Opinion, Uncategorized

Alagi Saidy-Barrow: Presidential Powers And Accountability

Alagie Saidy-Barrow

African presidents have a lot of power. Too much power if you ask me. And please don’t tell me presidents all over the world have similar powers. One, presidents outside of Africa are not so much my concern and two, we must get rid of this mindset that because others are doing it a particular way, that must the only way or that constitutes “international best practice.”

An inability to adapt to ones reality is often due to lazy thinking. International best practice hasn’t been best for us Africans since we called ourselves states, and that’s why I insist that dismantling the foundations we subsist on are long overdue. Consider presidential powers with the ineffective accountability mechanisms.

Imagine if we had Gambians (perhaps through some real representatives of the people or a council of Alkalos) pass a binding resolution or law or whatever it takes to make it mandatory that any president that comes to power in 2022 must ensure NAWEC provides 24/7 power to every community in The Gambia within five years. Or a law saying that the incoming president must ensure that within five years, EFSTH has all the equipment it’s supposed to have.

I mean some of our learned ones must be good for something besides copying and pasting from others. I’m just throwing some examples that come to mind. I don’t have the expertise to determine how practical these requirements are but with all the so-called smart Gambians that abound, certainly we can figure out priority areas for our nation and tie our leadership to delivering on these or getting the boot.

All serious organizations/institutions have mechanisms in place through which people are held to account. What mechanisms are out there to hold our president accountable? For instance, is Barrow under any obligation to reduce the debt we continue to be saddled with? One of our most dangerous enemies is corruption. Are our leaders held to account for corruption? Why not? If we are going to give presidents and ministers all these powers to lord over us, why can’t we put in practical mechanisms to hold them accountable? Please don’t tell me about parliament or whatever nonsense we have on the books today. If those worked, Yaya Jammeh would not have gotten away with killing, raping and stealing from us.

In the above examples, if Barrow doesn’t deliver 24/7 electricity in every community, by law he must resign when his term ends and never ever seek re-election again. If the minister of finance cannot implement financial measures that reduces our debt within five years, he gets fired and banned from government work for five years! If our farmers are not paid on time or our agriculture is not able to help the farmers produce at least 50% of the rice we consume, the minister of agriculture and their senior staff gets fired and banned for five years. The president’s success will be tied to the people he selects to head the ministries. If they fail, he gets to pack up with them and they all get banned from government service for some period of time. As things are, it says a lot about us that we continue to pay, feed, clothe and honour people to lord over us while majority of us live in destitution.

Today, there are no effective accountability mechanisms in most government offices. Folks wake up and go to work knowing they will get paid at the end of the month. All they have to do is show up to work and get paid. Ask them what they have delivered for that pay and you will get blank stares from many. They have to do something extremely serious to get fired. I don’t know any government official that was fired for non-performance. Do you? You would think that everyone is performing and our country is on the right trajectory. Imagine if government pay is linked to delivery!

Many of us scrambling and positioning ourselves for cushy government jobs will be looking elsewhere because I know no other people that love freebies like those of us trapped in this colonial space we call Gambia. But as things stand, daffa yormba torrop in The Gambia. And that’s why we are killing each other for government positions. But we are too afraid to think this radical because we prefer to embrace mediocrity and too afraid to dismantle the system we subsist on. Those in power will do everything to maintain this system because it benefits them individually. Cue the folks around Barrow. But many of us would not also want our pay pinned to delivery because it does not favour us. And that is even if the current system we uphold dearly does not benefit those we claim to be servants of.

I don’t know if any of the ideas above are workable but I do know that the amount of power given to our leaders, the prestige, and all the benefits they get are not commensurate with what they deliver. Government workers are supposed to make the lives of the people better; but government work here means riding on the backs of the people to make the government worker’s life better than those they supposedly serve.

If you are wondering why we are obsessed with government positions, there is your answer. It’s an easy way to make money and I don’t know many people that bugga lu yomba more than those of us immured in this colonial space we call Gambia. It’s either we take away most of the powers we give these presidents and their ministers and make them true servants of the people or we implement practical mechanisms to hold them accountable and if they fail, they get fired.

Since they call themselves public servants kangne, I don’t think they will get angry if the public demands accountability. The accountability should run through every department. Before you accept any position, you would know exactly what the deliverables are and what the consequences of not delivering will be. I bet some of us will think twice before even accepting ministerial positions or see every attention fiend running for president. As things stand, daffa yomba torrop! Ask your government worker when was the last time they were evaluated on realistic goals that they can point to and say their output actually impacted and benefitted one Gambian citizen. Ask them to show the evidence deh because we may not be inventive with many things but we sure know how to pretend to be what we are not. Many of us are just smoke and mirrors.

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