Alagi Yorro Jallow

(JollofNews) – The president’s gift of vehicles to National Assembly members is the saddest thing to me and perplexed how the executive gives gift to legislative members without due process.

This is not a mere banter; where is the morality and ethics we expect from our political leaders. The independence of the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary is well enshrined in our Charter to promote checks and balances. It’s just that we only see checks being encased and we are left with the balance as always.

I have known and admired a well-respected brother who have integrity, man of dignity not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine, over the years, now a National Assembly member, a beneficiary of the Presidential Car Gift.

This young man came from humble means, worked hard and won a seat. But even before Gambians get a chance to witness his character in the National Assembly, even before fellow National Assembly corrupt him, his great achievement has been all but wiped out by the president’s gift. The president has taken this man’s achievements and given him a bread and butter in exchange. Now this man who was known for his uncompromising stance against corruption, bribery and injustice will no longer stand on his own legacy. He is no longer his own man. All that, for a car.

And the Gambian community has lost an opportunity to teach boys on becoming a man by standing on one’s own. Working with one’s own intelligence and respect for the community. And I bet the boy child advocates haven’t noticed.

My father warned me repeatedly about gifts. He told me they have soul power and they are given in exchange for something you have. At the time, I used to think he was talking about lust for money and sex. But now I understand it was about much more. It was about dignity, integrity and soul. And those are priceless.

This presidential gift story reminded me of what I told my students few year ago: “The people willing to give you smartphones, to give up your vote, know that however much they give you, your dignity, integrity and human birthright are much, much more valuable. That’s why they’re willing to part with so much. So, you too, should know how valuable your dignity is. Do not give up your dignity for (Tom Yum Kum) a bowl of soup.”

Both girls and boys, in very specific ways. We cannot teach kids values if we do not judge our politics by the same values. There’s no point teaching values as an individual parent if politics is going to contradict them.

The author is founder and former managing editor of The Independent, the Gambia’s only private newspaper before it was banned by the government in 2005. He was a Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy, a 2007 Nieman fellow and is the author of Delayed Democracy: How Press Freedom Collapsed in Gambia published in 2013.