Thousands respond to Jammeh’s appeal

Monday, September 1, 2008
The response to the appeal by President Alhaji Dr Yahya Jammeh increases by the day. As it has been since the first rain of the season, thousands of Gambians from across the country continued to descend on the various farms belonging to the president, in a show of solidarity with the Gambian leader’s clarion call.

Last weekend was no exception. United in their reason and vision, the men and women were unanimous in their resolve to stand by a leader they see as exemplary. This they demonstrated in their words, as much as they did in action.

Along the way to Kanilai, at the village of Kampant, were stationed two formidable groups, the entourages from Upper River Region and Central River Region, headed by their respective governors, who commanded groups of at least 500 men and women. They stressed that their mission was simply to help the Gambian people, as whatever the president does is for the people.

Governor Omar Khan told the Daily Observer that he and his group’s mission to Kanilai was to give a helping hand to the president, in response to his call. He disclosed that as to their part in the general crusade for food self-sufficiency as envisaged by the Gambian leader, they were already setting the pace back in their region, having cultivated fields in the name of the president, each of which were being headed by the various chiefs of the districts.

The people of Central River Region (CRR) were by no means left out in this regard. As their governor, Nganyi Touray, disclosed, his region has about 63 farms under cultivation. They were only helping the president in his own farms as a way of responding to his call for help.

Hon Sainey Mbaye, the National Assembly member for Upper Saloum, and Omar Sompo Ceesay, the chairman of the Basse Area Council, among a host of key personalities, were visibly instrumental in ensuring the day’s work went on smoothly.

For Hon Mbye, CRR is, this year, poised to “beat” Kanilai in terms of productivity “if we consider the resources ploughed into Kanilai Farms”. Hon Mbaye stressed that the people of his region were peerless in their efforts to complement the Gambian leader’s efforts to responding to the apparent threat posed by the global food crises. He however, recognised efforts by the people of other regions, singling out North Bank, CRR and URR, as exemplary.

For Chairman Ceesay though, the call is not “for the president, it is for the people. We know that the benefit comes back to us, the people, especially those of us in the rural areas”. He reiterated their readiness to ensure that the exercise, both at the regional level and their show of solidarity to the president on his farms, remains a routine.

Another speaker in Kampant was Mr Hakuru Sillah, a staunch APRC supporter of URR origin who is based in the KMC. He simply said that the back-to-the-land call would only arm the Gambian people with the opportunity to control their destiny, in terms of achieving “total independence”.

The Daily Observer’s next port of call was in Kanilai, in the heart of some of the biggest of the president’s rice fields. There we found men and women of the Department of State for Fisheries, Water Resources, and National Assembly Matters, led by their SoS, Yankuba Touray, who told us that they were in Kanilai “to support the president’s back-to-the-land initiative”.

SoS Touray argued that as a department, they were not only into fishing but also into cultivation. He said that they were not doing so by helping the president in his farm only, but that they had gone as far as to cultivate their own individual farms in their respective areas. President Jammeh’s leadership by example, Hon Touray believes, is the reason behind the overwhelming support his call continues to get from the people.

He recalled an earlier warning by the president, during the last Dialogue with the People’s Tour, for people to take up farming as a way of neutralising the eminent effect of the global food crises. He said that the president himself went to take the challenge of demonstrating to the people that he could do it.

“He could have decided not to engage in farming, and we all know that it wouldn’t harm him anyhow, but he wanted to set an example for the people,” he stressed.
Individual countries must develop strategies in terms of containing the food crisis, he stressed, adding that independence is all about being able to feed oneself and sustaining oneself economically.

Linking independence to food self-sufficiency, he said: “We cannot call ourselves independent if we cannot feed ourselves.” Although this was the first time SoS Touray and his department were engaged on the president’s farm, he disclosed that they were seriously looking into the possibility of getting their own piece of land come next rainy season.

He said that they would soon engage the local authority around the Fonis, which is the only possible area as far as proximity to their offices was concerned. “Complementing the effort of the president by helping him at his own farm is very good, but having your own farm will be much better,” concluded the SoS.

Lamin Nyabally, who was interrupted in the middle of intensive work on the rice field farm echoed SoS Touray’s sentiments. Mr Nyabally said that ‘Back-to-the-land’ was a sine qua non to food self-sufficiency.

Gambia Women’s Solidarity
Also at hand in Kanilai to help the president on his farm was the Gambia Women’s Solidarity. Comprising women from all works of life, the group is quite aware of the role of the women folk in complementing the effort of the president.

According to Mam Sai Njie-Sanneh, the former mayoress of Banjul, it is a routine for them to visit Kanilai. She disclosed that they were able to mobilise some 3,000 to 4,000 women; singling out Nyima Sata Sanneh Bojang and SoS Nancy-Njie as key figures behind the women’s group. Her message was simple: “Whatever the president does is for our children, our husbands and our families.” She commended institutions like Africell, Gamcel, AGIB, and others, for having been behind them.

Staff of the Personnel Management Office (PMO) were also at hand.  According to Mr Omar G Sallah, the permanent secretary at the PMO, public servants are not restricted to the office. Tilling the land, he believes, is another form of productive activity devoid of the usual bureaucracy the office setting is known for. He said that it energises you to do the paperwork in the office effectively.

Mr Sallah said that the body and the mind have to be synchronised in such a way that one feels that they were doing service to the community. He went on to say that President Jammeh was not only being a pacesetter, but that he was also serving as an example.
“He is a role model the entire nation has to emulate in our effort in serving the nation,” Mr Sallah added and thanked the president for allowing them to be part of his farming activities.

He added that people ought to note that farming is a dignified work, adding that “touching the soil, feeling part of it, knowing that what you are doing is going to contribute to the GDP of this country, is a worthwhile venture”. Attitudinal change, Mr Sallah said, is a key factor in the whole issue.  

Author: by Kemo Cham & Pa Malick Faye