Alagi Yorro Jallow
Fatoumatta: On December 4 presidential elections, Gambians must seek out the best transformative, visionary, and charismatic leader, and a leader like a golden age of unity not being a divisive leader but a presidential material; an exemplary leadership quality that quest of national unity; we must rebuild a culture that seeks to nurture the best in all of us. Political apathy is the Gambia’s leading cause of all that is wrong with us in politics. Most of us do not follow politics or anything whatsoever. We have placed our bets on religion, entertainment, and Soccer.
We do understand and appreciate the Gambia’s obsession with this triad of toxicity in our body politics. We know because of the extreme pain of poverty and hopelessness. However, the triad of religion, entertainment, gambling, and Soccer is essential because it gives hope, humor, excitement, rekindle positivity, and hope even amid adversity. Thus, these are great ways to mitigate the pains of poverty and despair. Other than President Adama Barrow, Halifa Sallah, and Ousainou Darboe and, to an extent Mama Kandeh and the APRC’S Fabakary Tombong Jatta, how many people know any of the other 20 presidential candidates to compete for the Presidency on December 4 elections?
Fatoumatta: I have a troublesome friend who dragged me into this discussion of Gambian wannabe politicians when our politics degrades into political adventurism. The cultural contradictions of politics of populism have remained a quieting symbol of destructive quence of ethnic chauvinism in Gambian politics that is a clear no-go area for anyone who has something serious to do with his time – and life, I told him. It is a relatives’ affair, a dogfight. Alternatively, it is a fight of the witches and wizards – and marabouts over meat and meals and thrones. So, why should the uninitiated be involved in such a dangerous conclave? You cannot go into that matter and be well, and I warned my friend. If you weep for the one on the floor, he would say your tears are direct from the eyes of the crocodiles of Bakau Kachikali pool; if it is just a smile you offer for those bashing him,,, you will be guilty of charges of mockery. So, why not just maintain your lane and leave the matter for Mathias? Do you know why a tortoise wanders around with an amputated nose? He got his miserable head involved in separating a family feud between shrew and squirrel, and, in anger, the long-mouthed one ate the valuable part of his nose.
Fatoumatta: I also reminded my friend of the anecdotal case of the man who insists on burying his elder brother naked. Wise men agree with him but say he should take his younger brother along to the burial ground – as heir to that role. The cycle of naked burials in the Gambia did not start today. When political novices fell along the rocky streets of Banjul, we clapped as we enjoyed the show. Again, we watched and took sides. Others came on stage, acted their own (ig)noble roles, and are left to retire into silence. Mr. Essa Mbye Faal is an actor-witness to all these histories. It is his turn now to be the main issue. Every naked burial has a younger witness to carry on the family tradition. It will not end during this President Adama Barrow era; that will be taboo.
Mr. Essa Mbye Faal is the lead counsel of the Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparation Commission (TRRC) throughout his Three-year reign. After TRRC, the news heard from the grapevine that counsel Essa Mbye Faal’s next apart being a Barrister & Solicitor of the Supreme Court of the Gambia is taking the plunge to get into politics, an act encompassing the intersection of politics and law since Gambian lawyers gloated like more like a morally good person and played more good guys than the villain of a Victorian melodrama, but what we have in the Gambia is an “actor of modern cultural society.” Gambians are very emotional people who believe everything they see in movies and weep at every horror scene. We know Gambians so well that we keep them stung with tragedies of power. However, these ” Sosalasso or taf yengal” political movements and the “tangal cheeb ” people in politics lack the imagination needed in radical politics. They suck at creativity today That is our problem with them. They repeat scripts and copy and paste storylines. Sometimes we change or even repeat the face of the disgrace they put on the screen for us to watch. They refuse to agree that when the end is known initially, the drama becomes very uninteresting. What I am saying is that Gambia’s scriptwriters do not write a realistic screenplay without being predictable? They are very predictable.
As Gambians, we make a Perseus of every adventurer; we allow him to roam and assault every Atlas on the way freely. Then, we violently bring the celebrated hero to the reality of his nothingness. The lowlife who is graciously allowed to become a hero has gently hauled down the rocks of Bafuloto village. Every devil must come first in a saintly tunic in our cinema house, and then he is stripped naked and taken straight to hell. Sometimes he comes back from the dead, lionized and sanctified to mount the royal horseback to ‘reclaim his mandate.’
In this Essa Mbye Faal matter, there will be lightning in blinding excesses. You already hear thunderclaps with numb shocks. Then, there will be more teary acts and scenes. Then there will be calm and unbelievable peace. You will be shocked only if you have been negligent in paying attention to details. Remembering the feelings and experience of the sound of democracy, when Marie Sock launched an ambitious plan to transform the Gambia as a revolutionary leader and presidential candidate, the “noisemakers” of December 4: One Ebrima Sorrie Bah, Secretary-General, the Gambia For Five Years and Peace Building, has announced he formed a political party called Gambia Jamaa Party (GJP). The Gambia is a family drama. Nothing is real. Nothing gold can stay.
Fatoumatta: In any case, maybe I am even wrong about who drives Essa’s political campaign. I told my friend that he should not bother me further about Essa Mbye Faal and his political expedition. I asked if he ever heard about a unique person called the Jahanka marabouts. He said yes, he heard about them. They are intermediaries with the supernatural, the witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
Cheikh Amadou Bamba was the founder of a Senegalese Muslim sect called Mouride. The cleric, who lived from the mid-19th century into the 20th century, once told his disciples: “Ndigal, follow your marabout as a dog follows its master.” Furthermore, they did exactly that with him till he died in 1927. People who have always ruled the Gambia are dogs of marabouts. We do as the ‘spirit’ in Guinea Bissau and Guinea Conakry, Sierra Leone, Senegal, and Morocco command them to do. That is why we often cannot understand the queer ways of these people you call leaders. We remember how marabouts famously held on to Yahya Jammeh, confining him to the Statehouse until he expired right inside that hole? They are still around; they do not die. However, where are they? My friend can ask questions! they are invisible, but they are real; we are not the Ali-and-the-Angel stuff in children’s books. They rule the Gambia. They are the honest politicians and the government. If they are serious, they should be the ones to head-hunt and vote for going forward, not these impotent politicians. The latter cannot do anything without first kneeling before the hermits of the desert. I am afraid to say that marabouts have the first and the last say on whom to appoint to positions and when to appoint them, whom to sack, and when to do the sacking. They decide whom to arrest, try, and jail and whom to free with full benefits. The final decision on Essa Mbye Faal will be taken by these invisible spirits, not by any panel or Godfather.
So, as we watch the Essa Mbye Faal money-eating drama, waiting for the outcome, let us remember that what we have is a helpless system of marabouts without earthly command and control. Remember that what rules you is a regime of loans and debts that ‘builds hope on foundations of confusion (and) misery.’ Remember to keep your seat belts fastened because we are either on the very edge of a cliff or at the threshold of a seismic deliverance.
Fatoumatta: Elections are routinely funded by moneybags and political jobbers with an eye on huge payoffs and high returns on investment after the elections with their candidates as winners. Dirty money subverts the electoral process. We are left to face two devastating outcomes due to our shortsightedness: politicians split their focus between fixing Nigeria and obeying their sponsors who determine what can be done for the country.
In reality, both outcomes corrode our political system, waste time, and corrupt the political process. Are we to blame for the lack of financial morality in today’s politics? Yes! Because in a democracy, we are meant to be active participants, we are supposed to elect our government. Corruption occurs because we, the apathetic people, do not police our government.
Political apathy is paralyzing this nation. We need to address and redress the unhelpful belief that politics is boring, inaccessible, and even unimportant. Backward thinking most often results in backward doing. Suppose we want to change our political system. In that case, we must first start with individual attitudinal change followed by national attitude adjustment.
The first to adjust must be the middle class and our youth demographic. How many people in this country can name the speaker of the House? The leading cause for political indifference in today’s youth is lack of knowledge, lack of interest, technological immersion, the lure of easy money, fast-paced city life, and lack of ideal servant leaders.
The political setup in the country is patently corrupt and pathologically inefficient, the main reason why the youth have distanced themselves. But for how long? There is the need for the youth to face the situation squarely and get involved in the political system, and VOTE! I know young people are easily bored, and politics cannot compete with Blackberry and other electronic devices. I am aware that most of them think all their free time should be spent entertaining themselves because politics feels like work, and it reminds them of school. Nevertheless, remember, you are growing older – every minute.
Fatoumatta: We must shed apathy in exchange for pragmatic confidence as we seek solutions to our nation’s political dysfunction. We face a decisive moment in history that calls for us to reflect and revisit fundamental sociopolitical tensions threatening to rent the Gambia asunder. We must stop burying our heads in the sand by looking at our current sociopolitical ideology that commodifies everything into arrangements for the highest bidder. Gambians face rapid social decline, unemployment, food insecurity, evaporating industrial base with economic, cultural, and religious tensions fighting to fracture our fragile peace. However, unfortunately, the congress of baboons leading us refuses to acknowledge the deeper malaise and discontent across our nation that transcends age, ethnic, religious, and political affiliations.
As a society, we have lost many of the principles of decision-making that are central to participatory democracy. Many are completely unaware of what has been lost. For most of us, the social bonds that keep our traditional society functioning have completely disappeared along with the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of better days we nursed at independence and well into the mid 1970′s. Far worse today is the average Gambian diminishing capacity to recognize this perilous state of affairs and the will to do something about it. We are enmeshed in a knowledge deficit of the political process; we do not have the economic stability required to engage and build a vibrant political movement. With this as our reality, not only are political questions passed over, we do not question political solutions, and worse, creative approaches to our problems seem to have been eradicated from our brains.
Fatoumatta: The silver lining is the fundamental point that in a democracy, the political apparatus to acquire power is still accessible to anyone or group provided they can mobilize and agitate for change. We do not need a radical overthrow of political institutions; we need radical re-engagement by citizens into politics and a willingness to limit financial immorality.
The citizens are a huge part of the underlying problem behind our broken politics without fixing our broken democracy, giving us a terrifying campaign between a vapid huckster and intellectual hucksterism– in political apathy, especially among the youth and the middle-class voters.
Unfortunately for us, the costs of our political indifference are mounting. The first cost of political apathy or voter fatigue exacts from us is distorted information on the growth of electoral democracy on the coincidence of a lower level election with a presidential candidate. Politics can only capture public attention these days by “shock and awe.” So we are bombarded with focus group tested cliches like “I will prosecute former president Yahya Jammeh” and ” Never Again” in phrase or slogan, “Justice for the victims” soundbites, declarations, and catchphrases.
We have neither the time nor energy to keep our ears unplugged for hour-long speeches nor our eyes open to read policy documents and make a call to pressure our representatives in the National Assembly. Instead, we catch up on what is served on mostly decanted news by social media and public and privately controlled or compromised news media, making us prime candidates for misinformation. Most of us can remember “meek,” educated and influential individuals kneeling in front of clerics for political anointing. The purported “meekness” became the object and symbol of a campaign launching.No tangible policy speech was given; campaigns were laced with empty promises, bombast, and ceremony. No single policy gained leverage in the voter’s rationale. Instead, it was all about smokes and mirrors. In addition to this is the cost of financial immorality. Because of an apathetic public, politicians are spending more money to reach voters through various means, ranging from the distribution of rice, prints, rice, recharge cards, branded T-Shirts, to noodles.
Fatoumatta: On December 4, we must seek out the best leaders, and we must rebuild a culture that seeks to nurture the best in all of us. The real question is to ask ourselves; What can we do? We must resolve to take the Gambia back through civic leadership, incremental individual attitudinal change, and national character and values development. Our objective must be the enthronement of civic change as a vehicle for transformational leadership in government, education, and business. We must realize that the present arrangement jeopardizes the collective health of our future. We are the architects of our own story, and we can choose a tragic end by doing nothing. It is our call.
Alagi Yorro Jallow