We can’t even get the basics right. You’d think that by now, 56 years later, we would all agree on some basic foundational truths as to who we as as a people, but even that is a challenge we can’t overcome. Everyone has his/her own versions of what it means to be independent or when we became independent.
There is independence; the concept. And then then are the implications of what it means to be independent. We confuse the two.
First there are those who can’t even acknowledge that the nation state called The Gambia was welcomed into the comity of nations as the newest member on 18th February 1965. They say April 24th 1970, when the Gambia became a republic is the day we should celebrate as independence day. The irony in that is the fact that had we not won the right to self-determination on Feb 18th, 1965, we would never have been capable of determining if we should be a republic.
And then there are the “what does Gambia have to celebrate” group. I get that it is lofty to seek to be greater and better than you are today. As for ourselves, so too for our nation. The Gambia lacks a lot, in fact compared to other nations, she has nothing. But is that enough reason to say we’re not worth celebrating ourselves? We can debate on “how” we celebrate and remember the birth of our nation, but reducing that to saying we have nothing to celebrate is a tad bit nihilistic in a sense and I’d go further to say an act of ingratitude for what we have.
In simple terms, The Gambia has The Gambia to celebrate, grateful that we’ve not been sold off to Senegal as some arrondisement or perpetually remained a territory of the British as some political leaders of the time advocated for whom today we celebrate as founding fathers, am not mad at that.
The greatest country on earth is still seeking “a more perfect union” 240+ years later. The foundation for any prosperity is self-determination, the freedom to decide for myself what I want and where I wanna go, even if I make mistakes along the way, it’s still MY mistakes, MY failings.
The economic, education, and technological decisions we need to make to get to that desired state of a prosperous nations cannot be delegated to any other people but us, Gambians. And without political independence and nationhood, those decisions would be made by someone else on our behalf. Whether we make the right decisions or not, that’s on us but at least we can be proud to say we are free to make them.
Our problem, as a people, is that we diminish the sacrifices and contributions of those who came before us while disregarding or totally ignoring the challenges they faced in the context of their times. That, is the classic definition of ingratitude if you ask me.
The Gambia is an independent sovereign state whether we suck at making decisions or not.
Independence is not just waking up one day and saying to the British, okay f**k off, we will take it from here, its the systemic reshaping of institutional structures to reflect our values for ourselves. But to do that, we needed a work space (nation) and a tool, and that tool was independence attained on 18th February 1965. We got to work and finally finished restructring on April 24th 1970.
Both dates are milestones but let us not lose sight of the fact we would not have been able to restructure what’s not ours, and we got the deeds to the property on 18th February 1965.
Happy independence day Gambia.