Alagi Yorro Jallow
Fatoumatta: The 2021 Presidential election in the Gambia will be a critical, earth-moving, and likely to be expensive affair. The nation is at a pivotal and authentically historical point. It is a national turning point. As it happens with revolutions, the nation is expected to turn with the times, from the drub cannibal politics and despotic leanings and take a democratic trajectory.
The choices are stark, the stakes are high, and anxieties are on the brink. Presidential aspirants for the 2021 contest are taking positions, and the electorate is being treated to a noisy, confusing, tribal, and blood-letting market place. Everyone will have to choose their preferred candidates for president.
Fatoumatta: In the current political season in the Gambia, we hear all sorts of stories in our politics here, the Godfatherism politics and the Godson, overriding consideration for power; personal survival rather than politics for national development and patriotism: The Godfather and godson politics of ambition and power: this has frayed nerves and subjected the people to fear and trepidation. Power, greed, and the get- quick fatty syndrome have been identified as a significant causative factor of godfatherism politics in the Gambia.
Today in the Gambia, we witness a godson desperately seeking re-election without any hope of reconciling with his estranged Godfather. Furthermore, it is not just at one level and unique only in the Gambia. They are everywhere. They operate at all levels of political engagement. In politics, as in kingship, Godfathers are always difficult to please. They are insatiable. Some are good men, and some are arrogant, selfish, but they see themselves as laborers who must get their wages. In most climes, the reward they get is getting into the palace, political ejection, or writing their political obituaries.
Moreover, in Africa, for instance, know that kings almost always use the Godfather’s blood to water the way to the throne. Godsons are always ambitious and very assertive. They are good students of William Shakespeare: “Lowliness is young ambition’s ladder…” And so, they listen and rarely ask questions. Like dogs they are, they fawn on the Godfather, lick his arse, almost literally. However, their stooping is to conquer, and wily, Godfathers are aware of this. Both sides try to be smart. That is why we hear of oath-taking in the dreary depths of shrines supported by all sorts of IOUs or MoUs — and including postdated cheques.
Fatoumatta: In today’s Gambia, this soul-searching politics of Godfatherism and the Godson has revealed, importantly, that the United Democratic Party (UDP) headed by ” Baa” Ousainou Darboe, there are two kinds of the UDP. The first kind regards President Adama Barrow’s presidency as an anathema. Opposing President Barrow and his administration are moral obligations for those UDPs, branding President Adama Barrow as a kind of uncompromising unrealistic betrayer and unproductive. This kind of UDP loyal to “Baa” Ousainou Darboe is happy to ignore distractions like the president’s ponderous economic, political, and cultural, and mega infrastructural incitement. They are laser-focused on an economic message designed to appeal to crossover voters. “Baa” Ousainou Darboe owns a shrinking and pro-active and loyal followers to United Democratic Party ideals. Loyalty to “Baa” Ousainou Darboe among the UDP base looks so strong that it led critics. Is it becoming a cultish thing?
Interestingly, the UDP breakaway faction that supports President Adama Barrow, this premise — that Barrow’s support is buoyed by his economic and development message alone and can thus be undone by one — is mistaken; the Barrow Youth Movement for Development! and his new political party, the National People’s Party (NPP). What distinguishes Barrow’s economic message from his UDP political rivals and counterparts is the culturally revanchist packaging in which Barrow’s message is bundled- Youth and economic and infrastructural development. President Barrow’s economic and development philosophy and vision in developing the Gambia.
Despite his economic optimism, Barrow’s presidency has so far failed to deliver on its promises when it comes to policy and institutional reforms. His supporters and his Barrow Youth Movement for Development and his new party, NPP, sold President Barrow as a no-nonsense transformative leader with little tolerance for distractions or excuse-making. From igniting winnable infrastructural developments to establishing projects, the Barrow presidency has, however, been all but consumed by distractions and promises.
Fatoumatta: The other kind of UDP National Assembly members loyal to the Godson( Adama Barrow) may seek a repeat of their position or even time to enjoy in the vault of State House. Most of those ‘other’ NAM’s who profess their devotion and loyalty to the Godfather (Baa Ousainou Darboe) do so only in pragmatism, believe and steadily in “Baa Ousainou” as the most generally useful of all UDP 1996 party militants and supporters. This UDP family may be too nostalgic and traditional to form the vanguard of the old politics and traditions in the new Gambia paradoxically. Individual National Assembly members all have their party identity, tickets already without their conscience, loyal to their Godfather or the prodigal son. That was not a problem.
Moreover, we heard that professional Godfathers are waiting for some of these folks whose allegiance to Godfather or the Godson at the general elections. Those who sinned and must pay for their transgressions. Those who did not perform as expected, or those who are merely stale in the Godfathers’ eyes, have other agreements that have been violated. You are not the only person who has seen this happening. They abound across the political landscape — Godfathers who feel cheated always wait for the day of reckoning. That day is here. Godfathers do not read ‘The Lord’s Prayer,’ so they do not forgive anyone who sins against them. That is why Godsons, who is wise, always sleep with two eyes open, especially when elections are at the doorpost.
Fatoumatta: Really, what options are open to an injured Godfather? I have an old friend whose political philosophy is hegemonic. My friend tells anyone that the hegemony and its benefits are inviolable. However, if you were the jilted Godfather, what would you do? My friend laughed then referred me to an old Asian story. Like all folktales, his Thailand story has local versions:
There was once a small village that was being plagued by a fearsome tiger. The attacks became so bad that the villagers were too scared to leave their houses, even in the daytime. The village elders got together to work out what to do because something had to be done.
After a night of discussion, argument, and disagreement, they finally came to a decision. They would set traps for the tiger by digging deep holes around the village’s perimeter, filling each hole with a bit of red meat, and covering them up with branches and leaves.
The whole village set to work, each family is providing whatever red meat they could spare. Then they waited in their houses. They waited for the tiger to come lurking. The next morning, the village chief’s nephew, who had come from the city, arrived on foot. As he approached the village, he heard an almighty roar. Cautiously, he approached, and at the bottom of a pit was a miserable tiger.
“Oh, please, please help me get out of here. I’m trapped, and I’ll die if you don’t help me. If you help me, I would be eternally in your debt. Forever…”
The young man was confused. “You promise you won’t eat me?”
“Promise, cross my heart!”
The young man looked around and found a long branch sturdy enough for the tiger to grip onto. He lowered it into the pit, and the tiger hauled himself up.
The tiger breathed a sigh of relief, then licked his lips,
“You will be great for breakfast.”
“But, but, but you said you’d be eternally grateful! Forever! You promised not to eat me!”
“Everyone knows that you can’t trust the promise of a hungry tiger. And tigers are ALWAYS hungry.”
Just as he was about to pounce, the young man yelled, “WAIT! Let us ask that cow over there if you should keep your promise and NOT eat me.”
The tiger liked games; it made his kill so much more interesting, so he agreed to ask the cow.
The glum-looking cow yawned. “Man makes me work hard in the field, then, when I’m too old to work, they make food and shoes out of me. Tiger, go ahead and eat him.”
The tiger prepared to attack. “STOOOOP!” yelled the young man. “I think we need a second opinion; let us ask Tortoise over there.”
“This is your last chance, juicy young man…”
The young man anxiously explained the situation to the Tortoise.
Tortoise took a deep breath, then said. “Before I make my decision, I need to see exactly what happened.”
When they arrived at the bottomless pit, Tortoise said, “Now, show me exactly where you were when this young man passed by.”
The hungry tiger, impatient for his meal, leaped into the pit. “Well, I was in this deep pit, and I started roaring because I was stuck. I was stuck….in this deep, deep pit. I’m stuck! Again!” The tiger began roaring with rage.
Wily Tortoise quickly told the young man to go on his way and think next time before deciding to rescue a hungry tiger.
End of story!
Fatoumatta: All politicians seeking election or re-election to the presidency in the 2021 election are this tiger. If they have injured any benefactor or are just unfortunate to have insatiable Godfathers, let them not sleep until the coming elections are over. In the darkness of the coming days, I have the feeling that surprises lurk. As expected, most voters are going to be so much confusion at the booth. So candidates need to do their ground campaigns well and reduce errors to their advantage.
Alagi Yorro Jallow