When governments are mired in indecisiveness, ineffectiveness and ambiguity and saddled with rampant corruption, people naturally look up to opposition group for alternative and clarity. In our case, however, opposition parties increasingly appear to be less ready and prepared to meet or even exceed the hopes and aspirations of the citizenry.
In more their decades leading the fight against Yahya Jammeh’s slew of bad, violent and often bloody leadership, our expectation was that Gambia’s tenured and seasoned opposition parties were equipped with practical strategies, workable policies, stronger structures and organizational discipline to take over the country from day one. But, as we have all witnessed during and right after the political impasse in 2016, we were arguably chasing far-fetched dreams. There was very little or no such thing in place.
The fast and cataclysmic fracture of the Coalition camp soon after taking over power from a pioneering tyrant provide additional prove to their lack of preparedness. Even where a plan seemingly existed as previously argued, mistrust and bad faith among the very architects and supposed guardians of the transition agenda notably stymied actual progress in the early days of the Barrow administration before effectively rendering it dead on arrival. The haphazard manner in which the initial government was formed, including the deliberate insistence on appointing a constitutionally disqualified Vice President, revealed a telltale sign of a weak framework and to the general pointed to lack of readiness to take up the mammoth challenges.
Our current situation is no different. Opposition parties have proven time and again that they are more polished and interested in finding faults and loopholes of the Barrow administration than offering clear and convincing alternatives beyond the smokescreen. Many governance and policy blunders have dwarfed Barrow’s government and alienated the citizens. The opposition parties, in their wisdom, find it absolutely expedient to amplify the barrage of criticism on social media and hardly organize press conferences or release policy statements to prosecute their cases to the public and offer their parties’ contrasting methodology and mechanism to handle similar matters if given the opportunity. To be fair, Hon Mai Ahmad Fatty is the most vocal and visible exception.
Before the crippling Covid-19 pandemic, our country had string of natural disasters that affected the livelihood of some Gambians. Kuntaur flood disaster was a prominent one. But these calamities underscored the government’s woeful or near absent disaster management protocols and procedures. There was very little or nothing in place to support emergency disaster responses. Basse and Brikama fire outbreaks also highlight, in disappointing measures, another pattern of serious systemic decay and wanton recklessness on the part of our government to protect life and property in vulnerable, populated communities.
It was therefore commendable that some local volunteers and politicians took their time to visit, empathize and assist the affected communities. Although the politicians used the opportunity to blast the government’s slow, uncoordinated response, they offered no viable, alternative plan as to how they would be dealing with tragedies.
Our healthcare system has been in the doldrums since independence and even face grimmer prospects in light of emergent pandemics. Again,, neither our government nor the Opposition is offering anything concrete that prepares the country or the people to deal with infectious and potentially deadly outbreaks that can happen at any time. Our hospitals are plagued with resource constraints. In all of this, poor Gambians are slipping away and succumbing to preventable and curable diseases because of our government’s shocking and inexcusable lack of vision, foresight and priorities.
Wouldn’t it be prudent for opposition parties to have, for example, shadow Ministers responsible for drafting and augmenting their parties’ policy framework that are accessed by open to expert and media scrutiny and interrogation and ready to be rolled out once in power? Or would it simply the case of “oh we inherited a bad system”?
Thus, it is our considered opinion that government in waiting should be able to offer more pragmatic, more proactive and more resourceful alternatives to the status quo. Yes, we appreciate knowing what our government is doing wrong but we would like to know what our opposition will do differently and how they will do it if or when given the opportunity. To support, consolidate and strengthen our democracy and good governance, our opposition parties must demonstrate readiness and preparedness to over the reigns of leadership of our country from day one without a needless, unnecessary circus and déjà vu. We need to see more!
Zakaria Kemo Konteh