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Posted - 14 Feb 2024 :  08:53:58  Show Profile Send Momodou a Private Message  Reply with Quote
National Dialogue
By Mmajiky Saidy-Barrow

Like many Gambians, I took note when I saw in the newspapers that my Bandam, President Adama Barrow, was to host a dialogue with political party leaders on Monday. Granted, some of these political parties exist in name only but I guess where politics is all about numbers, everyone, no matter if they’re just mere political hustlers, becomes relevant. The only people who are not as relevant are the market vendors, taxi drivers, traffic police officers, and anyone else who hasn’t been able to bag a degree during these degree inflation times. The conveners of this dialogue call it a multi-stakeholder dialogue but if you live in the backwaters of Badibu, you are only a stakeholder when it is election time!

In the dialogue with the President, we are told that all political party leaders will have the opportunity to “make statements on the theme of the political environment for sustainable peace and stability.” I have no idea what the “theme of the political environment for sustainable peace and stability” means but let’s forget this meaningless phrase for a moment. Here is my problem. I don’t like being told what to make statements on. I am sure no real political party leader does either. And if I am to limit myself to a topic or theme, I prefer to have a say-so in choosing the theme. I doubt any of the “real” political parties had any say in choosing this theme. You cannot choose a topic for people and tell them to come and make a statement on the theme you decided on alone without consulting them. Inclusivity is a cardinal requirement for any successful dialogue. But that is just the first hiccup!

Some years ago, at the height of the euphoria that followed the forced exit of Yaya Jammeh, some genius came up with the idea of a National Think Tank. I remember how so many people waited with bated breath, to know who will be the individuals selected to be part of this National Think Tank. When I read the concept note of the Think Tank, I suspected that it was a vehicle going nowhere and I shared my thoughts accordingly. Some said I was being a negative Nancy but time has proven my prediction right! When was the last time you heard anything about that think tank?

Today, I’ll make another prediction: This national dialogue, like the National Think Tank, is also a vehicle to nowhere! Some people will collect allowances, while others will laugh all the way to the bank, but as a people trapped in this colonial space, it will not take us anywhere close to where we ought to be. And please don’t ask me for an alternative because my job is to tell you what will not work. That is enough free service.

Here is the issue. The idea of a dialogue is not a bad thought. In fact, I welcome the idea because I believe it is high time we had an open, honest, and difficult conversation about our mother Gambia. It is overdue for us to hold one another accountable and forge a new chapter that will usher us into a Gambia where a few so-called public and civil servants don’t live on the backs of the majority in the guise of serving them. So I think dialogue is a good idea. However, a good idea can be defeated by those chosen to implement it or crushed by the procedure used to implement the idea. Critically, the topic of a dialogue is as important as those chosen to partake in the dialogue. People will buy in the interlocutors first before they buy in their messages. Let this be clear: A dialogue means nothing when intentions or hearts and minds are not aligned. A dialogue means nothing when words do not march in lockstep with actions. A dialogue means nothing when being in power, being in the good books of those with power, or keeping one’s government job, matters more than the welfare of the state and its people. A national dialogue cannot succeed when accountability is sacrificed at the altar of political expediency; when being in government means serving yourself first and worrying about the people later. Dialogue means nothing when it is not undergirded by shared values and principles; when what is said in the dialogue is diametrically opposed to our actions. When dialogue is not built on mutual trust, does not take place between equals, or is not built on honesty and sincerity, such dialogue is bound to bear fruits for only those who participate in it. The general public will gain little if anything! And public cynicism of the essence of dialogues and mistrust of politicians will heighten. Mark my words, this cosmetic national dialogue, like the moribund National Think Tank, will take us nowhere!

A clear conscience fears no accusation - proverb from Sierra Leone
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