by Nasir Hashim Hydara,
It may be considered late, but before it is too late I owe to say congratulations to the Africa most peaceful people of the Gambia on the having a rare regime change – a change that is expected to usher in a life of abundance rounded by the glory of God whom they worship in their Mosques and Churches – a change from a practically despotic monarchy in disguise to a freely and fairly elected government of the people, for the people and by the people of the Gambia.
Yahya Jammeh, the world highest holder of titles starting from Sheikh, Professor, Dr., Alhaji, Nasiruddeen, Babilimansa, Colonel to A J J, has ruled the tiny political entity from 1994 – 2017. After two years of stay in the Gambia, I came to Nigeria to my surprise, read on Daly Trust newspaper a small piece of writing in which somebody said, “The president of Gambia is richer than his country”. Having known that the writer got it wrong, I only laughed. To an average Nigerian, this is at least very surprising and at most rather unbelievable. To people who were familiar with the political reality of the Gambian nation, knew very much that the situation was far worse than what the above writer thought, and indeed worse than any imagination. As a matter of fact, former president Jammeh had under his absolute control both human and material resources of the Gambia. In short Mr. Jammeh owed everything in that small West African polity. That was why I deemed it suitable to qualify him a despotic monarch. As a careful observer of social and political lives, I lived in the country to watch the movements of public vehicles, such as those of military, police, immigration, custom etc. all of which have on their bodies written boldly, “Donated by Sheikh professor, Dr. , Alhaji Yahya AJJ Jammeh”. The same vehicles also carried Jammeh’s most carefully selected pictures. Also, I used to pass by myriad of public facilities in Serekunda, Banjul, Birikama, Basse, Bara, Bwiam etc. – all of them donated by Mr. Jammeh. Mr. Jammeh came to the position of Gambian leadership as military colonel. He became Professor and Dr. shortly after upgrading the only Gambian College to University capacity. He became Sheikh and Nasiruddeen for regular act of financial donations to Muslim leaders and for building a few worshiping facilities. He became Babilimansa for building a single bridge far less than Lagos bridge both in length and width.
It was pathetic however; Gambians were hitherto unaware that something was amiss in both the political and economic systems of their country. Gambians, as far as I know could neither openly nor secretly criticize Mr. Jammeh and his leadership style. I can remember that on many occasions, I attempted to engage my friends and neighbors in conversation on socio-economic and political experiences of Gambian daily life. To my dismay, every attempt was flatly rejected. While the courageous would immediately ask me to leave the matter, the cowards would abruptly vamoose. The fact remained that, most Gambians held the belief that Mr. Jammeh was an unparalleled Marabout, and he had an effective control of some mysterious beings, perhaps Jinns who always acquainted him with every happening throughout the Gambian soil.
In fact, Gambian People pathetically endured unimaginable socio-economic bondage for 23 bad years. Alas rather than fighting hard to break the obdurate bondage, they disappointedly always turned en-masse to celebrate Mr. Jammeh’s extravagant birth day party throughout those years of “Jammecratic” servitude.
Now, change has at long last come but then, we pray that is the case as it is too early to judge the political and economic policies, programmes and performances of the newly elected president, Mr. Adama Barrow. We also pray that the newly elected president would remain Simply Mr. Adama Barrow – not aspire for the titles of Sheikh without vast knowledge of Qur’an and Islamic science, Professor/Dr. with no deep knowledge in Secular education, Nasiruddeed without religious sacrifice and Babilimansa for building a singular bridge.
Mr. Barrow who has been chosen by a coalition of seven opposition parties as an endorsed candidate, and finally got elected in 2016 by a large number of Gambian electorates has to work hard to satisfy lots of expectations.
Mr. Barrow is expected to introduce effective and efficient political and economic reforms; he is expected to initiate a friendly foreign policy; he is expected to adopt a world standard financial system; he is expected to improve the socio-economic well-being of the Gambian people; he is expected to provide adequate infrastructures; he is expected to provide more educational facilities; he is expected to improve the condition of the already existing ones; he is expected to establish viable and autonomous public corporations; he is expected to come up a well-designed and very sharp and effective tool of propaganda (not propaganda of falsehood and deception but propaganda that keeps hope in the minds of citizens, and trigger efforts towards success); he is expected also as promised, to set up a temporary transition government consisted of members from opposition coalition, and then step down within three (3) years. The expectations are too many for human president to meet .The truth is, Mr. Barrow alone is not capable of rescuing the Gambia from the depth of ocean where his predecessor sank it. It will do you no good if you stay back home and keep insulting Barrow because he does not claim to have control of some super natural agents. Whereas the secret of success is always in co-operation, the secret of weakness is in division. To gather you stand, divided you fall. Thus, the success of Mr. Barrow’s government takes the synergy of all Gambian citizens. Contribution can be offered at every level not only at the level of public service.
All Mr. Barrow has to do is to allow for freedom of speech and press as guaranteed in democratic culture. All Gambian citizens are equal in the eyes of their creator and in the eyes of the Gambian constitution. The citizens therefore devoid of any discrimination should be allowed to derive pleasure in their God given (natural) and political rights. Mr. Barrow must not enjoy political power for 23 years and end up squatting on a foreign land in central Africa. He must not dare repeat the mistake made by his predecessor. He must realize that the future of the Gambian society is not in his hand only. He should understand that with or without him Gambia will pave way ahead.
I was glad when I came to understand that two years after I had left Gambia, many of my young colleagues and students were working hard on the Gambian University campus. This category of people is the future of the Gambian society. They therefore deserve maximum attention, motivation and support from President Barrow’s administration.
I finally call on all Gambian people not to hesitate but strive hard – to take part actively in the political games of your country. You should realize that Professor Yahya Jammeh and his mysterious assistants have neither place in the Gambian geographical territory nor in its political space any more. So, you can now freely speak and write against any political gimmicks or social buahaha. The young men particularly, must as a matter of urgency stop reducing themselves to mere sexual instruments to the minority white women in the Gambia. For the young ladies, I wish you a greater opportunity in the present administration, but you must realize that this is an era of social re-orientation – not an era of body celebration (full stop)
NASIR HASHIM HYDARA