National Anthem paints a picture far different from that which George Orwell
had painted on “Animal Farm” where he depicts Napoleon as being more equal than
all other animals on the farm. Napoleon owned not only the farm but even the
animals. His name became synonymous with total ownership and no one could
challenge his omnipotence on the farm. He must have written his Anthem to read
“Animal Farm My Homeland”, excluding any form of power sharing with any other
animal. There was therefore no hope of Ownership for the animals that could, at
his whims, be subjected to any form of degrading treatment or abuse.
The above Title –For the Gambia Our Homeland - reveals that a sense of belonging and being part of the Ownership of our Nation - The Gambia - was not an inadvertent inclusion in the Anthem. The Anthem had suggested inclusion and thus Ownership for all since its inception in 1965. It is our homeland and if its Ownership had been illusive, tantalizing us for so long, we may have now finally reached the desired objective – Ownership in all its facets requiring participation by all. Heightened sense of Nationalism? I say yes because without this optic Ownership will still be nesting or embedded in a dream state or as an illusion and the “HGambiaHasDecided” slogan which, by all accounts, is conceived to be construed as a Decision to Own our country and not to be Owned by an almighty mortal as in Napoleon’s Animal Farm will also remain illusory. However, to own ourselves has its implications: it comes with responsibilities and commitment: accountability, hard work, ingenuity, sacrifice, self confidence and perseverance. This is the difference we must make if we want to forge ahead with a sense of Ownership. The “HGambiaHasDecided” is a new orientation that should be translated into a Decision imprinted not only on Tee Shirts and Leaflets but also on our Hearts and Minds.
A multi-faceted decision all geared towards propelling the Gambia to a new phase. The Decision was not just to dismantle the apparatus that had impeded the burning desire among the populace to nurture a sense of Ownership. The Decision must reflect the alacrity of the citizenry to be ready to work hand in glove with the present Government to erect a structure that epitomizes “The Gambia Our Homeland” scenario and in which we take full Responsibility for the Destiny of our Nation. The Decision to deviate from a system that was ostracizing and alienating our country from the rest of the international Community, whilst internally, paralyzing the economy by stifling the entrepreneurship of well meaning Gambians just because the despot had wanted to be Head of State cum Business tycoon that controls the entire economy. The Decision to inspect all other sectors of the economy and inject the necessary wherewithal into them designed to make a difference. This Decision rekindles the generally popular desire for a return to the five day work week, proposed re-admission to the Commonwealth and the ICC and also the abrogation of the fanatical name of “Islamic Republic of the Gambia” to its original and proper name - “Republic of the Gambia”. The Decision emanates from perceived inconsistencies, shortcomings and blatant disregard for Human Rights and the Rule of Law and succinctly, playing autocrat with the most powerful force in a country being its people. The idea of change – decision – must have been thusly conceived but the decision was not just to flush out the autocrat and dismantle autocracy but in its place to institute a structure that encourages Ownership. In so doing, Government must be ready to provide incentives to the various sectors such as Agriculture – we have highly trained young men and women in the various components in this field. Trained men and women are also in other areas such as Forestry, Fisheries, Health and the Education sector. Yes, young men and women that may have lost the passion to take initiatives that would lubricate the engine of the sector they work in. Rekindle the Passion in them. To cite just one example, Permanent Secretary Mr Baboucar Buoye at the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education is someone generally believed to be capable of improving or raising the standards in the Education sector given the right incentives. Finally, boosting or jump starting the morale of the private sector. Only then would we have decided to make a marked difference from what prevailed in the preceding administration.
The Gambia Has Decided and her noble citizens have also decided to take Ownership of the Destiny of this country. The Decision taken must have arisen from a genuine need to move the Wheel of State from the ditch that it is now stuck in to a more level field. Therefore, all must participate in its towing and it is only then that we would have taken a Decision that would correspond to the motto, “HGambiaHasDecided”.
It is incumbent on the new Government to take the Decision in providing an enabling environment for its citizens to operate: teachers must be well remunerated for them to stay in the classrooms rather than just abandon the teaching field after a few years and be called a “RAT or Run Away Teacher” or to take up teaching just because there was no other opportunity available. If students must depend on books mainly written by others other than Gambians fifty years after independence - even though we have the expertise to do so - then it is indeed timely that a decision was taken for Gambians to tackle this malaise. I am only taking the teaching field as an example because I have been a teacher and conversant with what pertains there but this shortcoming can be extended to all other sectors like Agriculture, the Medical Profession, the Security Services, the Business Sector and the entire gamut of government activity.
Government must not however be seen as entirely responsible for the realization of the Decision – a decision that would give us the necessary impetus to start moving in the right direction. Collective effort in the form of taking ownership of our own affairs with each doing his or her part given what one’s vocation is rather than being overly loquacious about the milk that is already spilt. We all know what transpired since Independence in 1965 – a lesson nobody is going to teach us - so if owning our country is going to remain a mirage or an illusion we are only going to have ourselves to blame and even though posterity would narrate the ills of preceding administrations it would still charge us as having been only interested in removing a despot from whence “HGambiaHasDecided” but never to implement the Content of the Decision. We must avoid repeating the mistakes or even the blunder and set to work along the guidelines developed by the Facilitator. Government Facilitates but the citizens must Implement and to do so serious Thinking or Brainstorming are to become the lubricant and fuel that the State Engine requires to carry our aspirations forward.
Sheikh Tijan M.D. Salla