By Max Jarju
Once again I cannot be silenced without participation in the mayoral election debate in the Kanifing Municipal Council, a constituency that plays an important role in the business and political life of The Gambia. I also felt that it is injustice if I don’t condemn or expose Mr Pa Njie Girigara’s admission of pay-to-play politics because of so-called past political donations to United Democratic Party . In his recent article ‘Pa Njie Girigara Calls On The UDP Leadership To Withdraw From The KMC Mayoral Race’, Mr Njie asked for political favouritism in return when he claimed that: “I Pa Njie Girigara do solemnly declare in front of all Gambians that if the UDP has an ounce of honour and patriotic blood in their veins, they should simply withdraw from the KMC race as a sign of gratitude for me for what I have personally done for them in the past when help and assistance was needed most while many people beating their chest today were nowhere to be seen.”
The question I have for Mr Njie is: Did he contribute to UDP for his personal interest or for the supreme interest of the country which he claimed to love?
The implication of Mr Njie’s own words indicates that he contributed financially to UDP political struggle for his personal interest which is why he stated that the UDP “should show him gratitude for what he has personally done for them when help and assistance was needed the most“. This statement is also absurd, disgraceful and it has the mark of self-entitlement. We do not need politicians who use their personal contributions in the political process as a means to benefit from backroom deals or political favours. It is such practices that lead to corruption and mismanagement of public resources. During 22 years of military dictatorship, many greedy politicians or businessmen engaged in political favoritism to enrich themselves at the expense of ordinary citizens. The goal of any political donation or contribution should be geared toward economic and social development of citizenry but not expectation of favour in business or political interests.
Mr Njie’s statements above also indicate the highest level of seeking preferential treatment that any corrupt politician could express and request. Pa Njie failed to remind himself that there were many patriotic Gambians who have lost their lives in the struggle to restore democracy and constitutional rule in The Gambia but their family members never asked for political favours. Any politician who asks for political favours in return for any past political contribution is not fit to occupy public office – a position designed for improvement of the lives of citizenry.
I have extensive interactions with Mr Pa Njie Girigara on kaironews where he used pseudonyms like “Deyda Hydara”. During the course of our debates prior to the formation of the opposition coalition, Mr Njie claimed to be a strong supporter of the UDP and even promised to donate two million dalasis to the opposition coalition if the opposition political leaders agree to work together in the spirit of unity to remove dictatorship from the country. But as soon as the opposition coalition was formed, Mr Njie not only failed his promise to give two million dalasis to the opposition coalition but also abandoned The UDP to join GDC leader, Mamma Kandeh who supported dictatorial policies and laws for ten years in the National Assembly to entrench former dictator Yahya Jammeh in power.
Mr Njie has never been consistent in the fight to remove dictatorship from The Gambia. He was a Jammeh supporter before he became a so-called UDP supporter. He changed political parties like a political prostitute who is always looking for political recognition and business interest. This is evidence by his latest claim that UDP should be grateful and show gratitude to him for the support of his candidacy as a result of past contributions to the party. Mr Njie’s public request of political gratitude or favour from UDP leadership as a result of past contributions is an illegal endorsement and seeking of political favoritism. It is also against basic principles of democracy and rule of law which encourage citizens’ participation in fair political process.
The use of political contributions as a means to seek favours in business dealings or seeking political office is highest form of political corruption. Such an irresponsible and illegal political behaviour is called “pay-to-play” which leads to total oppression of voters choice. Pay-to-play enables politicians to award government contracts to their financial contributors or donors at the expense of taxpayers. In many advanced countries, pay-to-play is classified as bribery. It is therefore fair to categorically state that Mr Pa Njie has corrupt intentions and his contributions to UDP at the time was designed for pay-to-play which he has now publicly admitted. This disqualifies him to seek the position of mayor in Kanifing Municipality election and GDC should also express distaste at such corrupt practices in their midst. The leadership of GDC has once again failed to learn from their past mistakes and this time they allowed an individual who publicly admitted his political contributions as “pay-to-play” to be their party choice of candidate.
I hope the new administration will formulate legislation that would discourage pay-to-play politics in the country if there is no existing law to deal with such political bribery.
The Gambian people have started to enjoy basic freedoms and democracy which we were all yearning for in the past two decades. What is amazing is that everyone is claiming credit but no one wants to give credit to the real people (true freedom fighters) who put their lives and everything on the line to salvage the country from dictatorial rule. Many heroes who contributed significantly are today silently observing our political leadership because their efforts were simply based on love for country but not seeking political position or business favour. True freedom fighters are never concerned about benefits of political positions but are genuinely concerned about better living conditions and freedom of their fellow citizens.
We must instill in ourselves the idea of selfless sacrifices so that young people will recognise that selfless sacrifices bring freedom, justice and democracy. This will also promote patriotism and standing up for what is morally right for our country. Selfless sacrifice is not the same as pay-to-play. Pay-to-play politics is an enemy of participatory democracy and economic empowerment of the citizenry.