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Monday, September 25, 2023

National Assembly and the duplicity of celebrated populists


Dear editor,

Populism is the oxygen of political rivalry in Africa, and the role of its ideologues is the unrelenting rhetoric of pathologising the ruling elite to pave their own road to power. They flirt with this ideology to manage the mindset of the electorate, parading themselves as the ideal alternative to the dismally performing wielders of power.

Populists cite the prevailing economic hardship and substandard living conditions of the masses, which are usually the results of ill-informed policies by those in positions of power, to appeal to the people whose political favour they strive to gain.

What happened in our National Assembly barely a month ago was not only a disappointing erosion of public trust, but also a moment when the masses got to see the true identity of over-glorified opposition politicians whose modus operandi in managing the national wealth, when in the highest positions of power, wouldn’t seem any different from that of those they vociferously criticise on a daily basis.

The delight with which they received and justified these lion’s shares of the national cake made paradox of the Prados in their populist crusade against state-sponsored extravagance.

Those who attempted to justify that unmistakable mess, and in whom partisan politics supersedes the national interest, both within and outside the legislative circle, only colored the thriving populism as a weaponised political phenomenon to demonise the powers.

It is both unfair and illogical to rule out the need for our honorable members to have a car, given the paramountcy of and challenge to their work. But their choice of an expensive brand with an uncompromising rate of fuel consumption was what triggered and sustained public outrage. The decision was, to say the least, miscalculated and ill-timed.

Such a premeditated legislative blunder would not be without consequences in a different democracy, one in which elections are driven by merit and not by primordial affiliations. The citizens would have sensed the self-serving tendencies of their elected servants, and make impartial decisions when the latter come to them to electioneer.

For an ordinary Gambian with an enlightened level of political consciousness, the action of the National Assembly Members (NAMs) could not help but substantiate the overused saying that all politicians are the same, the implication of which becomes the death of meritocracy and consequent fluorishing of mediocrity in our elective public institutions.

It’s still not too late for the NAMs to walk back their decision. With inflation on the rise and sky-high cost of living in the country, being minimalist with their expenditure on transport would invite maximum respect and nourish what remains of public trust.

Musa Touray

Sandu Kuwonku

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