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Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

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A documentary on the UDP leaders– fondly called

“Baaba” and to most as “lawyer”

Dear editor,

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For 22 years, UDP as a political party and its leadership have been a punch bag for insults, threats and labels of sorts. The party has been notoriously labeled a Mandinka party that is led by a tribalist and vindictive “old pa” who was hungry for power. Under the stifling circumstances of a dictatorship there was never a breathing space or respite on the vitriol.

This poor and appalling image became an unfair household perception of the party and its leadership. There was no room to argue back or for an alternative opinion. However, there was an uncontrolled reactive vendetta from mainly frustrated militants and grassroots supporters who were strongly offended by the unlevel field of political propaganda.

The documentary on the party leader of UDP is an emotional story of a man who weathered the storm of dictatorship. It is also an exposure and presentation of a more authentic perspective of the other side of the story. From an “old pa” who withstood a hectic campaign trail of several days with a grand entrance finale standing in the vehicle for 17 good hours, the documentary presented not only a “character of steel” but also of stamina – as a friend and professional colleague said in the documentary.

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Without confessing, I guess quite a few tears were shed at some point in the film by at least a few. The attestations of events, colleagues and close relatives have thrown light on the so called “old pa” we have been dealing with for 22 years who, after all, is the passionate “Baaba” for not only family but for his affectionate adorers and who has made the title of his profession a national identity – “Lawyer”. Nationally, the word “lawyer” first brings to mind the name Ousainu Darboe, before thinking of it as a profession.

The emotive segment – the Solo Sandeng saga – of the documentary makes some reminders about dictators. The story of a dictator starts with the lowkey manifestations of tendencies of intolerance. They are always supported by much too eager enablers. It can start with seemingly harmless comments of burying opponents – some nine feet deep – and leads to desperate moments of very severe clamp down on rights, especially rights of assembly. Dictators are cunning, helped by the enablers, and always craft indictments on individuals who are considered a threat. They all walk on the same path; their only difference is the speed. The common denominator of their motivation along the way is their unfathomable appetite to cling to power.

An outstanding feature of the main character of the documentary is the constant attestation by friends, colleagues and employees of the principled and consistent support for and defense of justice at the expense of loss of personal earnings and the persistent abhorrence of corruption – a noticeable absence of these characters in most African leaders.

The Gambia is once more at a cross roads of deciding its future and the occasion gives the nation the hope and opportunity of shedding off the shroud and atmosphere of dejection and insensitivity to the sufferings of the past. It is a hope to provide the necessary assuage for the wounded soul of a nation and to move away from the insensitive leadership that has made staying in power ‘a matter of life and death’. It is an opportunity, once more, to filter the inherited system and institutions of opaque transactions and use of public funds from. As President Obama may put it – it is an opportunity to test the nation’s “audacity of hope” for change.

Leadership is not only about commitment. It is an embodiment of the capacity to lead and govern. As the UDP manifesto succinctly puts it – it is about a “capable state” (government). The decision at the cross roads would be to honestly compare “what is” with “what ought to be”. After knowing what is (now) then it becomes a question of having hope in the voting marble to usher in what ought to be and thus choosing the most likely vehicle (not a bus, I mean Party) to realize that hope of change.

NB: The Gambia has talent. The documentary was produced by local professionals – specifically Ms. Fatou Touray and Mr. Sheriff Bojang Jr. My very personal gratitude and congratulations for filling the pride of the nation with optimism that where there is opportunity there will be great achievements – kudos. Just thinking aloud.

Lamino Lang Coma

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