By Madi Jobarteh
Today is December 1, the day Gambians ended Tyranny four years ago to create a democratic dispensation never seen before in the life of the country. It was a day, four years ago, when for the first time Gambians changed political power through the ballot box. It was a day that was the result of an incredible show of unity and purpose by Gambians determined to end Dictatorship once and for all in our lifetime.
From that infamous day in July 1994 to January 2017, the Gambia and her citizens severely suffered under the yoke of tyranny characterised by untold violence in the form of torture, rape and murder. It was a period characterised by the blatant disregard of the Constitution and the rule of law. It was marked by wanton destruction of the environment, lives and institutions of the nation such that citizens turned into both victims and enemies of each other.
The Jammeh Tyranny did not only destroy the rights and lives of citizens and the rules of democracy but it also severely flouted the norms and standards that underpin the culture and religions of Gambians such that the erosion of moral values, the rise of tribalism and corruption as well as the disregard for venerable personalities became the order of the day.
Under the circumstances the resources, institutions and officers of the State became personalised and abused by a tyrant who has no regard for national interest while bereft of any modicum of humanity and conscience. For his own self-aggrandizement, he plundered the wealth of the nation and bastardised its institutions to suit his purpose. Consequently, public institutions and officials became weak, unresponsive and lacking transparency and accountability. Hence the sons and daughters of the nation suffered.
Therefore, when Gambians decided on 1st December 2016, it was a decision to not just uproot Jammeh as a person, a president and his Evil regime. But also, that decision was meant to cleanse the soul of the nation by restoring self-esteem and a sense of dignity back to our people. It was to make our institutions become real instruments for the upliftment of our people by protecting our rights and delivering efficient, affordable and accessible public services. December 1 was to end a culture of corruption, abuse of office, arrogance of public officials and uphold the sovereignty of the citizen as the foundation of the Republic.
Four years down the line, go around this country to realise the squalor in our communities with run down and filthy streets which are either muddy or dusty depending on the season. Even where the Government builds roads and other infrastructure, it is usually poor quality because all the funds that must go into the project were diverted. While our citizens face unbearably high cost of living, officials of the Government are spending millions on travels, buying luxury vehicles, holding unnecessary ceremonies and incurring expensive recurrent costs for nothing.
Four years down the line, multiple laws that infringe on our sovereign rights remain unchanged while the necessary reforms in the civil service and the security sector are not done. Consequently, the civil service and the security sector remain once again the same pillars perpetuating wastage and abuse that are entrenching poverty and the deprivation of the people. We continue to be bombarded with that same old rhetoric of gradualism, false equivalence, populism and ‘we will get there’ while the very lives of the people continue to become more and more dire.
Four years down the line, corruption has not abated. The nation faces far more threats and fragility today than ever before because of the sheer abuse of office, disregard of the rule of law and blatant negligence of the national interest perpetrated by none other than the State from the highest to the lowest levels. If it is not the Chinese destroying our environment it is the Europeans depleting our fish resources all because of dubious contracts, corruption and lack of enforcement by the State.
Four years down the line the same culture of populism and politics of patronage have become more entrenched in total disregard of the strategic needs and interests of the nation. Thanks to populist politics and vain leadership the country continues to be highly indebted while priorities are misplaced as the preoccupation is to increase the volume of infrastructure regardless, on the notion that seeing is believing as the strategy to keep oneself relevant and in power!
Yet we saw the billions that Evil Despot Yaya Jammeh invested in the construction of airports, roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, television stations, arches, mini-stadiums, universities and markets only for the country to plunge into even deeper poverty, indebtedness, corruption and hopelessness. Today the airport in Yundum is being renovated for 14 million dollars just 10 years after it was built for 10 million dollars! That is what is called politics of populism – i.e., seeing is development. The trend continues today, four years into Democracy.
The time for Gambian citizens to wake up is long overdue. The time to assume our constitutional duties to demand good governance and sustainable development is long overdue. One may wish to buy the false narratives that we will get there; that Rome was not built in a day; that we came out of 22 years of Dictatorship and the rest of the chicken shit. It’s up to you.
But this country called the Gambia is filled with industrious people, with so much natural resources that it is utterly unacceptable that there should be a single poor Gambian. There should be no Gambian mother who deserves to die while giving birth to a Gambian child in our hospitals. No Gambian child deserves to sit in a classroom without air-conditioning, modern presentation tools, tiled floors and well landscaped school compounds. No Gambian youth has a reason to die in the high seas just to seek greener pastures elsewhere away from home. As a mother, child and youth are you satisfied with the conditions of your life?
This country has all the resources, opportunities, potentials and capacities to become a highly developed society like any other in any part of the world in our lifetime. Singapore did it within 25 years of independence. The only reason this country is so hapless and haggard is because we, the citizens create, nurture and protect poor leadership. We fail to stand our ground to demand efficiency, effectiveness, transparency and accountability from elected and appointed public officials who continue to take us for a ride. But the day the Gambian stands firm to demand effective leadership from his or her party leaders to those elected and appointed in the Government as a whole, that day the Gambia will change. Until we take that position, we can look to another 55 years of poverty, deprivation, squalor and abuse.
For The Gambia Our Homeland