Opinion: The State of the Nation Address: Salient Issues
Written by Musa Bah:
Thursday last, President Adama Barow delivered the State of the Nation Address at the National Assembly in Banjul. This address, a Constitutional requirement is supposed to speak to the citizens of the country - through the National Assembly - of the plans and programmes of the government.
It follows from the above that the president is supposed to outline his vision, plans and programmaes for the year in a comprehensive speech. Logically speaking, if that is the intent, one would expect that this address is to take place in the beginning of the legislative year so that Members of Parliament can have the chance to scrutinize these plans and put mechanisms to monitor the progress (or the lack thereof) in place.
However, this year, the address came in the latter part of September and thus sounded somewhat ridiculous when the president said “I declare the 2019 legislative yearopen’. It's like a person told to count to twelve but they start from nine!
Citizens were expectant. Many were waiting for a speech that would seek to unify the nation and galvanize the efforts of the people to bring about a transformation which was hitherto unprecedented.
In his address, the president said that the only setback of the year 2019 is the postponement of the Organization of Islamic Community's summit from 2019 to 2022. This is like the government's on priority is its international standing.
Also, the president failed to mention some of the burning issues in the country. For instance, the topic on everyone's lips currently is whether or not the president will respect his campaign promise of serving for only three years and stepping down.
The country is so divided on this issue that it was unthinkable that the president will address the national without as much as mentioning it. It was thought that the president would talk about it and seek a consensus on this issue so that it could be put aside.
What Is The Way Forward?
It is necessary that the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) specify a time frame in the first quarter of the year during which the president should address the nation through the National Assembly. Currently, it only says the president will address the National Assembly at least once every year.
The president said that the postponement of the OIC is the only setback of the year 2019. This makes it appear that the government does not care about the real issues affecting the country. For example, the cost of living is still very high; unemployment is still a challenege and our debt is hitting the roof.
It is not late for the president to initiate a national dialogue on the Three Years Jotna issue. The electorate has given the president and his government all they need to run the country and make sure that their rights are respected and their needs met.
He should therefore dialogue with the people and tell them why he thinks that it is best for him to complete the five year term.
This is what was expected in this address and this is the way that we can remedy the anomalies of our country.
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