By Burama Jammeh
People’s Progressive Party (PPP) was our 1st Sate-Party. The party was synonymous to the state. The party uses the state resources to cultivate her support. That supposed support legitimizes their hang on to power for over 30 years. They literally lived on public resources both directly and indirectly. One has to show association to PPP to get a job, nominated/selected for government distributed scholarships, be in the inner circle to be pick for scholarships to UK, USA and/or other EU counties. The kids of the unconnected and people up country can best get Fourah Bay College in Sierra, colleges in Nigeria and East Asian nations. Members of the inner circle and their relations/friends such as Sekou Sabally, walked-free with provable economic crimes, instead promoted to the Vice presidency. Public servants used their offices to do PPP work. There was no effective political opposition to PPP rule. Except PDOIS and NLP (maybe other less known), the then opposition parties were stripped-out-of the so-called PPP ‘OUZUZOU’. Sheriff Sekouba Ceesay was the 1st (or the earliest) to launch a short-lived opposition to PPP before he returns to serve them as one of their best Finance and Economic Affairs Minister. National Convention Party (NCP) was the larger and long-lived opposition party and his leader was one-time Vice President with the PPP administration. The same is true of Late Assan Musa Camara alias Andrew Camara’s GPP. These men were neither politically nor philosophically opposition to PPP as much they simply fall out of favor. Before then, was the pre-independence political cat and mouse games. United Party (UP) was the earlier/stronger party but her colony (Banjul and kombo St. Mary’s Area) concentrated support base, although most or all the then renounced District Chiefs were for UP wasn’t a match to newly formed PPP and her protectorate concentrated support base. PPP larger rural based support torpedoed the numerous colony-based (urban) parties. Dawda K Jawara gradually instituted winner-take all political doctrine that made being in opposition hopeless and frustrating. To-date that’s the governance structure in Banjul. The numerous smaller parties fiddled out quickly while UP’s handful Parliamentarians seek survival by cross-carpeting to PPP with the exception Gibou Jagne of Serekunda West. Up until July 22, 1994, to politically survive, to flourish and to not watch your back, one has to show acceptance to PPP.
To date, over 80% of governance structure, authorities, style, processes, procedures, and laws are those of PPP. Yahya administration over the 22 years recycled many PPP tools discarded earlier with NEW NAMES and twists. In this active political volcano, there’re hardly much to better Gambian as much it is positioning one-self to be as close as possible to public resources for personal gain.
Sadly, PPP failed abysmally to prepare citizens to assumed their sovereign civic roles and duties out of fear to be challenge. Unprepared citizens couldn’t stop Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC) when they showed up in 1994.
Complacency of PPP gave AFPRC the OPPORTNUITY. PPP extravaganza and arrogances were used as MOTIVE. The guns of Gambia National Army (GNA) their handy MEANS. AFPRC claimed to have come to correct the wrongs of PPP. Over time AFPRC were PPP and lot more. They controlled public resources and dishes to the favored. They controlled the local social structures that tie us to one and another. Public servants do AFPRC work with public resources. AFPRC added terror and intimidation to induce total compliance/conformity. Some were killed, others mysteriously disappeared, some prisoned, others exiled, etc. APRC was State-party # 2.
Aren’t we building the 3rd State-Party in UDP? The Coalition 2016 is essentially UDP. Both NADD and this later version were attempts to minimize single-party influence in a collective effort. It didn’t work out well. Ousainou has ensured his conviction is vacated. This is a very important ruling because that means he isn’t a criminal convict/felony that may make him ineligible for future endeavors. Then he succeeded in amending the age ceiling constitutional obstacle for his age. Then at the 1st National Assembly election in April 2017 he argued vehemently for what he called Tactical Alliance. The rationale for this choice is to safe Dr. Barrow from Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC). It doesn’t make much sense but the smaller parties don’t have much to hang on to. The terms of their Coalition Agreement do not have that and even if it does, it may not hold as even the 3-year transition period is now in serious doubt. Of the 50 or so membership in the National Assembly UDP came out with 30 or so members. Besides Dr. Barrow himself is UDP by party, this was the 1st architecture of the State-party building. Since then Dr. Barrow has put up his own National Youth Group for Development. This is like Yahya’s The GREEN THUGS. That was a strange development even for some in the UDP inner circle. We will have to wait and see at the end of years 3/5 when we will be required by law to elect a new president. Will Ousainou, who is now eligible be elected/selected by UDP Congress as the party flagbearer and/or will they go with Barrow. If the former happens to be the case – what will Dr. Barrow do? Will he retire and/or form his own party. Forming a youth group suggests he’s putting up an independent structure away from UDP. The 2nd and necessary structure for a State-party in The Gambia is control of the social structure. The recent elections have hanged UDP that one too. Now what’s not very clear is how much access do they have to public resources to be use as party resources. They may not have complete control as yet but they are at a very good spot giving its only being about 1.5 years. Grants projects to The Gambia are allocated based on party and/or birth origins of the higher ups. They’ve given public jobs based on party affiliation. Public vehicles can be seen at party occasions. Public servants on public times are seen on party works. UDP may not be in complete control as yet as their predecessors but they are on fast-track. Each passing day and/or every governing structure put in place has the hallmark of the making of State-Party. SADLY ALL OF THESE HAPPENED BEFORE AND DID NOT BETTER OUR DEMOCRACY, GOVERNANCE AND/OR SOCIO-ECONOMIC PROSPERTY. This carbon-copying is seriously troubling. More concerning though we all seem to be going alone and/or keeping quiet over what gave us Yahya and his long abusive tenure. Why this?
Since Dr. Barrow was sworn-in on January 19, 2017 the government has taken 4 very notable steps and then embark on repeating everything the previous 2 governments has done.
Hare are what he did:
- The courts vacate Ousainou Darboe’s criminal conviction – that prepared him for many future endeavors including the presidency which he would otherwise not qualify for.
- The Supreme Court on November 23, 2017 ruled ‘The Public Order Act’ Constitutional. This lawsuit was brought up by Ousainou Darboe and Co. By that date we have a new National Assembly with 30 or so UDP Legislators. As opposed to relying on the court the best options would be to annul it by Legislative Act and/or Constitutional Reform that our struggle was about. The judgement of the Supreme Court, right or wrong, is based on their interpretation of The Constitution. They have no power to tell sovereign citizens of The Gambia and/or our Legislators what should or shouldn’t be in The Constitution. Maybe this law is now a very handy tool for this government to suppress opponents and perceived enemies so they’ve no interest to get rid of it.
- Amended the prohibitive IEC election candidate nomination charges/fees to a fraction that they could afford
- Amended age ceiling for the positions of President and Vice president
Besides the above the government has since used the so-called IEC to conduct both National Assembly and so-called Local government elections before reforming governance and democratic dispensation. We can all recall both Jawara and Yahya held these elections as well. Do those elections better our democracy, socio-economic prosperity and/or overall government effectiveness.
Do These Elections Make Us A Democracy?
EMPHATICALLY ELECTIONS DOES NOT EQUALS DEMOCRACY!
Elections are useful tools used by democracies to determine people’s choice. Gambia have maintained periodic elections throughout our independent history except the 2 years (1994-1996) after July 22, 1994 coup. Suffice to say the outcome of election(s) are therefore largely influenced by the capacities of voters, the infrastructural organization of the election and the environment within which such elections are conducted. None of those factors have materially changed in The Gambia. Elections hasn’t improved democracy/democratic dispensation in The Gambia. They were by designed means of claim of legitimacy rather than bringing out the through choices of our people.
Since January 19, 2017, the National Assembly and Local Government elections were held. These were what we did both under Jawara and Yahya. Under Jawara the elections were administered by Divisional Commissioners’/Returning Officers who were political appointees of Jawara. Under Yahya the so-called IEC was charged with all election. The Commissioners of this body were hired/fired by Yahya. Noticed that one is loosely decentralized and one centralized, yet the controller is the same, President of The Republic of The Gambia. Thus, the outcomes were synonymous. This government is so far incapable of even cosmetic changes to Yahya’s structures. At minimum Yahya was smart enough to immaterially twist election administration. The new government, our most experienced and the able cannot even offer cosmetic changes much more real changes. To expect a different outcome will be naïve at best.
Do These Elections Make Our Government Democratic?
We elected members of the National Assembly in April 2017. The role of this body in a divided democratic government is to make laws that will be implemented/enforce by the executive. Are our National Assembly law makers? No – our National Assembly do not make laws. They rubber-stamped laws written by the Executive – Yes or No. In fact, records show no bill ever voted down by our National Assembly throughout our 53-year of independent nationhood. Just because we have a structure and building called National Assembly doesn’t mean we have law-makers. This concern goes to the heart of Separation of Powers of a democratic government.
What’re The Costs/Effects Ratio of These Elections?
These elections come at enormous costs (directly/indirectly) to our treasury. Thus, as a matter of economic frugality, the benefits should always outweigh the financial outlays. One way to economically achieve that is to hold all or most of these elections at once. That is not possible with current method (use of marble) and would require both structural and method changes. That would require transformation to paper or cyber ballots which will at minimum require literate voters. Lot of work and time will be needed to get to that point from where we are.
Each election adds pool of public servants to the public payroll. These are direct overhead expenses on our treasury. Thus, we should think hard the value of these public servants to the tax payers and ensure that value-added outweigh the cost. Up to this point there are no functioning so-called Local Government. These elected bunch has practically no designated official function that are of much material value to the people. They’ve no place to go to work. They’ve no meaningful resources they manage/oversee. On and on! So, what do they do that we have to add these people to the public payroll? Assuming 500 people were added to public payroll by these elections with an average annual cost of D50,000/person; this is D25,000,000.00. With a National Tax Revenue under D10b/annum, the direct payroll bill of these elections is about 0.25% (a quarter of 1%). This maybe a minimal fraction but knowing that we’re continually running on deficit spending any fraction of overspending is burdensome. Our National Debt is about D55b – this is over 5x more than our annual national revenue.
The sovereign people have to know these facts and then make consequential decisions. If National Assembly will remain symbolic, then we can make good argument not to have one so we can save their costs. The same is true for the so-called Local Government operatives. Poor citizens shouldn’t be force to pay taxes just to go and pay wages on value-less public employees. After all we have to choose democracy or Banjul dictatorship. Currently we have Banjul dictatorship camouflaged with supposed democratic institution. VERY BAD! Those savings can either test the quality of water we drink or provide us electricity or construct public latrines at markets and pubic parks or buy us paracetamol for our sick/ill, etc. That to me give the tax payers some return than repeating the failed undemocratic processes of the past.
Do These Elections Make This Government Different From Predecessors?
Throughout our struggle the consensus view was we’ve learnt from the 22 years of Yahya and that the Dr. Barrow government will come up with concrete steps of changes that improve governance and democracy to create an enabling environment for socio-economic prosperity and quality of life. To the contrary the government haven’t come up with any material different from Yahya administration. The government have since purged people and replaced them with their favorites. That’s exactly what Yahya did. Yahya removed Antouman Gaye from Brikama Area Council and replaced him with his likes and nothing changed. Yahya has fired people from NAWEC and ends up appointing himself as the head and up to today we have no electricity. They’ve present a budget that’s even worse than anything Yahya presented in his 22 years. On and on! The point is repeating the same things with different personalities is no change.
STOP UDP BECOMING 3rd STATE-PARTY! It kills functioning democratic dispensation. It breeds. Ineffectiveness, arrogance and public corruption. These public vices are the single most important cause of poverty in The Gambia and restrictive civil liberties/freedoms.
All citizens have right to belong or choose the party of their choice. There is nothing inherently wrong to belong to UDP or this government. We hope what betters the nation inform these choices. Do not make these choices by simply following the crowd. We suggest exploring many sources to help make these choices so that we can leave behind a Gambia better than we inherited.
Used our history as a resource bank. We held our leaders as angels, prophets and/or some sort of super-humans just to learn they are stealing from our labor. They were lying to us. They’re greedy bunch. These should be causes of concern and motivation to demand and stand up for necessary democratic checks and balances.
Making UDP the 3rd State-party is not promoting democracy and will not better any citizens’ life. Instead the party will be fed at the expense of our nation. They will control reallocation and hence influence voter behavior.
Always remember Gambia will outlive UDP, Dr. Barrow, Ousainou Darboe and/or anyone of us. These men/women do not provide Gambia anything. They’re paid managers/servants out of public coffers. The resources under their supervision are paid by the taxes of the sovereign citizens of our land. We ought to hold them accountable to the management of our resources and not praise-sing them as some angel dropping food upon the children of Moses in Israel.
The goals of our struggle to ‘make Gambia a functioning institutional democracy’ should still be our primary task. We can’t/shouldn’t settle for the creation of another ‘Political Public Service Class’ that want to make a glittering money-making career rather than give back to once people