Alagi Yorro Jallow
Fatoumatta: Patronage has long been associated with politicians and political parties of all divides. However, it appears that patronage certainly holding up appointments exclusively for the party cadres and government loyalists, party surrogates, paid cyber-warriors, and party footsoldiers who labored in election campaigns for their leaders winning elections.
Apologies and courtesy to musician Ali Cham, Killa Ace known by his stage name, eloquently and brilliantly described “Political Patronage or spoils system victory” meaning in one of his masterpiece songs in Wolof, “KU BOKA C GETA GEE NAN CI MEOW MEE” literary and roughly means “all those belonging to the diary heard or cattle herd deserve to drink milk.” Those without with cattle herd do not deserve milk
Anyone who has grown up in or around the Gambia’s electoral politics knows that when it comes to party politics, there is a dirty word that has more than four letters; that word is “PATRONAGE.” Political patronage or the spoils system (indeed, any patronage) employs a method that plays favorites. In party politics, the patron is usually the leader or Secretary-General of a political party who has the power to hire their family and friends to political appointments and other attractive jobs that pay well. The Gambia, since its independence, has long been known as a nation where the patronage system has held sway despite the many attempts to destroy it.
Fatoumatta: Political patronage or spoils system jobs are used by certain politicians who, after winning an election, give government jobs within the civil service and diplomatic service, mega award contracts, and issue diplomatic and service passports to supporters, friends, and relatives as a reward for working toward victory and as an incentive to keep working for these politicians to retain their office.
The appointment of political party militants, surrogates, and supporters of political parties are specialists in social, political blotting, media fundamentalism, and political propaganda. Political demagoguery and narrative rewilding are the implicit declarations of the presidential polls’ opening of December 4, 2021. However, since most Gambians do not pay attention to the political trends, they are easily startled and surprised by these things, including those that have done nothing to unfollow their ‘fixed’ laws and timing.
Political patronage rewards party loyalists and militants with attractive, high-paying jobs in both civil and foreign services. However, patronage and rewards for political recruits are rewarded positions they know nothing about or have any competency or experience in. Ordinarily, they are told what they are being recruited to do, and most do not discern this. Still, the overall job description, job specification, and terms of employment are centered around political propaganda and reward.
These political party loyalists or militants are recruited under a contract of MADR (mutually assured destructive ‘reaction’) for 2021 electoral and political scheming! Similarly, because of NCFA (no clear future ambition) and PFAA (possible future appointment as an aide), they will (in anticipation and aspiring anticipation for those who do not enjoy patronage yet) work round the clock – dig, fight, and drag anyone into the mud – to receive similar ‘rewards.’
Fatoumatta: These appointees are handed down scripts that do not align with their designations in the next few weeks and months. For instance, they rove social media platforms to the mob, unleash cyber militancy, or act as bullies against those who dare take ‘contrarian escapades.’ It will be a big show. Other oppositions and those politicians and activists suffer rebukes and mortal literary combat. The sudden surge in the temperature of social media weather recently is a signal of the new vigor.
However, this is not the concern. The most important note to take out of it is what marks the opening of the 2021 political campaign in preparation for the presidential polls. African politics, elections for the next General Elections, starts right after the victory speech: the transition committee, first appointments, and setting up of cabinets. Aides, surrogates, footsoldiers, and political pit bulls are ‘remembered’ as deserving ‘reward,’ which ordinarily comes around this time.
Because these natural developments are not stated or written down, incumbents always beat their opposition in preparation for subsequent elections. Thus, by the time the opponent gets its senses and starts, incumbents have already dominated the political machinery to the exclusion of almost everyone.
Fatoumatta: Most Gambian politicians do not play politics according to the rules of the game. Political space is narrowed to those who have no business in politics. Politicians across party affiliations and divides are appealing to the other party in power. Most do not play principled politics in the struggle to control, dominate, and exploit public office. However, it is beyond speculation that the rewards after victory are usually based on political loyalty, commitment, and patronage! Those that made heavy sacrifices are left out.
Alagi Yorro Jallow