Over the past twenty-five years, with a few exceptions, the position of vice president of the Gambia has been all but vacant.
In the previous regime, we have seen how for twenty long years, we have had one individual as vice president who was just a tool used by the president.
She did nothing; said nothing, had no clue what was going on, at least if we are to take her word as she claimed at the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission. With all what was going on, she claims to have been unaware. She either forgot, couldn’t recall or was in total darkness about goings-on in the country.
The vice presidency is a very important position in our governance structure. In fact, if the vice president is good and doing his/her job well, it can cover many – if not all – of the president’s shortcomings if s/he has any.
The vice president is effectively the captain of the team of the president and his/her charisma and leadership style can make the difference.
It is the vice president that provides – or should provide – the needed leadership to the rest of the cabinet members.
S/He should keep all of them on their toes to ensure that they do what they are supposed to do and that they do not exceed their bounds.
If any of them wants to go wayward, it is the vice president who should deal with them and bring them back to the fold.
It is the vice president who goes to the National Assembly in place of the president to address the Members of Parliament and answer any and all of their questions and then report back to the president.
This means that the vice president should always be on top of things and shouldn’t be in the dark about issues.
Yet, in our governance system, we don’t seem to accord the appointment of the vice president the scrutiny and attention it deserves. As a result, presidents have been choosing people they believe will just be there as decorations and saying yes sir, yes sir as we have observed from Isatou Njie-Saidy.
The lady wasn’t even reading the newspapers in the country and took everything at face value.
Or the other type, the sycophantic praise singers who will go to any length to be in the good books of the president, let the nation be damned.
We have seen this in Isatou Touray.
I said Isatou Touray leaving out that covetous title of Doctor as I believe that a person with a genuine PhD will never say that opposing a president in a democracy is opposing God.
We should have learnt our lesson when we saw that for two decades, with Yahya Jammeh’s penchant for sacking, not even once did he sack the lady nor did she ever attempt to resign. This should tell us that she was an obedient puppet who did as told, no questions asked.
It is high time we started scrutinizing the running mates of presidential aspirants before voting for them.
The Constitutional Review Commission should put this as a strict requirement for anyone running for office to name his/her running mate.
This will accord the citizens the chance to know who they are voting for. Thus, when we vote, we will be voting for a team and not just the president.
The benefits of having a running mate include having political legitimacy where the vice president would oversee the office of president in the absence of the president.
It also means that where the office of the president becomes vacant for any reason before the end of the term you would have a legitimate person to replace him or her.
Furthermore, an elected vice president gives lot more power and confidence to the vice president knowing full well that he or she was equally elected with the president.
Therefore, such a vice present does not have to serve at the pleasure of the president but would recognize that her own legacy and reputation is on the line if he or she allows poor leadership to prevail at the presidency.
A pertinent question was answered in Madam Isatou Njie-Saidy’s testimony
For years, some of us have been wondering as to how Isatou Njie-Saidy was able to stay on as our country’s number 2 for 20 trying years outlasting everyone (except Yahya Jammeh himself) in a government that was grossly violent, polarizingly disorganized, deeply chaotic and rife with sackings, recycling and humiliation of Ministers and Civil Servants.
Well, the former Vice President has offered a stunning clarity to that swirling question during her appearance at the TRRC today. Due to busy schedules, I was not able to follow the live streaming of today’s proceedings but the few minutes I was able to watch gave me a better understanding of the lady.
Madam Njie-Saidy may be a highly educated lady (according to the publicly known information about her academic achievements), but a type who displays limited intellectual curiosity which, perhaps, was also necessitated by a survival instinct in serving under one of Africa’s worst 21st century leaders. The result is a shocking combination of spectacularly personal flaws and inexcusably deep moral failings.
This may be surprising, but I think Isatou Njie-Saidy was somewhat forthright about her knowledge and lack thereof of matters happening right under her nose.
Her lack of inquisitiveness and zero willingness to ask questions was the perfect vulnerability Yahya Jammeh had discovered and used it to his advantage. Heads of Security Institutions and other senior government officials had also recognized this peculiar trait in Madam Njie-Saidy and exploited it without hesitation.
Yahya Jammeh was also criminally sophisticated enough to understand that Isatou Njie-Saidy was not ambitious, was vulnerable and blindly loyal and sycophantic.
Madam Njie-Saidy had chosen to cut off herself from almost all and everything that could have provided her alternative source of information about the government she worked in and about the President she was supposedly serving as a Principal Assistant.
Yes, by virtue of her portfolio one would make a genuine assumption that Isatou Njie-Saidy was the one in charge of our country on April 10, 2000 but the truth is she was never in charge. She Was a Vice President in name only and the so-called head of NSC who did not know her left from her right in the security architecture, Operations and Intelligence Information Processing. This explained why she was fed with concocted stories and cover-up by the NSC on April 10 and forced to make misleading public announcement which will haunt her for the rest of her lives.
It was the paranoid dictator Yahya Jammeh who’d ordered the deployment of the military on the streets to continue their barbaric onslaught on civilians after being told that opposition leaders and armed elements were behind the Student Protests.
The coward would not take any chance on such information and would make sure it was crushed even if meant walking over thousands of dead bodies…
Thus, her stories may be hard to believe and understandably so but I don’t think she would profess ignorance of some of the tragic happenings deliberately. She doesn’t have what it takes to understand herself, her obligation to Gambians, to humanity and to God and there lies our answer!
Zakaria Kemo Konteh