Albeit Gambians have democratically butted a brutal Dictatorship out of office through the ballot and rejuvenated democracy, the country is still desk on a thin brink of derailing into mere regime change and docking on a democratic port. Prior to formation of the 2016 Coalition, many Gambians, particularly in the diaspora, were opinionated that Dictatorship is never voted out of office but chased out and the Kanilai Monster will not be an exception. Their argument was and I reference,“In a democracy, it is absolutely normal for people to vote because elections are free and fair and their vote counts. Far from being a democracy, Gambia is in reality a Dictatorship, in a Dictatorship your vote does not count, then what is the logic behind heading to the polls knowing that there is no way a Dictator can be ejected out of office through the system of voting by the ballot”. Fortunately, Gambians have rendered this premise fallacious on 2nd December 2016.
Dashingly, there is a glimpse of hope for new Gambia to blossom into a city state democratic nation. Hope, therefore, is one powerful energizer that strengthens the heart and enlivens the spirit which propels the will to match on head high when everything else suggests otherwise. It is this hope that Barrack Obama may have alluded to when he posited “…not blind optimism, the kind of hope that just ignores the enormity of the tasks ahead or the roadblocks that stand in our path. I am not talking about the wishful idealism that allows us just to sit on the side-lines or shirk from a fight. I have always believed that hope is the stubborn thing inside us that insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us so long as we have the courage to keep reaching, to keep working, to keep fighting.” Significantly, it is with this hope that something better awaits us with the dawn of the rainbow government led by President Barrow that we must tenaciously initiate a process of self-change and enlightenment to build a democratic state which resonates ideals of equal opportunity, freedom, justice, rule of law and a developed nation-state.
Desolately, some Pan-Africanists of the pre-independence era were convinced for any country to develop, be independent and democratic, the state must groom its nation in accordance with its ideals. Similarly, most post independent leaders tried and tested the notion of their pre-independent compatriots. The result is sculptured by Dr Baba G Jallow as thus: “Since the African state sees itself as a builder of nations but often turns out to be a breaker of nations, we need to revisit the idea of nation-building with a view to exposing its contradictions and replacing it with the idea of state-building. Exploring the concept of nation-building will allow us to put the relationship between us and our governments in proper perspective. Empirical historical evidence shows that the most successful nation-states in the world are those in which the nation (the people) builds the kind of state (government) they want. In countries where the state arrogates to itself the power and status of nation-builder, authoritarianism and a culture of repression is often the inevitable outcome because the people are rendered progressively passive and powerless in determining their own national destinies”.
Consequently, whether one supports or against President Barrow, the fact remains indisputable that for new Gambia to nurture and sustain her new found freedom and democracy, as an appetiser, every Gambian must seek political awareness and in-depth knowledge of the constitution. Here again I will recollect Alieu Darboe’s thesis, “… a lot going around are actually aspersions inspired by misinformation and lack of knowledge. Now, if you want to offer useful criticism, try to learn more about how government works and seek credible information”. There is a battery of evidences to substantiate Mr Darboe’s inference. Many of new Gambia’s political cheerleaders hasten to crucify President Barrow and his rainbow government with limited or no knowledge of government nitty gritty and thorough comprehension of the constitution. They, often justify President Barrow’s omission with unsubstantiated conjectures. Conversely, Dr Baba G Jallow further accentuates, “In the New Gambia, we must aspire to a politics of state-building not a politics of nation-building. We must aspire to a politics in which the people are politically enlightened and empowered enough to hold their government accountable, not a politics in which an all-knowing state is perched on top of the social pyramid prescribing and forcing infallible prescriptions for development down the people’s throats, whether they like it or not. We must aspire to a politics in which the people are empowered enough to build the kind of state they want, not a politics in which the state assumes the status of all-powerful nation-builder, unless such nation-building means people-building in the sense we use the term above. By definition, the state is embedded within the nation and cannot therefore rise over and above the nation. For this reason, we require and must aspire to a political leadership that is sincere, a leadership that is disciplined, a leadership that will be eager to teach but also eager to learn and to drink of the public wisdom; a leadership that will not behave like the infallible and hostile lords and masters of the people, but like the humble servants and children of the nation. The kind of intellectual and moral energy that needs to be expended in order to actualize such a politics can only be generated in an environment of healthy civility and mutual respect between and among all members of society, regardless of age, gender, political, economic or religious status or affiliation”.
Therefore, it is legitimate to aver for a nation to be empowered and hold its state accountable, it must first be politically enlightened. It is not blasphemous to punctuate no state can repress an enlightened nation. For instance, Trump’s obnoxious immigration and refugee ban would have survive if America was an ignorant nation. Fear, in most illustrations, stems from ignorance. Precisely why Steve Biko concluded “The most sophisticated weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed”. The social media is one platform in which Gambians can politically educate and empower one another by discussing, debating and sharing credible information. Civil societies and pressure groups must also initiate programmes on civic education. Furthermore, the school curriculum must include lessons on the constitution at all levels. Those endowed with knowledge and skills of translating the constitution in various local languages, can do so in audio form and distribute for the consumption of the unlettered generation. Seedia Jatta has done a tremendous job in his constituency, Wuli. Today, his constituency is the only one in the whole country which is self-reliance from local and central government. They vote for policies and programmes but not personality and/or wealth. With the right government blueprint, discipline political leadership, and enlightened people, the Gambia can soon become the Dubai of Africa.