For our democracy to thrive, we need more Halifas

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 Elbert Hubbard wrote that one must brave censure and danger to live a full and meaningful life. The American statesmen wrote: “If you want to escape moral and physical assassination, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing – court obscurity, for only in oblivion does safety lie.”

Halifa Sallah did in his adult life what it would take many men to accomplish in many lives. He said a lot in the columns of Foroyaa, at symposia, on lecture circuits and on the political platform of the People’s Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism, the party he co-founded with like-minded Gambians. And he is something. A big man. Not big in brawns or wealth but in ideas and what he represents.

Halifa is a symbol of all that is good in Gambians. The conventional wisdom is politicians are immoral, unconscionable, unethical, unprincipled, and unscrupulous. But together with his friends, Halifa has shown through his words and actions for nearly two score years that politicians can in fact serve as consciences of their nation and be symbols of moral rectitude, integrity, conscientiousness, truthfulness and respectability.

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He always thinks before he speaks and weighs his words. He is not loud but speaks with a firmness of conviction and he is a brave man who always speaks even when few dares to speak even at great danger to his person. This was the case during the Jammeh witch-hunts. And Gambians will forever remain indebted to him for his role in managing the “political impasse” giving birth to a New Gambia from the throes of Yahya Jammeh’s dictatorship.

In fact, one of the failures of the Barrow Administration and the New Gambia is the premature disintegration of Coalition 2016 and consequently the loss of assets like Halifa in the mix. Halifa’s departure left Barrow and his government the poorer because the president lost a counsellor who would have given him counsel untainted by ignorance, bigotry and selfishness. And his departure represented the stillbirth of the much-needed national think tank.

In the run-up to the December 2021 presidential election which he contested, Halifa said if he loses, it would be the last time he would seek elective political office in The Gambia. He said more or less the same thing once before. But this time, there is a finality to his tone and countenance. He lost and graciously conceded and announced he was departing.

Last night during the final session of the current parliament, like the good soldier he is, he blew his last reveille and bowed out. His colleagues, allies and sparring partners alike, rapped on their tables to acknowledge the sterling contribution of the Tukulorr jambarr.

He will be missed in the new parliament that will come into being after the 9th April polls. But we hope, many more new Halifas will be in the new parliament, because we need a vibrant legislature, peopled by men and women of timbre and caliber like Halifa Sallah for our democracy to thrive.