Alagi Yorro Jallow
Fatoumatta: The 19th-century Scottish historian, satirical writer Thomas Carlyle was a promoter of the Great man theory, the philosophical concept that the history of the world was primarily shaped by the individual decisions and orders of great men and personalities. His viewpoint was based on the premise that every event in history stems from the choices made and the acts done by influential individuals who used power in a manner that produced an important historical impression. While most modern-day philosophers diverge from this Great man theory with the idea that several world events emerge from a series of separate developments, it goes without saying that the decisions of individuals must have created those different developments. Proponents of this chain of thought tend to attribute a character of inspirational personal attributes and almost a heroism to those individuals that may have shaped history. Among the men who shaped history, it is those that exhibit a sense of decency and struggle for the betterment of the majority that time will inevitably judge as heroes.
These three men of such greatness are Messr, Halifa Sallah, Seedia Jatta, and Samuel Osseh Sarr. As we mark the 31st anniversary of the party’s founding and FOROYAA, Gambians must still pay utmost respect to these ordinary yet extraordinary gentlemen. They soared above their peers and dedicated their life to altruism and candor. Like very few in this country, they stood as a brilliant, bright shining light in a land literally and morally steeped in darkness. However, they are the very essence of duty, compassion, justice, and selfless humanity. They represented hope to a people sinking deep in despondency. They became the role models of good leaders and excellent Gambians.
An old saying from my Fulani ancestors goes, and “a person never misses the water till the well runs dry.” Whereas this may be the case in most situations where people do not appreciate what they have until it is gone, this appears not the case with the protagonists of FOROYAA and the People’s Democratic Organization for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS) founding members. Through their work, from their struggles, due to their sacrifices, we have always known the gem we had in these precious Gambian sons. From the time they registered PDOIS in 1986, it was evident that they were aware of the need for social justice, and they used both FOROYAA and PDOIS to advance this cause. They were an unrepentant democrat and unrepentant patriots and an advocate of a better Gambia for the most significant majority of the people. Their whole life is given to helping the poor, the needy, the oppressed, and standing for the truth.
These political scientists, political thinkers, sociologists, linguists, and mathematicians have established themselves as one of the most promising leaders in this country, a mantle they carry to be political champions of their generation. They have risen to become very vibrant, competent. Famous political figures in this country outweigh the known political heavyweights in their own game, which propelled them to become the architects of the People’s Democratic Organization for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS) and the founding editors of the authoritative FOROYAA newspaper. They are a force to reckon with. Those who have tried battling them politically have been met with the full force of wits, intellect, and political correctness from men who understand politics well.
Fatoumatta: A favorite dictum of African politics is that a week is a long time in politics. It follows, then, that more than three decades of passionate politics and political and social movements is virtually an eternity. Nevertheless, this is how long these notable political thinkers and organic public intellectuals teamed as the protagonists and founding members of the Foroyaa newspaper and political party, the People’s Democratic Organization for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS). Messrs Sidia Jatta, Halifa Sallah, and Sam Sarr, including some who may be better known for their work in other areas of politics, has been at the forefront of the Gambian political scene, sharing duties the scrimmages, throwing and taking punches, getting smeared in political mud, and doing some smearing of their own and generally making the whole political scene worth watching and listening to them.
We cheered them on when they agreed with them, even going so far as to brand them cross-tribal and socialist. This was so, considering in the Gambia, a politician has not arrived until he is baptized with a name from a tribe, not his own. In this sense, Sidia, Halifa, and Sam, known in the Gambia, arrived a long time ago. The People’s Progressive Party(PPP) government also lambasted them when they thought they were going astray. However, this was typically whenever they defied ethnic stereotypes, corruption, and human rights violations to reach across this or that tribal divide. However, that means nothing in the Gambia, where a person can be a darling one minute — because he backs your tribesman for high office — and an enemy the next because he has the temerity to run against another of your tribesmen. That is just who Gambians are. These political thinkers and organic public intellectuals — People universally refer to them using their first names — have lasted a lifetime at the business end of their political spectrum. Nevertheless, it is now time for Gambians to vote them in office. .Giving credit where due, if one cares to read the PDOIS party Manifesto keenly at every election time, you will notice the party has unique, well thought out transformative ideas. We are unsure whether Gambians will vote for PDOIS in the December 4 presidential election to implement those brilliant ideas.
The critics of Carlyle’s Great Man theory were staunch in their belief that reducing history to the decisions of individuals is utterly primitive reasoning because every man in history was a product of their social environment. Before a man can remake his society, his society must make him. Perhaps this is a more likely notion, especially when considering other aspects of life such as economic, societal, and environmental influences, which are just as or more significant to historical change. However, despite one’s view as to what determines history, it is without question that humanity is blessed with the highest specimen of a man once every so often. Without more reasoning, Messrs Halifa Sallah, Seedia Jatta, and Samuel Osseh Sarr are genuinely one of those men. While we do not have to wait for history to tell us their effect on this country or the powerful legacy they built, the general theory is most likely be that Messrs Halifa Sallah, Seedia Jatta, and Sam Sarr will always be one of the greatest men the Gambia has ever seen!
Fatoumatta: In recent times, young politicians and some Gambians crawling on social media barely out of their napkins have taken these eminent politicians recently as an opportunity to hurl insults at them. They conveniently forget that the very structures over which they lord, the same country that they now bestride with noisy tweets and Facebook posts and many of the freedoms they enjoy, would never have been possible without the sacrifice of these gentlemen and their contemporaries.
These men endured years of persecution from the PPP government and under the dictatorship of the Alliance for Patriotism, Re-orientation, and Construction (APRC), banged up in detention without trial, to birth the openness and the democracy that we now take for granted, and in whose free air the new political class now hold forth with their salt-in-the-wound rubbing.
In so doing, they come to resemble Chinua Achebe’s unwise little bird eneke-nti-oba, who so far forgot himself after a heavy meal that he challenged his personal god to a fight. Sidia, Halifa, and Sam are a yardstick against which to measure the performances of our old and new crop of politicians. They made mistakes — like everyone else — but their virtues far outweighed these. This is very standard against which we will now judge the grit and fitness-for-purpose of our new leaders. Unfortunately, they have not begun on a sound footing, letting their followers humiliate these men in ways that are decidedly un-African. As Achebe said, those who mock Sidia, Halifa, and Sam should remember that he whose palm nuts have been cracked for them by benevolent spirits should not forget to be humble. We should thank these honorable men and their colleagues for their selflessness and service and let them be.
Besides, to the doubting Thomases, they have prepared the way for the Gambia sons and daughters born, sons, and daughters to change the political thinking in this country.
Alagi Yorro Jallow