With Lamin Cham
Sheikh Tijan Hydara is native of Brufut where his father, the late Sheriff Kebba Hydara was the sheriffiya caliph. He was educated at the Gambia High School from 1981 to 87 where he completed GCE A levels. He proceded to read Law at the University of Sokoto, Nigeria gradauting with an LL B combining Islamic and Common law. He also obtained a BL at the Nigeria Law School in Lagos, Nigeria in 1997. Hydara went on to pursue a diploma in legislative drafting at Lok-Shaba, New Delhi, India between 1999 and 2000. He finally obtained his LLM at the University of West Indies, Barbados in 2002. In between these academic pursuits, Hydara worked in various capacities at the Minstry of Justice ranging from state counsel, principal legal draftsman, curator of intestate to registrar of companies.
On 17th November, 2003, he was appointed attorney general and minster of justice where he served until 2006 when he went on to lecture law at the University of The Gambia as well as running a diary farm. In 2014, he set up the private law firm called Lex-Fori Law Chambers at Bakau New Town. Earlier this week, Mr Hydara completed registering his polictical party, the Gambia Alliance for National Unity, GANU. In this Q&A interview, Mr Hydara talked to The Standard editor, Lamin Cham, about his new crusade, politics and related matters.
The Standard: What does Ganu stand for?
Sheikh Tijan Hydara: Our standpoint is to bring about real change that people are yearning for. Ganu is a progressive party that will usher The Gambia into real progress, peace, and prosperity. I am not in the business of elaborating or embellishing programmes on paper. I believe in action.
Why should Gambians trust Ganu among all the parties?
Looking at the current political situation of the country, we are more divided than ever before, despite the democratic system we have in place and Ganu, bearing this in mind, knows we need a party that will help us move forward and be better as a nation by fostering tolerance, reconciliation, and respect. This means providing equal opportunity to all Gambians regardless of religion, ethnicity or social status.
For the past few years, we sang the songs of joy of a New Gambia. But the New Gambia is a project that has become a dismal failure before it even started. We must revive the New Gambia project. We must revive our democracy. We must give birth not just to a new nation but to a strong, fair, determined and responsible leadership. This can be found right here in Ganu. The failure of our national leadership is not beyond our control. We must hold them accountable and in doing so, we must do it responsibly and with honour and dignity to our national anthem, our national flag, and our national pledge. This is what it means to be patriotic citizens: to pledge our firm allegiance to our nation and not to our individual goals and desires. The greater interest of The Gambia and her children is far more important than that of any political party or individual dream. This is why Ganu will be a party that will give us The Gambia we need, The Gambia we want, The Gambia we wish for and dream of and The Gambia we all desire. Government after government, leadership after leadership have sold our nation and left us with obscene debt. It will be a shame for us to leave the future generation of Gambians with the burden of paying for a debt that has not even been of benefit to their parents or grandparents. They cannot build a progressive nation on a lifeline of credit. We must have a government that will manage our meagre resources and help improve our standard of living and build better infrastructure by helping our cotton and other small businesses to grow into corporations with national and international repute that will hire Gambians and pay them adequately through tax reforms and incentives for them to grow opportunities.
What next for Ganu because you must have some catching up to do with the elections only 18 months to go.
We are not actually very new to most people. Already we have our structures in place. Some of the executive members have conducted several tours across the country and have interacted with a lot of communities especially in the Kombos and the provincial areas. We have set up a central executive committee and we have been conducting several meetings at my residence. We are in touch with supporters and militants of our party and we are good to go. We know the constraints faced by farmers, women, and the young people and at the level of the central government, we know the problems of the civil servants. We have solutions for their constraints and challenges, and we are going to fix them once we take over office.
We have a tremendous support from the youths and women in the Kombos and the provinces and we are already known throughout the country. Very soon we will apply for a permit from the police after the Covid-19 pandemic for our first rally and we will conduct a nationwide tour to officially introduce the party to Gambians. People have been hearing about us, but we have now arrived, we are finally here to fix and develop The Gambia. Ganu is a party for all Gambians and we welcome everyone onboard.
Why did you venture into politics?
Yes, it is true that my family lineage is a marabout dynasty but that does not stop us from participating in the country’s political process. I decided to join politics because it is a fundamental aspect of democracy and it is one way of participating to bring about the change people are yearning for. I saw the need to support Gambians and provide solutions to the country’s development challenges, which can only be done by competing for the country’s top position. So, the coming of Ganu means the birth of a progressive political party that would usher The Gambia into the era of real progress, peace, and prosperity. Ganu is a blessing for this country because we will provide solutions to this country’s problems.
People who know your family speculate that your father, a revered marabout would not have wanted you to go into politics?
My dad initially had not wanted me to venture into politics but later he allowed me to carry on. He knew my intention is to participate to make a positive change towards the country’s development process. Perhaps, the perception of many people is that politics is a field especially in developing countries where people will tell you all sorts of bad things and that could be a reason why he initially didn’t want me to take part in the political process. However, with Ganu, we are into progressive politics of ideas, and plans to develop our nation. We will not be bullying people or engage in any form of misconduct in our politics. We have disciplined supporters and members and we shall continue to guide and advise our members to respect everyone irrespective of their gender, political affiliation, tribe, or religion.
How did your family and community of Brufut receive you?
My family is behind me and of course Brufut, the Kombos and many other areas across the country. I have a strong support in the Kombos and the provinces. The people of Brufut know that I am friendly and have been participating in the community’s development. I have been donating to the people of Brufut and the most recent donation was when the coronavirus pandemic outbreak started. Critics can say I am not sociable because they don’t know all the good gestures I am doing for the people of this country. You can ask people in Brufut about me and they will tell you how supportive I am. I have been doing a lot even for people I don’t know. I have been helping some families, paying school fees for some students, and assisting a lot more but I don’t publicise these good gestures. I believe when I support people, I should not say it out there or publicise it. I have helped so many wholeheartedly, but I don’t have to say it. I do it for the sake of Allah.
Ever since it became known that you are interested in politics, a certain Lamin Baldeh has been throwing dirt on you online and recently he accused you of stealing 15,000 euros. Did you?
That is not true. I did not receive 15,000 euros from the Lamin Baldeh. In fact, the person is using a fake account. And all I can tell you is that our lawyers are handling that.
You seem to have lot of female admirers, why?
I am married, of course. There are a lot of women in my party and they are very committed and hard working. Women of this country are champions of development. They are in every development sector and work all year round. I salute their courage and steadfastness in the country’s development. Ganu is a party for all, especially women and the young people. We believe in women empowerment and we will empower the young people and women if we are elected into office. We will be different from other parties and politicians who will use women only for election to get their votes and when they are in power, tend to forget them. A Ganu government will ensure most women are elected and appointed into higher offices to be part of the decision makers in this country.
You worked with former president Jammeh as attorney general and his chief legal adviser at a time many human right abuses occured. Are you not already tainted as his enabler?
Yes, I worked under Jammeh’s government as attorney general and minister of justice, but I served my nation to the best of my ability in a professional manner. I am not a Jammeh enabler. Instead I have tried on several occasions to rectify him where he may possibly have gone wrong and sometimes, he took my advice but sometimes he did not. Of course, we all know how Jammeh used to work. When he wanted to do anything, nobody can stop him and even if you advise him, he would still do what he wanted. In short, I was working for my country and not for Jammeh. I served my country with dignity. I was committed and dedicated to duty and many people can attest to that including some senior lawyers and senior government officials both past and present.
Finally, as a lawyer, what is your take on the current draft constitution some part of which have engendered a lot of debate?
The new draft constitution is good. A lot of work has been done in it. I am also concerned about the issue of human rights. The constitution should protect the rights of every citizen regardless of one’s religion or colour. I congratulate the CRC team for a job well done. I am appealing to all Gambians to support Ganu, the progressive party for one Gambia, one nation and one people.
Thank you and good luck.