By Madi Jobarteh
Former Vice President Isatou Njie Saidy did not surprise me in her testimony before the TRRC on Thursday September 3. Rather she confirms that indeed she lacks the moral fortitude to stand by her convictions, regardless. Her tenure as Vice President confirms what Michelle Obama noted that being president, or indeed holding any position, does not change you but rather reveals who you are. Indeed, Isatou Njie Saidy’s testimony only served to further reveal who she is as a human being – that she stands for nothing hence will fall for anything as Martin Luther King noted.
Isatou has not added any value to the soul-searching process that this country is undergoing through the TRRC. Indeed, if there should be any valuable witness in this entire process naturally that must be her after Yaya Jammeh himself. But she failed the nation today as she had always failed the Gambia when she served as Vice President for an entire generation!
Therefore, if there was a day in which she should have salvaged her soul and name that day was today! Yet she cannot because she lacks the capacity to uphold her conscience. The fact that she could work with Yaya Jammeh so closely and for so long was in itself an indication that Isatou Njie Saidy lacks any scruples to defend. This is why she could be used multiple times to injure the body and soul of the Gambia for 20 years without any scratch on her forehead.
Clearly Isatou Njie Saidy knows everything that was happening in her Government. But she merely decided to feign ignorance or claim forgetfulness or pretend innocence when none of these is the case. A Vice President is not a voluntary job or a nonconsequential position. No dumb person serves as a Vice President and the power of the Vice President is substantive. Hence Isatou Njie Saidy cannot act as if she was just any ordinary woman in the Gambia just like my grandmother in Bakadagi.
Isatou Njie Saidy is a well-educated woman with longstanding working experience in management, leadership and public service. She is not senile neither is she an uninformed human being. She is alert and she understands phenomenon around her quite well. Therefore, Isatou Njie Saidy cannot and should not have faced the Gambia only to pretend to be ignorant, forgetful or innocent of even one crime of her Government. As she noted the Gambia did not have many friends at the time and she knows why that was the case.
What Isatou Njie Saidy’s testimony therefore exposes and signifies is that the greatest enemy of the Gambia continues to be her sons and daughters who consciously and deliberately decide to sacrifice Mother Gambia with impunity. Hence her testimony must not be viewed in terms of its content but rather from her determination and willingness to continue to abdicate her sacred obligations to the motherland. Isatou Njie Saidy does not have to speak the truth in order for us to know the truth. Indeed, we know the truth already from the many other witnesses such that even if she never testified it will not subtract anything from the facts that are now public knowledge.
But it was important for her to tell the truth mainly to show respect for victims and demonstrate atonement for aiding and abetting tyranny hence vouch for her own salvation. This is where she lost incredible opportunity. Instead she only served to generate more disgust, more disrespect and more humiliation on herself forever. Today she stands far more disrespected and rejected in the eyes of majority of Gambians than ever before. Indeed, she has done great disservice to herself.
The lesson though that is to be learnt from this woman is that until today public office continues to be abused and public interest continues to be bastardised by public officers. The fact that three years after the end of the Yaya Jammeh – Isatou Njie Saidy Tyranny there continues to be the same malpractices and abuses within the public sector goes to state that change is yet to come. It shows that until today there are many Isatou Njie Saidys in our public institutions at central and local levels who are determined to injure the common good.
Another lesson to learn from this despicable testimony is what public servants especially security officers must bear in mind when they perform their duties. They must realise that they must not carry out unlawful orders nor should they get over-excited in performing their duties. Public servants, especially those at the operational level must learn from Isatou Njie Saidy that when they carry our unlawful orders from their superiors, someday those superiors can completely wash off their hands and claim innocence. In that case it will be those officers who will find themselves lonely and alone to face the consequences of their actions.
Above all the testimony of Isatou Njie Saidy as well as former CDS Baboucarr Jatta go to highlight the fact that when unscrupulous men and women are in charge of public office, they turn the Government into a lying, abusive and criminal machinery. These two top public servants have shown us how the Gambia Government concocted lies just to cover up crimes that they consciously and willingly meted out to citizens. Their testimonies also show that indeed the citizens of the Gambia were not vigilant enough and by that shortcoming citizens have allowed such crimes to continue in their name.
Where Government has become the biggest liar and abuser in society it only serves to make the citizenry lose trust and confidence in the entire State. Where such is the situation it means the rule of law suffers hence create a situation where violations of human rights and plunder of public wealth becomes the norm. In that case no one is even safe again in that society!
Therefore, let Gambians learn from the testimonies of Isatou Njie Saidy and Baboucarr Jatta to become more alert and vigilant by constantly checking public servants from the President downwards. Let us religiously scrutinise each and every public institution from the Office of the President downwards. The price of freedom, they say is the eternal vigilance. Until and unless citizens are eternally vigilant there is no guarantee that we could avoid another round of dictatorship.
For the Gambia Our Homeland