Alagi Yorro Jallow
Fatoumatta: Democracy is about the best ruling the rest. There is no say in it for anyone ordinary. If the people are told they are useless in a democracy, they will fight. Leave them alone; they will discover on election day that all the options are no options. People do not choose their political leaders, chairpersons, or MPs; Godfathers, godsons; the party elite and their conspiracies do.
What history is Honorable Ousainou Darboe and the United Democratic Party (UDP) making, and how do ‘Baa’ Ousainou Darboe and his party want to be remembered by history? Some people are gifted with dreams that foreshadow the future. They are no Malian or Jahanka marabouts, but like Nostradamus, they see tomorrow with pinpoint accuracy. I have a ‘witchy’ friend who is like that. He told me that delegates at the national congress of the United Democratic Party (UDP)scheduled to occur on 18th, 19th, and 20th December 2020 at the Pencha Mi Hall, Paradise Suite Hote would once again be another triumphant occasion crowning Baa Ousainou Darboe in full to be the Secretary-General and the standard-bearer of the UDP in 2021 Presidential elections.
No one would contest against him or attempt to oust him, he firmly told me but added quite ominously that after 22 years struggling to oust President Yahya Jammeh’s kleptocratic rule without being President, he would still be followed by party militants and supporters to his actions in power replacing his estrange godson President Adama Barrow in 2021 presidential elections.
Fatoumatta: Moreover, for the Gambia of 2021 Presidential election, political party elites are busy cooking the soup right now. However, in recent years, a new leadership picture has emerged, which better accounts for exemplary leadership performance. In this alternative view, influential leaders must understand their followers’ values and opinions–rather than assuming absolute authority and legitimate execution of coercive power-to enable a productive dialogue with followers about what the group embodies and stands for and how it should act.
Fatoumatta: Opposition leader Ousainou Darboe shall be the sole aspirant at his party’s national congress. No one dared come out to challenge the lion of Dobo, conqueror of Bansang and Fulladou. He alone is the messiah. There was no one; after him, there will be none before him. The noisemakers, who are they? Who are their parents? Who listened to them? The Gambia of today. Money, power, and politics, Godfatherism, and godsons votes; it does all things. Only the wealthy and the powerful, and tribal lords get to the throne.
By leadership, we mean the ability to shape what followers want to do, not the act of enforcing compliance using rewards and punishments. For the United Democratic Party (UDP) and Baa, Ousainou is simple, he is a Messiah, and “the Gambia’s Nelson Mandela”: “Ala Kulli Haal”- ‘Baa Ousainou Numukunda Darboe’ shall be the Party leader and shall be coronated as the standard-bearer of the United Democratic Party in the incoming United Democratic Party Congress.
Fatoumatta: When people in each society conditioned their minds to believe that only one person has the brilliance and the wisdom to solve all the problems of party followers and electorates, they have fatefully opted to live the mercy of his wishes, human frailties, imperfections, or outright failures. The United Democratic Party National (UDP) Congress is slated to occur on 18th, 19th, and 20th December 2020.
No man born of a woman will contest a party leader’s ticket and standard-bearer of the United Democratic Party (UDP) with Baa Ousainou Darboe. The UDP shall pick the political beast of the party. Moreover, no man, none can beat or contest against Baa Ousainou Numukunda Darboe. The die was cast long, long ago. ‘Darboe Jula Dorong’ And when you look around in war and all you see are broken heads and limbs of otherwise powerful foes, and you will think yourself the ultimate champion in all contests of life. The United Democratic Party (UDP) leadership and party militants felt exactly like that too. They sat so comfortably in government in waiting, as the main opposition party in the country because Baa Ousainou told them they would reign for unbroken a UDP led government; “Insallahu” in 2021 Presidential election because they boasted about it, their support base and inherent grassroots politics. However, it turned out that what the hard-hearing Adam Barrow drunk with power, absolute power.
Fatoumatta: American poet, singer, and rights activists, Maya Angelou, warned, “If we do not plant the right things,” American poet, singer, and rights activist, “we will reap the wrong things.” The national congresses of political parties will soon come and go. All political parties are expected to hold a congress and choose a party leader and as the political party’s standard-bearer. However, that is the easy part of the war. It is breakfast before the day’s work. From now till the end of December 2020, generals, political hacks, and political strategists will seek to overrun the other side. There will be a heightening of the assault called disinformation and misinformation campaign. Fake- news graven images and impressions will be created with greater intensity. The fog of war will descend on the land. Armies will outflank, outmaneuver, and take out each other. There will be desertions and rumors of desertions; there will be prisoners of war. From the rubble of this war, someone will win; someone will not win.
Fatoumatta: Politics is the ultimate jungle. The first lesson dwellers of the jungle learn is how to self-preserve. Only the living rocks the forest, no matter how powerful or beautiful you may be, and you, cannot live (long) by being meek or gentle or too eager to lift every prostrating beast seeking help. Did you not hear Professor Edwin Clark shooing off defeated leaders for being too gentlemanly for the treacherous forest of political demons?
It is the season of a storm, convulsions, disquiet, and turbulence. Heavens will not fall. The Kingdom shall scale through the huddle, but with the wheel of democracy shall have a new birth of freedom; with freedom comes responsibility. Each generation earns it. In the end, the battle will be between the Indomitable Sahelian Lion and the Bengal Tiger.
Tigers do not shout their ‘tigritude’ just as deadly men do not proclaim their deadliness; they inflict it with summary swiftness. If you wait to hear their roar before they strike, you are dead. Fix your gaze into the predatory eyes of a tiger, “it is less likely to attack.” It relishes “the element of surprise” as the icing on its cake of gallantry. When a tiger marks up a human as prey, sneaking up on him at night is the perfect normal. You do not spare a tiger ensnared. You assist a troubled tiger to your sorrow. It knows no word called appreciation. It knows only itself and its cult members. You see so much of this around: politicians with no blood and stomach democracy.
Fatoumatta: How does it feel to live in a country owned by the privileged? There is no better way to feel it than the on-going electoral process. Take a look at the just concluded political party congresses and internal primaries. The intra-party polls have confirmed politics as a forest of the daredevil. It is a forest where the one with two children is left with one, and the mother with only one child is ruined, left empty-handed. We have seen that only contestants who are godfathers (or who have godfathers) came back with their heads uncrushed. The ones who naively thought we are in a democracy are broken, in debts, and ruins. They have felt what it means to be eaten up- gobbled by electors who are godfathers’ insatiable termites of destruction. You already have your candidates for next year’s elections. The captors have everything. They have money; they have power; they have coercion. They have used all these to domesticate power in their homestead. People of conscience froze; they smiled and counted his blessings. There is no society without such sad examples of how to build an aristocratic democracy.
The owners of Gambia are no longer pretending. They are out, abducting the destiny of the Gambia right here in the open field. The beautiful ones may still be unborn; they may be doing press-ups in the belly of time, but the powerful ones are born, they are here already – and their spirit is the soul of the new Gambia work. They are out cheating and daring anyone who feels cheated to come out and fight. That is the Gambia of today. Money power and Godfatherism votes; it does all things. Only the wealthy and the powerful, and tribal lords get to the throne.
The Gambia is on a familiar journey to the past. In the whole country, godfathers recruit disposable minions as contestants. Rich politicians buy party leaders and members to win party primaries; they buy voters to win general elections; they will get sworn in and sit down to do a profitable business. They will meet empty treasuries and therefore insist they must borrow to build roads and fancy buildings. They will award contracts in secret to freshly minted companies known only to themselves and their godfathers; they will take loans to finance the bloated contracts; they will pay for the projects and the credit alert sounds in their cell phones; they will smile and pass the debt to the poor and their descendants to pay. The poor will respond with shouts of joy, worship them, and dance to the beats of slavery. The Godfathers own the electors and the elected; they own them precisely the same way the Glaciers family owns Manchester United Football Club.
Fatoumatta: Our country is a litter bin of big and small dictators and aspiring dictators. Even we, the silent majority of Gambians, the victims, are so used to the perfidy around us that we see no reason to hate evil and its high priests. Twenty-four years ago, when pro-democracy war raged and protesters were falling in major capitals around the world; when pro-democracy activists struggling to restore democracy and democratized the suffering Gambians and in the Diaspora community gladly embraced the pain, could the combatants of pro-democracy and human rights defenders have imagined a privatized the Gambia would be their lot at the end of that tunnel?
Fatoumatta: Tigers are animals of interest anywhere. They kill and eat even animals bigger than them. They are also clannish. They hate opening up to anyone outside their mother’s room. Those who know would tell you that “Tigers do not normally roar at other animals, but instead they roar to communicate with far-off tigers.” Even when a tiger plans to kill another animal, it will not see that prey as deserving of its roar. It would instead hiss before finishing off the victim. Tigers are not just big and strong; they are smart too, which explains their successful reign of terror. When a Tiger sees you are a big one, it uses wisdom garnished with guile and hunts you down by ambush.
Fatoumatta: It happened in Zaire, today’s Democratic Republic of Congo. That country had a leader called Mobutu Sese Seko. He came into their lives as a messiah. (They always wear the costume of hope). He grew in power to become powerful. He owned the country and all in it – including the opposition. He also had what someone called “the arrogance and gall required to ransack your homeland and not lose a night’s sleep.” Mobutu possessed his country so decisively that he was asked if he could personally pay off his country’s multi-billion-dollar debt in an interview. Mobutu’s humble response was that he could, but his only worry was how he could be sure he would ever get his money back.
The Gambia is at that threshold. One day, we will beg today’s leaders to help pay our nation’s debts from their accounts. Why? Politicians are the businessmen doing business with our governments; people in business are the politicians running our governments. National Assembly members are mere signatories to states’ accounts on behalf of the godfathers who own the business. Democracy walked into this ambush, so soon after, Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara was ousted. The Gambia is a captive of pseudo-democrats, political profiteers. They own everything that has value here. They are more affluent than their states.
So, between seventy-something-year-old Ousainou Darboe and fifty-something-year-old Adama Barrow, who is the face of the future? We will be seeking an answer to that question from now till Election Day on December 4, 2021. There will be an election next year, but can you see any silver lining anywhere? Indeed, the horizon has been blown out by those who think they own the future. Many who worked for (and walked into) this democracy sane and healthy 22 years ago have lost all. The 2016 trophy of victory was just an encasement of defeat. It looks like those who died in that war of democracy died in vain. It looks like the broken ones, the jailed and the exiled, suffered in vain.
Fatoumatta: The kleptocratic rule of former President Yahya Jammeh was brutal and corrupt. They imposed a dictatorship on the people. However, now it is worse than then; illicit cash and rapacious godfathers are the President and lawmakers’ electors. Unfortunately, only those above 40 years can reasonably make a comparison between an evil past and an evil present. Gambians in their 30s today grew up to meet a dirty country. You cannot know what it means to be clean if all you grew up with are uncleanness. Today’s routine is the worship of merchants of dirt. The worshippers’ line gets lengthened daily as democracy takes us back to that past we thought had left us forever.
Alagi Yorro Jallow