With Essa Njie
I have promised myself not to be involved in unhealthy debates, but circumstances will not allow me to relax my muscles in these trying moments our country is going through. I do not intend to provide a lengthy write-up but to respond to certain claims. It is indeed irrefutable that the Gambia is at a crossroads and our transformation journey will be trickery if the current situation persists. It must be understood that nations are built on ideas and ideas deserve a space of lassie faire where each is at liberty to opine his/her views deemed relevant to national development. The Gambia’s predicament has not been on anything but the existence of a citizenry that has been living in self-denial even when the truth is presented on the national table for all to see. As a matter of fact, an uneducated citizenry does not only serve as a threat to national development but to human consciousness, thus the liberty, dignity and prosperity of the same citizenry will be at risk.
The past days have been sad moments for me; for the fact that I am seeing my country heading toward an unknown destination where unhealthy debate is preferred to a healthy one. Dr Ismaila Ceesay has been the subject of an emotional/sentimental debate for expressing what one may describe as a subjective opinion; subjective in the sense that his views are not binding and therefore should be subjected to agreement and disagreement. Inasmuch as Ceesay has the right to express his views on national issues, others hold the same right to disagree with his views. From a personal point of view, I believe there are so many ways to counter Ismaila’s opinion which would have led to an intriguing national debate.
However, sadly, those that went on the other side of the coin never oppose the man’s view but ended up attacking his personality for expressing a personal opinion which is the least we expect in the so-called new Gambia. This is the altitude of not only ignorance but hypocrisy in a small country like the Gambia. I have heard and seen people ask what I consider the most unpatriotic question; “where was Ismaila when Jammeh was here”? I have come across rebuttals including that of Sait Matty Jaw, setting the record straight about what Ismaila has been doing while Jammeh was president. Those of us who were taught by Ismaila at the UTG would attest to what he has been saying and doing in exercising his academic freedom within the university setting.
However, just like Ismaila himself refused to be dragged into such a conversation, considering it as ‘childish’, I would also not want to be hauled into the same conversation because I consider it not only childish but a distractive conversation that will not add value to the best we want for the Gambia. My respond therefore to such an unpatriotic question is, one of the primary reasons why we voted out Jammeh was to have a say in our affairs. Therefore, whether Ismaila was talking during Jammeh’s era or not is immaterial to me and in this present circumstance. What matters most to us is the fact that every Gambian citizen deserves the right to express his/her views and nothing on the face of this earth should and can stop that.
On the issue of academic qualification for presidency, again I consider it the height of hypocrisy when people claim that setting a university degree as the prerequisite for presidency constitutes discrimination against those that do not acquire or cannot afford to acquire a university degree. Ask yourselves whether the current qualification for a secondary school certificate is not also discriminatory to those that could acquire only GABECE certificate. Again, ask yourselves whether the minimum age requirement for presidency is not also discriminatory to those below the age of 30.
Today, a healthy, young and brilliant Gambian at age 29 cannot contest for presidency even with a university degree because the constitution is exempting him/her from seeking the office of the president based on age, but a 99 year old Gambian with a secondary school certificate whose thinking capacity is not apt could contest for presidency. I am not insinuating that university degree is the absolute guarantor for an impeccable leadership. Essentially, I am trying to make those who claim the issue of discrimination to ponder over these questions and be the judges of their own. If we could set a minimum financial requirement for presidency, what is stopping us from setting a minimum academic requirement for the same position to meet the standards of global dynamics which is changing on a daily basis? Again, I am not insinuating that every country in the world today has its president graduated from university but I am trying to prove a point that the secondary school certificate requirement in our constitution was put in place based on our educational circumstance at the time.
On the issue of Ismaila ‘harsh’ in his language toward Barrow, I have spotted yet a notch of hypocrisy and insincerity. Those arguing from a so-called moral perspective that Barrow is a president and does not deserve such ‘harsh’ words, I challenge you to reflect to the era of Jammeh when you were insulting Jammeh, forgetting that despite all odds, he was our president and deserved the ‘respect’ that you think Barrow deserves from every Gambian including Ismaila. I personally do not consider Ismaila’s language discourteous in tone; certainly, it was his opinion that Barrow lacks the ‘intellectual disposition/pedigree’ to run the affairs of the Gambia. Again, it must be understood that Barrow holds the highest office of the land, thus he is no more an ordinary citizen from the perspective of responsibility and therefore deserves public scrutiny. As a matter of fact, Barrow needs informed guidance on how to run a government because it is a well-known fact (no secret) to all Gambians that the man does not possess what it takes to transform this country. It might be bitter but the fact.
The fact that Barrow can stand in front of Gambians and promise to provide public Wi-Fi to a community in the presence of a deteriorating health care system, a seemingly collapsed education sector, agriculture, dilapidated road infrastructure and a close-to-dead economy is the biggest slap on the face of Gambians and the greatest insult to the integrity of poor and vulnerable Gambians. It only shows that the man does not either understand the plight of Gambians which reflects the lack of intellectual pedigree that Ismaila insinuated, or he is taking them for granted. But pathetic about this was to see Gambians show appreciation for such a promise. Barrow must not easily forget that Jammeh made series of unrealistic promises to Gambians for more than two decades without implementation. Therefore, we must exercise the highest form of sincerity by speaking the fact and let Barrow know that it is not business as usual.
Finally, to those that have taken personal attacks including Barrow himself as the tool or an attempt to discredit concerned citizens, kindly note that silence is no more an option. No one is here to be anyone’s spokesperson. Therefore, do not expect to hear what you want to hear but expect to hear what people want to say for themselves. Ismaila like any other Gambian will continue to express his opinion without remorse. We will speak! It is the slogan of Barrow himself ‘no retreat no surrender’ against dictatorship. Similarly, no retreat no surrender against mediocrity.
This is state business and not estate business!