The year 2023 is here with us and, as is usually the tradition, well wishes are being shared with friends and family.
It has also become the norm for people to make resolutions, mostly to serve as a guide for the new year.
The essence is to help us do things differently from how we did them in the previous year, all in the quest to better our situation.
This tradition should not be limited to individual aspirations.
As a nation, we have numerous challenges on our hands that we can collectively address by resolving to do things differently, even at the personal level.
It’s not enough to pride ourselves as being religious, nice and hospitable while we continue to do things that our religions frown on, giving us a negative image outside our borders.
As we begin the year, as is usually the practice, many people have made their resolutions, in which they have resolved to change an undesirable behaviour to accomplish a personal goal or improve their lives.
We believe that although New Year resolutions may not be fully fulfilled, they give us a focus to strive to achieve something better for ourselves and our nation.
It is in this vein that we encourage both individuals and the nation to make resolutions to stay away from lifestyles and traits that did not help us in the past year.
This is the time for leaderships at every level to resolve to place the interest of the country first before theirs and ensure that our society becomes better than it was the previous year.
For instance, this country has been branded as corrupt, but whenever the issue comes up, the focus is often on politicians and other high office holders. But, collectively, we are all guilty.
We have become so materialistic that people want to live above their means. For this reason, they shamelessly demand for bribes from their fellow citizens before performing the duties for which they are employed and paid to provide.
So endemic has this canker become that failure to grease palms means services will not be provided at all or are delayed unduly.
Indeed, some public officials have become so brazen that they even reject offers that they deem inadequate.
We are certainly thrilled by the achievements of the government, such as the infrastructure development, press freedom, the renewed vigour in agricultural activities, the issuance of national identification cards, establishment of the stock market, among others.
But our admonition to the managers of the economy is not to rest on their laurels but continue to implement policies and programmes that will inch Gambia closer to sustainable development, while we encourage the government to do soul searching and look at other very important areas to improve the lives of the citizenry.
In the same way, we pray for attention to be paid to the health sector to address the problem of obsolete and inadequate tools and equipment, since the health of a nation has a direct correlation with its development.
Let us take a cue from the admonition by President Adama Barrow to the country to ensure that we weed out corruption and indiscipline in order to experience true development in The Gambia. The President said “strict measures will be taken to implement the anti-corruption law; therefore, it is best we work towards making The Gambia a model country for public service delivery. I encourage you to work in harmony, with sincerity and wisdom, while promoting peace, stability, and respect for the rule of law.”
We believe that the establishment of the Office of the Special Prosecutor, the passage of the Anti-corruption Bill, coupled with a very proactive Auditor General, will see Gambians being more disciplined and aggressive in the fight against corruption this year.
Another troubling issue is the ‘whom you know’ or ‘connection’ syndrome.
In these days of mass unemployment, it is only those with relatives in high places who get job offers, with or without the relevant qualifications.
This is, indeed, frustrating to the youth who exert themselves to study in order to get good grades in school, only to be sidelined when it comes to employment because they do not have the right links.
Another major challenge confronting the nation is the appalling sanitation situation.
Obviously, the lackadaisical clean-up exercises and initiatives to rid our communities of filth have not helped.
Instead, the poor attitude towards environmental cleanliness and sprawling slums in the Greater Banjul Area without basic sanitation amenities are compounding the situation.
Traders and food vendors sell their wares and food close to stinking gutters all day, oblivious of the stench and the implications on their health and that of their customers.
The list goes on and on. While these things may seem insignificant, they are the little things that draw us back as a nation.
As we embrace the New Year, let us resolve to eschew the petty evils that we do individually but which impact negatively on the country and give it a bad image internationally.
We must resolve to change our old ways by adopting a patriotic approach to the way we do things in order to carve a positive image for ourselves and our nation.
While we are at it, we extend our warmest felicitations to all Gambians in the new year!