Alagi Yorro Jallow
Fatoumatta: The brand of what we call “public intellectualism and activism” obtaining in the Gambia today is often fashioned for the perpetuation of very narrow interests, including the exploitation of tribal fault lines, for the political elite’s benefit. Such effort is rewarded by monetary gain, government jobs, or contracts of the “consulting” kind. The Gambian intellectuals activists (except for a tiny number of former senior officials, those enablers and those self-destructive people who do more harm than good in President Yahya Jammeh’s administration in earnest, who aided and abetted him from elite intellectual perches on lousy governance and politics now morphoses into social media public intellectual activists and critics) and the private media is long subdued into the political class’s service in return; for morsels!
Dialogical intellectuals and actual journalists must shape the narratives. What democracy requires is public debate, not information. Unless the information is generated by sustained public debate, most of it will be irrelevant at best, misleading and manipulative at worst. In its eagerness to inform the public, much of the press has become a conduit for the equivalent of junk mail.
Public Intellectual activists and those in the private media seem unable to successfully mediate public discourse to give a comprehensive and nuanced view of what is happening and why it is happening. They do not adequately explain the almost inevitable link between what is happening globally and preoccupying everyday citizens’ lives.
However, even in every tragedy, our public intellectual activists could not distract the divided country from its latest heart-throb – the Draft Constitution, which is rejected, and transitional justice applicability has increasingly struggled to provide natural remedies. The political implications of the Draft and the transitional justice system in the Gambia many have dismissed as a romanticized commentary and diagnosis of the country’s political, social, and economic challenges has eclipsed critical debates on issues our actions (and inactions) on issues like corruption and tribalism.
This is the Gambia’s real tragedy. Intellectual activists and those in private media and social media also in the echo-chambers seem unable to successfully mediate public discourse to give a comprehensive and nuanced view of what is happening and why it is happening. They are not adequately explaining the almost inevitable link between what is happening globally and what is preoccupying the lives of common Gambian. There is also a historical context that is all-too-often forgotten.
By missing these linkages, their narratives treat each activity as an isolated event and partisan biases. The cause and effect relationship is replaced by episodic perspectives that cast the Gambian people as forever victims at the mercy of “hero” rescuers. The repeated reinforcement of this image has generated one of the most slavish statements of this generation whenever it confronts adversity.
Fatoumatta: The Gambian politics, the tribulations, and opportunities at the global level matter to Gambians. Why should Gambian public intellectual activists at this point their decisions impact Gambian lives? Some argue that the educational system must also re-introduce the critical thinking approach to expand indiscriminate tertiary education. It is one strand of the many that public intellectuals need to orchestrate to help nourish and emancipate Gambian people’s imagination and thinking.
Those privileged to have platforms that interphase with the public must change this narrative.
Fatoumatta: Today, I will focus on Boybairaay and Domorrifoday’s public intellectualism activists within the Gambian context. Domirfoday is the ego to man for the Terri Kaffo elite interested in creating an illusion of infallible tribal majoritarianism. Every Facebook post, tweet, and Whatsapp broadcast and thought pushed by his belief of “Tyranny of numbers” and in the court of public opinion, has nothing to do with creating a cohesive, multi-ethnic Gambia. For the Terri Kaffo elite, Domorrifoday is the bearer of a “vision” where his kin perpetually dominates the Presidency. For that reason, he has been the key architect of propaganda, often bordering on ethnic bigotry and hate speech, as against Sering Dara and his ethnic constituency and now other members of the Mafia. His benefactors have remunerated him well.
Fatoumatta: Enter Boybairaay; he belongs to a dissatisfied Diaspora constituency and social media superstar, a thought leader who feels disrespected by his elite. Here is a highly qualified professional without character l who has never been allowed to fully formulate and execute policy in government, even though most administrations since the Second Republic have primarily been in the control of the entrenched Diaspora elite.
Boy bairaay and his group include some political elites and sycophants, like Domorrifoday, who were left orphaned following the ending of Yahya Jammeh’s regime and who have to keep playing one set of the ethnic elite against another to shore up their political and business interests.
In his opportunistic dalliance with social media activists, Boybairaay was banking on a quick trajectory, fueled by Diaspora political elites and echo chambers analyst that buttressed by the continued opposition by Domorrifoday to the Presidency, and in doing so, building a platform from where Boybairaay can continue castigating him and his adversaries within the Diaspora elite.
The “transactional” political podium, financed by the Diaspora elite and echo-chambers from which Boybairaay stood against the Terri Kaffo elite, was suddenly gone. Domorrifaoday’s political constituency, which hitherto supported Boybairaay’s thoughtful criticism of the government’s economics and politics, became more excited for the ‘Laahidoo’ than Boybairaay’s criticism of the government.
The coming together of Domorrifoday and the Diaspora elite is the antithesis of FBoybairaay’s political activism. The promise of a United Front Presidency, from where Boybairaay can continue to taunt the entrenched Diaspora elite, as the appointments of a cabinet minister, diplomatic positions, or a senior government position, looks remote. If Domorrifoday were to become President, with the help of Boybairaay, the entrenched Diaspora elite that Boybairaay is vigorously opposed to would still have sway in such a government.
Fatoumatta: Boybairaay has no color or right to call out “National People’s Party” because until less than one year ago, he was conveniently using the political constituency of Boybairaay to score political goals. Up to sometime in 2018, he was amongst the Coalition 2016’s leading ideologue clothed in the characteristic gown of “# Gambia Has Decided .” Boybairaay was writing brilliant articles against official government corruption. Simultaneously, the Statehouse, where he occasionally worked, received black money as donations towards his propaganda efforts supporting the President in his bid for reelection.
Fatoumatta: In tandem with the unprincipled and transactional nature of our politics, did Boybairaay expect Domorrifaoday not to jump at the opportunity of a loose working political coalition with the President if such an alliance provides him (Domorrifoday ) a political lifeline for 2021?
Alagi Yorro Jallow