Njundu Drammeh

Dear Saffiyoungba,

To parody Shakespeare, “To get focused or to be distracted is the question/Whether tis nobler in the mind to dissipate valuable energy in squabbles and ego soothing/Or galvanise our efforts for a better Gambia by refocusing our sight on our vision, why we voted Yaya Jammeh out and our expectation from the Barrow Government”.

Thus, for me we must never lose focus on our vision, never forget the “why” we took up “arms against a sea of troubles” even when we could have resigned ourselves to our fate by “suffering the slings and arrows” of a “benevolent dictator”.

Saffiyoungba, I am sure you can vividly remember that day of 1 Dec 2016 when you entered that polling station alone, and in your hand a marble which changed our political narrative, landscape and players. Am sure you were motivated by one or two factors to vote for change. Have you forgotten what these reasons were? And the euphoria that engulfed your being, the “Free At Last” feeling, when you got the news that the coalition candidate had won the presidential election? Have you forgotten the battle cry “#GambiaHasDecided” which sustained our collective determination during the impasse and what motivator it was?

Saffiyoungba, by your words, am inclined to believe that you are losing the excitement, the motivation which spurred you on to brace the whirlwind and subdued it. Fair enough. But you must never forget the vision and the expectations which made you to cast your vote for Candidate Barrow. What were your Long Term Expectations or Goal? What type of Government did you envisage? What “behaviours” did you think the Government must exhibit to achieve your Long Term Expectations?

Saffiyoungba, what were your Long Term Expectations? Were they: An accountable and transparent government? Free press? Free speech? Respect for human rights? Justice for Yaya’s victims? Moderate Government? Dignified life? Quality education. for children? Affordable and accessible social services? Investment in social and human capitals? Term limit? Corruption-free society? Good governance? Respect for the rule of law? Empowered citizenship? Vibrant and diverse civil society? Reliable and regular energy? Efficient communication system? Good road network? Professional and attractive civil service?

Whatever they are, I think they should form the basis of how and on what you hold the Government accountable, the issues on which your activism and advocacy are premised upon. When you veer off or go off tangent, distracted by not so important issues, you would slightly lose focus on things that matter and are urgent.

To materialise the Long Term Goals, the Government has put in place its “business plan”, the National Development Plan 2018-2021. Is it realistic? How can you and your ilk ensure its effective implementation? Are all the necessary tools and mechanisms in place for its effective monitoring? How would this plan be financed and by whom? How do we ensure value for money? Has this “business plan” adequately articulate the aggregate aspiration of the people? How much was it influenced by the voices of the people? Do the people, the voter and citizen at the backwaters of The Gambia, know its content and what it means for the development of the country?

Saffiyoungba, your work as a citizen, advocate and activist is already cut out for you. There are your aspirations, the “business plan” of the Government and the “behaviour” of the Government. Are there a hiatus or mismatch or disharmony? How do you focus on that? How do you help midwife whatever change to ensure harmony between your dreams and the attitude of the Government? How you keep the Government’s toes to the fire?

Saffiyoungba, since you should be impressed with “goal getting” and not “goal setting”, you should be contemplating on how you want the Government to move to higher levels of performance, what changes are both needed and will be impactful. Think about these.

Saffiyoungba, you have argued that it would appeal to our national pride at the international stage if our President is “very proficient” in oral English and can masterly engage in political discourse abroad, including interviews. That after many years of being a pariah state, we are self conscious and anything that adversely affect that consciousness can be negatively viewed.

While I agree our President should up his knowledge of global politics and affairs, not his English language proficiency, I am more interested in the leadership he plays at home, the connection he has with the people, the way he steers the ship of state and his grasp of statesmanship, the policies and programmes he drives the economy and all other sectors, the transparency and accountability mechanisms he establishes, how he improves lives and protects the dignity of his office.

These are the things am interested….. What stance he takes on the Golden Lead environmental degradation and how he fights corruption. At home I want the president to speak to and interact with the people in the languages they understand and get feedbacks through these media. How we address our people in English language even at events and gatherings when they cannot understand what are being said. That cannot be effective communication; that cannot be participatory democracy too. English language can remain the language we speak in our offices but its non-comprehension should not be used to deny services to people.

To be or not to be/That’s the question.