Alagi Yorro Jallow
Fatoumatta: We are in an election year, or are we? Surely December 4, 2021, presidential polls. This is the year we go to the polls to hire our next Commander in Chief or retain the incumbent to steer the rudder down the path of our preferred collective well-being for another five years. However, somehow, everyone, well, at least many people I know, seems numbed by the process of our democratic test.
So what are the issues facing us, and how are those offering to save us from the darkness now of what we plan to do?We cannot deny the subtle attempts to understand the threat of elite hegemonic agents of state capture to foist on Gambians. However, in my opinion, any consent and submission for political space and hegemonic elite power to consolidate state control by capturing state will be digging our grave, anointing so-called cultural elites to have a bigger say in choosing the President. Most of them aspiring to contest for the presidency on December 4 polls are the least qualified for President of the Republic of The Gambia.
To succeed as President, you need more than a doctorate in law. Even a professorship in law will not cut it. After all, neither the doctorate nor the professorship has succeeded in getting us out of sundry legal and constitutional logjams. Neither the doctorate nor the professorship has shown us how to streamline court processes, shorten case turnaround times, and avoid interminable delays in justice dispensation. We, Gambians, have been at each others’ throats over questions as fundamental as “restructuring” and the bare fight against corruption.
Those supposedly legal minds with impressive legal qualifications have not proved helpful in getting us out of tricky legal situations. As it so happens, the challenges we face go beyond the mastery of legal technicalities. Whoever wants to be a successful president of The Gambia must be ready to face tough challenges and make hard decisions.
The ideal candidate must be fired with the passion for making history and the determination to answer perplexing questions. They must have a clear change schedule and a believable roadmap to national stabilization and redemption. They also have to look beyond their inner circle in filling strategic and tactical positions. Above all, he has to earn the trust of not a particular subset of an ethnic group or a specific religious denomination but the entire country. Regardless, after twenty-seven heady years of kleptocratic rule, the Gambia and Gambians deserve a clean break. Those ‘Tangal Cheeb politicians’ with their ‘Sosalasso political movements faced seemingly intractable challenges must stand aside and let others with brilliant ideas take over the reins of government.
Fatoumatta: Whoever wishes those politicians well must draw the country’s attention to the necessity to weigh its options before taking any earth-shattering decisions. The same goes for the supporters of the elite hegemonic. They need to realize that the presidency of the Gambia is not child’s play. It is serious business. As I argued THE ROUTE TO POWER IN THE GAMBIA, the presidency is not like a bicycle which children take turns to ride. It is an office in which decisions affecting the livelihood (and future) of every Gambian are taken.
Therefore, the kingmakers must think long and hard about the competencies of the persons they put forward to vie for the Number One position.Fatoumatta: I admit that I can see failure on the part of some, in civil society, to bring some light, albeit a small beam, into “this present darkness,” as an American’s (Stephen Ellis) recent book is titled. However, in the main effort to organize debates and civil discourse, a good democracy requires disagreement and conflict. The argument seems more like entertainment at Rome’s Colosseum than an idea “beauty parade” from which the choice of accountable agents is made. Anyone looking in from outside sees a failed civil society, forgot independent media take advantage of the emergency relationship between government and civil society in the era of civil society matters in democratization in setting the boundaries of posy transition political inclusion and a failing state in which the citizens are mere spectators, angry, worried but seemingly immobilized and unsure how to engage. At least, that is what foreign friends tell me.
Fatoumatta: You do not have to look hard to find the wisdom in Winston Churchill’s definition of democracy as the worst form of government, except for the rest. In the Gambia, one of the splendid pointers to what is troubling about our democracy is the kind of people who dominate it.Many political actors are hustlers and have no obvious other sources of livelihood than the rents they scavenge off being politically active, as well as the scams they perpetrate against the Gambia, which are debilitating of the process of delivering quality public service that advance the common good and improves the quality of life of citizens.All these add to the image of ‘Sosalasso politics’ and Tangal Cheen politicians’ as unwholesome, causing many capable people to flee the public space.
The result is that policy choice is significantly iatrogenic; that is to say, very many times, the policy choices we make do more damage to the patient than the disease we are trying to cure. This is understandable, as many ‘Tafyengal political parties’ and ‘Tangal Cheeb’ politicians and ‘Sosalasso civil society’ dominate the policy-making arena have neither the training, leadership capacity, nor the discipline to apply themselves responsibly to solving society’s problems. As a person usually cannot give what they do not have, the cavity and lacuna left by insufficient capacity are quickly filled by the process of goal displacement is as aptly described in the book; ‘Complex Organizations’ by Charles Perrow, resulting in an obsession with corrupt enrichment of self at the expense of public purpose. Goal and purpose displacement can be the bane of the bureaucratic order.
In a typical analysis, this is seen as greed and a manifestation of the narcissism of the bureaucratic age.In contrast, the problem is a void created by a lack of capacity and purpose. Other goals are more personal than organizational or public filling the gap. This underlies the issue of local governments with “tout” Chairpersons, mayors, and councilors.Fatoumatta: A general recourse in truly to solve this problem is to call for radical change in citizenship conduct such that the better prepared for public life instead of fleeing the public space not to be contaminated by the violence, blackmail, and the mischievous scandalizing of those who enter by those who live off politics and often have nothing to lose by way of pedigree and reputation but everything to gain by the power, and material benefit that comes from a political position.
So we urge forward able quality people to enter political life. However, what do they encounter? Their knowledge, education, and businesses are quickly stigmatized. They cannot access financial instruments because they are tagged as politically exposed and fatigued persons. Post-exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) stigma, they are likely to suffer in economic life and be tempted, like the professional politicians who live off the system, to think of ways of surviving while serving sacrificially for the good of all.Fatoumatta: I know a few good men who have tried politics, motivated by the noble ideal of service, got so much poorer, without being appreciated for the sacrifice they made, that they never swore again to approach the arena of political life, but there are still democrats and patriots continues serving the common interest and the needs and aspirations of the people elected in office or not.
Which capable professional would want so seemingly a tainted tag as, politically exposed person? It is easier for such people to cynically refer to the arena as territory of “Dem all crazy” and retreat into striving to construct his comfort zone, a bubbled based on an economistic sense of self-love. The truth, in the end, is that, like all bubbles, it is not sustainable. Worse still, all of society is poorer for that orientation. So how do we install a regime in which the professional politician is pushed back? The citizen politician, equipped in the Aristotlean philosopher King mode, steps forward, burdened by the need to advance shared prosperity and social harmony, to offer light? My alarm on this subject has been heightened by the astounding number of people with and without capacity, who in my recent experience I found desperate to be appointed into positions of any kind in government. For the first time, I came to a complete understanding of why we have a bloated government.Fatoumatta: In my thinking, one of the ways to tackle this choking of the system, with carrying an unproductive load, is to create more centers of prestige in society and reduce the material attraction of political life.
Where the businessman who makes a success of an enterprise, a bureaucrat who builds a reputation for attaining execution premium, and the soldiers who reach the top with distinction is celebrated and recognized as much as the political success, there will be a lower incentive for crowding out the arena of politics for those with the passion for serving, when a rigorous culture of accountability, compensation systems different from what the National Assembly has managed to institute are put in place to ensure that political pay comes into line with the civil service compensation and requires sacrifice on those in government.People have to learn to sneer at politicians with no evidence of job-creating, wealth creation enterprise behind him or them. At the same time, we should learn to celebrate the simple life in public life.
The status conferral function of the media needs to be developed to raise the profile to politicians who move around without a coterie of aides and security people and who live effortless lives, do society a world of good.At the same time, the abusive interpretation of the idea of PEP should be reworked so that the entrepreneurially oriented who can advance the common good in public life with transparent systems to ensure accountability, and the blockage of possibilities of abuse of public position for self-interest, should not be disadvantaged by what the PEP idea insinuates. With this in mind, we can consciously look at the paradoxes of the Democratic culture in practice and evolution so that society profits from democracy as desired.
Fatoumatta: The trouble with the Gambia emerges in sharp relief as you scope the Gestalt. It is a citizenship failure. Indeed it is easy to blame the politicians.
However, the blaming person already knows that most current Tangal Cheeb politicians are adventurers, bounty hunters with different primary interests with no sense of shame, but united by self-love and unbridled narcissism. So why expect much? The people with the most to lose, often unprotected by the rent the “big men” can and have extracted, the educated middle somehow fails to see how to engage from the system. As a result, the ambivalent middle inadvertently encourages the adventurers who, in pursuit of very narrow, clearly unenlightened self-interest, push the Gambia towards collapse in this present uncertainty.
The ambivalent middle, without doubt, became complicit in determining the Gambian condition. I have played significant roles in shaking up the sleeping middle at different stages in my life cycle. As a Journalist and founding managing editor of the Independent newspaper during the military turned civilian administration of President Yahya Jammeh critical of his regime. I have seen enough complicit and conspiracy in the middle that I have become convinced civil society groups, independent media, certain Sosalasso political parties, and Tangal Cheeb politicians deserve more of the blame for where the Gambia is those doing the actual damage.
With pride, they hold politics and politicians in contempt or fear consequences to their comfort for speaking up against evil. Furthermore, their submission to instant gratification sometimes makes them look away from wrong, thereby aiding and abetting impunity. The ease with which our ‘Tangal Cheeb politicians and their Sosalasso politics’ allowed the ‘adventurers without conscience’ to despoil their lives and the future of their children beggar’s belief. When thoroughly exhausted, they join the generation that left town, as Diaspora warmly welcomes our best and brightest in this during the wave of dictatorship.Fatoumatta: I have lately been interrogating these issues and the trouble with the Gambia, more broadly, citizens State Capture, elite hegemony, and elite hijack of Politics in the Gambia following the election of President Adama Barrow. I toyed with the idea of lumping together the complicit middle with the adventurers, in what I called the “incestuous Oedipal” of the rape of a loving mother by children to whom she had been extremely generous. Indeed, I evoke a metaphor from Heaven, even though Hell would have been appropriate. The metaphor was injected as a gift from Heaven because of a story of a young man who was arrested sodomizing the corpse of his murdered mother.
He had been told that the path to riches was to kill his mother and violate her body going through rigor mortis.Fatoumatta: I thought this bestial episode, in many ways, captures the Gambian story. The people who had received most from mother Gambia have subjected her to serial rape and are getting ready to despoil her remains.However, the real trouble is that the other children are turning the sordid deed into a spectator sport. As they put it, “politicians in Gambians are doing things with impunity because Gambia are docile.” The Complicit Middle, in failing to be faithful citizens, is the very manifestation of this acquiescence. They even laugh at those who dare on their behalf.The problem with the complicit middle is that time is running out on them.
Let us take the issues facing the Gambia:Becoming grand central station of poverty.Emerging as a country of slow grinding kleptocracy called all kinds of other names.Sliding into strategically irrelevant status in World Affairs.Establishing the woeful example of where not to be on the Sustainable Development Goals scale.Locating firmly as the corruption capital of the world and misery central were to be sick is almost a death sentence.
How about an infrastructure nightmare where youth unemployment and youth banditry challenges stretch. Today’s challenge is about politicians entering a war cabinet room, citizens, compatriots, and authentic leaders, not people overcome with partisan bickering when the ship is sinking. The Gambia is in a moral equivalence of kleptocracy. Still, the complicit elite middle class masquerading as democrats and patriots seems to have forgotten who the principal victims of the kleptomaniac rule can be.Fatoumatta: To go to school and not use education to save your country instead of yourself is the ultimate failing. Unfortunately, the Gambia’s complicit middle manages to snatch misery and anarchy from the jaws of potential hegemonic elite demographic dividend.