By Sarjo Bayang
Gambians are very easily baffled by loud pronouncements usually without second thought. That is exactly what is happening with the case of age discrimination against capable and seasoned political good hands being made redundant on flimsy excuses of age barrier.
The situation requires properly focused rethinking and you are being challenged to do just that.
Who set the age barrier?
It was not Gambian people that agreed on discriminating any section of society to seek political office by informed choice on basis of age, sex, or ethnic orientation. This whole idea of preventing highly experienced good political genius of society using age as barrier came about soon after the illegal invasion by current president by staging a coup on 22 July 1994.
People of Gambia have not been given opportunity through vigorous stakeholder consultation for them to make informed choice about matters regarding age, wealth, or personal records. It was a coup that swept away everything leaving people with no choices.
How it all started
Afraid about what happens if experienced politicians were given chance to contest him as faked retired soldier, Yaya Jammeh at the time had no chance to win clean elections.
On grounds of such fears he came up with the slogan “we don’t want old pa, we want a young president.” At the time that was to compare between him and Lawyer Ousainou Darbo of united Democratic Party UDP who already posed serious threat in sweeping the elections even with all the obstacles. Hon Omar Jallow commonly called OJ was still very popular and could also win any free and fair elections as presidential candidate was equally targeted.
That election was heavily rigged including voters from Cassamance North of Senegal comprising mainly Jola ethnic group paying allegiance to a member of same social grouping Yaya Jammeh, that they already identified as coming to be king of the region.
To consolidate his grips on power Jammeh through some corrupt legal dupes carved the age barrier as part of limitations against experienced politicians.
The whole idea has been and still is that everything being done to ensure that people targeted for this age discrimination be prevented from winning successive elections until they reach that dark- age to be disqualified.
Was there any age limit to becoming Head of State when Yaya Jammeh along his cohorts staged that unwelcome coup on 22 July 1994? They invaded at no invitation by Gambian people and broke down all laws, the constitution, governance structure, and every tenet of orderly dispensation as required by responsible handling of public office.
Playing in crooked hands of the devil
Now that it has come clear how Jammeh and some unjust legal opportunists carved the way to keep him in power at all cost, should Gambians not go for a rethink of this whole matter.
To let this age barrier stick on without bulldozing it out amount to playing in crooked hands of the devil. This was a wild game played for sinister purposes.
By now, Yaya Jammeh is no longer the youth president he sought to win by. Besides he failed Gambian people so badly that keeping him there or permitting his participation in next and future elections is very much unsuitable; equally dangerous for Gambia.
What sense is there in observing a rule that disqualifies one set of potential candidates by age discrimination and leaving out Yaya Jammeh who says he will rule for “one billion years”? Who is fooling and who are being fooled? This does not add up at all.
Golden age is bank of wisdom
What Gambians have to remember and everyone seems ignoring is the fact that there is huge reserve of political genius loaded with great wisdom sitting with those the nation is duped into throwing away just because of frivolous age barriers based on no good reason.
If Gambia is to recover from the current quagmire running in last 20 dark years with the clock still tocking, it takes seasoned and capable politicians who committed all their most useful energies standing by the nation in thick and thin.
Of course any other persons of interest can join the political arena but not at the high risk of playing in the hands of another novice. There is nothing like political old woods especially at this crucial stage.
Gambia requires smooth and orderly succession plan. Putting the nation in the hands of brand new players is not readily feasible, therefore not sustainable in the short or long run. The teething period can be excruciating. This situation needs experienced good hands until they gracefully choose to retire. New entrants still have occasion to step in to be part of a succession effect.
To bar anyone on age discrimination terms is unjust. Already there are people working with the military regime of Jammeh who are older than Omar Jallow, OJ, Ousainou Darbo, Halifa Sallah, Sidia Jatta or anyone that may be considered being laid off on grounds of age. That is risky business. The country needs experienced hands and letting them go just because the military junta wanted it that way is political mass suicide.
Discrimination is dictatorship
Considering how this whole scheme of discrimination began and the way it almost passes on without subjecting it to scrutiny it all amounts to dictatorship everyone is crying they never want.
It is up to every citizen to take up interest and serve in responsible public position including political office. They all have rights to offer such services. It will be seen too discriminatory and dictating to tell a decent member of society not to participate in politics due to age, sex, social grouping or religion.
Gambians should have stopped Yaya Jammeh from taking up the important post of leading the nation for he had (still has) nothing to offer as bargaining power to occupy that position. That still remains the most critical error in Gambian politics needing good fix. It is more serious as Jammeh continues to threaten he will stay in power up to “one billion years”.
Of course Jammeh will not live for anything more than 100 years even by exception to rule of life expectancy in Gambia. What he means is simply that he will misrule until death parts him with the seat of power. What age will that be if the prayers of those who wished he lives longer become his luck in life?
Settling for total inclusion in politics
In view of encouraging political pluralism it is unjust to set barriers to entry on grounds of age, sex, religion, or social grouping.
Setting age barriers has been a scheme by the Jammeh junta regime as way of wasting time of experienced politicians until they become inactive. There is no word from anyone of the experienced politicians that they no longer wish to stay on serving the nation.
It is time to rethink and provide for total inclusion from all brackets of society. You have a duty to challenge discrimination in any form. This frivolous barrier to wholesome political inclusion based on age limit is pure discrimination. How can there be upper age limit at exit without lower limit at entry point? Everything that AFPRC and the junta introduced in Gambian politics is unfit for use.
This age barrier is unsuitable and needs to be scrapped for good reasons.