By Dibba Chaku
It is often said that “the secret to change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new.” Change management can be a daunting task and if not handled with care and precision, an organization or a nation may slip and fall into some perilous ravine and then be faced with a mammoth task of trying to emerge from that quandary. The Gambia is faced with the conundrum of trying to put herself on the right footing amid novice mediocre leadership and rampant ‘chunneh’ conduct that is doing nothing but stifling her efforts to head in the right direction. It is without a jot of doubt that the initial euphoria that surrounded the democratic transition has worn off gradually, giving birth to the current tense conundrum. After uncaging ourselves from the whims and caprices of brutal dictatorship and autocratic rule, we availed ourselves of the opportunity to start afresh and put The Gambia on the right footing. Four years into our new dispensation, you wonder how much progress we have made so far, with our shameful and ugly past fresh on our minds.
The current administration promised to embark on reforms that we hope would lay down that solid unbreakable foundation we can build on. To begin with, a commission of inquiry was set up to investigate the financial dealings of former president Jammeh. The findings startled many, but most importantly, many were left in a state of bewilderment when the current administration cherry-picked the recommendations of that commission and resorted to preferential treatment for obvious reasons because it is wining and dining with some of the adversely mentioned untouchables. This undoubtedly jeopardized the work of the commission that drained the nation off its meager pecuniary resources. We also saw the setting up of a constitutional review commission that comprises highly educated and experienced people with exemplary characters who were tasked with drafting a new constitution that represents the wishes of the Gambian people. Their integrity was unquestionable from the onset. They had consultations with Gambians both at home and abroad, and crafted a document that captured the wishes of the people. To the dismay of the president, his cabinet and stalwart supporters, this draft constitution would serve as an impediment to Mr. President’s desire to self-perpetuate. That is when they started developing a strong aversion to this important national document and devised a ruse to block its passage. We saw the attorney general’s feeble attempt to “defend” a draft bill at the national assembly in a performance that was nothing but lackluster. He refused to own that bill and acted indifferent to its passage. To add salt to injury, the information minister came up with the pretentious pronouncement that they invested so much in the draft constitution and that they really wanted it to pass. Unfathomable! Even ruminants will struggle to regurgitate that paradox because the inconsistency would rupture their rumens. That is like a lioness telling us that she is an herbivore when she is in fact a carnivore because we see her lay down ambushes to strike down and ravage other animals beyond repairs, feeding on them thereafter. The country is now stuck in a constitutional impasse because the person who was voted to lead a transition government and help fix an inherited broken system has now fallen in love with longevity in that position. He is the epicenter of this quagmire as he is determined to cling onto power even if that means being culpable of moral misconduct.
The biggest slogan of the current administration since its embryonic stage has been reforms. Undoubtedly, this gave hope to the citizenry that we were heading for posterity. One of the biggest reforms that continues to reverberate in our ears is security sector reform. Not much has been done in that area because only the reformers know, see, or feel what exactly is being reformed. The fragility of our internal security is an unfortunate reality that petrifies us daily, although we continue to be under the illusion that there is a security sector reform. It may be helpful to consider reforming both the reforms and the reformers. The so-called eight region was promised voting rights in the next presidential elections. Will diaspora Gambians partake in the December polls by casting votes in their various countries of residence? I seriously doubt this because the current administration has lost its popularity in the diaspora and is likely to come up with some lame excuse of either not having the financial resources or unprepared for it. The powerful minister of tourism insinuated this in the recent meet the people’s tour by saying it would be unfair to extend the franchise to diaspora Gambians in some communities and not others. Therefore, diaspora Gambians who want to vote in December should go back home to register to vote. This administration had almost five years to devise a ruse and work on logistics for diaspora Gambians to vote in December 2021. To not make that happen amounts to nothing but unwillingness on the part of the government.
From 2017 to date, the current administration seems either unable or unwilling to turn things around and put us on the right footing. Now it is asking for more time because it believes or is made to believe that it is doing a fantastic job. The Gambian voters cannot say that they are not in the know as to whether their lives and standard of living have improved or not because he who feels it knows it. Gambians have seen enough of this government’s performance to be able to appraise that performance, so the ball is in our court to either retain or replace this administration, knowing fully well that being elected to office by the general populace provides no guarantee that national leaders will be effective or dedicated to the national interest. David Cuschieri said “The mind is a powerful force. It can enslave us or empower us. It can plunge us into the depths of misery or take us to the heights of ecstasy. Learn to use the power wisely.” A regime change in The Gambia unaccompanied by a system change would be insufficient to put us on a development-bound locomotive.