By Alagi Yorro Jallow
Fatoumatta: Barely with less than two months until Election Day, the entire nation is understandably agog over the December 4, 2021, presidential elections. It is electioneering and politicking time again. The Gambian voters are back at the same crossroads as in the December 2016 presidential election that elected president Adama Barrow into the presidency and ended president Yahya Jammeh’s more than two decades of kleptocratic rule. However, this presidential election is more precarious and ominous than the former five years ago.
As expected, many discourses and conversations are about the presidential elections. The print and broadcast media and social media are not left out as headlines, and soundbites effects are continually blurring the facts with hyperbole about the upcoming presidential elections continue to grace the pages of newspapers. Airwaves have been jammed with talk shows, making the front burner of media outlets and illume chat rooms on social media.
From Banjul to Foni, Niumi to Suduwol, the streets are overwhelmingly “cluttered” with various political party posters and party colors, persuading the electorates to vote for a particular presidential candidate or party. In addition, political parties and candidates have been holding rallies from region to region to sway voters.
Never in the history of our nascent democracy has the political arena been this competitive, tense and dire. With predictions from the international community that the Gambia might break up on December 4; with the election verbatim of political party leaders and aspirants as being a “do or die affair”; with the ever-increasing threats from “glorified political thugs” branding themselves as commando’s and statesmen, that the country would break-up if their favored candidates do not win the upcoming elections; with the ongoing mass cross-carpeting of politicians from one political party to another in the quest for position and power, it is no surprise that we find ourselves in this current state of apprehension and fraught over the elections.
Fatoumatta: As election campaigns inadvertently overheat the polity, hateful political rhetorics and the intolerance and prejudice of bigotry are increasingly becoming the order of the day in a seemingly pre-election day the Gambia fashion. On a country-wide political tour, Mr. Abubacarr Ousainou Darboe, Secretary-General and flag bearer of the United Democratic Party (UDP) recently, launched a vitriolic and a with scornful words on the Sarahule community in the Upper River Region of the country and also a similar rancorous attack and resentment also bigotry attack against Fula-speaking tribe for not showing supporting and political loyalty. The UDP leader and his campaign team pilloried the Sarahule speaking people publicly in the URR as to why they manifested undivided loyalty to the NPP of president Adama Barrow. As polls predicted, the Sarahule and other minority tribes have shown their irreconcilable difference in a political divorce to the UDP. However, the URR region appears to be a stronghold and a political base for President Barrow. It is also reported that the political landscape is more challenging for the UDP, underscoring in troubled standing in the region in the coming presidential polls. The UDP campaign convoy has not been welcomed by the silent majority of the Sarahule people. They have wholly shown their support and political allegiance to Adama Barrow. As a result, votes may appear to be drifting away from Abubacarr Darboe in favor of Adama Barrow, resulting in Abubacarr Darboe’s acerbic wit and political bullying that equally permeated discourse on political issues, as “die hard” supporters of Adama Barrow, mainly of the Sarahule people, increasingly becoming repugnant and intolerant to Mr. Darboe. This pre-election rhetorical of political campaign, hyperbole, anger and toxic and divisive politics is coming against the backdrop of an estranged Godfather and godson facing each other in a do-or-die campaign on the upcoming presidential election after years of estrangement.
Fatoumatta: The robust debates of the 2016 Grand Coalition of opposition parties and an independent that elected President Adama Barrow and ended twenty-two years of President Yahya Jammeh’s malevolent dictatorship have become dialogues of silence. The best that we have on December 4, 2021, Presidential polls incumbent president Barrow seeking a second term now are repeated instructions on keeping quiet or igniting the next adventure. When a government starts shouting down the people, know there is a huge problem. Not even a Jahanka marabout, witchy Serere marabout, or Foni Jola clairvoyant fortuneteller that replaces powerful words with slimy saliva has exhausted their trove of incantations. These days, the message from Gambian husbands in Banjul and the various seven administrative regions in the country is plain abuse. Even the media that drove the bridal vehicle five years ago have become agents of darkness. Powerful and influential politicians in town were seen with disagreeable gesticulations. The scene was reported. Reporters then became, to the presidency, “fiction writers” repeatedly failing “to exhibit a sense of responsibility in their reports.” They churn out reports which are “fabrications that could only have been conjured by correspondents who would probably make better fiction writers than journalists.” Furthermore, I wanted to ask why, but a friend said I should keep quiet. He wondered how I could easily forget how the man next door behaved every night his unsatisfied wife denied his dinner.
Fatoumatta: I do not know why we cannot see the parallel between what our politicians do to us and what the abused wife suffers. The wife that suffers violence has no social solvency. She is as socially bankrupt as she is in finances. She must not have friends; otherwise, they plant rebellion in her mind. She must not have money; otherwise, she starts having ideas of economic independence. Did you read that report of the Gambia Communications and Information Act (2009) moving to block a long list of websites that “threaten national security”? Can you remember that insecure husband who must monitor his wife’s every telephone call? The terrified woman must disclose who every caller is and exhibit the identities of all receivers of her calls. The abusive husband suspects everything around him, including the wife’s image in the mirror. When a man has failed in his duties, he loses all sense of security.
I once heard of one who will not feed his wife but must sniff at her underwear for alien scents. It is that bad, even worse, for a government that has broken its marital vows with the people. It monitors calls, combs through websites and the blogosphere in search of dissidents. During late Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, a minister monitored and regulated WhatsApp and other social media messages. May God not let that kind of husband be our portion in the Gambia.
However, do you blame a government for failing and going tough with dissident citizens? Listen to every woman going through violence and abuse. She is the designer and architect of her misfortune. Right at the courtship stage, the red flags were there: He loves money but hates hard work; he will not tell his story in clear terms for the girl to evaluate him properly. Red flags! However, she ignored all. It was love – that inexplicable intoxicant that blinds even the eagle. Some governments are blessed with hordes of such hungry drunks. They are inebriated in perpetuity. Nothing their lover in power does is wrong. Every abuse is an expression of love. For the sake of the love of their lives, they are ready to disown and be disowned by their kith and kin. The marriage is done, then the scales fall off. They blame the devil and seek to unmake the past. It happens to the voter in Nigeria every four years. He regrets his choice and looks back. The impotence of the inheritor makes the widow long for the long-dead, failed husband. For Nigeria and its peculiar voters, the best is always in the past, no matter how horrible it was.
Fatoumatta: With some others, money means love. I once wrote about this. Romance and finance go together. A man may be blind and ugly in superlative terms, and women will still struggle to have him if he is loaded in his bank accounts (and in bed). The latter is in parenthesis because, according to a female friend, “any fool can ride a horse and ride well.” Egypt’s last Pharaoh, Cleopatra, had many choices. However, she went for Julius Caesar and later, Mark Anthony – men of means, power, and fame. They also chose her, one after the other, for the political capital warehoused in her bosom. It is so too with politicians and the voters they buy here with money. It used to be a prepaid game, but philandering voters who do ‘runs’ with their votes have taught politicians bitter lessons. “The bird flies and so does the arrow. Someday they’ll meet!” Wizened politicians now do “see and buy” – show me you voted for me and make sure you cook soup today. That is what political husbands do nowadays.
Furthermore, they do it and move on precisely the way clients of dingy whorehouses do. They do not look back after doing it. They are always shocked to hear abandonment complaints from a populace who have collected their fee. You cannot be heard complaining of spousal abuse after selling your peace on Election Day.
There is an air of buyer’s remorse in the land. The very expensive 2016 Grand Coalition marriage fast turned to a union of disappointment. This was especially so for doctors and nurses who work without paying for their allowances and improve working conditions; for trained hands which no longer have work to do; for sellers whose buyers have lost their purses. I know we have this culture of staying with husbands, for better, for worse; for kissing, for killing. The wife who wants to bail out of failure risks the label of promiscuity: She is insatiable. Please give a big house to a thief, and he still sees no reason why he must not steal a little! Saturate a promiscuous wife with wealth and riches; that will not stop her from selling herself cheaply to a paramour. We have proverbs for all situations. You cannot loathe a failed husband and escape the reprimand of our culture of accommodation. If you want to test what I am saying, go on social media or write letters to the daily papers and remind your president or National Assembly members of their 2016 election promises. Tell them they have failed, and you will hear the story of how the last king failed too, and you did not complain.
Fatoumatta: A lot of love and hate went into the last elections. Furthermore, a lot has happened to question the wisdom of those days. However, buyers may be remorseful, and it does not stop them from being led again to the slaughterhouse. The Gambian voter does it for various reasons. It could be pecuniary, and it may simply be pure love for their idol. It is like a rape victim falling in love with her attacker. It happens. A few years ago, a Russian rape victim shocked her world. She made excuses for the monster: “He is a good man. He has just been unlucky. On the day he raped me, he had an absent look. It was clear that he was just too drunk, that he couldn’t control himself. A drunk man can do weird things, as everyone knows.He did not kill anybody after all, he did not torture anybody. What can you expect from a drunk man? And he had many problems. His mother was ill, his wife was scandalous, so he drank alcohol.”
The voter here does just that. He helps the failed politician with trainloads of excuses on why the government fails, and the politician must be allowed to repeat the class. Sometimes the disappointed wants to move on but is unsure of when and how to take the plunge. One Jewish woman wrote about her “marriage of pain.” She regretted that the night that should have ended her marriage did not end it. She was “thrown against the wall repeatedly, punched in the arms and torso, then slapped to the floor, (her) glasses shattering.” She pulled herself up, made excuses for him, and continually lied about her bruises. She allowed the abuse to continue thinking it would stop soon. Husbands living with victim mentality always transfer aggression to their partners. They must make excuses for the tragedy of their failures. They will not stop inflicting pains and demanding more endurance from the docile partner.
Fatoumatta: Nevertheless, we must not expect a marriage defined by infidelity to promises to end in praise. Most times, it ends tragically for that party that absorbs the punches of the abusive. When you vote for a governor or president, and he violently shreds your trust, and you stupidly pretend all is still right, he is encouraged to do more. Furthermore, he will do more by telling you it is a felony to complain and treason to move on to other choices.