Alagi Yorro Jallow
Fatoumatta: NAPOLEON BONAPARTE warns to remember his words “never to interfere with your enemy when he is making a mistake,” and I agree with that view. With perfect propriety, the leaders of that era carried the regional meal to the people and returned home with the chinaware of integrity. Whatever glimmer we still see in the Gambia’s skies today is courtesy of that stellar team of transformational, visionary, and charismatic leaders and not the current “Tangal Cheeb” political leaders without leadership vision prowling around like a hungry lion, looking for opportunities to sow division between the people.
Fatoumatta: I was reading Lord Michael Hastings of Scarisbrick recently speaking on leadership. He reflected on the Economist Martin Wolf’s writings on ten ways to build an alternative to the siren song of a transformational and visionary leader nearly, how to retain a politics and a public system that makes sense, in this era where citizens are losing faith in democracy and governments, where citizen participation is dwindling, where people are feeling excluded, where increasingly the system appears designed, especially towards the youth, to keep them unseen and unheard irrespective of how gifted they are.
Politics and public debate are noisy and messy. The rising “Tangal Cheeb politician” is not the rational man who thinks through issues, but a charismatic and servant leadership, who effectively whips emotions.
Many of us can barely make sense out of the noisy sirens that are our public space today. The shallowness of public debate has robbed it the dignity of attention. Social media platforms no longer write meaningful headlines; no, they write screaming headlines. Politics and political media are no longer about policy but somewhat rehearsed scripts, focusing on likability and targeting. In the public debate, opinions are passed as facts.
Today’s politicians carousing the Gambians national anthem are doing well. However, they should read what they hold line by line how people of creed internalize faith articles. They should underline the key messages there and ask themselves if they do what they sing. They should not just go back to the past for the song, its melody, and its mobilizing properties; they should go back there for lessons in prudent planning and service delivery and courage in defense of the Gambian people. Anyone who voluntarily puts himself forward to govern a people must subscribe to the creed, the spirit, and soul of that people’s song of faith.
Fatoumatta: The ” Tangal Cheeb” political leader cannot sing love and freedom but serve corruption, bigotry, hatred, misogyny, patriarchy, and subjugation. It is not the frequency of the chant of an anthem or its solemnity or its widespread use that proves its potency. Britain’s Labour Party sings its ‘The Red Flag’ anthem to Germany’s Tannenbaum’s dirge-tune in solidarity with the poor. That has not insulated it from charges of distancing itself from the poverty of the ordinary people. When “Tangal Cheeb” politicians of poisonous politics, who undermine the people, who take prisoners of those that elected them; who are afraid to confront and fight evil and who are disdainful of truth, sing and dance to beautiful soundbites and beats of ancestral glory, they are insulting the decent memories of the past.
Fatoumatta: I have had to discuss and listen to all leading political figures in this country, near and on many occasions at a personal and professional level. Others I know through social media and traditional media for reinventing themselves and engage in personal branding all the time for political expediency.
I can say without a shadow of a doubt, The People’s Democratic Organization for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS) leadership is Charismatic, transformational, and visionary. They are the most adept, profound politician we have in this country today. They have a historical context that understands this nation, so I have not seen it with anyone else. Furthermore, they have the consistent clarity of the vision they have. They are good with their figures and in public policy, economics, foreign policy, and law.
Furthermore, their ideological strait is pretty well defined. Can link every one of PDOIS stand to a path. At least not in that manner. I have not seen it with any of those ” Tangal Cheeb” politicians. Of course, many other political figures have their strong points. Although, I have enormous respect for Ousainou Darboe at a personal and professional level and his convictions and ideals, and his love for the Gambia in defense of good patriotism.
Moreover, I am not talking of the PDOIS leader’s patriotism, democratic credentials, endowed organic intellectualism, and pragmatism attitude and practical application. There is a policy wonk behind the PDOIS charismatic and visionary leadership. We should listen to them one with a bit of open-mindedness. By the way, we should try to get the maiden PDOIS manifesto of 1987 and read it.
Fatoumatta: With just a few months to the December 4 election that is a matter of life and death for some politicians and their political party, they already portray their real sphere of influence as starting and ending within their ethnic and political base or community. Their image is at variance with the one who has sought to create a political tsunami! However, how did some of them miscalculate so massively the intelligence of the voting Gambia about how politics conducted in The Gambia?
There are times I have felt like throwing three books at the so-called political strategists and elected leaders. Barack Obama’s The Promised Land, his former Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes’ The World As It Is, and his former Senior Adviser David Axelrod’s memoirs, Believer. These three books should be compulsory reading for campaign strategists and aspiring politicians without political ideology and political orientation.
The three gentlemen, also political strategists, delve into the legendary campaign messaging blitz and discipline that transformed a rank outsider of an African-American into a rock star presidential material Barack Hussein Obama became one of the best political leaders of the 21 Century 44th President of the United States of America.
The Obama campaign team cracked data, fed on information, kept a tight ship on message discipline, obsessively monitored media mentions, and ended up running a proper campaign machine of legendary proportions.
There was no room for error or for people involved in the campaigns slipping because they ran a candidate whose prospects were so delicate that a slight moment of the eyes-off-the ball would blow up the campaign.
Sometimes one gets the impression that our presidential aspirants run a chaotic operation. One of the underlying issues with nascent populist movements is their desire to embrace anyone and everyone. Others briefcase politicians and political party’s campaign has especially been adept at this, bringing on board anyone with problems in their mother parties, meaning that political deadwood quickly finds a place of pride on the microphone next to them.
Fatoumatta: The net effect is that while many of the Gambia’s briefcase party leaders think they are welcoming people from across the country’s width and breadth when they act as an asylum for bitter, angry politicians and people going through legal problems and dealing with ghosts.
In the process, some leaders supposed core message, if it exists, is lost in all this cacophony of noises. Before you finish listening to them and their social media rants at every problem with the President, they issue threats and mere rhetoric from every platform to the next, selling their agenda. It is all uncoordinated, chaotic, and too disjointed for a movement. Everyone appears to speak, everyone has their agenda, and there is no central theme and no message discipline.
Indeed, it is difficult to tell today what happened to initial political messaging immediately after former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan’s launch of the resuscitating of the 2020 Draft constitution —that some of their issues have been addressed, and they have no intention of declining for negotiations. Was it lost in the chaos created by the Tower of Babel where everyone speaks?
Surprisingly, the one place closer home where the briefcase political parties can look for some lessons is towards their political nemesis. Others have kept their handshake with President Adama Barrow alive only by keeping a tight leash on any contradiction and negative statements from their side.
As far as the 2020 Draft constitution is concerned, there were times only a select party was pushing the agenda, while President Barrow and his Cabinet remained largely aloof, leading to loud whispers within the opposition that was investing too much in a process that would bear no fruits. However, we would not find anyone saying this publicly.
Political messaging goes with discipline, which some briefcase political parties badly lacks. Perhaps the biggest blunder some and their supporters committed was underestimating the state’s power and instruments. Most governments will usually hit the opposition with a smaller baton than they will do rebels and saboteurs from within.
Fatoumatta: The briefcase political parties’ rebellion became less about political issues and more a direct challenge to the President’s character and competence. As of this week, some of them had even crossed the red line and started questioning the President’s appetite for foreign debt.
Unfortunately for them, the President may be a lame duck with fading influence on the political front. However, he remains the Commander-in-Chief until the day he passes on the ceremonial sword to his successor.
As with this National Assembly blitz, they will still deploy state power to defeat them at the December 4 elections.
Political parties are not investing in philosophies and research, and they are weaponizing information and paying what we proudly call ‘influencers’ to distort facts. The government is not sustained because people do not have faith in the clarity of its vision, its surviving on activities. So, some of our “Tangal Cheeb politicians” are no longer speaking concepts and lifting the masses to higher ideals. Instead, they launch roads and launch electric sockets and wooden bridges to create the illusion of progress.
There is so much siren noise in dysfunction, where the youth folks finish school and meet the reality of joblessness, they get a job, and they complete inadequate pay. They earn income, and they meet the existence of the cost of living. There is so much noise, they get attacked, and they are asked to fuel the police vehicle as it goes to arrest the suspect. They get an electricity bill, where they are not paying for the energy they consumed but multiple hidden charges.
It is easy, even reasonable, to choose to focus on their growth and relegate public issues and duty to the periphery in such circumstances. And so many times, in our republic, decisions that will shape our future and that of our kids are taken without our input. An entire new education system is being rolled out, but how many of us even know what it is. How many of us are following the debate on new structures of government, on budgets, on a proposed referendum? Furthermore, when we say following, we mean paying attention, questioning, participating. We are talking about a willingness to go beyond knowing what is happening. To want to do something about it.
Fatoumatta: If there is one thing to some briefcase politicians would not want now, it is to approach 2021 and not much more. Like Icarus, son of Daedalus in Greek mythology, who probably flew too close to the sun, believing in his illusion of invincibility as the wings of wax are giving way. The fall is nigh.