The Gambia government should consider enacting a Heroes Act Council

I contend that the celebration of our heroes and heroines would inspire not only the current generation of Gambian patriotism but also the generations to come who continue to serve and defend this great nation. 

The conferment of awards and honours to deserving people will only further establish the fundamental principles of nation-building that require the sacrifice of all citizens. However, we must, therefore, imbibe the moral rectitude to embrace our past and, therefore, recognise the contributions and sacrifices of those living heroes and martyrs of our maturing democracy.

It’s commendable to posthumously honour our fallen heroes who sacrificed their lives for our country, but there is also the need to assist their families, especially those who cannot settle their bills with gold plated medals, wooden plaques, and laminated certificates.

The Gambia government should consider enacting a Heroes Act Council that is supposed to identify and recommend national heroes and heroines and administer state assistance to national heroes and heroines where assistance is deemed necessary. 

National heroes and heroines need to be treated with respect, dignity, and pride. No one should take advantage of a national hero or heroine’s vulnerability for cheap publicity and Facebook likes or as a backwater political toy. We should not be using our national heroes for our own selfish gain every time they fall or run into problems with their pockets.

An award is a prize or mark of recognition in honour of some real achievement. At least, that is what most of us think of awards. In this age of vanity, awards now help people to get validation, as they are given as an acknowledgment of excellence and achievements, and they raise the profile of the awardees and bestow the respect of peers on them.

Award schemes would not exist if they did not work on recipients, at least some of the time. There are many prestigious awards whose names everyone recognises, and many not so prestigious niche awards that are recognisable only within a particular field or audience, and countless feel-good awards that provoke laughter and stares of incomprehension when mentioned.

Regarding national awards, for any plaque that is awarded to anyone in the name of the national award without them contributing to the restoration of democracy or the fight against dictatorship, that award or medal of honour is carved from a death’s casket. Those whose trophy or plaque is carved out of the coffin of their victims will perpetually live in fear of the victims’ ghosts.

In the latter territory belongs the vanity awards, where the goal is not to recognise excellence but to cream “winners” and awardees of their cash. Awards in this category have no significance other than the self-satisfaction of seeing one’s name in print or on a plaque.

Many of those parading themselves today as heroes of democracy were actually in bed with the dictator, the villains whose cowardice and silenced aided and abetted dictatorship. They fought vigorously to make sure despotism was not reversed. They said and did despicable things for political gain and filthy lucre. 

However, nobody remembers it again. They now grandstand and lecture us on democracy and the resistance to kleptocratic rule. If we want to have a list of these villains-turned-heroes, please get a copy of the confidential “The Last 100 Days of Yahya Jammeh.” Gambians will marvel at the conduct of the sycophants who have become latter-day saints of the democratic order being honoured. Have we forgotten? 

Then, as it is now, it is shameful that those who did not work for the return of democracy to the Gambia during the dark era of kleptocratic rule now find themselves in position of power; they may not care whether democracy is endangered by their acts of public misconduct and undemocratic behaviour, but they are today’s Gambia’s heroes and heroines. How sad!

Naturally, good, well-deserved awards are endorsements. Such endorsements can propel the recipients to further pursuits of excellence, help them attain more significant financial successes, and, yes, make them feel good, too. These days, some awards are scams or clever vanity manipulation tricks rather than actual recognitions. 

These for-sale awards are usually from gray-zone scams designed by clever shysters who use deceptive, but legal, practices to make money through the fake awards that they present to individuals and organizations. Award scams are a worldwide phenomenon, and some regions are better at it than others. 

Unfortunately, the market for fake and packaged awards exists because of the hunger for acceptance and recognition, to be publicly acknowledged as belonging to the top of the heap.

Many people behind packaged awards are usually creative. They come up with punchy, creative names and categories for the awards they peddle. Like in any endeavor where perception is vital, naming is essential. Even though they may not be reputable, award peddlers mimic reputable institutions where nomenclature is of critical importance. 

The first indicator of a bogus award has its length. For example, The First Black History Month National Black Excellence and Exceptional African Leadership Award awarded to African presidents and heads of states. It is unwieldy, laughable, betrays a lack of imagination, and is a pointer to its lack of bite. It was given in the name of the late celebrated civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr. 

Expectedly, sub-Saharan Africa reacted negatively to the award. Jolted by the news of the award and the condemnations that followed, the King Centre quickly dissociated itself from the award through its Twitter handle. A statement released via @ThinkCentre stated, “The King Centre did not give the award to President Buhari at the request of The King Centre or by the children of #MLK and Coretta Scott King.” Be aware, says Fatoumatta, and most awards are a crock.

By Alagi Yorro Jallow

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