(JollofNews) – Dear Honourable Ousainou Darboe, if I were a better Gambian, I should be standing in front of Mile Two Prisons to demand your freedom, dead or alive. If I were a better Gambian I should be standing in the middle of McCarthy’s Square in Banjul demanding your freedom and the freedom of all those unjustly incarcerated with you.
If I were a better human being, I should have refused food and sleep and joy until the day I see you and the many Gambians languishing in jails around the country liberated. If I were a better Gambian no amount of fear and guns should deter me to stand up for your freedom and those persecuted with you for no other reason than their political beliefs and yearn for a better Gambia.
But Ousainou, I am not as good as you. I am less Gambian than you. But even in my fear and weakness, I cannot sleep without paying this humble tribute to you, the Most Honourable Ousainou Darboe of the Republic of the Gambia. You have demonstrated to me that indeed your are the reincarnation of your father who stood for the liberation of the Gambia. You have demonstrated that indeed you are the reincarnation of Edward Francis Small, the Father of Gambian Independence. Your stand reminds me of those great men and women of Africa and indeed in all societies of the world who were prepared to give their life for the liberation of their people. From today I place you in the league of Kwame Nkrumah, Patrice Lumumba, Winnie Mandela, Nelson Mandela, Amilcar Cabral and many more such noble men and women of the world.
Ousainou, I am paying this tribute to you after reading your statement that was to be delivered on that infamous day of July 21. A day when the law was not used as you said, “to promote the greatest happiness of the greatest number” but corrupted and soiled as “an instrument of oppression in the hands of the oppressor. The governor uses the law to subdue the governed.” Mr. Darboe, in that statement you spoke of words and backed by actions that have made me totally restless and I shall never rest until I see you and all those with you become free, and to join you in that historic, noble and patriotic mission to, “actualize for Gambians the preamble statement in the Constitution” which enjoins us to be committed to freedom, justice, probity and accountability.
Indeed no Gambian must ever rest so long as Lawyer Darboe and tens of our citizens are in jail because of their stand for human rights and national salvation. We must not rest not just because of the person of Ousainou and those individuals, but primarily because it is our constitution that has been bended and broken and abused to trample on the lives and dignity of fellow citizens.
No Gambian of conscience must accept the wrong that is meted out to fellow citizens in contravention of our constitution. No patriotic Gambian with morality must accept that a state institution, which derives its legitimacy from the will of the people to use our constitution in such blatant abuse to harm another citizen. Any Gambian who accepts this most sinful action by our state institutions and officers have therefore accepted that this most dastardly act was done in your name. I declare that this action by the Gambian state is not done in my name and I abhor it with all the strength of the muscles and veins in my body.
Ousainou, if I were sleeping you have awakened me up. If I were indifferent, you have injected a dose of responsibility in me. If I were immoral, you have pricked my conscience. If I were less Gambian, you have renewed and strengthened my patriotism today. Indeed you have challenged all Gambians, when you said,
“My Lady, if these are not sufficient and good reasons for any person with conscience to go on a peaceful demonstration/procession to ask for the release of Solo Sandeng dead or alive, and to protest against the humiliation and acts of thuggery committed on these women? Every woman in the Gambia today stands in solidarity with Solo Sandeng’s wife. Every woman in Africa and the Gambia in particular stands in solidarity with Fatoumatta Jawara, Nogoi Njie and Fatou Camara.”
Unless we are men and women with heart of stones, and blood as light as water, then all Gambians must wake up to this clarion call that each and every one of us is a Solo Sandeng, Fatoumatta Jawara, Nogoi Njie and Fatou Camara and the tens more languishing in jails in total contravention of our constitution.
Mr Darboe, you have demonstrated to me that indeed the Gambia and Africa is in no short supply of great leaders even though the masses of our people may not recognize and stand by these great leaders. Leadership is not merely a title and occupying a seat. Leadership is not just ruling. Leadership is not high-sounding slogans and bravado. Leadership is humility, honesty and integrity. It is about words and actions that match.
To practice what you preach. You have shown in your statement and life that indeed you are a leader from the very beginning – since on that day, as a small boy when you ran into that court room and decided that you will disappoint your father and instead become a lawyer rather than a provincial administrator.
In 1980, you demonstrated honest leadership even at a personal level when you took that decision to quit your job as a state counsel because your conscience cannot allow you to defend a case in which you do not believe. In your entire political career, since 1996, your uncompromising adherence to the rule of law to your acceptance to be illegally arrested and sentenced wrongly demonstrates unambiguously that you are indeed a man of your word. Even in my affliction at your persecution, these words from your heart have touched me right in the middle of my heart with such satisfaction and joy that indeed if ever there is a Gambian I can trust with my life, that person is Ousainou Darboe.
“My Lady, I refuse to ask this court to be lenient with me because in so doing I am accepting the fact, that Mr. Sandeng deserved to be tortured to death by the security agents of this country. My Lady I know the purpose of an allocutus but I refuse to ask this court for leniency because in so doing, I break rank with Fatoumatta Jawara, Fatou Camara and Nogoi Njie who in spite of their humiliation and acts of horrendous brutality committed on them are now being persecuted at the behest of our political adversary whilst the real criminals are walking freely on the streets of Banjul and congratulating themselves for accomplishing their acts of brutality.”
These words are divine, Mr Darboe. I have taken hours to ponder over the meaning and depth of these words and I still cannot fathom the source of these words. My pain in absorbing the full meaning of these words stem from the fact that I know you could have lived the most comfortable and peaceful life in and outside of the Gambia.
You could have avoided politics in the Gambia and earn a far more decent life as a successful lawyer. Yet you decided to tread on a path with a mission to actualize the preamble of our constitution. By refusing to seek leniency, you have demonstrated that you are a loyal man. You are honest. You are reliable and dependable patriot. You are a friend, a comrade and compatriot. You have given a sigh of relief and comfort to Solo Sandeng of blessed memory. Your statement and position is all that Solo needs as he basks in Heaven right now. Solo is happy, grateful and satisfied and his mission is accomplished for which Allah brought him to this world. The family of Solo and indeed all Gambians stand satisfied, adequately consoled and full of hope that indeed there is a Gambian who will safe us sooner than later. I salute you Mr Darboe. Such humility, honesty and faithfulness to comrades and compatriots is divine.
Mr Darboe, you may not get this letter right now but I am confident you shall read this letter when you shall be at the helm of affairs in the Gambia, your motherland, our motherland. I am not a man of God, but Mr Darboe, I can assure you that indeed God the Almighty, our ancestors, indeed our people are happy and grateful and emboldened by the unselfish and invaluable sacrifice you have taken on our behalf. Where once I had doubted the quality and resoluteness of your leadership, today I declare that you epitomize that Glorious Gambia we yearn for and the leadership it deserves.
Ousainou, just as you have vindicated, exalted and celebrated Solo by refusing to ask for leniency, you have at the same time consoled all those noble prisoners of conscience with you in Mile 2, with these words…
“My Lady I am prepared to receive the sentence that I believe has also been predetermined even before my arraignment. But before receiving the sentence, it is obvious to everyone that I am the prime target of this persecution. I would therefore ask that the other accused persons be sentenced to time already served.”
Mr Darboe, by reading these words I am indeed aggrieved to the highest point. But at the same time, I am equally full of joy and pride that, yes here is one son of the soil I can be proud of because he is not a betrayer and a traitor. You did not speak for only these men and women in prison. You spoke for all Gambians. If I fail to write to you this letter of tribute to congratulate you, I shall be an ungrateful citizen. Your willingness and preparedness to take the ultimate sacrifice for our motherland tells me the future is bright and sooner than later liberation will arrive.
By accepting to take responsibility for the actions and penalties of your compatriots, I cannot but celebrate you. You deserve emulation. You have fulfilled that aged-old creed of comrades that indeed no one will be left behind. This is how leaders and human beings of conscience and great spirit act in the most difficult of times. You have taught Gambians in practice what it is to be a leader. I am confident that the lesson you provided here shall be milestones for our youth and future generations to guide them towards the fulfillment of national duty. On my part, you have further strengthened my resolve for fight for human rights in my society with all the power at my disposal.
As I end this letter to you, remember there was Nelson Mandela as well as Kwame Nkrumah and many such patriots who were incarcerated unjustly in their respective countries but only to emerge as the leaders of those countries. Even at the height of colonialism, Nkrumah was pulled out of the prison in 1951 and carried shoulder-high with his vehicle to head to the state house to be declared the prime minister of Ghana. He never relented but led his country to become the first independent African country in 1957. After 27 years in jail, Mandela came out to become the first President of South Africa in 1994.
Lawyer Darboe, I can assure you that the people of the Gambia shall not betray you. Never. This is because you have demonstrated to them your loyalty and honesty. I am certain that our people shall stand with you and will continue to join you, shoulder to shoulder to create a new society based on the respect for human rights and adherence to the rule of law.
I salute you, Honourable Ousainou ANM Darboe. I wish you good health and long life and freedom.
For the Gambia, our homeland.
Yours In The Service of the Nation
The author is the programme manager of The Association of Non-Governmental Organisations in the Gambia (TANGO).