Governance is about involvement; it is about participation; it is about listening to what citizens have to say. It is not a show of defending yourself or reacting to criticisms and opinions that are geared towards enhancing political accountability. Of recent, the government under your leadership has been involved in a political rumpus, just a few moments after engaging two leading political figures at the Police headquarters on certain political statements they have made. These we would consider threats to our nascent democracy.
It ought to be understood that every Gambian, ordinary or politician has opinions and they ought to be expressed without being subjected to any form of condemnation. Every opinion in our country matters today just as every individual matters. From the very day you came to office, the first advice given was for you to be open to criticisms, especially those constructive ones that are geared towards bettering the Gambia. Criticisms are born out of opinions and opinions are representative of how we view issues.
The statement by Halifa Sallah, that we have a government change, not a system change is highly opinionated and ought to be respected. You may certainly disagree with him based on your own opinion as well, but that does not make his own wrong and should not have forced you or your office to react, in fact over-react. Halifa just as any other politician in the coalition is part of this new government. He and the PDOIS are not oppositions. This remains a fact that cannot be changed until there is a new government led by a different single political party. I personally consider the response to his statement as unnecessary which could have been avoided. The response raises the question of whether you consider Halifa to be in the opposition camp and a threat for that matter.
Mr. President, making the claim that the Gambia witnessed a government and not system change is subjected to various understandings. When Jammeh took over the country in 1994 through a military intervention, he called the overthrow a ‘revolution’.
Sound-minded individuals raised a big question mark; whether the overthrown was a revolution or not. Various literatures including Mary Maucley’s explanation of a revolution in the book ‘Soviet Politics; from 1917 to 1991’which witnessed the takeover of government by the Bolshevik party in the former USSR, a revolution does not only mean change of government but extends to the general reordering of the society. This therefore means that we do not only change a government and call it a revolution, but something special, as in change of the entire system has to be effected.
We would therefore disqualify Jammeh’s takeover as a revolution because nothing special has changed in the system at the time. Corruption was endemic in the Jawara government and it became even worse in Jammeh’s government from the very day of the takeover. If we would call it a revolution then we may call it a negative one but hence revolution has to be positive in my understanding, then we may not want to go deep in qualifying the takeover as a revolution. In 1994 therefore, Gambians witnessed government change and not system change as the same bad system remained since Jammeh himself was part of the Jawara system as a military officer.
Now to the 2016 democratic overthrow of Jammeh. Indeed a government was changed and replaced by another, the government you are leading today. The lack of change of system may not be your fault Mr. President since system change comes with attitudinal change from the citizenry, commitment to create a new society through a revolution, but the government must take a leading role in effecting that change.
Indeed we are yet to witness a system change. This may be bitter to utter but is the fact. The attitude Gambians had since 1965 remains with no changes. Sycophancy still remains the major characteristic of our society. Holding our government to account is discouraged since criticizing the actions of government tantamount to being an enemy of the president, government and even the state as some will perceive it. The Gambia where the leader is seen to be infallible remains.
The Gambia where citizens are ignorant of their fundamental rights, including the right to hold government to account remains. The Gambia where politics of ideas remains in the trash bin and that of personality continues. This insinuates that we as a people have only changed the driver and the apprentice but the car and the passengers remain. The system we envisage is where every Gambian will be proud of his citizenship and have the hope that YES the future is a promising one, where our liberties will be guaranteed and the prosperity of our people furthered by the government.
Mr. President, a rejoinder coming from the presidency that it is easier for Sallah to criticise than to join in the government and make the Gambia a better country is the least we expect. Of recent, the government’s statements have been miscalculated. Last week, we were told that the vehicles you have donated to MPs came from an unknown supporter which was highly unexpected. Such a response with those ‘achievements’ was very unnecessary. I do not know your advisers, but you may have the wrong ones. Always calculate what you utter. It is very important in government.
Yours in the service of the nation