Yunus Hydara is undoubtedly one of the most influential young Gambians in the Diaspora. He lives in the United Kingdom, where he bagged a Master’s Degree in Drug Discovery at the University of Edinburg.
The Brikama-born recently joined the United Democratic Party (UDP). In this exclusive interview with What’s On-Gambia, he explains why he joined the party, among other things:
What’s On-Gambia: Why did you decide to join the United Democratic Party?
Yunus. Thank you first of all for granting me an interview on your widely followed platform. My decision to join the UDP was not taken lightly. It took a lot of consideration over the course of four months and many factors influenced it. These range from my conversations and interactions with many decent people within the party; reading Sir. Dawda’s book, Kairaba, which gave me an understanding of the history of Gambian politics; and my own observation of how the party operates.
Their passion, commitment and dedication to the national cause is simply unmatched. Comparing the UDP and the alternatives out there I found out to be more in alignment with the UDP policies notably, their economic policy of free-market capitalism and trade liberalization. As imperfect as these are, they promote competition and specialization which in turn drives creativity and innovation which are imperative in stimulating a thriving economy.
I am also intrigued by the party’s policies and programs in areas of agriculture and healthcare. The UDP aims to achieve significant poverty reduction and food self-sufficiency by investing, and not limited to, in agriculture to increase productivity and output. They aim to increase arable land, promote mechanized farming, provide credit facilities, markets and storage facilities for farmers and invest in agricultural research and development.
The final nail in the coffin, however, is the propositions made by a UDP member, Karamba Touray whom I have great respect and admiration for since during the struggle against Jammeh. In a Facebook comment responding to someone, he claimed he is not interested in a ministerial position, but he will work to create an agricultural policy blueprint for the UDP government with the sole aim of achieving food self-sufficiency for The Gambia.
Recently, he also proposed a mass mobilization of citizens to petition the government of Adama Barrow to adhere to their commitment to the Maputo Declaration of 2003 and allocate 10% of it's National Budget annually to Agriculture. Reading this, I said damn! I want to work with this guy. I want The Gambia that is food self-sufficient and with good a healthcare system. I believe with the enormous strength and capacity of the UDP, these policies and programs will help greatly in elevating poverty and improve the quality of life of an average Gambian.
So you no longer have a soft spot for PPP?
I will always have a soft spot for PPP because it's a party that has a rich history. It was led by my great uncle of blessed memory Sir. Dawda and has done a lot for The Gambia notably - leading us to independence and turning the once improbable nation termed The Gambia into a viable sovereign state. However, I see no significant difference from the PPP then and the UDP now. PPP has made its history and left a legacy that will continue to influence the UDP in its pursuit for a better Gambia for all.
What about PDOIS?
PDOIS is a decent party that aims to enlighten and empower the Gambian people. As an activist, I loved their empowering messages to the people. But my observation revealed the party’s inadequacies in its internal structuring. Their socialist ideology also does not seem to resonate with the people which is attributable to their strategy in communication.
They like to sound intelligent, often condescending in their messaging even when its self defeating. They’d willfully explain simple concepts and arguments using complex jargons. Their party militants also only appear to be committed on social media and not so much on the ground.
Anyways, I didn’t choose PDOIS because I do not support their socialism ideology as the best for The Gambia, and the party’s leadership is very inflexible and do not like to improvise even when The Gambia’s interest needed them to. In a third world country, a leader must learn to improvise in adapting to the spontaneity and fluidity of events they get confronted with rather than withdraw.
I've also learned that ideas alone are not enough to create or maintain bonds in political association but interacting and genuinely interested in each other at a personal level helps a lot.
The friendship, the brotherhood, and the personal warmth extended to me by the UDP members over the years created a natural environment and a sense of belonging that I cannot foresee getting anywhere else. Of course, you will get the odd irrational ones everywhere, and by ratio, with UDP being the biggest party, the irrational ones will be more pronounced than those of other parties. But the majority party members are decent and well-meaning Gambians.
The UDP won more than 30 seats in the last National Assembly elections. Do you believe the party still has that kind of support and can they make it without President Adama Barrow?
Absolutely. It’s the UDP that made Adama Barrow who he is and not the other way round. The party has intensified its efforts and strategies in resource mobilization and outreach to win at least 60% votes in the coming elections.
If they invite you to join their Diaspora executive, will you take up the challenge?
I believe their UK chapter executive has already been constituted. They’ve reached out to me and I promised them my full support in any way I can contribute.
What do you think should be your party's manifesto at the next presidential elections?
The party manifesto should aim at a radical shift towards socio-economic emancipation from aid-dependent and should aim to invest heavily in human development endeavours. Also, since the Barrow government has failed in its institutional reform agenda, the UDP government should aim to reform our institutions notably the security and judicial sector and build structures that’d promote good governance, accountability and transparency to the highest standards.
The big question today is: Can Lawyer Darboe lead the party to victory?
Of course! He is loved and admired by many Gambians and around the world. He worked hard for the support base the party has and I have no doubt in his ability to win if he wishes to run for president.
Barrow's presidency will soon clock 3, what is your assessment?
Well, so far Barrow hasn’t done anything consequential to the lives of the people. When interviewed they jump on the benighted notion that they gave Gambians freedom of speech and expression. This is false, Gambians fought to give themselves this freedom, if anything Barrow government is still standing in the way of this by keeping the public order act and other draconian laws in our constitution.
The government has not made any progress in changing the system and the institution despite the huge political goodwill our 2016 change has brought to us. I would only give the administration credit for the TRRC and the Constitutional Review Commission, which, they deliberately delayed and thereby delaying justice, to use as an excuse of staying for five years. If the TRRC and CRC are all Barrow could implement in 5 years, then he has been nothing but a waste of our time.
What's your view on rumours that he is about to establish his own party to seek reelection?
He has the constitutional right as a citizen to form a party and run for office despite the moral conundrum of going against his promises. But history will judge.
Politics in The Gambia has become more competitive and interesting. Has the quality of our politicians, especially those in the National Assembly, improved or declined?
I was elated to see the reinvigoration of our political scene since the change of government in December 2016. Though the competitiveness of it was somewhat impeded by the dominance of the elderly and the usual faces. The young people are getting involved and learning quickly, and this is manifesting at the parliament. For the first time, I’ve seen NAMs requesting for the president or his vice president to come to their debate. I see critical issues affecting our people being debated and while the formulation and implementation of these ideas remain a challenge, I believe we’re getting somewhere and thus, yes quality has improved.
What do you think should be the role of young people in politics?
The young people constitute a significant proportion of our country’s demographics and they are the ones with the most at stake. They give us leaders. Thus should choose these leaders wisely and be sure they represent their interest and hold them accountable. They should not allow being exploited by politicians in youth movements who do not really care about their general wellbeing.
Three years or five years?
I am yet to take a firm position on this issue. I wish Barrow would resign in honour of his promise which will help reconfigure public perception of our usual politics of deception and treachery for self-perpetuation. But all indications are he wishes to do five years which he has the constitutional backing to do.
I am not subscribing to forcing him out, because it will precipitate a constitutional crisis and destabilization of the country.