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How we got here as a Nation!

Madi Jobarteh is a Gambian civil society activist

When Yaya Jammeh was in power we were all comrades. We agreed and shared the same definition of national interest. We all understood what constituted poor leadership and bad governance and dictatorship. We all stood up shoulder to shoulder to fight that toxic regime. We transcended party and tribe and region. We were compatriots in spirit, words and actions. There was no antagonism between diaspora and home-based citizens because we all had only one common objective. By then we had values and standards and we stood by them.

But since 19 January 2017 when Pres. Barrow and his Coalition took over, we broke apart. Everyone became a supporter of one group against another group. Parties emerged. Tribes emerged. Regions emerged. Diaspora versus home-based. The idea of national interest became a contested concept. Party and individual and tribal interests became the centre of our discourse and engagement. Values and standards became different and conflicting. Consequently, the nation began to crash as our focus on the Government got muddied and weak.

Instead of subjecting Pres. Barrow to the same values and standards of good governance and democracy as we did with Yaya Jammeh, we let the bar drop extremely low for Barrow. As it suits us we defended, rationalised, distorted, exaggerated everything and anything about this Government just because it suits our party, our leader, our tribe or our selfish interest. We went further to even castigate, demonise and vilify any voices that sought to hold the Government or our political parties and political leaders to account.

Instead of immediately scrutinizing every decision and action of the Government, we called for patience and time. We bought and spread the false narrative that the coffers where empty because Yaya Jammeh emptied them. Nothing but Lies! We gave every excuse we can find between the moon and the sun. Some even said Barrow was given to us by Allah and that he was a kind and good man. Only in the Gambia would citizens describe an elected politician in such terms!

Just as with Yaya Jammeh in 1994, we began to also mould Adama Barrow into another kind of a different person from himself. First Barrow was seen handing over dalasi notes to a Kankurang group as he entered the Gambia from Dakar and when some cried out loud we said it is was his personal money. Then we saw how Barrow selfishly changed our supreme law to suit his personal interest in the appointment of VP. Then he delayed that appoint for 6 months and again there was no short supply of defenders. On his first official visit to Senegal a businessman donated 2 brand new houses to him and when some demanded that he returned the so-called gifts because it was unconstitutional, his defenders said the critics were outlandish and attention seekers. It turned out that the Senegalese businessman was seeking contracts with the Gambia Government.

After that we saw another ‘donor’ gave 57 vehicles and once again the defenders said the ‘anonymous’ donor was a good citizen helping his or her country. Since then we saw an army of anonymous donors giving this or that to our president. When we raised concerns about the travels they said those travels were funded by host governments and in any case, traveling is part of government functions. When some citizens raised hell over poor electricity services and planned to protest we said protest is uncalled for and unnecessary in the Gambia because our security is fragile. Then we dishonestly described the protesters as wayward, marijuana-smoking, attention seeking and irresponsible kids.

With every imaginable move that citizens attempted to hold the Barrow Government to account we would have a counter defence by another citizen. We do not only defend the Government, but we go further to describe those vigilant citizens as attention seekers, foreigners, tribalists, condescending, intolerant, dictatorial and anarchists. These defenders would even go to the ludicrous height of questioning the faith and lineage of some vigilant citizens!

Because of our tasteless and unprincipled defence of bad governance and poor leadership we also succeeded in empowering Barrow to the point that the man now has the audacity to question the whereabouts and contributions of fellow citizens in the fight against the APRC Dictatorship. Not only that but Barrow has become so full of himself that he now claims to be the sole Conqueror of Yaya Jammeh and his Dictatorship. Barrow does not only stop there but he has the temerity to even threaten citizens with Yaya Jammeh’s laws and even drawing his own line and daring any citizen to cross! Unbelievable.

By our unprincipled defence of this Government we have succeeded in condoning bad leadership and poor governance and perpetuating undemocratic bahaviour. Patronage. Corruption. Indiscipline. Inefficiency. Lies! By doing so we have succeeded in normalizing the abnormal. By abandoning the very ideals and standards that we upheld against Yaya Jammeh, we have therefore produced another government that looks exactly like APRC and acts like APRC except for the blatant human rights atrocities. But by this trend sooner or later we will soon see arbitrary arrests, detentions, tortures and disappearances begin to happen as well!

Bad governance, poor leadership and dictatorship do not grow up just on one day all of a sudden. Bad governance is organic. It grows up gradually so long as it receives manure and water in a fertile soil. Sooner than later one would see the plant germinate. Just like a plant, this is the same way bad leadership also grows as citizens defend the indefensible, condone poor leadership and aid and abet bad governance.

This Government has no reason to fail. It has no reason to make mistakes. It has a Cabinet that is the most qualified, educated and experienced in the socio-political history of the Gambia. They cannot claim ignorance in not knowing from where the Gambia came and where the Gambia needs to go. They have absolutely no excuse not to know the pains and ills of this country and how to address them. Hence this Government can only fail by their own dishonesty and by the sycophancy of citizens.

Therefore, the solution to bad governance are the citizens themselves if they stand up to defend the values and standards of democracy to ensure that there is transparency, accountability and efficiency in public institutions. But so long as citizens fail to be architects of democracy and good governance but transform themselves into architects of dictatorship, sooner or later the society will witness the germination of dictatorial tendencies and corrupt leadership.

Stand up to hold the Government to account every day. It’s about your life and future! Let us not harm ourselves again by our sycophancy, indifference, ignorance and dishonesty!

For the Gambia Our Homeland!

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