So, the question every Gambian should be asking themselves, as we prepare for the most consequential elections against Dictator Yaya Jammeh;s 22 years of tyranny, on December 1st , 2016, is; if the cause of right and justice wins, what kind of leader can we hope for? Many analysts still believe, the odds are still stacked too high against the opposition, considering the fact that, the cornered and wounded Dictator has the power of incumbency and continues to deny them the basic instruments of a democratic society, such as; access to state resources, free access to media, and not be intimidated by the secret police and militia loyal to the Dictator. These elections pose an existential threat to Dictator Yaya Jammeh, because Gambians have never been so dissatisfied, hungrier, sicker, poorer, more afraid, and more isolated in our history. Nations, over time, are defined, or take the character of their leaders, for good or bad. It is very evident, that Dictator Yaya Jammeh, for all the wrong reasons, has come to define Gambia as a comical, pariah, and failed state. So, the bar is already too high for anyone who is going to inherit the ship of state, come December 2nd, 2016, that is, if the opposition can pull the upset.
Great nations and civilizations are defeated because of wrong leaders in times of challenge or disaster, and Africa has had more than its fair share of weak and incompetent leaders over the centuries, especially when we came into contact with Western civilizations. Great leaders are also created, molded, during times of crisis or natural disasters. The Gambia is a nation in crisis, faced with an existential threat for our very own viability, based on the trajectory we are on , thanks to Dictator Yaya Jammeh.
The Gambia is at the very bottom, and falling, based on any indices, matrix or scientific measurement. The economy has long since collapsed, including the tourism industry. Just walk along the Ports Authority for shipping activity ( or the lack thereof), or into the Banjul Central market, or Serekunda, or Farafenni markets, and witness how the life has been sucked out of the economy. Youth unemployment has become chronic, as a result, more Gambians have died on the so called Backway to Europe, on the unforgivable Mediterranean Sea, or the desolate Sahara Desert, more than any country in peace time, by proportion. The human rights record of the Jammeh regime cannot get any worse, and more blatant based on the assassinations of Solo Sandeng, Solo Kurumah, and the illegal imprisonment of the entire executive of the UDP oppositions party, and countless other civilians, in 2016 alone!
The state institutions, such as the police, the judiciary branch, the banking system, the health system, Gamtel, etc have collapsed. Farmers are not being paid for their products for years, and agricultural output has never been poorer, worse than at the time of independence, based on tonnage ( groundnuts). The capital city of Banjul looks like it has been bombed out, and abandoned, with not a single paved road, or working sanitation system. The population of Banjul has declined to pre-independence levels of less than 25,000 people, abandoned and forsaken by the Dictator, for his out of the way Little hamlet, called Kanilai. The Gambian Constitution has been amended so may times, to suit the personal and greedy needs of Dictator Yaya Jammeh, it is no longer worth more than used toilet paper. On regional and international relations, Gambia can benefit from a reset from a responsible leader; we have never been more isolated, and now Jammeh is touting his new found friendships in the troubled Middle East.
The next president will preside over a period of post-conflict reconstruction and restoration, to make us whole again as a nation, and for our collective psychological therapy, to mitigate post trauma stress disorder (PTSD), including economic depression. So, first things first, The Gambia deserves a new president who respects us, the people, appreciates the solemn responsibility of running our affairs on our behalf. We deserve a president who understands that we are his/her employer and must work to earn his pay. The next president and his cabinet, the entire senior servants, and all positions of consequence must declare their assets before they assume office. The next president’s policies must be guided by statistics, an official population census, for the first time in 22 years, and to appoint an immigration specialist team to investigate the Backway tragedy. This team will account for every death, and account for those that are trapped in shelters all across Southern Europe.Unless the Gambia government takes responsibility of its own citizens languishing and wilting away in camps in Europe, and to begin to address the underlying issues of chronic unemployment, and hopelessness, the demographic and social time bomb will create more dislocation in the future.
The next president must be ready to deliver justice for the aggrieved, dead and disappeared, pay reparations where needed, and then lead a national reconciliation, in that order. The next president must be firm, fair and consistent. The next president must be a champion of the constitution, and not rule by executive decrees, or amend the constitution out of shape. The next president must accept and demonstrate his/her acceptance by not interfering with the judiciary and legislature, as co-equal partners and branches of government. To avoid conflict of interest, we no longer need a Businessman-in-Chief! The government cannot be, and is not a profit making enterprise.A private sector led economy is desirable, where citizens equally participate, and get rewarded fairly for their risks, and hard work.
The government’s responsibility is to deliver services equitably, based on population, grounded in statistics, not emotion. Banjul must be re-dedicated as the capital and seat of power, of The Republic of the Gambia, and plans must be put in motion to rebuild it as such. The next president must be a unifier, a reconciliator-in-chief; who can talk with the people, not talk down at us, or above us, or talk to the opposition as colleagues, not as enemies. The next president must champion our value systems or respect, family, modesty, measured in his/her utterances, and not to be sponsoring jamborees encouraging the mixing of hormone driven youths. The next president must the champion and role model for education and competence. Future scholarships must be based on merit, and need, not on “beauty”, which is highly discriminatory, and demeaning. We can also Never rebuild a meritorious civil service without a strong education system, based on high standards, and merit. Gambia will never grow its economy or attract investors, without developing nimble minds and hands of young people. Last but not the least, our relations with Senegal, the region, and whole world needs a reset! All of these traits and skill sets are the opposites of what Dictator Yaya Jammeh has demonstrated the last 22 years! We demand more and better, from our next president. Being born in small country, does Not mean, we cannot think big, and letus choose right this time around, in the name of freedom .