By: Momodou Sabally
Over a few months, I have embarked on a series of WhatsApp audio messages titled “Good Morning Gambia: time to wake up.” In the audio series, recorded in the local Wolof dialect, We have been talking about policy failures on the part of the government.
It is time to focus on ourselves, “the led”: the governed masses who go to the polls to elect those charged with governance.
How well have we performed so far?
With our so-called new Gambia came many promises, hopes, and aspirations.
What has happened to these high ideals and ideas? How far have we gone on the road to economic development, democracy, justice, and progress?
A government that campaigned (in 2016)on the promise of electoral reforms, freedom of expression, and better living standards based on a new constitution; that same government campaigned against the very foundation of a third republic by throwing away a new body worth more than 100 million Dalasis based on nothing but the desire for a self-perpetuating rule?
How do we reconcile this fact with the reality of the incumbent (and his usurpation of power) being re-elected to yet another term of office?
What is wrong with us?
A government that promised us better living standards has inflected the severe wound of stagflation, with inflation at an all-time high of almost 14 percent, coupled with local currency depreciation and the death of our main seaport.
They have imposed entry and exit ‘visas’ of 20 dollars (per person) on our citizens due to the corrupt secuirport deal.
Our youths are disillusioned with the high cost of living and unprecedentedly high unemployment rate; the government does not know the youth unemployment rate, nor do they have any serious plans for sustainable job creation.
After receiving more than half a billion Euro worth of aid from the European Union, the Barrow administration has nothing to show for these and many other donor funds; talk less of our own tax money worth more than 100 billion Dalasis paid into state coffers over the past six years and more.
This government’s Auditor General has slammed them with corruption allegations ranging from the office of the President to the health ministry.
But in an unprecedented lowering of standards, President Barrow himself has ridiculed the professional work of the National Audit Office, calling it mere “opinion.”
With more than 66 Gambian children killed by Acute Kidney Injury disease due to the incompetence and negligence of our health authorities, coupled with daily reports of preventable maternal mortality cases, President Barrow has only praised his health Minister and his team. This is even when the auditor general has slammed this same ministry with allegations of financial impropriety regarding COVID funds in the millions.
With daily deaths of babies due to power failure and dysfunctional incubators at our central pediatric unity, one remembers the lyrics of Bob Marley: “How long shall they kill our prophets while we stand aside and look.”
With shady government deals handed over to the President’s close associates, our national treasury continues to bleed. At the same time, mining concessions remain unregulated, causing unprecedented environmental damage, especially in the Kombo coastal areas.
We cannot blame God for our woes when we do not take responsible steps to correct our wrongs.
With this same incompetent government winning a majority in our most recent parliamentary polls; why wouldn’t they be bold enough to increase electrifying and water charges by up to 36 percent on the eve of nationwide local
After blaming the former government for executive directives allegedly harming the public interest, this same government is giving executive directives for withdrawing billions from pensioners’ funds at Social Security to fund shady procurement deals.
The Gambian voter needs to assess our records and see if we have been making the right decisions regarding the existence of a government that has now legalized corruption and entrenched banditry in public office.
It is about time for us to wake up; for Bob Marley is right:
“Rise from your sleepless slumber! Yes, yeah! Yes, yeah!
We’re more than sand on the seashore
We’re more than numbers
All together now
Wake up and live now, you all!”
The Bible teaches, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required.” But this government belies that constantly asking for more from the very masses brought them to power. Tax rates are rising, inflation is skyrocketing, unemployment is still rising, and daily, Barrow and his ministers ask for more by fair and foul means. From shady land deals to scandalous per diem heists, this government gives back nothing but always asks for more.
The fact is that God will not come down to solve our problems. Instead, he requires us to take the initiatives to correct our wrongs. With local government elections around the corner, my mind goes to the Quranic injunction: “Indeed, Allāh will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.”
Shall we take our cue and act with wisdom for a better nation? Our children will assess our performance one day soon.
God bless The Gambia.
Former Presidential Affairs Minister, economist