My name is Samba and I am a member of The Gambia’s National Assembly. Over the last few weeks, a lot of people have been complaining about the brand-new and expensive Sport Utility Vehicles that we assembly members decided to get for ourselves and make Gambian people pay for. When I sit down and really think about it, I somewhat understand the outcry. I feel bad that the majority of Gambians are struggling and poor. I see the dirty markets, the terrible hospitals, and the terrible roads. I feel bad about the high cost of living. I feel bad about the terrible public education system. But what does any of that have to do with making the suffering Gambians buy me a new car that most in my constituency and can never afford? Tell me, what does your suffering have to do with you buying me a car to better serve you?
I know those who are complaining just don’t understand us National Assembly members. Let me tell you this: Like most in government service, we are in it to take care of ourselves first and foremost. Can’t you see how my life has been transformed since I became a national assembly member? I honestly think that most of you criticizing today are simply jealous of us. If you were in our shoes, you too would accept these cars that we are making Gambians pay for. Have you seen the vehicles of those in the judiciary? Have you seen the cars of ministers? And don’t you give your ministers two cars? Have you seen the cars of some directors and permanent secretaries or their deputies? Do you know how many senior government officials have their own car that they paid for with their blood and sweat? Are they not all driving cars they are making you ordinary Gambians pay for? Why are you focusing on us alone if it is not for jealousy? Wasn’t it just a few years ago when others before me accepted a donation of vehicles without bothering to know who donated the vehicles? Did they care to know what that person got in return for donating those vehicles? Did you not say was alright?
The truth is, many of us Gambians only complain about financial mismanagement when we are not at the table eating. Have you heard any of my fellow parliamentarians refusing to accept these vehicles? Don’t we all claim to want a better Gambia? Don’t we all call ourselves representatives of the people? Don’t we all claim that we are in the house for the interest of the people? Why are people complaining about me realizing my interest while I pretend to be all about the interest of the people I claim to serve? Why must I put the interest of the people before my own? Who does that in Gambia? Isn’t that why your president told us to reject your draft constitution?
Isn’t that why the right honorable kay-kendo Fabakary Tombong Jatto Jatta and Seedy Njie Jatta are lording over us? It’s all about personal interest in this country. Being in parliament does not mean I have to put the people’s interest above my own. Mook, Mbang Fata Wulleng.
Do the people complaining think that I put myself in parliament? Do they think I won my election all by myself? Can’t they see that this is what Allah has ordained? Don’t they say that it is Allah who puts us in leadership? If Allah gives me a way to get a new car as a leader, why should any good Muslim complain?
Do these Gambians complaining know what this car means to me? If I wasn’t a parliamentarian, do you think I could ever afford a brand-new car? Do these Gambians know how many Gambians have never bought a car for themselves throughout their life and yet they have always had a government car for the last two decades? Tell me, do they know the level of prestige this car provides me? Can’t they see that in contemporary Gambia you are a nobody until you own a four-by-four? Can’t they see? Why should Gambians allow themselves to be blinded by jealousy? I can only eat where I am stationed and if Allah stationed me in the National Assembly, that is where I will eat.
In every country you go to in this world, the most important people are given privileges. Gambia cannot be an exception. Being a parliamentarian does not only come with the privilege of being called honorable even when honor means nothing to me, but being a parliamentarian is a status symbol. It comes with admiration. It comes with respect. And yes, I am learning that it also comes with jealousy. As one of my colleagues hinted at in our private WhatsApp group, most of you are simply jealous of us.
Is it my fault that Gambians were tricked into believing that we actually represent their interests in the National Assembly? Don’t they call us lawmakers? How many of us know how to make any laws? How is it my fault that Gambians think we represent their voices in parliament when my hero and mentor Tombong Jatta and his wingman, Seedy Njie are the ones in charge? Please leave us alone. It’s our time to enjoy and enjoy we will. “Munneh Yaal Nyabo? Prado, nna dunuyaa jambado”?