The Tragedy that is Gambia’s Political Football

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By Gibril Saine

A disturbing wind has blown right deep through Gambian football on the illegitimate election of the very (dis)honorable Lamin Kabba Bajo & his acolytes. For a man of so many wrongs, wasting countless fruitless years at the helm #FootballHouse, a ”bye bye” handshake followed by a police (corruption) probe would have been the more fitting tribute.

Sadly, that wasn’t to be. This is the new Gambia, so they say, but do not be fooled by it, for it is but in name only. Its business as usual in Banjul, because, you see, here is more about personality cult than an observance of standardised practices or dictates of the law. It is about who or whom you know, or how much money one is prepared to dispense in flaunting the long arm of the law.

Looking back at history at the height of the industrial revolution, perhaps even as recently as sizing up transformational progress in Tanzania, Ghana and Sierra Leone respectively, it is very useful to chop and change leadership from time to time. CHANGE, whether to adapt or pursue a different course altogether is vital for individuals, businesses and nation-states alike in an effort to excite or grow a new leaf. That is true of successful companies embarked on periodic leadership change during times of hard arching towards a new vision. It is the democratic model too which successful states employ in an effort to advance on a sustainable plain footing. Although one concede that not all change is necessary or best, one fears that nothing will resolve or advance the current Gambia situation – except for change at the very top – aiming towards a new direction.

For all its worth, Gambian football needs a new direction too, of which Kabba Bajo and his cronies should have been excluded. The reasoning here was NEVER personal but solely based on track record, morality & battle of ideas searching for a better Gambia. I ask, why is it that naked corruption, dodgy deals & false accounting perpetrators almost all happen to be men? That said, if these greedy, unethical men won’t do, why vote for them, or accommodate them into the system wherever money changes hands? And do not be fooled by the ”Haftan” wearing either or mosque building exercises – a clueless, low self-esteem person engaged in the evil sort through dark corners of the night wishing bad on fellow man just to keep their post. See, the African man’s obsession with power also came to be its biggest downfall. The Gambia, vote for a woman president next time, the very best of our womenfolk, give her a chance – simply because the Liberia experiment has proven to be successful, on an accelerated accent today.

To the memory of a good friend, Draman Touray, of blessed memory yet not a single official bat an eyelid with all the good that great Gambian did for the country. It is important as a people, be it relationships, business or politics to be mindful not to betray each other, because it hurts most. The obsession with ‘foreign investors’ for a quick bribe has put local Gambian firms at risk, even marginalised and ignored by this government.

It is therefore important for the Gambian people to take deep breathes reflect on the dilemma facing the country, across all spheres. As one puts words to this write-up, I cannot help but tear up alerted to a major breaking news story from The Gambia. The text message from Banjul reads:

”Our company is about to close down due to the importation of flour in Gambia. As I am speaking to you 50 staff have lost their job because government is not protecting the local industry in the Gambia. We have two big companies that can supply the all country why should the government allow the importation of flour in Gambia?”

I do not know how president Barrow came to be a wealthy millionaire, nor ever be allowed to stay at State House if this story is found to be true – selling the soul of Gambia to his rich friends. What a cheap and petty leader we have on our hands, hence the more his tenure unfolds, the more disappointing his government come to be #TrendContinuance sic.

To the Gambian people – wake up from slumber sleep realise the problems facing the country – sports, politics, economic stagnation to social breakdowns are all interlinked, connected in a chain – simply a failure of leadership!!! The former finance minister, Amadou Sanneh, has proven to be a dodgy fella shortchanging the Gambia to its creditors & China, yet no serious economist or journalist spots or reports it. The ”National Debt” burden has grown by 20% to a whopping 130% disastrous total. That said, next year budget is projected to consume over five (5) billion dalasis in interest payments alone, but again no one is even talking about that #CheiiGambia. From dodgy oil deals, minerals, donor cheques and foundations in the name of people & country, the Barrow government has failed the basic leadership test!!!

On the controversial characters holding Gambian football to ransom, can someone explain the rationale behind hiring a foreign head coach, when football centres of excellence should have prioritised, investing in the basics, build from the bottom up towards impressive youth setup? I am not criticising the coach here, fair play to him, the sort who cannot command coaching roles even at bottom tier clubs in Europe, as recently put by #DabakMalick. One came to realise the absurdity of it all as if a foreign coach is the solution to all of our problems. I, however, digress, except for a mental glitch the Gambian must try escape from, if the country is to enter a new phase of transformational change on an equal footing with its more affluent allies.

Still, on The Gambia, I’m afraid the country cannot reach heights of prosperity until and unless, we, the citizenry, do unselfish work in the national interest. Doing right by country does not only apply to government, or a salaried title job. It also requires us all to act as responsible citizens doing right by the country. In such a hostile social media environment where falsehood is on the ascendancy, Gambians should look out for one another, moral angels, ambassadors & samaritans help put stop to waste, report crime & wrongdoing, ensure what’s best for country prevails foremost and all times.

On the drama unfolding at FootballHouse as to reasons why Kabba Bajo mobilised local football representatives to bribe his way to (s)election while booting out #TeamSillah from the ballot, the evidence speaks for itself. There needs to be a thorough comb through on GFF finances where millions are lost through false accounting & below par FIFA projects. While private conversations shall remain that way, culpability fails on former ministers of youth and sports, Alieu Jammeh, ‘Semester’ Gomez, and the current portfolio holder for the mess – literally hijacking the National Sports Council (NSC) on its excellent investigations into malpractice at #FootBallHouse. On behalf of the Gambian people, big thanks to the leadership at NSC and the Environmental Agency (NEA) for great work – despite being undermined by the Barrow government at every turn – Better is coming!!!

The trick to good writing is not to personalise the subject matter but objectivity on the line of truth. Of late, however, very nasty attacks in various shredded forms is thrown my way for the crime of wanting best for the country. I’m cool with it, for one shall never be distracted from calling the Gambia case as long as a breather to live. From the start, we made it clear one cares NOT about money or government, but that the national interest burns bright deep in some of us – guidance through light, ethics and high principles toward collectivism, ubiquitous, utilitarianism, democratic values the Gambian people truly deserve #LoveGambia #OnePeople #OneDestiny.

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