By Adetona Kehinde
In my first write-up under this topic, I stated the obvious fact that His Excellency Yahya AJJ Jammeh is the best president The Gambia has ever had. This is quite clear and even his critics cannot deny this simple truth. They accused him of corruption and human rights abuses as if corruption and abuse of human rights were alien to The Gambia before he came to power in 1994. These sets of people hated him for other reasons and corruption and the human rights abuses were simply the face of their deep hatred for Jammeh. The second reason why I am in love with Jammeh is:
His love for his people and The Gambia.
Although I will be talking about love, I will start with hate. Why was he hated so much by the elites and those I will call enemies of the masses?
The enemies of Jammeh or haters can be divided into three groups. The first group are those who hated him simply because he is YAHYA AJJ JAMMEH. Yes, simply for being who he is. This group of people hated him from day one and they cannot reconcile themselves with the fact that he is now their president. To them, it is an abomination for someone like him to be their president and they hated him from day one and did everything within their power to bring his government down. Many became emergency human rights activists and defenders of people’s rights and freedom. The rights and freedom that they failed to protect and defend in Jawara’s regime now became the face of their hatred for Jammeh. In this group were children of corrupt government officers, kids whose parents belonged to the party of the ruling class, and others that got their scholarship to study abroad through the privileged position of their parents or relatives. They believed that Jammeh came to pour sand in their rice.
The second group of haters were those who came to power with him and could not continue the journey due to one reason or the other. Most of those that fell within this group hated him because he stopped them from eating. Many were involved in one form of corruption or the other and they could not stomach the fact that Jammeh that they supported could turn around and stop them from eating. Many ran abroad to escape prosecution and became human rights activists. The funniest thing is that some started talking about Jammeh being corrupt from the comfort of their homes in exile.
The last group were the children of ordinary Gambians that got their scholarship to study abroad on merit due to the system created by Jammeh, travelled outside the country, studied and became enlightened, and then found their voices and started asking questions. This group of people became enemies out of necessity. Many after completing their studies abroad do not want to return to The Gambia simply for economic reasons. In essence, what most of them did was to file behind the other two groups and became enemies of Jammeh to secure asylum. They turned out to be the most vocal as their noise on social media was the only way they could show that Jammeh—who is not even aware of their existence—is a threat to their life if they are forced to return to The Gambia. I know many personally in this group and I have run into some in Europe. Let me tell you about one.
Adama was one of my former students and he lived a very peaceful life in Farafenni. I know his family very well and none of his relatives that I know had ever been threatened in any way to the best of my knowledge. He got a scholarship to study abroad and after three years, Adama suddenly became a very vocal critic of Jammeh on Facebook. He pumped out stories every day and I was forced to visit his family compound to find out if some of what he said about his family members being tortured because they were in the opposition party are true. I was not surprised to discover that everything he does on Facebook is for the sole purpose of getting asylum.
I unfriended him. We met on the street of Manchester two years ago and I challenged him to prove all the lies he spewed out on Facebook and he simply said and I quote “MR KENNY, IT IS ALL FOR PAPERS. JAMMEH WILL EVER BE THE BEST”.
Many Gambians do not know that The Gambia and Singapore gained independence the same year, The Gambia in February and Singapore in August. Many do not know that the British left The Gambia in a better state compared to Singapore, in fact, few gave tiny Singapore much chance of survival when it was granted independence in 1965. How is it, then, that today the former British colonial trading post is a thriving Asian metropolis with not only the world’s number one airline, best airport, and busiest port of trade but also the world’s fourth-highest per capita real income?
Singapore’s charismatic, controversial founding father, whom the West called a dictator was the man that lifted his country from a third world country to a first-class country in just 35 years. The sad thing is that Jawara ruled The Gambia for thirty years without a single television station in The Gambia, ninety percent of the roads were not motorable, a glorified air pad, no single university was established, secondary schools can be counted on fingertips. He ruled for thirty years with nothing to show for it, while someone that the West called a dictator did wonders for his people.
The simple truth is that dictator or dictatorship is defined by the West as it pleases them and it is only used to describe leaders that are trying to lift their people out of poverty. Any Africa leader that is not doing what the West wants is a dictator. Paul Kagame is a dictator, Mugabe was a dictator but Obasanjo of Nigeria that burnt down a whole village is a darling of the West because he was their errand boy. The Eyadema and Bongo family in Togo and Gabon respectively that have been ruling their respective countries with absolute powers for over 50 years are not dictators because France still supports the family.
Jammeh loves his people, he loves The Gambia. Most of what he does was to create a better living standard for the average Gambian. He constructed roads and even BBC acknowledged that The Gambia was the most motorable country in Africa during his tenure. I remembered when I came to The Gambia, the journey from Kaur to Kombo was a two-day journey. He made a campaign promise to the people of Kaur in 2001 that very soon they will be able to go to kombo and back the same day, most people at the campaign ground thought he was joking but by the time he came back to them to seek for re-election, the campaign promise of 2001 had been fulfilled.
He extended the electricity facility to almost all the rural areas in The Gambia. There was no electricity in Kerewan and many urban cities in The Gambia as of 2001 and by 2016, almost all the rural areas of The Gambia including my Kaur have electricity.
Jammeh encouraged and put a lot of resources into agriculture and this greatly benefits the masses. Tractors were provided for rural farmers by his administration. This is one of the reasons why he is massively supported in the provinces. He represents their hope and aspiration. The rate at which the tractors he provided for the rural farmers were seized by the now elite ruling class and sold to themselves at a price that is below 10% of their value shows that the elites were not happy with his programs that favor the masses.
I purposely leave Jammeh’s show of love to the masses on education for the last because it pains me to see The Gambia educational system going down. As a former teacher in Nigeria and The Gambia, I know without any iota of doubt that The Gambia educational system was far better and one of the best in the continent during Jammeh’s government. He invested a lot in this sector for the benefit of the masses. He believes that the only way to lift the masses out of poverty is the provision of quality education. Teachers were highly motivated, salaries and allowances are paid on time, teachers were paid provincial allowances to encourage them to accept teaching jobs in the province. He loves the masses and he will go to any length to make life easy for them.
Is he a dictator?Is he corrupt?
See you in Part 3