Throwback: First published March 2018. By popular demand, I place this write-up here!!
Godfatherism and Political Conflict Barrow and Darboe Politics:
President Barrow May Be Timid; Pigeon-Hearted, But Not Stupid.
Ousainou Darboe Is A Very Confident; Hard-to-Break Man and A Political Footballer:
Alagi Yorro Jallow
In the Gambia, when will the rain stop beating us? I submit in 1994 when we, Gambians chose and adopted a totalitarian system of government. We are now reaping the consequences, including most of the ills associated with raw capitalism and worshipping of man, man-made gods: leaders, power, and materials; instead of the revealed God.
President Adama Barrow may be timid and not pigeon-hearted, but he is not stupid. He is not tired of being president like someone he upstaged. He has no ambition to become a martyr and won’t offer himself to be nailed to the cross for some ill-defined democracy. He was destined to lead this once, a proud nation on the path to greatness once more and experienced honor to rule, and that has been his portion since the beginning of the time of the coalition victory in 2016.
President Barrow is a very brilliant man. In one short sentence, he can deliver a thick brew of sarcasm and satire and irony and other ingredients of hemlock for the side he chooses to fight.
You are preparing for war, and you think it is a winning strategy to give your armor to the enemy. Who does that except the one who is tired of everything? Before this case, I had not heard of a human being opting for suicide as a short-cut to being loved and canonized by his enemies. President Barrow loved his foes so fondly that even they loudly announced their shock at his lion turning out a lamb.
President Adama Barrow is a strongman breathing down on a gasping nation. By popular demand, his hurricane rushed out coalition 2016 and its tired tactical alliance two years ago. The power of that hurricane may have been considerably reduced by the wear-and-tear of (mis)used energy, but the power-holder does not believe anything has changed. His market is still full; he boasts and dares anyone to hold an opinion that puts a lie to his. That is the world of strongmen. Writing in Time magazine in May 2018, Ian Bremmer said humanity has arrived at the shore of puritanical macho leaders: “In every region of the world, changing times have boosted public demand for more muscular, assertive leadership. These tough-talking populists promise to protect “us” from “them.” Depending on who’s talking, “them” can mean the corrupt elite or the grasping poor; foreigners or members of racial, ethnic or religious minorities. Or disloyal politicians, bureaucrats, bankers, or judges. Or lying reporters. Out of this divide, a new archetype of leader has emerged. We’re now in the strongman era.” Adama Barrow fits right here. He is saving us from the past – all the past – except his own part of the past. If you ask him, he will beat his chest and say 2 years from now, his mountain will be in the Statehouse, immovable. And that will be because strongmen don’t close allies; they don’t quit – even with court orders- they stay. They don’t go home; power is their home.
Ousanou Darboe is a very confident, hard-to-break man – a political footballer who believes his every pass must reach its destination and his every shot a goal. When a man’s can-do spirit sculpts his image on the granite of his people’s political history, he will pay the princely price himself in a pure diamond. Ousainou did that with the boast that his opponents are gone forever in the South-West. He has managed to foist his hegemonic ideology on a choosy, proud race so far without consequences. That was why he was sure his tendency would prevail forever. But is that what history teaches? History will not be history if what it says is that there are empires that last forever. If you are an Ousainou Darboe believer, wait for a little before you disagree with this view. The man himself agreed with this position a day before the Barrow’s declaration. Ousainou is an ardent fan of floundering, drab Manchester United, a club that has seen better times like today’s struggling UDP.
But why would a clever Ousainou Darboe not see the turbulence of football as a hint for his politics? If the titanic Manchester United could flounder ceaselessly as it does, who says a political party can’t suffer the same fate if it also has the wrong coach? And UDP has an efficient, effective wrong coach now! Every empire has autumn — an end. Ousainou leads a far-right orchestra which he would rather package as a progressive party. He is so effective acting Big Brother that he now thinks, seriously, that he would be the lord of this animal farm forever — whatever he does with the farm and its products. There is a problem when an abusive husband boasts that the wife is stuck with his trauma forever. He has reasons to think so. And you all know you are the reasons. His party would rule the land forever, even as vital to remain forever comatose, altering destinies in their hundreds of thousands. His party would remain the darling of everyone, including those serving in the diplomatic service and other prestigious civil service positions. Because he has carefully spread his “our time and our own to eat” ideology across the physical space, penetrating all social categories, his supporters now see themselves as privileged beneficiaries. And because he has been so successful doing these, his fingers are on every pie and his eyes on every friend to keep — and on every foe to buy or break. So, has the future of the South-West (with its trophies) been sold wholesale and forever to this clever, smart, wily, even devastatingly foxy Man-United? The answer cannot be Yes unless the Ousainou club abandons its buccaneer ways and always does good. That is what can give the club any hope of a long-lasting reign on the league table. Even then, the Real de Banjul should rather see the football club called Manchester United, with its paradise lost, as living proof.
Gambia’s political class knows some will unquestioningly swallow its propaganda. The leader’s tribal grip is the gasp of mass hysteria. The politician knows you will nonsensically rationalize anything the master has said, no matter how ridiculous. In the circumstances, is there such a thing as objective truth in the country? Is a sober conversation possible? An ethnically docile population such as ours is dangerous to itself, the country, and future generations. Such is the tragedy of zombie republics.