Hon. Mama Kandeh, Secretary General And Party Leader GDC.
By Mustapha L Marong- USA
I grew up in a family that supported the National Convention Party (NCP) in the 1980s. My father was the leader of our local branch, and he was not easily intimidated. He did not speak any foreign languages nor was he literate in the classic sense, but he knew his rights as a citizen very well.
I remember getting accepted to Gambia High School after passing the common entrance exams. Some PPP militants insinuated that I shouldn’t go to a government-funded school due to my father’s opposition to the ruling party. My father, however, was not deterred. He reminded them that he pay taxes, that is used to maintain that school and many others.
I learned a lot from my father’s patience and perseverance in the face of adversity. That was the Gambia of the late 1980s, when Gambia High School was a place of honor and excellence.
You may wonder why I am reminiscing about the past and what it has to do with our current situation. The answer is simple. Our politics has not changed much since then. It is only the actors that have changed.
The same mentality that tried to deny a young village boy his education, is the same mentality that tries to deny qualified and experienced professionals their careers because they belong to the opposition party. As if opposition party members are not part of this nation and have no role to play in its development.
The recent statements of our president are a clear example of this dangerous mentality. On his trip to his hometown of Mankamang Kunda in Jimara district, he went on a rant of grievances that sounded like someone with low self-confidence. I feel sorry for him, and I mean that sincerely.
Our president, instead of focusing on his responsibilities, decided to criticize another son of Jimara for daring to have his own political and leadership aspirations. He didn’t stop there. He also asked Jimara elders to reject one of their own if he didn’t join the president’s amen corner.
Does that sound familiar? Remember the kid in the late 80s who shouldn’t have gone to Gambia High School because his dad dared to join a different party? It’s the same mindset and strategy, only on a national level, with the speaker using the biggest platform in the country.
But the good thing is Mama Kandeh, like my dad, suffers no fool. He understands the state’s challenges and his role in it. He gave a strong response to the president of our Republic, a sharp lesson delivered with elegance and calmness that you have to hear and see delivered on video to appreciate its honesty.
The episode of the past few days reminded me of my youth, when a handshake was enough to keep people honest. The president doesn’t get any of this. After all, he told us so – that you can say anything during a campaign.
And now, we know that the president of our Republic has a narrow mindset: that you are either with him or against the country. Like my father’s detractors in the 80s, he doesn’t realize that we have different views and perspectives on nation-building. It’s not a zero-sum game.