By Yero Jallow
In an Interview with Mr. Pa Saikou Kujabi, he revealed to Gainako that him (Mr. Kujabi) and a host of other Diaspora supporters of Barrow’s coalition Government have decided to develop and extend Barrow’s support base to the Diaspora. The interview followed the much “controversy” over the formation of a “Barrow Youth Movement” back home in the Gambia recently. With politics, there is certainly the “unknown” and Mr. Kujabi offers his Group’s perspective on what they (Coalition 2016 Diaspora Support Movement) are up to. Mr. Kujabi is an active Diaspora politician based in the U.S who hails from Kafuta, a constituency he contested and lost in the late 90s in his then efforts to serve as Parliamentarian. Below we reproduce the uncensored one-on-one interview.
Gainako: Hello there! Knock, knock, on your door again Pa Saikou. Welcome to Gainako.
Mr. Kujabi: Thank you Yero for inviting me again.
Gainako: For our wide readership, kindly introduce yourself.
Mr. Kujabi: I am a Kafuta born, U.S.A based Gambian.
Gainako: You have been very active in politics. What is your status and relation with the Barrow Government?
Mr. Kujabi: No special status. I am only one citizen who is a fervent supporter of the young coalition government in Banjul, under the able leadership of President Barrow. As for my relationship with Barrow government, I cannot but say it is a very good one – One of mutual respect.
Gainako: let’s talk hard politics. In politics, we complement and punch our favorite guys (Laughs). Some of your comrades said on Freedom Radio and Newspaper (December 2017 editions) that you are part of a group organizing to form a “President Barrow Youth Movement’’. What is this group all about and how was it started? Is Barrow on board with this?
Mr. Kujabi: Great question Yero. By extension of the “President Barrow Youth Movement” home, what we are planning to form is a “Coalition 2016 Diaspora Support Movement” that will seek to collaborate with any progressive grass roots organization in The Gambia, including the newly formed “President Barrow Youth Movement for National Development, as well those in the Diaspora in an attempt to advance President Barrow’s development agenda. The current composition of the movement includes members of NRP, PPP, UDP, GDC, and PDOIS. We have not yet found GMC, Independent Isatou Touray, or Henry Gomez’s party militants. We encourage militants from these parties and none political party affiliates to contact us as soon as possible. We want the movement to truly reflect the coalition government of the day. The idea came about through serious conversation I had with so many people, questioning ourselves about “what is it that we can do for our country as private citizens in the Diaspora, especially for the up lift of the youth? We have not directly spoken to the president about our initiative, but it is our hope that he will also stretch his hand to accept our partnership in national development.
Gainako: What are some of the objectives you have lined up?
Mr. Kujabi: Enhancing capacity building for the youth in the form of skill training sponsorship, support community initiatives across the country, Scholarship fund for the bright but less fortunate students to pursue their academic goals with emphasis on mandatory girls’ education. We will encourage the government to introduce a biometric time system (Clock-in, Clock-out) for all civil servants across the board. It is our strong believe that by introducing such a system, almost 80-90% of the fraud that may be going on the current payroll system will be cut. Effectively, that will translate to a much need savings and economic stimulation. In essence, the slogan will be “NO WORK, NO PAY.” In addition, we will encourage and advocate for a five (5) full-day work week. There is no “half-day” in any calendar day of the year. Last time I checked, every single day of the year has at least twenty-four (24) hours. Therefore, I don’t see any reason why government employees should leave work early just to go attend a “Friday prayer” the takes only half an hour at most, but expects a full day pay. Some may not even show up at all. The list goes on and on. Some of these old habits have to change.
Gainako: Coming from 22 years of dictatorship with the “July 22nd movement’’ (Green Boys/Girls) as case point, should citizens really worry about a Barrow Youth Movement, which likely to utilize state power and resources at the expense of Gambian tax payers?
Mr. Kujabi: It certainly will be a legitimate concern, given what we went through under Yaya Jammeh. The dichotomy here is, the “July 22nd Movement”, which was the “template”, if I may, used by the Jammeh regime to create the subsequent clandestine groups, was created during the transition period. You will recall that during the point in time the Supreme law of the land (the Constitution) was suspended, thus cutting out the citizens from participating in any political decision-making process. You will recall that in August 1995, I along with my much esteemed colleagues “Concerned Citizens” mainly the NCP executive members: the late Hon. Sheriff. M. Dibba, Hon. Dembo(By-Force) Bojang, Hon. Majanko Samusa, Hon. Kemeseng Jammeh, the late Hon. Abou.Karamba. Gassama, Hon. Badara Sisibeh, just to name a few, petitioned the junta challenging it on the deliberate delay on their part, of the democratization process, including the draft Constitution which was not open for debate, General Voter Registration exercise which was solely supervised by the said “July 22 Movement”. We were all living under an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty.
Here, the “Barrow Youth Movement for National Development” is operating under a totally different political climate. In the current Gambia, “We the People (Citizens) can claim to have now regained some of our lost sovereignty, if not all. So that now, arguably, the government is the institution that is afraid of the people, not the reverse, as was the case under Yaya Jammeh. Further, it is our individual and collective responsibility to check each other for any excesses that may be made under the pretext of freedom and democracy. It is our hope that working hand in gloves with the Barrow Youth Movement for “National Development” will avail us a unique opportunity to share ideas on matters of best practices, morality, and basic human decency. As far as we are concerned, this movement’s publicly stated objectives are in line with our core principles of “one Gambia, one people, one nation as promoted by the Coalition 2016 throughout the 2016 presidential campaign. Therefore, we will always advocate for a Gambia that is, if I may borrow a line from Ambassador Dr. Momodou Tangara, “one for all, all for one.” Our movement, without an atom bit of doubt, is totally sold to this great initiative, and we therefore say kudos to the architects of the Barrow Youth Movement for their visionary ideas. I just cannot comprehend how National Development objectives of any group(s) can be controversial. We cannot allow ourselves to be timid of this movement.
Gainako: The additional fear is that power should be left to the law and Gambia’s constitution. Do you see problems where such a group will engage in the same enabling, divisive, and bullying of other citizens that may disagree with Barrow’s governance on a day-to-day basis, case point was the green boys/girls of the July 22nd movement?
Mr. Kujabi: Not at all. If we did, we must not blame none else but ourselves. If we all participate, we can influence the outcome. We have to quit the old habit of being spectators. We have to be equal players.
Gainako: A coalition is composed of different political parties. Do you see any conflict in this group favoring any particular party and/or candidate?
Mr. Kujabi: Absolutely not. Considering the fact that Barrow is an “Independent” president, I do not see any conflict of interest in the movement’s activities; neither do I see any potential taking sides for one candidate over the other. As a matter of fact, there are no candidates here. No one is running for any office right now. Barrow is not seeking for Presidency. He already got it. What’s the threat that he or the movement named in his honor has posed on any potential presidential aspirant? I don’t see one, and I don’t need any one to whisper speculative statements in my ears.
Gainako: Is there any reason that President Barrow is agreeing for it to be named after him. What is in a name?
Mr. Kujabi: As far as I know, there is no expressed reason other than the fact that he is a president who overcame all the odds stocked against him, thus ushering The Gambia from the shackles of tyranny, to the olive garden wherein are branches hanging for all to benefit. Alas!!! In short, the name says it all. It is what it is.
Gainako: Many suspects that this is “political positioning’’ for Barrow to contest presidential elections. There isn’t any constitutional bar on him or even limits in Gambian’s constitution. What is your take on this?
Mr. Kujabi: Listen, people will always speculate no matter what the president does. I have not heard him announce his candidacy for any office. He occupies the highest office of the land. All he needs
At this point to have is all hands-on-deck. I do not see any behavior or maneuvering that suggests that he is positioning himself for re-election. Politics 101 teaches us that it is strictly a number game. Therefore, you will see party leaders and their surrogates running around the country trying to energize their base. That is just the nature of the game.
Gainako: A Jamaican adage goes, “word is bond” when these governors (Barrow and the coalition) campaigned, they promised Gambians that they will be there for three years. Recently, VP Fatoumatta Jallow said they will consult Gambians and later updated through the local papers that they have decided to extend it to five years. In short, our local adage calls, “Maa Wahonn Waahett.’’ Is that a red flag?
Mr. Kujabi: I am not familiar with the updated citation from the local papers, and unfortunately, I have not read Vice. President Tambajang’s statement either. Notwithstanding, I think the whole idea of extending the “three-year” agreement to a “five year” constitutional mandate is bedded in some legal argument. I will leave that decision to the Gambian people. The constitution is very clear about the tenure of presidency. At the same time, I can understand the argument on other side. Again, Constitutional Law 101. When any law traditional/customary or otherwise conflicts with the “Supreme Law” of the land (the Constitution), the constitution takes precedence over such law(s). Go figure.
Gainako: Most of our African leaders get comfy with power and build around the notion that they are the only ones capable of moving countries. This in consequences brought about lots of political conflicts, issues with leadership succession, human rights violations, military takeovers, and a lot more. What is your take on terms limits?
Mr. Kujabi: You are absolutely right about that. The good news here is, in the case of President Barrow in particular, he has stated publicly when our “Town Hall Meeting Organizing Committee” paid a courtesy call on him in at his hotel that “I am not interested in staying in power for long. All I am interested in and deeply care about is what I can do for the Gambian people.” We were all taken by surprise by that statement, at least I was. That was very reassuring, and it also goes to demonstrate his commitment to leave a legacy that will be worthy of celebrating at the end of whatever term(s) he may end up serving. What I read in that statement is that he knew, or at best expects to be accountable to the people who hired him someday. So, I can only take him by his words. I think Vice-President Tambajang’s approach could be widely welcomed. That was so thoughtful of her. “Ajaarama bouye Maama”. (Laughs).
Gainako: In your view and that of the group you are seeking to extend and represent (Barrow Youth Movement, Diaspora), do you believe that Barrow should stay only three (3) years or five and why?
Mr. Kujabi: We are not President “Barrow Youth Movement.” Those that spoke on our behalf including Mr. Mballow of New York collaborated this fact, that we are open and willing to partner in the Diaspora. I have already answered this question. Thank you for applying your journalist skills so intelligently, by asking the same question differently. On a serious note though, I think all of us as citizens will join that debate and do the right think. Our movement does not have exclusive rights or privileges to dictate the affairs of the state, especially as relates to the Constitution. That power is vested in all Gambians, and I hope everyone will join the conversation when the time comes.
Gainako: politics is interesting. Others are accusing your group of hijacking this movement. Others even said some of you are interested in getting close to the powers that be. What is the grain from the chaff?
Mr. Kujabi: We already know those in power. There will always those who will call us all kinds of names just to distract us. We simply ignore their dysfunctional thoughts and low life style. It clearly shows that they have nothing to offer because they are not development oriented. We, like any other Gambian, have a vested interest in the socio-economic and political development of our country. No amount of foreign aid will dig us out of our social, economic, and political predicament. We have to take charge of our own destiny. The Gambia must be developed by Gambians, and we must start thinking out of the box. But for some, they don’t even know that there exists a box. There lies the problem. Whenever a person(s) offers to help in developing our nation, be rest assured that I will be checked “present” for that national service. The Gambia and The Gambia alone is the motherland. People, who know me, know that I am a selfless development oriented person. I am not shy about that, and I am unapologetic about that either. So just let the empty barrels make the usual noise by only talk the talk, but for our movement, we will walk the walk to the last mile.
Gainako: Anything else that our readers and Gambian citizens should know about this group?
Mr. Kujabi: This is a progressive movement out to help the Gambian people from the levels of the government, community, and to individual house-holds. It is not a threat to no political aspiration now or in the future. Those who are attempting to crucify the “President Barrow Movement for National Development” should be very careful in what they wish for this incredible movement. In politics, surprises and back stabbings are always counterproductive. We encourage Gambians across the globe to stand shoulder to shoulder in support of the Barrow government. We appeal to all to help mobilize resources and expertise that are so badly needed for uplift of our people. Our movement strongly believes that what divide us is insignificant. What unite us is deeper. Come join us as we stretch our arms to our fellow country men, women, boys and girls around the world. Now is the time. New Gambia new attitude. No more business as usual. Be engaged, and make your mark on history in form of National Development. We do not have all the answers, neither do we claim to. We will reach out to the best among us to join this noble cause. Peace and Love to you all.
Gainako: Thank you so much for the interview with Gainako. Have a great New Year in advance!
Mr. Kujabi: Thank you so much Yero for your time. Let me also take this opportunity to thank the Gainako team for your great service to our community. Words cannot express how much we appreciate you. On behalf of “Coalition 2016 Diaspora Support Movement”, my family, and on my own behalf, I wish every Gambian at home and in the Diaspora, a happy and prosperous 2018. I love you all so much!