As nation celebrate 45
By Abdoulie John

“We must be ready to work harder and for longer hours with the little salary -’’ The words of Yahya Jammeh, as he addressed a huge crowd which gathered at the July 22nd Square (formerly McCarthy Square). The occasion was in celebration of Gambia’s 45th Independence anniversary.
The colourful ceremony was graced by Senegal’s President Abdoulie Wade and Junta leader General Seckouba Konate of Guinea as special guests of the day. Guinea Bissau’s President Malam Bacai Sahna was represented by his country’s National Assembly speaker.
Also present at the scene of the celebrations in Banjul were a good number of representatives from various African countries as well as members of the diplomatic corps.
The event was marked with a near two-hour military parade followed by a march-past by school children as a tradition.
President Yahya Jammeh used the occasion to call on Gambians to be ready to do more sacrifices for the betterment of the nation.
“We must be ready to work harder and for longer hours with the little salary that our country can afford now until such time that the Gambia is wealthy enough to pay fat salary,” he stated. And he added, ‘‘this is what the Japanese, Chinese and Singaporeans had to do before becoming economic giants.’’
Over the years, the Gambian leader has been championing a campaign for Gambians to put the culture of hard work at the centre stage of the development process. Through his “back to the land call”, he has on several occasions urged the youths to take their destiny into their own hands instead of searching for ‘‘greener pastures’’ abroad.
As a tradition, the Gambian leader highlighted a series of development projects his government undertook with the past one and half decade – education, energy, etc.
“Today, we have more than 600 graduates and more than 50 medical doctors,” he said, as he elaborated on his government’s development effort in bolstering the country’s health sector, once dependent entirely on foreign technical support.
As far as President Yahya Jammeh is concerned, none but Gambians themselves can develop the nation.
“Nobody is going to develop our country for us. Only we Gambians working together and pulling our efforts can make this country into an economic super power,” he said.
Colonial legacy
Like always, occasions like this serve as perfect opportunity for the Gambian leader to hit at his foreign critics. None is more so susceptible to Jammeh’s attacks than Britain, the country’s former colonial power.
He told the gathering at the July 22nd Square that regardless of his development achievement “we are accused of bad governance. But we have seen the difference between The Gambia after more than 400 years under colonialism and 15 years after the July 22 takeover.”
The Gambian leader however thanked all “our true friends who stood with us through thick and thin and continue to be with us.’’
He finally called on Gambians to work hard ‘‘in honesty to make The Gambia a model,’’ and to make ‘‘our children God fearing and patriotic.”
Moment for reflections
The question on the lips of many here in Gambia is, is there any reason to celebration. No, argues Halifa Sallah, leader of the National Alliance for Democracy and Development (NADD). There is no cause for celebration as
“Gambia is a highly indebted country and 59% of the populations are living in abject poverty,” Mr Sallah told Jollof News prior to the celebrations proper.
The renowned sociologist went on to say: “This is a period for reflection. We need to sit down and ask ourselves the meaning of independence. We must be analytical in our assessment of realities. Some people will say look at the country: today is better than yesterday. The President has built schools, infrastructures. But clearly we must look at the goal.”
According to the NADD leader, the goal must be able to marginalize poverty and uphold prosperity.
“From my own perspective, if I look at the society, we should have been far ahead from where we are today,’’ he said.