In a democracy, politicians do not necessarily say or do the right things when there is no risk or benefit to what they say or do. In other words, if there is no cost to their popularity and political existence then they could easily fail to do the right thing or even misinform and mislead, as they liked. Politicians misbehave, either by lying or being corrupt in order to gain cheap popularity because they know there is no one to check them.
But when citizens are vigilant and prepared to hold politicians to account by either rewarding them for their good deeds or punishing them for their bad deeds, then this is time when politicians become honourable men and women and do the right. In the Gambia, the culture of holding politicians to account for what they do or say is almost non-existent hence it is common to hear and see our politicians spread misinformation, mislead, contradict or underperform or corrupt. In this New Gambia, we have to stop this and ensure that there is strong culture of accountability.
Therefore, since two weeks ago, it has been reported that Mamma Kandeh of GDC said the Government of Adama Barrow has contracted loans only for the ministers to share those funds among themselves. This is a very serious allegation! Since he made this comment, Mamma Kandeh himself has not come forward yet to present facts to back up his claim. On the other hand, Barrow has also not come out to refute these claims. What is clear however is that since January Barrow’s government has indeed contracted several loans and obtained as many grants of millions of dollars.
Secondly, rightly or wrongly there have also been reports on social media of some ministers buying multimillion dalasi homes, while others are said to have transported several people to Mecca for the Hajj. Therefore is Mamma Kandeh telling the truth or not?
First of all, the statements Mamma Kandeh made are not illegal and therefore no one can take him to court for that. The police cannot question him for his political statements against his political adversaries. But the fact is that those statements must not be left unanswered. This is because those statements cut on both ways. On one hand they serve to raise the profile and image of Mamma Kandeh, fairly or unfairly at the expense of the Government. Consequently, the statements generate public dissatisfaction in the Government, as some people may perceive Barrow as corrupt or inept. On the other hand too, the statements harm Mamma Kandeh simply because of his failure to give evidence. Many would see him as a propagandist who only wants to damage his adversaries for his own political gains. Hence these statements, if left unanswered do not augur well for both Mamma Kandeh and Adama Barrow.
Since no one can take Mamma Kandeh to court for these very serious comments, yet there is a bigger court to which we must take both Mamma Kandeh and Adama Barrow. That is the Court of the Gambian People, which sits in our homes, in the streets, at work places, in the markets, farms and indeed social media all across the Gambia and abroad.
Therefore, we the people of the Gambia as the judges must demand that Mamma Kandeh provides evidence or he will pay dearly for these comments. Secondly, we must also demand that Barrow refutes the claims in the interest of his own integrity and as a duty he owes to the people of the Gambia. His government must not treat these statements of Mamma Kandeh as foolish talk and therefore refuse to respond. No. Barrow must respond to them so as to recover the confidence and trust of Gambians incase anyone has lost some faith in his Government because of these serious allegations. Barrow’s response would therefore serve to strengthen his leadership by maintaining and expanding the faith of the people in him if he could convincingly refute these allegations.
As a Government, Barrow has a duty to clear any allegations that have been levied against his Government especially if such allegations come from a high profile opposition figure. That way he would have exposed the accuser and help Gambians to know who are the true and honest leaders of the people. It is for this same reason that Mamma Kandeh must also give evidence so that he helps Gambians to know the character and kind of President and Government we have. Thus both of them will do great service to the Gambia if they speak up. In any case we must make sure that either Mamma Kandeh or Adama Barrow, whoever is wrong to pay a severe price!
Our role as citizens is to ensure that the truth comes out for the health and strength of our country. Thus we must begin to engage in a social accountability process where we insist that politicians do not just release words into the air, but back their theories with hard evidence. If anyone fails to do that, Gambians would therefore know that such a politician is a dishonest joker who does not worth our votes and support.
I wish to therefore play my citizenship role by demanding that Mamma Kandeh provides proof to the general public as to where, when and how the Government of Adama Barrow has diverted loans into personal pockets. At the same time, I demand that Adama Barrow respond to these serious allegations by accounting for all the loans and grants that his Government has received so far. Both men owe Gambians this responsibility.
We must not allow our leaders to act or fail to act as they like when the issues are indeed life and death matter for citizens. When loans are stolen that means mothers and children die at hospitals while electricity and water supply will not get to most of our communities. Corruption is a serious allegation and anyone who alleges must have strong evidence. The Government, against whom the allegation is made must also come out to clear its name.
Adama Barrow and Mama Kandeh, the ball is therefore in your courts. Tell us the truth! If Adama Barrow and Mamma Kandeh fail to respond, I suggest that Gambians stage a peaceful demonstration against both of them. We must not allow both Mamma Kandeh and Adama Barrow to leave us in limbo, not knowing what is true or false about a matter that is of legitimate public interest.
We must not allow ever again empty talk by the opposition or failure of the Government to respond to opposition allegations. Our politicians must not have it both ways. Let us remember that Yahya Jammeh had made such empty talk that ‘his money’ was from “Allah’s Bank” and we did not we did not take him to the people’s court. We are now getting to know that he was in fact stealing our money. Let us not repeat that anymore.
Adama Barrow and Mamma Kandeh: Set the truth free in order to free yourselves!
God bless The Gambia.