Alagi Yorro Jallow
Fatoumatta: In politics, what is real is not essential. The most important thing is what appears to be authentic to the susceptible population. Furthermore, what seems, to be honest is purveyed by the media and purchased by the susceptible population.
If elections are held tomorrow, there is no doubt incumbent President Adama Barrow will win resoundingly. However, going by the number of politicians, political parties and Godfathers, and godsons also political landlords joining his grand coalition and decamping to his side, President Barrow scores perfect political slam dunk by having the former ruling Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) of former president Yahya Jammeh now led by Fabakary Tombong Jatta national executive committee formed a grand coalition with National People’s Party (NPP) of President Barrow winning a second term.
The question in everyone’s mind is how President Barrow has managed to enchant the Gambian electorates so many masses, how Adama Barrow has bagged more than half of the political landlords and Godfathers, godsons and “electoral big boys and girls,” and political merchants in this political season heading to December 4, 2021 – (if photos doing social media rounds are anything to go by)?
To what extend does President Adama Barrow owe his fast-increasing political popularity amongst the Gambian people? Almost five years ago until today, he mainly was being labeled by his critics and his political opponents as one of the most discreditable and reprehensible politicians in the Gambia tainted with scandal, myopic executive leadership, uneducated leader, an ignoramus, and explained everything to him, and lacking a pedigree to live as a tenant at number 1 Maraina Parade in Banjul. Has he been often derided as the high priest of corruption? Yes, how did the man? President Barrow reinvent himself to become a darling of the electorate?
Fatoumatta: I do recommend Gambians to read the groundbreaking book “The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements” written by the American social philosopher Eric Hoffer postulate in his book and when people saw someone loudly wonder how a man as disreputable, twisted, tendentious, and malignant as such a person like President Adama Barrow can attract so huge a following, with his followers having forgotten that he was called all nasty names and their terrible meanings in part of an outfit that was essentially propping up a dictatorial regime, that he is suspected of having fleeced public coffers in his tenure as President, and that virtually all the promises he gave in the election campaign promises in 2016 have not been realized. We have forgotten all that just by rhetoric’s power, and we are now wondering after him.
In 1951, a longshoreman named Eric Hoffer wrote “The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements.” If you have a university education or are in university, I recommend finding the book and reading it. In the book, Hoffer shrewdly analyzed the forces that spark nationalist and totalitarian movements. However, the principal occupation of the book is how vulnerable groups can be manipulated by misleading rhetoric.
Thankfully, Eric Hoffer’s book The True Believer has the answers.
Eric Hoffer says that mass movements begin when discontented, frustrated, powerless people lose faith in existing institutions and demand change. Feeling hopeless, such people participate in campaigns that allow them to become part of a larger collective. They become true believers in a mass movement that “appeals not to those intent on bolstering and advancing a cherished self, but to those who crave to be rid of an unwanted self because it can satisfy the passion for self-renunciation.” Pg 12.
As such, therefore, the leaders of mass movements go for the low-hanging fruits. For the frustrated, the marginalized, the discontent. True to the book, President Barrow’s National People’s Party ( NPP) is the economic outsider – the hoi polio. The hoipoloi struggles day in and day out. He dislikes the establishment because he projects his economic impotence on the actions or inactions of the establishment.
However, the hoipoloi does not know he is impotent. He knows, deep down, that he is impotent, but he does not want to admit it. He has lost faith in himself but does not know it. He wakes up, proceeds to his grind, makes peanuts, wastes all of it in liquor, weed, and hoes, goes home to eat a stale ‘Tapalapa’ bread and bean, nights of sleep, and wakes up the following day, and repeats the cycle. He is dead but does not know it. He is impotent. He cannot pull his weight. He cannot actualize himself.
Eric Hoffer says that “the true believer’s faith in a mass movement is to a considerable extent a substitute for the loss of faith in ourselves.” He says that while leaders inspire movements, the seeds of mass movements must exist for the leaders to be successful. Moreover, while mass movements typically blend nationalist, political, and religious ideas, they all compete for angry/or marginalized people. Gambians have become familiar with the campaign slogan ” Adama Dokula” during his first term in office. President Barrow outlines development pillars that his presidency is aiming to achieve before his period ends. His national development plans include food security, healthcare delivery, infrastructural development to urban and rural Gambia, and food security. In the first term Adama Barrow, on the other hand, has arguably put the country on the right path whereby all Gambians have their civil and political rights but are short of major institutional reforms and fighting public sector corruption.
Fatoumatta: Do Adama Barrow and his NPP party depend on facts? For instance, do we expect President Barrow’s hustlers to interrogate Barrow’s ideas and history critically? Hoffer said that the true believer is rarely concerned with facts. He wrote, “it is futile to judge the viability of a new movement by the truth of its doctrine and the feasibility of its promises.” Like former President Donald Trump, Adama Barrow’s political campaign is mainly dependent on Alternative Facts. Donald Trump promised to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it. President Barrow pledged to and embarked on his election campaign promises building several mega infrastructural development projects throughout the country, significantly rehabilitating road and sewerage systems in Banjul, constructing bridges and road networks in the North Bank Region and the Upper River Region, and building more schools and campus in the rural Gambia and rural electrification for the people of Kiang in the Lower River Region. Today he promises to topple Godfatherism politics, the political landlords, and tribal lords and usher a golden era of hoipoloi in the Gambia. Empowerment, he calls it.
Talking of the youth and women hustlers vs. political Godfatherism binary, Hoffer said that a mass movement could rise and spread without believing in a God, but never without belief in a devil. He said, “hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all the unifying agents. Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without a belief in a devil.” It is indicative that in Barrow’s universe, the political dinosaurs are the problem, and the solution, the panacea, the silver bullet, is toppling them. He does not give a comprehensive, sustainable, tenable solution. He diagnoses the problem as a deep state. The devil is the deep state, the Godfatherism, and their acolytes. Hoffer profoundly renders it in this manner:
“A rising mass movement attracts and holds a following not by its doctrine and promises but by the refuge it offers from the anxieties, barrenness, and meaninglessness of individual existence. It cures the poignantly frustrated not by conferring on them an absolute truth or remedying the difficulties and abuses which made their lives miserable, but by freeing them from their ineffectual selves – and it does this by enfolding and absorbing them into a closely knit and exultant corporate whole.” P. 41.
Lastly, Hoffer speaks of the potential converts to a mass movement. He says that the needy are not usually converted to mass movements. They are too busy trying to survive to become engaged. Instead, the potential converts are the “New Poor.” These are people who previously had wealth or status but who believe they have now lost it. Such people are usually resentful and blame others for their problems.
Fatoumatta: Presently, Adama Barrow’s party remains a strong political party with a national appeal semblance. And this matters. John F. McCauley, in his definitive book “The Logic of Ethnic and Religious Politics in Africa, John F. McCauley explains the challenges and intricate problems of ethnicity and religion in African politics. It highlights why political parties in Africa become most ethnic or religious in design and structure without ideology, making it impossible to have a party built on bigger stuff beyond ethnicity and religion. This follows mostly the collapse of nearly all African political parties that brought independence to Africa. Only Africa National Congress (ANC) (whose support base is waning) and the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) in Tanzania (still reliable, albeit flaky) stand firm. Now, each tribe has to have a party that joins a coalition. It is safer this way when we are making a few bargains for our people. President Barrow has dissolved smaller periphery political parties, and we know his political strategist coalition is amongst the most intelligent political animals in the Gambia.
Fatoumatta: The response of Adama Barrow’s political trajectory towards a distinguished career has been overwhelming. When self-styled political pundits, social media, and echo-chambers commentators not worth their salt overruled him, some even had the misplaced temerity of saying that his popularity ratings were in the toilet, Adama Barrow appears to be on a renaissance trajectory. His staunch supporters, who were growing jittery over his protracted delay in launching his party, are now in a festive mood waiting, with bated breath, the excited return of one of the Mankamang Kunda’s most incredible sons.
Adama Barrow’s party launched, and rightly so, has provided sweet fodder for mainstream media and the street gutter press. Talk of how he will be received has continued to dominate national chatter for days now. Loved and reviled in equal measure, some of the main pillars and members of NPP driving the party are colloquially and popularly known, being able to pull off one of the most surprising and sensational political movements of their checkered political career. Few politicians can do that; it takes experience, expertise, and a sterling comprehension of politics’ perplexities and mechanics.
Political experts have, on numerous occasions, confessed their incapacity to comprehend President Barrow fully. Flawed assessments that purport to portray him with precision only add to this divinity’s mystique in the Gambia’s political pantheon. A situation of bleakness has now been transformed into one of bliss and ecstasy. That is the caliber of the NPP stalwarts that were sadistically savoring Adama Barrow’s moment of humiliation. They have now retreated with coiled tails to strategize on how to counter Barrow’s resurgence. Whether they will muster the gumption to roll back this unprecedented political tsunami remains to be seen. As I write this article, talk of mounting disquiet within the critics and haters of Adama Barrow continues to mount with staggering velocity. Walking the thin line of keeping the critics and opponents in check and cleaning their internal mess proves a tall order for Adama Barrow’s opposition. It is now dawning that pushing this enigma of Gambian politics into the periphery will require the blues’ powers.
Fatoumatta: Furthermore, the National People’s Party (NPP) ranks with patience can make NPP a genuinely national party that can dominate politics after 2021. They should drop the rent-seeking approach. President Barrow is making inroads in Gambia’s rural parts and the semi-urban parts of the country. During his ‘Meet the People’s Tours’ starting from Banjul to Fatoto village, where he first vowed to annihilate some of the opposition political parties and save them from hijackers such as and other deep state political rivals, was a great unburdening because, for the first time in ages, President Barrow was upfront on his wishes for his party and the nation. After that, he hosted political, religious, youth leaders, and the Gambia’s most prominent ‘Jaliba’s and Jali Ndings,’ and the traditional leaders also women groups all over the country in his ‘Meet the People’s Tours’ that lasted almost a month on political consultations and political rallies consolidating his political agenda 2021.
Prophets and prophetesses, also clairvoyants of our modern-day Gambia, have predicted an Armageddon political war with the ‘gods’ of politics and political schemes staged on December 4. According to a leading American political scientist and communication theorist, Professor Harold Laswell Resources, politics is the authoritative allocation of resources and values, for starters. He also theorizes that politics is the study of influence and the influential. The science of politics is conditioned on values, and the power of politics and philosophy justifies the ability to make someone do what he could otherwise not do. Look at how as a nation, the Gambia has been conditioned after twenty-two years of kleptocratic rule. Have we ever wondered why almost all political struggles are about economic juggernauts? Men of means are both revered and loved. The world is not as linear as we portray it. Here and there, examples of men on fewer means being entrusted with positions of responsibilities abide too. Let us beware of political outliers in the order of politics. A political outlier does not embrace identity politics.
Fatoumatta: In light of former president Yahya Jammeh’s comments regarding the NPP-APRC alliance, President Barrow’s popularity has increased, and his support base has grown. Hence, it appears that president Jammeh’s remarks and pillorizing the APRC national executive committee, particularly interim leader Fabakary Tombong Jatta is a blessing in disguise for Adama Barrow as it has been exposed through the politically motivated grapevine that there was no established communication between Barrow and Jammeh, let alone any possible amnesty for the former President. This illustrated that Barrow was not in bed with Jammeh and revealed that the groups of misfits have a profound and deeply ingrained hatred of Barrow as a person.
There is a divided opinion in other political parties such as the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) grand alliance. The majority of the APRC members, political heavyweights with significant political clout, have supported and pledged to work and President Barrow’s reelection and promote the political and development agenda. They include solid political operatives like Dr. Demba Sabally, Suku Sighateh, and many defectors and political cross carpets from other political groupings. The same thing can be said of another opposition periphery, smaller political parties in some parts of the country defecting to President Barrow’s new political party, the National Peoples Party(NPP).
In the wake of the Covid-19 Pandemic, many people have lost jobs, their livelihood sources and have had to downgrade. They have had to find cheaper houses, cheaper schools, and cheaper means of transport. There is much discontent waiting to be whipped up. The true believer is not a critical thinker. He will not see that his problems are God’s act but will want to blame its establishment. The establishment is the convenient devil that any movement or political organization needs to rally against.
Those who support President Barrow, whereas the present schadenfreude towards his new political party, must not be blinded because, on December 4, they may be crying and wailing after the final grand betrayal. That is a constant in Gambian politics. So lets NPP take the hit it can and remain vigilant. Do the masses organize themselves, or are the groups organized? Roberto Michel came up with a proposition known as “THE IRON LAW OF OLIGARCHY!”
Fatoumatta: Simply put, no matter how democratic an organization is, or may pretend to be, a SMALL number of people will always be the ones making decisions on its behalf. (Basic definition of Oligarchy is: a small group of people having control of a country or organization). Therefore, the best way to reach the masses has always been through its elites! Even those who claim to go directly to the people, deep inside, know this point is politically correct.