“Seek ye first the political kingdom and all else shall be added unto you” is a popular saying attributed to the great Pan Africanist, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.
I guess the African continent heeded to this advice of Nkrumah and its countries fought to unburden themselves of the shackles of colonialism. Cunning as the colonialists or colonists were, especially the British, they first gave their African colonies “Independence” (a self-delusional status of being free) and after few years they granted “Republican” status (final weaning from the mother but under her watchful eyes).
In reality, though, did The Gambia get the “Political Kingdom”? Was the attainment of “independence” or even Republican status the arrival of the “political kingdom”? If, yes, have we added all “others things” to our political kingdom? If no, why haven’t we established it?
Did Nkrumah mean by “political kingdom” merely the attainment of “independence” from British colonial rule? Or rather the development and strengthening of: democracy, its delivery structures and principles; good governance; respect for human rights and the rule of law; popular participation; rule by consent of the people; freedoms from want and fear; life of dignity, etc.? If these are some of what Nkrumah wanted to see in a “political kingdom”, my assumptions, can we honestly say they have been achieved by The Gambia since independence?
If we had achieved “political kingdom”, would “all other things” had fallen into place? Or knowing what we now know about The Gambia, would “all other things” have been in place by now?
What went wrong? Why couldn’t we deliver the “political kingdom”? Or did we invest all our energies in constructing the paraphernalia of the “political kingdom”, the super-structures, at the expense of the sub-structure, laying the strong foundation for a life of dignity, freedom and happiness?
Would the establishment of the “political kingdom” have automatically brought about “all other things” to us? Why haven’t the lives of the people significantly changed since independence? Why are youth unemployment, infant mortality, maternal morbidity, food insecurity, poverty, illiteracy, gender discrimination, etc. still so high?
The quality of our roads, health care and facilities, education system, housing, transportation system and life itself speak volume of our failure to put in place “all other things” after the attainment of a part of the “political kingdom”.
We pursue the political, civil and legal, sporadically and in a rather chequered way, at the expense of the economic, social and cultural. We violated the principle of “indivisibility, interdependence and interrelatedness” of rights. We turned a blind eye to corruption which undermined and destroyed all the political gains.
We promoted kleptocracy at the expense of democracy. Rule of law replaced rule by one man. Good governance, accountability and respect for human rights were replaced by impunity and violations. Poverty enveloped us all and while we had and still have the right to vote, many go to sleep hungry or preoccupied with how to give good health and education to their children.
While I agree that colonialism truncated our development as a nation and continent, it is difficult to understand why we are still poor, materially and developmentally; why a country as poor as we were at independence is richer and better than we are today; why the gap between the rich and the poor is widening and why a majority of our people continue to be mired in poverty, poor health and illiteracy; why our cottage industries are still at the morning of their life and we continue to import eggs, chicken, old furniture, etc.
We achieved our political independence; no question about that. Have we established the “political kingdom”? Have we achieved the objectives of “independence” apart from being “free from colonial rule”? Have the lives of people significantly improved that one can write home about? Are the economic rights of the people secured that each lives in dignity?
Has the political kingdom arrived for us? Berkley Rice was wrong about us but…..