Supreme documents like the Constitution are supposed to strengthen the union, not weaken it by assigning all the rights and privileges to some while denying them to others. The knowledge of and adherence to this principle is the secret that separates enduring democracies built on institutions of trust and integrity from states that are still meandering, floundering, in total chaos and decadence for generations without any hope of ever disentangling themselves from the madness.
The Constitution is the only law that matters, it is the only document that matters, the reference point for all things regarding the degree of ones acceptance and level of citizenship in a given country. In a world of social stratification, discrimination of all sorts, rich and poor, haves and have-nots, high and mighty and the peasants, patriarchs and underprivileged women, religious bigotry, tribal issues, the Constitution is supposed to be the equalizer. Everyone is Equal Under the Law should be a valid and meaningful refrain.
The writing of such an Almighty document should therefore not instigate the kind of elbowing that we continue to see in most African countries. Elbowing creates winners and losers, it leaves some happy and celebrating while others disappointed, sad, dejected, and hopeless. Any law that does such a cruel thing – whether intentional or otherwise should be discarded and thrashed.
Africa’s failure is not in its past, not in its abundant natural resources, but in its treatment of each other. We are too mean and vicious to each other. We have somehow managed to convince ourselves that we cannot win unless the other loses, that our success lies in the failure of the other, that there is great satisfaction in dashing the other’s dreams and aspirations, that life’s simple pleasures reside in watching others fail, that unless affected by it, the issues of our fellow citizens should not be our concern at all. This attitude my dear people is not sustainable, the net effect will continue to bite us all regardless of what side of the divide you belong. We either sail together or sink together!
When the Constitutional Review Commission set out to draft the constitution, there was great hope that finally we will get it right – we will right all the wrongs that have held us back for so long. We all know that we must accord every citizen their rightful place in this country of ours. But unfortunately, we yet again couldn’t resist the urge that got us in trouble in the first place. Our demons won’t allow us to make each other whole for the first time in our history – the most important part of hitting the reset button – a prerequisite for the advancement and development we yearn so badly for. We proceeded to influence, campaign, and advocate – not to put our agenda on the table but to take concerns of others – concerns that are critical to making them feel a part of our beloved country, off the table.
To top it off, instead of negotiating whatever differences we have, we are insisting on our way or no way. If we get this wrong, we are stuck in the past for another decade after decade. Those demons residing in us I alluded to earlier would rather have that though, and that is what makes this untenable situation so tragic for us and many other African countries before us – from countries we have sadly even decided to copy from in most cases, verbatim this very draft.
So here we are – at a crossroads. We can resist the temptation, bite our tongue, and create the country of our collective dreams, or go for it – burn and slash till we have fully satisfied our egos and narrow interests. Let’s pick our poison so help us God!
The writer, Banka Manneh, wrote from the United States