By Gibril Saine
Once Upon a Time – The nomenclature ”P.P.P” stood more or less synonymous with country-tag ‘The Gambia’. It came to signal a stabilised (Dalasi) currency and of affordable food prices for ordinary families in their daily sustenance. But it signifies something else – sovereignty – for a jurisdiction to be a centre for peaceful diplomacy. The PPP is the political home of Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, erstwhile agriculture minister, Omar Amadou Jallow (OJ), and of credibility in external affairs. It also happens to be the party of Alhagie Omar Sey, Alhaji Lamin Kitty Jabang, and of men and women across the land. The era of president Jawara represent a time when Banjul stood excellent as the hub of choice to conduct regional diplomacy, peacekeeping and peace-building exercises – supplanted by ‘Dakar’ in later times.
Mr Papa Njie, newly elected Secretary General of that illustrious political party has a lot on his plate if he is to revive and lead ‘anew’. He has lots to learn and live up to follow in the footsteps and avoid, mishaps, of the Jawara regime if he is to reinvent glory days PPP manuscript presents. Although i do not know the fella, indisposed to judge of Mr Njie’s leadership qualities, he seem a kindly man.
Writing the article, one sort for a comparative see-through on the times and legacy of sir Dawda, in relation to the ‘now’. To get close, one need not but to read the autobiography, Kairaba, relive nerving excellence and vision that great man possess. To underscore his democratic credentials, president Jawara had this to say in the runup to the 1982 general elections – ‘pressed’ to explain separate dates for electing a president and national assembly members respectively:
‘Well i think it’s neater and better in many ways; in the former (Cabinet) system of voting whereby the president is chosen through voting for members of parliament. It restricts the choice of the electorate. It’s fairer to the electorate to vote for who they want for president and those to represent them in parliament. With the new (Presidential) system, it is conceivable to have a president elected to a party ticket or as an independent who in fact may not command a majority in parliament .. [therefore] have to bargain with [other] political parties.’
Speaking at a press conference recently on the crisis that greeted the party after the 2018 congress, PPP leader, Papa Njie, was quoted as saying ”what happened in the past should be used to build today and the future.” Conciliatory terms indeed keeping internal squabbles in-house. But again, his appearance on QTV’s flagship program, Viewpoint, as it turned out but a rather dull affair. Given all the problems in the country, there was no question on how PPP plans to transform agriculture, education, renewable energy, infrastructure, plans for Banjul, revival of domestic industry and jobs. No mention of national security either, relations with Senegal or his plans on food ‘rice’ self-sufficiency??? All registered political parties in the country need to strategize, come up with better policies – not wild promises – but deliverable plans that improve and advance the lives of ordinary Gambians.
This is not a call on Mr Njie to follow in president Jawara’s footsteps, nor criticism as such. For him to learn the political ropes properly, he has to travel across the country visit local towns and villages, schools, farms et.al empathise with ordinary Gambians. Read the autobiography ‘Kairaba’, on the intricacies and raw tactical skills assembling administration on the birth of an ‘Improbable Nation’. I challenge the new PPP leader to revisit the legacy of Sekou Toure, Thomas Sankara, sense of high principle and loyalty in Omar Amadou Jallow (O.J), and of authenticity in PDOIS political operation. All that requires curiosity, humility, even urgency – ‘currencies’ deficient in politics today.
High educational attainment, which some observers put forth as prerequisite to contest the presidency is, although, necessary, not binding. Having had time to reflect, introducing an ‘education test’ as criteria to contest the presidency has the potential to discriminate, however well intentioned. For instance, how are we to decide over situation where an islamic or christian scholar wishes to contest the presidency? Will they be disqualified on the basis of some ‘high education’ test? But then again who define/decide what constitute ‘High Education – and if religious ‘Quranic’ / ‘Biblical’ strand stands? The constitutional review commission (CRC) holds the mandate to play with this one.
Even so, under Jammeh, we’re witness to some of the most educated men and women in Gambian politics also turned out to be the cause of much disaffection. And if seems a somewhat ‘talk-down’ on the subject for lack of better words, nothing beats a good education – and we should prioritise and ‘talk it up’ for the opportunities and possibilities therein! Government ought to invest more in our schools to repair, rebuild & re-equip them.
The Gambia government has to strategise for solar-powered presentation teaching toolkits in every classroom in the country. As in developed countries, this caters to quicker enjoyable sessions towards an educated/ enterprising workforce. Gambian teachers (doctors & nurses) need respite; a well remunerated salary may help attract the very best to the profession.
It is advisable for the PPP to make use of the knowledgepool at its disposal – former statesmen and women of the independence era in seeking a fresh start. Our politicians, legislators in particular, ought to read more, NOT facebook, but textbooks on political-economy concerning Gambia and global affairs. Young students should return to the habit of reading too – books by the historian, Hassoum Ceesay, Essa Bah and other writers gain valuable insights into socio-political history, arts, poetry – the lot actually!
Despite shortcomings in its thirty-year rule, PPP made great moves @ #Congress2018 by electing the young Papa Njie to lead them into the future. We should all give him a chance to showcase his ideas for the country. Mind you, modern political operation requires collaboration & teamwork toward a vision for the greater good of the many. Mr Papa Njie need understood he is in the big time; and that those working with him should exercise professionalism, help him to succeed. Public expectation on him is only going to accelerate from a generation of highly informed Gambians. The party boasts talented MP’s in the debating chamber; as well as strong diaspora links in ‘Musty Jabang’ and others. Time will tell on the re-emergence of a giant that is People’s Progressive Party (P.P.P). From a neutralistic standing – wishing the party every success in the years ahead.