Opinion: VP Njie's Testimony: Key Lessons
Updated: Oct 8, 2019
The appearance of former Vice President Isatou Njie Saidy before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission to testify about the previous regime’s gross human rights violations must serve as an enduring lesson for the current Government, particularly with regard to the relationship between the superiors and their subordinates as well as delegation of authority.
Truly speaking, subservience and sycophancy had been the hallmark of the civil service during former President Yahya Jammeh’s tenure in office. Civil servants, including the Vice President, Cabinet ministers, directors, permanent secretaries and service chiefs would say anything and do everything just to please and appease President Jammeh and ensure that they were in his good books, to the detriment of the nation and breach of core ethics and values.
Dr. Saidy’s catchword in her testimony was “I don’t know”. Well, this entails two things; it’s either she remains protective of her former boss or that she was serving as a stooge where she effectively turned a blind eye to all the atrocities that were being committed by Jammeh under her nose just to keep her position. No wonder VP Saidy was the longest-serving female Vice President not only in the Gambia but on the whole African Continent.
Madam Saidy is supposed to be the mother of the nation, considering her track record in education and the promotion of women’s welfare but she, unfortunately, dented her credentials by consistently siding by Jammeh and standing for Jammeh in good and bad, through thick and thin. She could have tendered her resignation in protest at Jammeh’s appalling human rights record to save her face. I felt pity for her yesterday for the self-inflicted embarrassment and shame.
The other lesson drawn from the testimony is a stark lack of a clear-cut policy and a command structure in dealing with crises. Both the former VP and CDS have bemoaned the April 10/11 student demonstration as a chaotic situation, yet nobody seems to have figured out the best way to deal with it. In any respectful country, a Vice President serves as an acting President in the latter’s absence and assumes all his/her duties. Jammeh’s autocratic style of governance has obviously rendered fodder to his aides who wouldn't hesitate to blame him for micromanaging them.
Leadership comes with responsibility; hence it should not be a problem for a leader to say sorry even if they are not directly involved in malpractice. Many top government functionaries who appeared before the commission have annoyingly laid the blame at the doorstep of their subordinates rather than own up to their responsibility.
Leaders come and go while the country remains. Therefore, civil servants, particularly, must put the supreme interests of the country first. The pursuit of narrow personal interests is what has been holding our country back since our the Gambia gained independence more than half a century ago. Most of Jammeh’s senior officials have been suffering from humiliation while he remains in exile.
The Barrow-led Government that has set up the TRRC must be the primary beneficiary of the Commission to draw important conclusions. Civil servants ought to do what’s right for the sake of the country and for their own sake and for the sake of days unfolding right before our eyes.
Basidia M Drammeh
Editors note: Views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Gunjur Online. Got an opinion article? send it to us at GunjurNewsOnline@gmail.com