By Badara Alioune F Taal
Functions of the coalition
Going back to the meetings held to ratify the coalition on that hot day in Brikama, I have no idea what the coalition was charged to prioritise after contesting a successful election that resulted in a victory. Plan A, we can all agree, was forming a coalition and choosing a candidate and that was done successfully after failing multiple times to do so in the past. The details of Plan B, if there was any such plan, should include developing the foundations, such as the economic system, justice system, healthcare system, social infrastructures, and lastly a five-year development plan with achievable goals.
Apparently, UDP party members were the beneficiaries of replacing coalition members that the citizenry decided upon to represent them and that seemed ironic. The current president should not be representing any particular party in the coalition. In fact, the president should also refrain from any party politics or engaged in party campaigning for his successor. According to the MoU, he cannot contest the next open party elections in 2021. Before he took the helm as a coalition leader, he should have already resigned from any position as a party member. The president going on any tours in the country, all parties should assemble to welcome him at their leisure not only UDP party members. As a coalition, every party colour, and members should show up at will to show support for a coalition head of state.
Personally, the president and the cabinet seem to misunderstand their mandate and functions as a caretaker government. This country was destroyed by the previous administration with rampant corruption, poor infrastructure, bad economy, no rule of law, the justice system was a joke, human rights was nonexistent, and utilities were substandard compared to any country in the world more so an independent country. I believe that the coalition government should have started by building a new foundation where there are laws and a secure legal system, secure economy, improve the standards of education, citizen safety, good infrastructure, human rights, secured health care system, and provide a sustainable social security programme. With all this in place, it should also set the foundation for the banking and finance infrastructure to invite foreign investors to make investing in the country attractive.
Failure of the coalition
The coalition failed for three reasons, the president replacing appointed cabinet members with individuals from his former party, taking country tours and promoting and campaigning for UDP, and not outlining the foundation needed for the country to develop. In addition, failed to restructure the justice system, redefined, and restructure the economy.
This coalition government should not have any decisions on the exploration of fossil fuel discoveries because there is no need for that in the transition stage of the economy. There were some mistakes made in the process of exploring that oil as a result, the benefits and revenue coming to The Gambia after the dust settles is less than 8% where more than 92% of the revenues goes to some foreign outfits in Australia (FAR) and Philippines or Singapore. This is a resource belonging to the Gambian people, therefore, The Gambia should get the bigger share of the pot. This is recolonisation back with its mantra to continue the stealing tactics on poor Africans. We have to be educated that these foreign interest groups we are running after for their “riches” never originally had anything legally.
Everything they have was stolen from either Africa or South America. As a result, the owners of those resources (oil, minerals, etc.) continue the losing cycle of having foreigners ripping off and raping their land/environment. Many African countries including Nigeria, Libya, South Africa, and Equatorial Guinea have a long history of exploring crude oil and The Gambia could have collaborated with them to tap in their expertise. Can you tell me of a time that any foreign interest group would seek our help that did not benefit them directly? History will tell you that they have been stealing from us (Africans) for centuries, so it is time to wake up and smell the coffee, Africans. They came uninvited because a visa was never granted to them to permit entry in our domain. We cannot get in their territories without a visa, meaning they select who they want in their house and they also decide how long the red carpet stays red for you. So, they came uninvited and claimed ownership of our resources, only in Africa and South America can such boldness and arrogance occur.
The challenge for the coalition is to set the foundation for this country similar to those that we admired to influence us to go abroad to study or find greener pastures. The other day, Halifa Sallah was in parliament making a point on the plight of the youths in The Gambia. He mentioned the government’s failure to establish in the Labor Department an area responsible for providing statistics of job creations, records of financial distribution to the private sector, and the impact of those finances in creating a positive impact on the employment possibilities of the youths. He asked a fundamental economic question: “How can our youths be self-employed when they have no ownership of those factors of production – land, labour, capital, and entrepreneurship?” Those factors, he was alluding to are currently owned and controlled by the foreign entities in the country. The legislature in The Gambia, continues to beat the old drum of false hope, more training of our youths, more training of the youths, to no avail.
The coalition is supposed to provide the foundation, and should pay special attention on the healthcare of the citizenry first before taking on bridge building, Barrow’s youth group, and mosque building as priorities. Any Gambian who hears “youth group” should gather arms and run the president straight out of town. Did we not learn by now from the previous administration the atrocities that youth groups placed on Gambian lives and now we are back to the “good old days”? This administration needs to stop the copycat practices and be more creative and not contribute to Jammeh’s false prophecy: “I will rule Gambia for a million years”, “if you vote against the president, you are going against God’s will” (something to that effect).
Another coalition failure is that hospitals have no medicine or updated equipment. I had a reality check on my last visit in the country at a local clinic and a reputable hospital. I was very disappointed by the fact that the sanitary conditions in these facilities were appalling. Every patient received the same red pills and a couple of white pills in a plastic bag. The patient ward I visited was ill-fitted with many patients cramped in a hot and humid room with poor ventilation. This health institution is rooted in the country dating back to the ’70s. It was surprising to me that as much as they tried to help, hygiene was not a priority in their services. I noticed examiners using a pair of gloves on all patients until after lunch when they changed for another pair. I saw dental instruments wiped with a towel (no sanitising) and used on over hundred patients. The dentist himself put on gloves that he used to examine multiple patients, those same gloves he used to handle ink pens, tools, moving things, as well as touching teeth in patients’ mouths.
The Gambia is in trouble and the new administration is not helping to set these foundations in place for the progress of the country. As one world leader stated, “you could not develop a graveyard” because none of the administrators or their families will use the poor medical facilities in the country. The Cuban doctors are abusing the healthcare industry at all levels. They may be cheap to get but you should not mortgage your future with cheap. The university medical students were out in the street protesting about these Cubans going on vacations from December to about April leaving them to finish their curriculum over the four-year limitations for medical studies. Why not look somewhere else to get fully accredited practitioners or teaching hospital to train the doctors in The Gambia.
Where do we go from Here?
First things first, the coalition should discipline itself to set the foundation of democracy and to realise that they are not charged with development of any kind. Therefore, before running all over the world begging for funds, it should structure its own venue to become resources independent. That way the youths and the legacy of the future can compete effectively in this global economy.
The coalition should emphasise and show examples for love of country rather than engaging in party politics, tribal wars of words, youth group organisations, and more on working for a better Gambia. Religion is good in guiding us on the right path, that is ethics and moral compass, and as a result, we should stress ethics on our everyday dealings as Gambians and that start from the top. The coalition should also negotiate on behalf of the Gambia not self-gains and aggrandising.
Part of the foundation to be set also should incorporate taking a greater care of our human resources by doubling every monthly salary payable bi-weekly. The payment system needs an update because in this global economy, monthly salary remittances are a thing of the ancient world, this is the 21st century Gambia. Citizens should hold their elected leaders accountable and never settle for maslaha. These elected leaders’ economic and social lives change six months after elected or appointed into office. They do not have any reason to improve the lives of the electorate economically, socially, or health-wise because they have the alternatives of using facilities outside the country such for healthcare and education for themselves and their immediate families. Had it been that they are limited only to utilise the health care system they “claimed” to provide; it would be world class. Had they been using the paracetamol in those facilities; they would have made changes to make sure there are better and varieties of medication available to you and me. Instead, not holding them accountable, they believed that you are not WORTHY, but you pay for the world class medical services and education they enjoy in neighboring Senegal, Germany, Morocco, England, Scandinavia, and or the America have to offer to them.
To all retired Gambians, how much was the amount of your last social security check relative to price changes? I know how much mine will be when I get to the age of receiving it, and the expected adjustments relative to inflation (government’s autonomous spending) – cost of living adjustments. The structures and foundations of the economy is crucial to the development of the country because it creates certainty and minimises uncertainties.
Listen to Halifa Sallah because he lives by example and has love and care for country than any citizen of The Gambia. Tell your representatives to use the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital or any other such public facilities when they need health care and make sure to ask them to patronise the local pharmacies to purchase medicine like you would if your children, wife, husband, and parents have prescriptions to fill.
In addition, ask your representative to list how many of their children and families are educated in The Gambia or using the prestigious education system of The Gambia. Without the right foundation in place, the future is cloudy for the country, and the future generations. Change the attitudes culturally, politically, socially, and economically, and it is only then that we can enjoy the fruits of democracy. Democracy is not spending all day and night in social media cursing each other, saying every kind of unsubstantiated rubbish that does not add to the progress and welfare of the country. Also with democracy, issues will arise that you totally dislike but you have brace up and let them be, so it is not all that you would like, and not always pretty and rosy all the time – that is a misconception.
Badara Alioune F Taal is a doctoral candidate in Higher Educational Leadership Research and Methodology at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida.