This conversation that Barrow and his cabinet killed the draft constitution is absurd. The idea that is evoked when words like “killed” or “aborted” are uttered are selfishness and insensitivity. But in reality, the draft constitution was cursed with failure by the CRC when its first draft emerged. Surprisingly, what is never discussed is Hon Darboe’s position on the first draft constitution and the CRC partial treatment of Barrow and Dorboe’s reservation on it.
In his interview with Star TV: Race To State House show host, Malick Jones; Hon Darboe did not mince words in tersely outlining his and UDP’s position on the first draft constitution if the clause that bars him from contesting for the presidency after his politically motivated conviction is not removed. In his words “UDP will campaign against the draft constitution if that clause discriminating against me is not removed”. Whether is was by sheer design or divine, the CRC unscrupulously modified the clause disqualifying Darboe to stand as a presidential candidate. Contritely, the retrogressive clause discriminating Barrow on the two-term limit remained untouched. Interesting. Darboe’s threat of UDP campaigning against the draft constitution yielded dividend while Barrow’s concern was trashed as irrelevant.
Like Darboe, Barrow equally has every right to campaign against the same draft that discriminate against him. Thankfully, Barrow showed leadership in not publicly threatening to campaign against the draft if the CRC did not modify the clause which disadvantaged him as an incumbent. Perhaps, that explains why the CRC decided to ignore Barrow’s concerns on the draft. Was it because Barrow is a softie who doesn’t issue threats?
The other disheartening factor assisting in the early demise of the draft constitution is blind partisan approach towards it. Even though many laughed their stress off on Majanko Samusa’s deliberation on the drafted, he pointed a fundamental malaise shrouding the National Assembly: a worrisome political divide. Ideally, the draft constitution despite its many distasteful clause could have been allowed a second and third reading by agreeing to work as a collective assembly on compromise. For instance, modifying the retrogressive element on the term limit, judges’ gratuity etc. Every Gambian is in agreement with the term limit etc. Unfortunately, each camp wanted to flex its partisan muscles losing sight of national interest.
Bullying of certain MPs equally hastened the death of the draft constitution. There is not wrong in lobbying your MP to vote for your policy or bill of interest but to threaten your MP was an overboard. This brings to mind the proverbial forbidden fruit taste sweetest. Not everyone gives in to threats or bullying kindly. Persuasion is an inexpensive powerful weapon which our political discourse lacks. Not everything is gained by executing sembo. Manenero has a magical touch that melts stony hearts.
Oftentimes we find it convenient to pass blame on leadership for our very own making. It is the mind of a person that makes the personality. That was why Steve B Biko asserted “The most sophisticated weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed”. Thus, as a striving democracy we the citizens need to recalibrate not only our mindset but attitude towards everyday life. The scheming, backstabbing, lying and infighting amongst ourselves are not concocted by the leadership but weak, corrupt and incompetent people who want easy rewards and benefits without putting in adequate effort. Thus, we must first fight that devil in us instead of blaming others for our misfortunes.
As a senior civil servant, you shy away from expressing your feelings and thoughts as a private citizen even though your conscience keeps nagging you to man up and say something. Public officials are not meant to be partisan or commenting on political issues. Well, don’t you know you have a private life too different from your public persona? Yes, you may not be speaking as a Director of X or Protocol Y, but as Saul Jeng. In sum, there should be a clear divide between Saul Jeng and Protocol Y. Therefore, strong institutions and political systems are not readily given on a silver platter by leadership. It is the people collective efforts and their persistent demand that will result it. But when a few are fighting while the majority are resisting it will be a long hard battle to win. Do we speak as a collective voice demanding such fundamental values or as partisan? The resolve of a determined people is mightier than the power of any executive. So, my point is our leadership is a reflection of us.