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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Gambia: a broken nation crying for national development

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By Ousman Jassey

It is the intention of every nation in the world to be fully developed so that its citizens will live comfortably. For a community or nation to develop however, its citizens must contribute meaningfully no matter their status in the society or country. Therefore, the contribution they do in their local communities will go towards societal developments and the amalgamation of all the societal developments will make the foundations for national development.

So what is national development?
The term nation building or national development, is usually used to refer to a constructive process of engaging all citizens in building social cohesion, economic prosperity and political stability in a nation in an inclusive and democratic way. Going by the definition, it is seen that all citizens are to be involved in building or developing a nation. Thus, the involvement of citizens in national development is a must. In fact, citizens not government play the most important roles in nation building. There are different types of developments; temporary or everlasting developments, which one should a nation adopts? It has been a general consensus amongst developmentalists that everlasting development, which is known as sustainable development, prevents national conflicts.

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So what is a sustainable development?
Sustainability and sustainable development are the catch phrases and centre-stage of all discussion in the arena of economic, environmental, social, educational activities and what not! Sustainability is the nature or property of something being sustained or that runs in perpetuity remaining same (may be dynamic stability!). On the other hand sustainable development is the development that meets the needs of the presents without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their needs. Sustainable development satisfies the triple bottom lines of environmental protection, economic development and social security. Sustainable development is always for people, planet and prosperity (3Ps), in other words, it’s for environment (protection), economy (prosperity) and (social) equity.
Worldwide, it is agreed that citizens are the vital organs of any meaningful developments and they are also the beneficiaries of all the products of developments. Then this gives the question:


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Who is a citizen?
A citizen is a person who owes allegiance to, and in turn, receives protection from a nation. Citizenship therefore, is the dynamic relationship between a citizen and his nation. The concept citizenship involves rules of what a citizen might do (such as voting and paying taxes) and can refuse to do (such as pledging allegiance).

Except for a dictatorship country but each nation has a written supreme law known as the constitution which defines who is a citizen of a particular country or nation and The Gambia is no exception even though it was ruled by a dictator for two decades. According to the Gambian Constitution, every person who is born within the territorial limitation of The Gambia is a Gambian citizen. With the coming into force of 1997 constitution, a clause embedded into it that defines who is a citizen of The Gambia and by law that person shall continue to be a citizen of The Gambia unless and otherwise the person’s citizenship is revoked by a competent court of law or stripped off by the National Assembly.
However, the social scientists categorized citizens into groups and I will attempt to define these citizenry groups.


Different types of citizens
Every country or community is made up of citizens and the strength or weakness of the country or community depends upon the characters of the people who are members of it. There are three types of citizens namely; the good or active citizens, bad citizens and passive citizens. They are found in all strata of the society and in all fields of endeavors.


(A)The good or active citizen
This is the one whose life is a good example to his fellow citizens. He does not merely know what is expected of him in the society in which he lives but as far as he can, practices in his life what he knows to be right. He can often be seen helping his fellow citizens without thought of personal gain, and he is anxious at all times to do what can help improve the community in which he lives. Above all, he is honest in word and deed. In his place of work, the good citizen is always punctual and fully dedicated to his duty thus making him highly productive. He mixes very freely with others and corrects them when they go wrong. At home, he is responsible and takes good care of his family. On their part, the children respect their elders and perform the roles expected of them in the society.

A good citizen, who is a ruler, makes sure that he is committed to the welfare of his followers and provides them with adequate social services. He protects his followers from internal and external dangers and has good management of resources under his control. He always preaches peace and unity. These are the people who follow the commandment of Former US President John F. Kennedy who said, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country”
On their part, followers reciprocate the goodness of their leaders by promptly paying their taxes as and when due. They participate fully in democratic processes in order to choose good leaders. They help the police and other security operatives by reporting cases of crime and other dangers in the community and are vigilant against activities that threaten the society. They obey laws of the land and uphold of the society. One does not need to be famous before one is regarded as a good citizen. All he needs to do is to set good examples to others and especially to those who are younger than him.


(B)The bad citizen
He is easily recognized because of his wickedness, selfishness, immorality and other services. He is the one who thinks of himself only. He does not mind seeing others go hungry if he can get more than his fair share. Not only is a bad citizen dishonest himself but he also leads others away from the right path if it suits him. He has no real love for his country and no civic sense that is to say that he has no interest in practicing good citizenship. In his place of work, the bad citizen is always late and not dedicated to his duty thereby making him very unproductive.

He is always finding ways of cheating through fraudulent means. Because of his deviant behaviour which differs distinctly from social norms, values, beliefs, the bad citizen in his home, shows very bad examples to his children whom he sometimes sends to buy him beer and cigarettes which he takes in their presence. He also under-value people in their(children) presence making such people valueless before his family
A subject, who is bad citizen, evades tax payment, collaborates with foreigners to wreak havoc on the nation’s economy through smuggling and advanced fee fraud. He also sabotages all good intentions of government through arson and attack on vital encouraging inflation. He tries to get rich quick and as a result, engages in various vices including ritual killings, kidnapping, armed robbery, bribery and corruption, prostitution, drug pushing, gambling and terrorism. My fellow Gambians brighter example of such type of citizens is devil Yahya Jammeh.


(c)The passive citizen
Those who are passive are the spectators or passengers. In every community, this group is far larger than the group of really citizens or those who are truly bad citizens. One belongs to this group if one does not do all one can to uproot and destroy what is harmful, bad and corrupt. A passive citizen is often a selfish or thoughtfulness person who has not learnt that everyone is helped when all work together.
When asked why he shows no interest in the affairs of his society, the passive citizen usually says ‘why do you complain I have not broken any law and I am not doing anything wrong’. He merely sits down and watches others work. He is apathetic and has no interest in the affairs of the society. He develops an “I don’t care attitude” to the actions of government. Politically, he does not take part in voting and is not interested in who represent him. He does not register for elections, does not protest against rigging in elections or inflation of census figure. To him, anything goes and whatever happens to his society is not his problem.
Unfortunately, it is the passive citizen who grumbles most about arrangements at occasions to which he has done nothing practically to help and forgets completely that the right to find fault can only be given to those who assist or who are willing to put right what is wrong. My fellow Gambians I guess many of us can found ourselves in this group. It is unfortunate but it is the fact.
Now let me change the gear and one to the core topic of this article and that is national developments.


What is national development?
National development is the ability of a country to improve and sustain the social, economic, cultural and political welfare of the people. This can be measured by the provision of basic social amenities like qualitative education, effective and sufficient productive of food, qualitative and affordable health services, effective communications system, good and efficient transportation system, steady and uninterrupted power supply and among other indices such as employment or jobs opportunities for the teeming young population.

National development usually translates to sustainable economic growth and development in which resource use aims at meeting human needs while preserving the environment so that these needs are met not only in the present, but also for generations to come. It leads to the meeting of the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Invariably therefore, national development aims at meeting the needs of the present while contributing to the future generations needs.
National development is often broken out into four constituent parts namely, environmental sustainability, economic sustainability, socio-political sustainability and socio-cultural sustainability.
For National development to take place so that the citizens live well in the society, we need to exhibit the following as citizens:


The spirit of nationalism:
Nationalism is seen as the development of national consciousness – the totality of the cultural, historical, linguistic, psychological and social forces that pull a people together with a sense of belonging and shared values. This development tends to lead to the political belief that this national community of people and interest should have their own political order, independent from and equal to all other political communities in the world.


This is the love and pride one has for one’s country that makes one to always defend her and contribute to her progress, peace and stability. One has to fully identify with his nation as a patriot which means sacrificing personal interests for her good.
A clear example of how people identify with their country is during football matches involving the national team against a foreign team. Millions of people follow the game on radio and television. They feel and talk as if they are one big family. They celebrate with one another when the national team wins. Everyone feels very unhappy when the team loses.

Patriotism also means defending democracy and social justice. It is necessary to defend democracy because it is the best condition in which people freely contribute to the development of their society. A patriot plays active roles in the political affairs of his country by joining any popular democratic organization where he can participate fully in national elections and unite with others to defend his fundamental rights. It is only through patriotism that citizens of the country can make her move forward like prompt payment of taxes, obeying rules and regulations, participating in al democratic processes, showing good examples, helping one another and shunning all sorts of vices like sabotage, dishonesty and wickedness, among others. The fundamental question is how many of we the Gambians are unselfishly patriotic?


Fundamental human rights
The fundamental rights of a human being are just claims, titles whether prescriptive, legal or moral which are due to person as a human being in a given society. For example, the right to life where no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life, save in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty; dignity where his person shall not be subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment; fair hearing within a reasonable time by a court or other tribunal established by law and constituted in such manner; privacy of citizens, their homes, correspondences, telephone conversations and telegraphic communications; freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including freedom of change religion or belief; freedom of expression, hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference; assemble freely and associate with other persons; move freely throughout the country and to reside in any part thereof; and among others, no citizen shall be discriminated against. Unfortunately Yahya Jammeh denied we the Gambians our fundamental human rights from July 22, 1994 to January 19, 2017. Isn’t that sad?


Responsibilities of citizens
It is the responsibility of every citizen to abide by the Constitution, respect its ideals and institutions, the national flag, national anthem, national pledge, legitimate and properly constituted authorities; help enhance the power, prestige and good name of the country, defend the country and render national service as may be required; protect and preserve public property, and fight against misappropriation and squandering of public funds; respect the dignity and religion of other citizens and the rights and legitimate interests of others and live in unity and harmony in the spirit of common brotherhood; make positive and useful contributions to the advancement, progress and well-being of the community where he resides; work conscientiously in his lawful and chosen occupation and abstain from any activity detrimental to the general welfare of other citizens or the country; ensure the proper upbringing of his children; participate in and defend all democratic processes and practices; render assistance to appropriate and lawful agencies in the maintenance of law and order; and among others, declare his income honestly to appropriate and lawful.

My fellow Gambians the question is what are we doing as citizens of The Gambia to usher and jump start the “engine” of our national developments? Remember our “engines” have been off for 22 years under Yahya Jammeh and stays in hibernation. With arrival of President Barrow and his coalition government, it is okay and acceptable for us to give constructive criticisms but let’s not be pessimists. Each of us should ask the question what am I doing for my country? Let us form national platform and debate constructively on ideas of national developments. Let us stay away from divisive politics and tactics because divided we are, then weaker we are. Tribal diversity had been backbone of peace helped us to live cohesively for many years. So let us not allow bad citizens to divide us.

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