Opinion | National Assembly members: What is left when honour is lost?

Going to school is easy and liberating, but nothing beats a mature and wise challenge. Leadership, on its part, calls for both in modern times inspirational and transformational guidance. 

However, it is better to have battered and tattered garments than battered and tattered mind and character. It is also better than a shattered moral rectitude, ruined reputation, and a battered ego of leadership, so battered and too shattered as a lawmaker. 

By the dictates of the Gambian Constitution, that a government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish. It falls on the three branches to ensure a separation of powers (the Executive, the Legislature, and the Judiciary) to apprise the dwellers of this country on the state and affairs of the nation, about which each of us slogs and is encumbered by blisters of the mind and body to pay such high taxes.

To have a ‘tyranny of numbers’ anywhere globally and fail to explore such tyranny for the nation’s progress is the worst of all tyrannies. In the Gambia, some selfish, arrogant, and greedy legislators can use their ‘tyranny of numbers’ to the right the wrongs of history in policy, regulation, and legislation. 

In the Gambia, the home of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights and the headquarters of the African Center for Democracy and Human Rights Studies, a continent’s pride is on its knees and ‘tyranny of numbers,’ otherwise, the ‘tyranny of the majority’ as an inherent weakness to majority rule at the expense of minority faction in the National Assembly. 

Those self-serving and arrogant careerist power addicted politicians were shaming themselves in pretense. The parliamentarians must rise to live up to the honour of this noble institution.

The culture of greed, entitlement, and self-indulgence maintains its grip on the Gambia in the hallowed chambers. Despite outrage over a faction of MP’s spectacular expense abuses. 

Nominated member Ya Kumba Jaiteh and her arrogant, selfish, greedy colleagues continue to show utter disdain to the Gambian electorate with their extravagant ‘political pork ‘barrel’ claims and lavish perks. 

These parliamentarians seem impervious to shame, indifferent to the concept of public service. They want a home loan scheme amounting to GMD 5.4  million at the expense of poor Gambians. They were earlier allocated every one of them a plot of land at a reserved government area. 

They also became a recipient of a brand new vehicle gift from an anonymous donor three years ago as their official and personal car. According to confessed parliamentarians, some other greedy parliamentarians were allegedly corrupted with GMD10,000 monthly ‘political pork barrel’ from the President.

One of the tragedies of life is that men and women seldom bridge the gulf between practice and profession, between doing and saying. A persistent schizophrenia leaves so many of us tragically divided against ourselves. 

On the one hand, we proudly profess certain sublime and noble principles, but on the other hand, we sadly practice the very antithesis of these principles. How often are our lives characterized by a high blood pressure of creeds and an anemia of deeds?

Appreciating that above all else, even though we stand on the shoulders of rights, powers and privileges thus donated by the Constitution, if the supremacy of the Constitution must be inevitably and piously upheld, and defended, the character of our legislators in the National Assembly must not be defended by anyone who pays homage to the supremacy of the Constitution, and decency of reason. 

Better listen first, then speak, than to make noise and hear nothing. To be wise must be a challenge for the living.

The Constitution permits anyone to voice, and dissent is respected in the democratic fiber. The legislative branch of government must perform and be faithful in service delivery. 

It must not be short on truth and justice. A cancerous body is in a chaotic state. The body is a eusocial entity with all of its organs working in synergy to preserve it in the pink. 

When cancer invades an organ, its cells become selfish – wanting to metastasize fast, use up all the nutrients, and are concerned with no other ethic than that which comports with their urge to occupy the entire body. I am no physician or seer, but I think that that attitude smirks of fascism and chauvinism. 

Therefore, when those perched on society’s thrones are actuated only by a selfish ethic that seeks self-aggrandizement and personal glory, frictions with government coordinate levels are wont to result. 

The systems will hold only for so long before they finally collapse into intractable chaos. Chaos breed chaos – and like the deadly contagion of cancer, where chaos descends, tragedy succeeds.

We talk eloquently about our commitment to patriotism principles, and yet our lives are saturated with the practices of treasonable acts. We proclaim our devotion to democracy, but we sadly practice the very opposite of the democratic creed. 

We talk passionately about peace, and at the same time, we assiduously prepare for war. We make our fervent pleas for the high road of justice, and then we tread the low road of injustice unflinchingly. 

This strange dichotomy, this agonizing gulf between the ought and the is, represents man’s earthly pilgrimage is a tragic theme.

When a legislature, a national assembly in a presidential system of government where there is a settled operation of the principle of separation of powers and checks and balances, starts combining with its constitutionally prescribed role the roles constitutionally assigned to the two other branches of government- the Executive and the Judiciary.

A legislature supposedly occupied by knowledgeable men and women, one is left to wonder whether this is not a national embarrassment and disgrace instead of being a national assembly. 

A national assembly that dishes out orders on how individual offices in the Executive Branch of government should be headed; that illegally and unconstitutionally exercises the power of legislative review of executive and judicial actions as if it were a court exercising the power of judicial review over all administrative, executive and legislative actions, granting orders in the process. 

A National Assembly that indiscriminately issues summons to public office holders and private individuals at will; a t Assembly that grants orders, countermanding the courts, interfering in the judicial process, and sabotaging the independence of the Judiciary.

A National Assembly that ought to know that under the Constitution, the Court is the forum for the resolution of disputes between government and persons. 

That the exercise of the legislative powers by the National Assembly or by a House of Assembly is subject to the jurisdiction of the courts of law and tribunals established by law.

That even the law otherwise validly made by the National Assembly is subject to the exercise of the power of judicial review by our courts, and maybe struck down or annulled in whole or in parts, either for conflicting with the provisions of the Constitution or for being made outside the legislative competence of the National Assembly.

As the Gambian parliamentarians put through their case for improved conditions of service, they could have had a reason for deeper introspection if they had a peek into the life of former Uruguayan President Jose “Pepe” Mujica, who gained worldwide notoriety for having forfeited his stately earnings, and opted to stay at his one-story home on the outskirts of Montevideo. 

For Mujica, it is not just for show, as his beat-up old VW Beetle is probably one of the most famous cars in the world and his decision to forgo the luxury of the Presidential Palace is not unique – his successor, Tabare Vazquez, has also probably gone some measure in adopting bits of the austere tendencies of his predecessor.

However, such excuses are almost as reprehensible as the claims themselves. The National Assembly s’ official Code of Conduct, drawn up in, requires that members “must adhere” to the principles of “selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership.” Their absence has distinguished these.” qualities from the Hallowed Chambers.

The National Assembly and its political operatives in government and opposition alike have managed to break down the people’s individuality. An individual cannot think for himself or herself. The only thing that is possible is “group think.” If our.” leader says run, we run. If they take cover, take cover. If they say run, we turn. We cannot say the word “dictator.” We are afraid. ‘We need to be ignorant to accept lies the politicians offer.

These parliamentarians have stolen a precious commodity – reputation and the possibility of legacy – from political prostitution. Our National Assembly members accepted cash and cars’ gift from corrupt political operatives and approved an unconstitutional loan scheme for themselves. 

Now their reputation has taken a hit by accepting gifts and being selfish, arrogant, and greedy. However, in politics, sincerity is not enough. In politics, the road to hell is even more paved with good intentions.

Moreover, this is a life and death issue. It is truly tragic when young Gambian men who make a mark by being selfless, serving justice, and working hard against the odds will receive handouts from the political class’s corrupt political hacks. 

Furthermore, these selfish politicians are nothing compared to the young men; the political class of men and women have been selfish; they have wallowed in impunity and stolen public resources rather than sweated and toiled like real adult men and women. 

Moreover, when these great young men and woman politicians hang around these old dogs, they indeed get fleas. The old guard selfishly absorbs Their innocence, and their potential to be even greater men and women than they already are is stunted before it completely matures. It is, indeed, unfortunate. It is a great tragedy.

We want the Gambia of upright political men and women in all ways, as Thomas Sankara wanted for his country when he renamed Burkina Faso. We want a different breed of the political class, but they get burdened with the elders’ sins every time they start to rise. 

For now, until our hearts get broken again by the next young Gambian man who gives away so much of what he accomplished for so hopelessly little, I will remember the words of Ossie Davis about the great Malcolm X: “Malcolm X, even when he was wrong, was the rarest thing in the world among us Negroes: a true man.” 

The Gambia needs true men and women in leadership, and this goal is proving harder to reach than we thought.

Pray, shouldn’t a national assembly be a rational assembly, and a national ensemble of men and women of character, honor, dignity, decency, good conscience, and patriotism chorusing the anthem for national development and progress?

I thought I would not be shocked anymore by the conduct of our very distinguished and honorable members of the house of representatives. How wrong I was.

By Alagi Yorro Jallow

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