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Monday, April 12, 2021

Institutions matter but character matters more

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By Alagie Saidy-Barrow

Institutions, in and of themselves, are mere buildings with people and papers and furniture and other equipment. Yes, we need strong institutions with the best of laws and policies. Strong Institutions matter but what matters even more is the character of the individuals tasked with manning the institutions. No strong institution stands a chance if it’s manned by characterless or spineless individuals. You can have the best institutions with the best of everything including the most qualified individuals, but if these individuals lack character, your institution will collapse under its own weight, or from the tiniest of assaults. By character, I don’t mean praying five times a day, or attending church every Sunday, although those practices should not be incompatible with good character. Rather, I mean the type of character that maintains fidelity to the ideals, values and interests of the institution and not individual leaders!

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You see, when Yahya Jammeh refused to leave office, what he tried to rely on was not the institute of parliament, it was the spinelessness of Sayyindi Jatta and his fellow spineless parliamentarians. Yaya knew he could count on Sayyindi Jatta to do his bidding to cling on to power. We could have had all types of laws and policies and whatnot, it would not have made any difference to Sayyindi and his fellow mindless parliamentarians. Their fidelity is to one man and one man alone: Yahya Jammeh!! They only care about the country or the voice of the people insofar as it is aligned with the whims and caprices of Yahya Jammeh. That is why they had no compunction in butchering the “constitution” over fifty times to suit the desires of Yaya Jammeh. There were institutions that could have challenged the excesses of Yahya Jammeh but those manning these institutions lacked the character to stand up against Yahya’s abuse. If Sayyindi was Pence, he would have done what Trump wanted him to because his loyalty to Yaya is far deeper than any loyalty to anything else.

You can have the best of laws, policies, ideals and values on paper but unless these laws are held up by people of character, they mean nothing. Upholding the law should not mean subscribing to abuse of the law or pretending that everything lawful is right. Gambia is full of individuals with the best qualifications you’ll find anywhere; sadly, character that leads to loyalty to nation is a premium among us and hence the rampant fickleness of many.

We should build character such that people uphold loyalty to Gambia and Gambians first and foremost, and always! Organizations, political parties, CSOs, schools, etc. should make an effort in building character such that people are loyal to The Gambia and not to individuals. Loyalty to an individual should only be anchored on shared values and not on shared interests. Our loyalty is often anchored on “what’s in it for me”, and that’s why fickleness is en vogue!

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