After more than 300 years of constant exploitation and oppression, they left us in 1965 with one hospital, a few high schools, no visible infrastructure worthy of its name and no polytechnic, talk less of a university. Our conquerors doubted our survival as an independent nation. They hog washed us with infantile tales of what lay ahead in our pursuit of nationhood. They questioned and tested our resolve to manage our own affairs. They vociferouly and viciously fed us with the rhetoric that we can’t make it alone as a nation because we are not blessed with any natural resource to maintain our coffers. So bleak, mundane and grotesque was the future they painted for us yet we insisted that the Union Jack must be lowered and bundled back to Her Majesty.
While a host of sister nations took up arms to liberate themselves from the oppression and indignity of colonialism, peaceful Gambia negotiated her independence and same was reluctantly granted to the utter chagrin of the British. We insisted on joining the new emerging republics and rub shoulders with the charismatic Kwame Nkrumah, the fearless Saikou Toure, the erudite Jomo Kenyatta, the visionary Julius Nyerere and their ilk. We proved that there is no force that can break a people resolve to self-determination. With sheer self-determination, we have weathered the storm, survived the stumbling blocks on the path to our destination.
Today they will ask us as if to prove their prophesy, how have we fared as a nation 50 years after the Union Jack was lowered in this territory? Without any natural resource to speak of, this nation boasts of visible infrastructure, a healthcare system, institutions of higher learning, a growing list of homegrown intellectuals, a stable economy and enviable tranquility. It won’t be out of place to point out that we still could have done better. Like any novice nation-state, mistakes are bound to be made, obstacles encountered and lessons learnt. For those who can discern how precarious and unyielding our economy has been (one that is heavily dependent on a dying agricultural sector and a fledging tourism industry) during these five decades, will describe our position today as nothing short of a miracle.
The list of failed and failing states keep growing every year but this nation has never had course to appear on that infamous list. We have maintained a respectable position in the UN Human Development Index beating oil producing nations like Nigeria, and Angola. We are admired for our tolerance, hospitality, stability and unity in the face of diversity, a combination of traits hard to come by.
Today should serve as a pause point to reflect on our shortcomings as a nation and brace up for what the future throws at us for we do not need a soothsayer and his abracadabra to tell us that the journey to our destination will be rough, arduous, and testing of our resolve to become a first world nation. Singapore achieved this feat in 50 years with sheer sacrifice and hard work of its people.
If Singapore can do it, we can as well. HAPPY 50TH BIRTHDAY GAMBIA.
Abdulrahman Bah Esq. is a state counsel at the Attorney General’s Chamber and Ministry of Justice and a law Lecturer at various institutions in The Gambia.]]>