UDP VERY DIFFERENT TO NPP IN ADDRESSING CORRUPTION – UDP Rejoins Political Scientist

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By: UDP Media Response Team 

This is a rejoinder to the Standard Newspaper article of 28 October 2022 under the caption: “UDP, NPP NOT VERY DIFFERENT IN ADDRESSING CORRUPTION-Political Scientist”.

It is one thing to differ in political opinions and express such opinions as a matter of perspective. It is an entirely different matter when academia or related disciplines are used as the authority from whence such opinions were informed. In the case of the latter, evidence and facts cannot be compromised or sacrificed.

Even though as a citizen Essa Njie is entitled to hold and express political views and opinions, the views carried in The Standard newspaper article of 28 October 2022 cited him under the title of “political scientist” and “a university lecturer” and for that, we feel a response is warranted.

Mr. Essa Njie claimed in the said article that UDP is not very different from the NPP in addressing corruption and went on to rationalize his views with claims that are both baseless and lacking in substance.

His comments, according to the article, were prompted by the “recent statement by the UDP on the unretired imprests affair.” It would not be unfair to assume or speculate that Mr. Njie is making the claim that the UDP has no moral authority to speak on corruption, based on his claim that UDP “effectively dominated both the executive and the legislature without doing much to address many challenges they are preaching now.” So, a clarification on his part regarding that would be very welcomed.

Mr. Njie raised the issue of the 53 vehicles donated to parliamentarians in 2017 and claimed that it was “mostly the UDP that verbally attacked people for asking questions” related to the source of those donations and as a result “the floodgates of corruption” were opened. This is too simplistic even for a layman much more a “political science lecturer”. Absolving an entire elected government of responsibility and crediting their continuous abuse of office to one incident is disingenuous to say the least.

If Mr. Njie had based his claims on facts and research, he would have known that when the UDP leader was asked about those vehicles at the time, his response was that similar donations were made to the coalition in 2016 but no one asked questions. Granted, the coalition was not an elected government and anonymity should have no room in public affairs, but that is far from encouraging or condoning corruption. What Mr. Darboe was alluding to then was that the coalition received vehicle donations anonymously, if after assuming government similar donations were made in fulfilment of a pledge it would be unfair to claim corruption then and not in the prior case.

Mr. Njie further charged that UDP did not only “condoned corruption but also the wastage of public resources” we would be grateful for Mr. Njie’s opinion on the vehicle policy initiated by the former Finance Minister, Amadou Sanneh, that was aimed at saving the country over three hundred million Dalasis, a policy that was supported by all UDP principals in cabinet but got derailed by the executive comprised of other players from the coalition. If UDP had so much sway over an executive president, as claimed, the vehicle policy would have been implemented. It was further the same Finance Minister, who recommended for the slashing of the State House budget inviting the ire of the president. 

So if UDP’s policy is to promote corruption and mismanagement, as the professor would have us believe, why would the same UDP officials embark on cost cutting measures aimed at saving the state hundreds of millions? How does he square that with the allegation of UDP condoning waste? Better yet, which of the UDP principals were found wanting for misconduct or misappropriation of public funds in their short stint in government? That would be very helpful in this allegation.

To buttress further, at a UDP rally in Busumbala in 2017, Mr. Darboe cautioned against corruption and called on UDP officials to be especially mindful and cautioned that there will be “other commissions”. The response this generally attracted was one of condemnation by commentators, accusing him of undermining the very government he serves and that he should resign if he felt that way about the government.

We would expect claims of a “UDP government” in reference to the coalition government to come from a lay person, but not a lecturer of politics. For if the yardstick for making such assessments is not policy based but composition based, how would we classify the current government then, an APRC government? In fact, out of over a dozen cabinet positions, UDP had only three members appointed to that coalition cabinet. If UDP had as much sway over Adama Barrow at the time, as the lecturer claimed, why then was the government able to purge of not only UDP principals, but those suspected of being UDP sympathizers? These are trivial issues beneath the pale of substantive discourse.

Similarly, on the charges of “compensations” to UDP loyalists in the diplomatic missions, of the numerous diplomatic missions dotted around the world, there were no more than 5 or 6 high ranking diplomats that were UDP affiliated, the likes of Hon. Kemeseng Jammeh (Turkey), Late Femi Peters (Sierra Leone) etc. The others recommended by Lawyer Darboe were career diplomats/civil servants such as Ambassador Blaine to the UK and former Permanent Secretary of Defense Sulayman Bun Jack (to the AU), of the junior support staff at the embassies, there was no more than 5 or 6, all approved by the president. So, this notion of a UDP government is misleading and baseless.

If the professor wants to discuss the political implications of Darboe’s statement in relation to the 3 year agreement, that is well within reason and a welcome one, we will respect that. We all know that Adama Barrow, in his own words, stated that he was in consultations with the current Speaker of the National Assembly, as early as 2017 and that whatever political agreement was to be had between the APRC (that the current speaker represented) and Barrow, would be premised on the latter parting ways with UDP. So, claiming only UDP held sway over Barrow is false on the face of it. To state further that “without that position of the UDP, President Barrow would not have been here today. He would have leveled the ground for all parties to participate in free and fair manner as envisaged in the coalition agreement” is nothing but speculative and based on no factual evidence.

When the issue of the 1997 constitution came up, the debate was between making amendments or drafting a new constitution. The latter was a more popular position leading to the creation of the Constitutional Review Commission and the subsequent draft constitution, which ALL UDP members in the National Assembly voted to uphold.

It is true that UDP may not be able to convince certain segments within Gambian society that they mean well for the country but skewing the public record to further a political agenda is unbecoming of a trained expert especially one in the business of shaping the political outlook of the next generation. Granted Mr. Njie did not name personalities, he named an institution, but that institution is manned by personalities who have been in the public limelight for decades and never once found wanting for immorality, misconduct or betrayal of public trust. Reducing their stellar public record to one comparable to the most blatant abuse of public trust we have thus far seen is borderline insulting especially if it lacks basis.

Again, we acknowledge and respect Mr. Njie’s views as a citizen with political opinions, but in so far as he uses his title as a bastion from which he made such comparative analysis, we expect facts and the full picture. Facts matter, and in matters of national discourse, especially among people who should know better, the issues should always be substantive, and fact based. Mr. Njie no doubt loves his country and has a lot to offer, we would advise that he takes this into consideration in his future assessments.

It is high time we start holding elected public officials to account, including UDP elected officials, take them to task based on the disparities between their assigned responsibilities and their actual conduct rather than excusing their deliberate misconduct on some baseless or speculative notions.

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