Jammeh. Hence we must feel very confident and satisfied that Samba Jallow is still the minority leader. We would hope that he would mobilize his NRP team to support nothing but the good governance and democracy of the Gambia.
The combination of PPP and the new independents give us only hope even though most of them are entering the parliament for the first time. The personalities in these camps tell us they are citizens of integrity who are inspired to serve their nation. Being adult Gambians who have lived through the dictatorship, there experience is enough to place them on the path of democracy and good governance for the Gambia.
Finally. It is not an overstatement to claim that the rock of the National Assembly is the PDOIS Frontline. Led by the indomitable Halifa Sallah and indefatigable Sidia Jatta with strong strikers like Ousman Sillah and Suwaibou Touray, we cannot expect anything from this formidable team other than the defense of the supreme interests of the Gambia. Hence we definitely cannot expect under performance from Sidia and his vanguard in the parliament. It would be the greatest tragedy if PDOIS abandons the people in the cold! There is no doubt that they will never ever do that.
Frantz Fanon had said that each generation has a duty to discover its mission, to fulfill or betray that mission. Our new National Assembly Members must realize that this is their generation. We went through 22 bloody years of misrule and each of these parties had stood hard and strong against tyranny until it was vanquished. Hence their mission has been carved out for them already, which is to create a new Gambia of democracy, dignity and freedom. Will they fulfill or betray their people? Time will tell. But we can tell them that they have absolutely no excuse, individually and collectively to fail. If they fail, it will be for no reason other than dishonesty, hunger for power and unpatriotism.
We therefore wish the National Assembly well. We expect the party leaders of UDP, PPP and NRP who are Cabinet ministers to provide the necessary guidance to their parliamentarians to better guide the Executive. Failure is not an option.
Having party leaders who founded the Coalition inside the Cabinet of Chief Servant Adama Barrow further enhances this National Assembly. With a set of strong women like Fatoumatta Tambajang, Isatou Touray, Claudiana Cole and Saffie Lowe Ceesay, in addition to a team of male technocrats, this Cabinet therefore has the requisite knowledge, experience and expertise to steer this country to greater heights. Indeed the Cabinet is equally a dream team and they have absolutely no reason to fail the Gambia. No one knows the Gambia more than Barrow and his Cabinet for they have lived through the dictatorship and they all had their various individual battles.
To the rest of the citizens, let us begin to sensitize and organize in order to empower our people. Our greatest weapons are enlightenment and organization. No force on earth can defeat an enlightened and an organized people. Let us be prepared to demonstrate, petition and speak out in our towns and villages, through the radio, television and newspapers, everyday. Let us demand transparency and accountability without which democracy is hijacked and transformed into a tyranny. Let us all be activists for social justice. Let us all be human rights defenders. Let us all be advocates for democracy and good governance. Let us work together as groups to monitor the National Assembly and the Executive to ensure that they abide by the rule of law. Let us realize that what we face is a life and death issue!
May God Bless the Gambia and the National Assembly!