Please allow me space through your medium to once again congratulate Bakary Papa Gassama for being selected to officiate the final of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations final between Ghana and Ivory Coast in the Equatorial Guinea city of Bata on Sunday. This indeed has capped an excellent tournament for the Gambian official. Gambians need not be reminded that this man has played his part well in flying the Gambian flag higher. One of Africa’s top referees, Bakary Papa Gassama has been a shining light in African football and beyond. Arguably, the young official’s influence in and out of the pitch is enormous and heartens us all. There were those who at first regarded him as too inexperienced particularly at the 2014 world cup in Brazil but the young referee stood his ground and won recognition as one of the smartest referees at the tournament.
Remarkably, his recent award as the best referee on the continent which came weeks before Afcon 2015 was staged is his biggest ever achievement one could ever think of. It only speaks volumes of a man who will break greater records. Internationally, Papa is out to serve his time and this he will do very well. I was amazed when I read on this paper a new fans club which was formed in his honour. This could not have come at a better time. Honestly, if anything, Papa should be crowned The Gambia’s personality of the year for the wonderful achievements. Gambians should attach great importance to what Papa Gassama is doing on the global stage.
I am also happy to have understood that a welcome party will be thrown away for the man once he returned from Equatorial Guinea by the Gambia Football Federation. In actual fact, the GFF and by extension, the government have all been supportive to Papa’s cause. The level of encourage and support will only inspire him to work even harder. As a genuine citizen, I think Papa’s place in history has already been shaped and he will make Gambians even prouder.
IEC’s appearance before PAC/PEC and 2016 elections
Please allow me to commend the Independent Electoral Commission for its recent appearance before the lawmakers comprising the public accounts and public enterprises committee of the National Assembly where the electoral body presented its report for the year 2013. The institution highlighted some of the main activities it had embarked upon such as capacity building and voter education. However, I would like to remind the IEC that Gambians are too sensitive to anything that borders on their civil rights and privileges like participation in the 2016 general elections. At the same time, IEC, under leadership of Alhagie Mustapha Carayol has impacted a lot on The Gambia’s electoral landscape for the commission to be discredited as a result of inefficiency in discharging its mandate as sanctioned by the constitution. The institution has decried the issue of low voter turnout and this reconciles to the fact that a lot needs to be done in this regard. I wonder how credible election can be conducted without participation of majority of eligible and registered voters. There has to be a rigorous campaign in this direction as a way of increasing people’s appetite in voting. The commission must understand that much needs to be done in overcoming this great challenge.
I want to suggest that IEC should make use of any relevant ICT means to electrify voter education. Also, there should be collaboration with government on the need to acquire funds to facilitate quicker decentralisation of any sensitisation campaign. Notwithstanding this challenge, IEC has also been advised to make reforms where necessary. I have no doubt in the independence of the body but it has to adjust to the growing needs of our electoral process.
Finally, IEC must realise that the Gambia’s political landscape is undergoing dramatic transformation and whether this holds any appeal in the build-up to next year’s presidential elections remains yet to be seen. Hence, Mr Carayol must be on top of events as they unfold. Gambians believe that the IEC chairman is capable of maintaining the confidence reposed in the commission and will support him towards success and it will necessitate people’s readiness to participate in 2016 general elections.