By Lamin Njie
I will put this plainly: Gambians are funny. One moment they’re straight-thinking, another moment they’re blinkered. It’s something I’ve become used to now.
It’s been Nogoi Njie mostly the past few days, a consequence of a WhatsApp audio message where the Mandinari woman was heard speaking about her health. Her audio has sparked a lot of noise. Except that I wasn’t entirely pleased.
Nogoi formed a key part of an unprecedented protest in April 2015 even if it sadly left dead the man who fronted it. Solo Sandeng died shortly after the protest. There’s also the fact that four others have died at various points from 2016 to date. Nogoi might not have died but her health has been an issue since. During one tell-all in court in 2017, she said she was beaten after her arrest. Her case is one too many.
The Gambia is still reeling from the APRC government’s misdeeds. And what Nogoi said in her audio only lays bare the deep impact of these misdeeds. The audio tells of vile, of pain, of trauma. The full extent of it is still emerging. I do feel sorry for Nogoi.
I have to say Nogoi and anyone who is a victim of abuse during Jammeh’s rule have every right to whine and it’s on us all to pay attention. The now-loud-enough-outcry that trails Nogoi’s audio shows we’re paying attention. Just that it comes mostly in the form of attacks on the government and that’s what I was not happy with.
The fact, quietly blatantly, is that government is not necessarily obligated to the plight of these people. It could only be if there was a lawsuit against a previous government of which this one too is liable as in the case of people like Deyda Hydara and Ebrima Chief Manneh. Therefore, whatever this government decides to do for these people will only be a mere matter of privilege since what these people did is only of them. It’s special what they did for their country really.
Another thing many of us have lost sight of is that it was not a campaign pledge of this government that it will start sending people who need medical care abroad for treatment. What this government pledged was to establish a commission to probe such things in an effort to find the truth, pin culpability where culpability should be pinned and offer compensation where compensation should be offered. The launch of the TRRC early this month goes to tell me this promise is not flat-lining. To ignore this seems deliberately obtuse to me.
I think the response in the case of Nogoi has been massive. We’ve seen the President’s wife visiting the woman to see if she could help in anyway. I also understand people have since started contributing money to help her. These are all things to commend, alright.
Yet, there are people who have frowned at these efforts, the First Lady’s in particular. They have slammed her over what they call her lack of interest. That her response was enforced. This, to me, is not true. The First Lady was simply doing what each and every one of us should also do.
In many ways, I see the Nogoi matter as a matter for all us. The change we all enjoy today came through hard work. We all contributed but we’re not equals in the contribution. Nogoi and co are up there. What they deserve is our collective respect and support. And we have no bloody right to accuse the government or anyone of anything, save those who meted out abuse to these people.