Appreciation. Defend the Republic

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By Madi Jobarteh

I just want to take the opportunity to express heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to my colleagues in the civil society under the leadership of TANGO and to the Gambia Press Union and all its journalists and media houses and indeed to the people of The Gambia for your show of support!

Indeed this is not just about Madi Jobarteh, but you have demonstrated your resolve and duty to uphold and defend the Constitution and unequivocally insist on and demand democracy in our lifetime! Clearly, you have demonstrated that the vast majority of Gambians desire a Gambia that is squarely situated on constitutionalism, accountable leadership and human rights.

I hereby re-echo, needlessly that I dare not burn down even a pavement much more an entire country – especially my own motherland! For who? For what? Unthinkable!

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But the truth must be told to the elected and appointed public officials of this country from Pres. Adama Barrow to the headmaster of Boraba lower basic school that this country is a Republic. They are elected or appointed to serve as public servants to manage public affairs and resources in order to deliver public goods and services in order to protect and fulfill the human rights of all citizens! That’s their one and only job.

As public servants, they derive their power, authority and legitimacy from the people of The Gambia as enshrined in Section 1(2) of the Constitution. For that matter, the citizens of The Gambia have the constitutional right and duty to hold each and every public official accountable in the strictest manner possible.

The conduct of public institutions and officials has a direct bearing on the lives, future and dignity of citizens. A single act or inaction of a public official can make or break the country, save or kill a life, develop or impoverish a citizen for life! Hence public officials must realise that they practically hold human lives in their hands. When you abuse public office rest assured you are destroying rights, wasting opportunities and denying services that go to take away futures and kill a life!

We have seen uncountable examples of horrendous damages caused to the lives of citizens due to misconduct, corruption, abuse and plunder by public officials. How many citizens were killed by the Junglers? How many Gambian mothers died in giving birth to a Gambian child because of lack of resources in public hospitals? How many Gambian youths died in the Sahara desert or drowned in the ocean just to seek greener pastures elsewhere because their own government could not provide them? How many Gambian children had to die from preventable illnesses because of lack of better healthcare services? The list is unending!

Yet, these deaths on hospital beds or in the desert or in the ocean could have been prevented if public wealth has been responsibly managed and judiciously spent to provide the best opportunities, facilities and services to our people. And who is responsible for the management of public wealth other than public servants! How can those public servants now refuse to be held accountable?

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Any elected or appointed public servant who does not wish to be held accountable is not fit to be in public office! A public servant should be humble and honest. A public servant should be transparent and responsible in the way and manner he or she manages public wealth and delivers public services. A public servant is not a lord nor is he or she giving any favor or charity.

It is not for a public servant to determine how and when and where should a citizen hold them accountable. A public servant is paid a salary and for that matter there is no need for any praise for him or her for whatever excellent work one thinks one is doing. The only relationship between a citizen and a public servant is accountability. That’s all.

To hold a public servant accountable requires that citizens express their opinions by speech or writing or singing or painting and in any other form and in any media platform or gathering or go to court or stage a protest among many other means of participation. Therefore for a public servant to equate such citizen participation as burning down a country means such public servant does not wish to be held accountable.

It means such public servant has risen himself above the people. It means such a public servant wants to usurp the power and sovereignty of the people as he arrogates to himself autocratic and absolute power. That’s inimical to a republic! That’s the kind of public servant hellbent on burning down the country as we saw with Yahya Jammeh.

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For far too long we have seen an elected president inject himself with such toxic belief and transform himself into a tinpot dictator that resulted into the murder of scores of lives and pillage of billions of dalasi thereby subjecting the country to excruciating indebtedness and widespread impoverishment of the people! Look at our public servants especially at the highest levels and the kind of living standards they enjoy! Compare that to the rest of us and judge for yourself if that’s the kind of Republic we deserve.

Fellow Gambians, we may belong to different ethnic groups and political parties and religions and regions and so. But we share this Republic. It’s salvation and destruction is not only in the hands of public servants but more seriously it is in the hands of the citizens. Where we stand will determine whether this Republic shall rise or fall.

Public servants are our servants, not our masters. In other words, for better understanding, elected and appointed public servants are our Mbindaan! We did not ask them to become public servants. Rather they chose it by themselves to become a Mbindaan!

It was Adama Barrow who decided on his own to stand for election to get the people’s mandate. Nobody went to beg him. Allah did not give him to us nor did God ask us to get him. We the people did, by ourselves. Hence he must submit to the will and opinion of each and every citizen, whether such opinion is sweet or awful! The decision is not his!

Defend the Constitution and the Republic.