I refer to the acclaimed interview #FreedomNewspaper recently had with Gambian academician, Dr Ismaila Ceesay. If only you’d take time carefully listen to it and what it is that informed his reasonings, one is to be found suitably positioned to understand his postulation. His former student and colleague, Prof Sait Matty Jaw, recently summarised him best on his role at the heart of Gambia’s academia.
Before any further, i thought this quote best explains the intersection Gambian politics is at today. The American writer, Mark Twain (1835 – 1910) defined ‘patriotism‘ as, ‘supporting your country all the time, and your government [only] when it deserves it.’
In essence, i do not see a need to defend Dr Ceesay, for his contributions & record of excellence throughout Gambia’s socio-politico life speaks volumes in of itself! But again how very foolish certain people stoop so low trying to dirt someone as honourable. I see integrity & humility for a man which does not allow even to attempt what this great son of The Gambia mean to us all. However, i report to you that some of the brightest, rational thinking Gambians serving the country today in such diverse fields as departments, local government, the army and so on, strategically inclined towards a better & prosperous Gambia, also happen to be ex-students of Dr Ceesay.
To those hiding behind the keyboard perpetuating false narratives, take a moment check yourself & while at it, try a bottle of ‘Gam-Juice’, for a healthy refreshment drink in the sunshine. In no mood to offend here for we see the Gambian as a single unit, of sisterly/brotherly connections. But there is a need to upscale our politics & debates away from ‘partisan/petty politics’ all too commonplace on social media marketplace. I ask, what happened to ‘aspirational politics’ seeing how Rwanda, Ghana, Singapore and so many ‘people’ are rising whilst uplifting each other??? In his interview, one striking statement Dr Ceesay raised was that ‘politics, like any other trade, requires a level of knowhow or skill which may only attain through a certain bar of educational training. Because without that, one is bound to fail, overstep, even break limits with regards to the operation of statecraft. Why are some people uneasy about that, or found to be insulting?
One such libelous countering came from a certain Gambian DC resident. Blind-sided and Flabbergasting to say the least, for i’d expect that sort of unruly remarks lacking merit from a layman, not a man of his standing. I respect Ebou Ngum, and draw his attention to stipulations in the lawbook, then to the ‘First Amendment’in US constitution as guarantor of free speech – a right Dr Ceesay merely exercised in that interview. Although i do not adjudge him to be of any party political stripes, the commonality that seem to rile up the ‘upsetees’,’surrogates’ was when president Barrow’s ‘competence’ was questioned in that interview. Lazy questions soon emerged as ”where was Dr ceesay when we were fighting Jammeh”, as if that was a ‘Fatwa’ or ‘Decree’ to lock up in arms. Listen, with all the problems in the Gambia today, from left, right and centre, the fact that local media is trying to make mountain out of a molehill frightens. Given the concern in recent WAEC results, agriculture, avoidable deaths in our hospitals, poverty numbers, unemployment rate, rising food prices to report on, why is it that some Gambians like to create controversy where none exist?!
In that #FreedomRadio interview, Dr Ceesay also called for a maximum two-term presidential term limit, which i believe most Gambians will assign to; and for a ‘fifty percent (50%) win benchmark to reflect in the draft constitution. Certainly, such nice tools and many others he put across will help advance Gambia’s democracy, i draw caution to the ‘latter’ due to the uncertain nature a second round vote represents. My observation is that no political party in the Gambia, today, shall win an outright fifty percent (50%) at the next presidential election, thus a second round vote beacons. The fear though, the longer a country has to wait for declared results and runoffs, the more uncertainty persists. The danger here, especially for an unprepared electorate who may take the law into their own hands could lead to heightened security crackdowns, even looting given ‘prevailing’ uncertainty in the run up to a ‘second vote’. I think the first-past-the-post model suits Gambia and Africa – simply because most politicians are selfish who see politics as a means to get rich – as seen with post-elections violence in Kenya & Zimbabwe in recent times.
Those are questions for the drafters to contend with – and i hope they will consult widely with Gambian academics at UTG towards a sober document. I appeal to the administration – do not sideline nor fear your own academics practising at high institutions of learning in the country, but to accommodate & listen to their advice and concerns towards efficient governmental strategising. That is the norm in the United Kingdom, Singapore and prosperous democracies around the world. Why would government spend huge sums on quote unquote advisors when the very best advice could be sort from Gambian experts our the University, and technocrats at the ministries themselves but overlooked. China’s leaders, today, turn to its university academicians for advice (CPP)’Politburo’ on complex matters of political-economy. I ask again, why is it that in the Gambia, just maybe Africa, whenever an intellectual speaks truth to power, the tendency is to cast them ‘unloyal’ as if ‘twitter Trump’s America? To such people i ask again, if they ever get to watch Senegalese politics or Prime minister’s ‘House of Commons’ debate in the United Kingdom as to what accountable governance entails?! Gambians of a higher standing understood complexities facing the country as captured in Dr Ceesay message with regards to critical security challenges, which can only help the administration. We know the president does read on issues, but for a few around him still unwise to the tide of history. In good faith, we remind every portfolio holder to be observant of ethics in the execution of daily responsibilities. That is a bare minimum and standard Gambians expect from say regional Governors, highway traffic-man to the tax collector counting dalasis & bututs.
Finally, an appeal to all Gambians to shift away from pettiness which has drawn a wedge in our midst, even drove away talent the country could otherwise do with. To be clear, one isn’t against oneself or any other being called out within reason, however such criticism should be fact-based on issues that matter & advance the country. At such a crucial time in our history with so much at stake, questions as ‘where was such and such’ seem very petty & trivial, for certain acts require ‘covert’ means and that not every Gambian is an extrovert loudmouth in the fight against a brutal dictator. Talking to young Gambians over the past fiften months, Dr Ceesay’s name would often pop up, grateful for knowledgeable wisdom and drive instilled during their stint at the university. Today, these are the very bright young Gambians contributing their part in nation building. I say to the detractors, as few the case may be, we value him highly, and that of every other Gambian that #cares4country, #HonestPolitics. The very people holding president Barrow and his cabinet accountable without malice, are the true patriots going by Mark Twain’s definition. For blind loyalty/sycophancy is a trap to nowhere, if you don’t believe me ask former president Yahya Jammeh. On Seedy Njie’s defection to ‘Team Barrow’, you see, there is a certain standard of education which when one attains, such trappings of material wealth and hero worship takes backseat – indeed, knowledge is wisdom.
Gibril Saine, Twitter @gibbysaine