We Must Reject Trading Elite Cultural Hegemony And Identity Politics for Political Relevance
By Alagi Yorro Jallow
Fatoumatta: Governance elsewhere is serious business and a looming fundamental challenge. Only in the Gambia, presidential candidates and political parties have their major events headlined by comedians. It remains the durable wisdom of a British polymath Bertrand Russell, who once penned that “the trouble with the world is that the stupid are so confident while the intelligent are full of doubt.” This maxim is self-evident in politics much more than in any other field. This translates to making a joke of international development and good governance.
I guess. The greatest peril we continually face as a nascent democracy is not the lack of quality leadership but the want of learning, motivated by narrow interests within political elites in tribal cells. So much elitist cultural hegemony and tribal conglomerations are shaping and whipping ethnic emotions as we head to December 4, 2021, presidential polls.
We must reject trading with identity politics and tribalism for political relevance. We must for sure be willing to die, having made human life better than willing to live on by contributing to the misery of humanity?
All free people, wherever they dwell, must necessarily believe in justice as a catalyst for social mobilization and socio-economic justice. However, unfortunately, some tangal cheeb politicians in the Gambia appear like Kangaroo. They have long legs deeply rooted in nationalism, ethnic-male chauvinism, and imperialism tribal politics, jumping from party to party, concise hands that cannot work effectively for the people, and a marsupium for keeping proceeds of corruption. Looking at the state of the economy, state, and direction of politics, you realize that most people are looking for information to confirm and cement their biases. Few are looking for knowledge to overcome prejudices and comb new frontiers.
Each day with the rising sun, here in the Gambia, we witness the growth of politics devoid of honesty, the outrageous flamboyance of twisted vigor and cynical escapism presented as absolute and unquestionable power, steered by patched up intellectual rigor. Of political alliances and coalitions in the Gambia: Those who made our bad history possible, and are enabling our present painful circumstances, should not be trusted to be the architects of our hopeful future.
Fatoumatta: When a nation desperately yearns to destroy itself, it openly shows how the respect for its people and values is increasingly narrowing. The Judiciary is essential. The Executive is important, and so is the Legislature. All these arms derive their power from the people of the Gambia. Political leaders must respect the people, those who support them, and those who do not. Our views, choices, and decisions make the content of this Nation. I opine that good character is ever most advised. Anarchy is not a merry-making party. Tragically, our partisanship is our self-imposed doom.
Let all of us drink from the well of conscience and listen to the dictates of reason, that future historians may find us the better judges of our present circumstances. Most people who complain about the Gambia do not even know the depth of our mess. If you think the problem is terrible leaders, at least we can come out of that. However, how do you explain how those who sought to replace the “bad leaders” are worse? Some presidential aspirants on the campaign terrain who are not President yet see the lies they are telling. They believe they would have won convincingly if the election were held this week. Even in “rigging” of elections is debatable that they think they will win enough to tell you how they will lie in office.
How do you explain that a man who is not flanked by power, influence, and sycophants is more unrealistic than a man who is? Some candidates are sure they will win in Adama Barrow’s village simply because they passed through Mamkamangkunda village and somebody called them and shouted “wee wee wee Mr.President …. Ajindi.”
Fatoumatta: One of the Independent candidates went to one market. Like five people were shouting “wee wee wee Mr President….” while others booed, this was enough for him to be convinced the people had rejected Adama Barrow for him. One supporter Àisha Ceesay makes a long video laughing at Adama Barrow’s supporters, saying they are fidgetting.
If you are still not convinced, think that President Essa Mbye Faal said he was SURE he would be President! A man that needed to convince us that 2 million people knew his name at all was sure 2 million adults with Personal Voters Cards (PVCs) were waiting for election day to vote for him. Based on NOTHING but the altar of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission (TRRC) as lead counsel play to the gallery on national television and also donating, volunteering and contributing relief food during Coronavirus impacted by the pandemic to a particularly to needy and deserving family and maybe one or two interviews.
Fatoumatta: Were these guys all daft, or were they pretending? Any of this does not spell well for the Gambia! Have we talked about the ideas? One of the leadership challenges in the Gambia is ideas and sound economic policies, so have we hoped that “those who own the Gambia” and the political landlords be driven away, then ideas will start to flood everywhere? I am afraid the new breed of Sosalasso opposition is even the most strangers to any ideas or sense. President Essa Faal’s sound bite and campaign sloganeering said he would operate “Turn Around taking back our country” when asked how he would achieve this. He said, “it is just to ensure our leaders could not be a laughing stock when they meet other world leaders on global stage.” Other candidates were asked what they intend to achieve with regime change and what they felt the government ought to have done that can make them give them a pass mark, one of them replied, “I am not here as a government advice. All I want is regime change and clueless Barrow go”. Others were sweating through interviews in various social media and echo chambers, saying nothing apart from “we have to make sure that…we have to ensure that”. There is no clear plan, process, ideology, just EMPTY political rhetorics and essentially hollow promises of words uttered and meaningless talk.
Everybody’s mouth is sharp when they want to lament suffering, but how do they solve the problems, silence everywhere. Those who choose to open their mouth will do nothing but complain even more.
However, some social media presidential aspirants are building their reputations on Facebook and Twitter as activists. They say they want a transparent and sincere government that takes responsibility. However, since they launched their candidature, they have shown no evidence that they were wrong about Barrow’s domestic and global performance in meeting world leaders. There is video evidence that few influential leaders read prepared speeches as that was the format. Video evidence also existed that ALL questions were about good governance and sustainable development and that President Barrow answered correctly without complexity or paranoia. However, can they take responsibility and tell their followers that they made a mistake and misinformed them? No, they cannot. They have ignored us because they have more followers. These are the same people who complain that government ignores them and only attends to the influential and the powerful. The pattern is the same, and even theirs is worse.
Or is it corruption charges they want to discuss? When people managing a colossal economy and complex society are accused once in a while of acting inappropriately, these folks call them thieves and armed robbers. However, just one minor ‘tangal cheeb politician’ intends to contest for President with like two members in some towns and is already being accused of corruption and sleeping in hotels of over 100k per night for a year.
A minor political party whose members do not know the party leader’s name was accused of looting donations from crowdfunding. How about that he could not consult with his Deputy in a political party the size of a classroom before he stepped down? The same politician will curse the government for not bringing all 2 million Gambians onboard every decision. See, I can go on and on and on, and you will be wondering how come people who do not have power are already worse than those who do. That is the mess we are in.
Fatoumatta: We will solve our problems when they stop pretending that whoever is President is the devil, which is why we are here. Have we had bad leaders? Yes. Is ALL of our problems because our leaders are bad? NO. Some issues need to be fixed, and a good leader is not enough. They need to come together to fix our broken political system and returning to a government of, By, and For the People with bold solutions to the Gambia’s problems.
However, our online conversations have nothing to do with how to arrange for security in our communities. Nobody is discovering Apps that will make Police collecting bribes without being caught impossible. Nobody is talking about practical policies that can curb corruption. No one wants to discuss making the electoral process less about money (imagine pushing for a policy that campaign materials must never be published in color prints or media houses must show an equal amount of campaign from all parties). We also do not want to talk about setting up community schools or hospitals leveraging on volunteering and the likes. Our love for a better society starts and stops at insulting the government and making accusations left, right and center. No real talk. Some of the problems are real, and not even a good President can fix them except we put heads together.
Fatoumatta: Do you think President Barrow wants insecurity challenges, particularly youth unemployment and banditry, to exist and continue to embarrass him and kill his brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers?
Do you think Cyril Ramaphosa wanted South Africa to be the crime capital it is today, or do you think Joe Biden wants many black women to be single mothers because the men who impregnated them ran away?
They must stop this illusion that only an elitist cultural hegemony, an educated lawyer, or someone with a doctorate from a reputable university will make the Gambia Haven. Even with a good leader, there will still be crises and situations we must fix. However, we can’t fix these if every other incident is thrown about as accusations and counter-accusations. It just makes people defensive.
Fatoumatta: If all your effort towards this Nation is based on criticism and activism, you are a distraction. You are the reason the government is spending more time on PR than on actually solving problems. Be part of the solution. Do not just wail like a sadist.