Alagi Yorro Jallow
Although Faal has demonstrated extraordinary courage in unearthing alleged mass atrocities and human rights abuses committed by President Yahya Jammeh and his government’s 22-year rule.
Fatoumatta: Gambian politics and some of its “tangal cheeb political players.” We are watching a game of boasters and braggers and daggers. It is about boasts, feats, and defeats. It is also of sarcasm and innuendoes. A two-player political game that takes three to play. The spectator has a value, as do the two holding the tug. Do you remember the omode meta nsere folk song by African Moonlight Stories Voices? The archer would shoot the sky; the swimmer would swim the ocean; the climber would climb the palm tree without a belt. Boasting and bragging, but did they not do it?
Democratic citizenship starts with our fundamental right to ask questions and probe the practices and politics of any participant in the political destiny of the Gambia. If you are selling a political hero, democratic citizenship starts with our right to haggle, critically examine the product you are attempting to sell to us, and ask questions about your product’s provenance, usefulness, and durability. Questions of worth and value are pertinent.
Fatoumatta: The broad summary of the achievements that have earned former Lead Counsel of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission (TRRC) the right to become he who must be obeyed and never questioned in the world of his supporters. If these supporters were content with just sacrificing their right to civic questioning, becoming marionettes, and letting Essa take over the responsibility of thinking and deciding everything for them in the political and democratic sphere, that, I guess, would be their kettle of fish. We must concede to every Gambian’s democratic right to be the political toilet paper of his chosen hero among the gladiators in our public sphere. However, Essa’s social media fans are not content with worshipping their ordained orisha. They fan across social media onward supporters trying to force-feed their idol intravenously into the Gambian electorate in a manner that brooks no argument, opposition, or genuine debate.
The Gambia’s supposedly activists, human rights defenders, and ‘tangal cheeb Politicians’ are great dramatists who turn the spotlight on themselves. Who loves theatrics and tries always to stay in the limelight. They are actors of ambiguity, cold surprise, and sly moves. Moreover, their drama is always strewn beautifully with intriguing symbolism:
They totalized and reified their desires for state capture underpinned in influencing elite power to cultural hegemony and fragmentation. Political state capture by elites destroys public trust in the state and its organs and weakens critical economic and political institutions.
In the chance game of elite power and political capture, they play a game of brainpower, wit, and hard-headedness and decisively captures the ‘kids’ and their opponent’s pits.
In the trenches, pro-democracy activists struggled and resisted former President Yahya Jammeh’s despotism for twenty-two years before the 2016 Presidential elections. However, unfortunately, when the coalition government of President Adama Barrow was rewarded with victory, the cynics sidelined the genuine advocates of CHANGE and cornered all the positions, including the ‘juicy’ ones, as they call them. Those who lost out either decamped to other parties or lost complete interest in change and the political process.
A few strugglers kept their composure. Despite their systematic and effective banishment from the corridors of power, they remain firm in their commitment to change. However, Alàs, instead of listening to our advice on change, the cynics continue doing what they are good at–jostling for power and positions.
The funny part is that the political entrepreneurs do not see the fire on the mountain. They are still busy elbowing each other out in the scramble for the December 4, Presidential slots. As a result, they have neglected the critical governing challenges and priorities, preferring to set their sights on the December 4 prizes, which may yet elude them.
As an idealist, I believe in the possibility of human redemption. I am still counting on the triumph of reason over emotion. However, the window of opportunity is closing fast. First, the former coalition leaders must start asking themselves hard questions. After that, should they go back to the drawing board? After all, a clear change manifesto and leadership is long overdue!
Fatoumatta: Like some Presidential aspirants contests for power, it is nonconformist. Other games may be clockwise in movement, but it takes the other way as its path to conquest. It is a game only experts win. When a novice plays the initiate, he must respect the master. It was not the first public drama of former Lead Counsel Essa Mbye Faal of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission (TRRC ) play to the gallery theatrically to appeal to the popular taste of Gambians. At least the whole world saw him at the Truth Commission use mixed signaling strategies use political gestures and gestures in politics coded language to his base. We saw more of his political bouts over the years as it matures at the end of the Commission public hearings. However, who won the rounds of that two-player game of State capture? We may not know now. The future will tell us whose game that it was.
Fatoumatta: Is it social media’s contribution to the political misperception of Essa Mbye Faal venturing into politics? There is a considerable role social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, play in promoting people’s misperception venturing into politics. Social media can alter citizens’ willingness to endorse falsehood in politics when Essa Faal demonstrated extraordinary courage in unearthing alleged atrocities and human rights violations committed during President Yahya Jammeh’s 22 years of dictatorial and applied his skills a top lawyer to investigate cases brought to the commission’s attention. If Essa Faal had any flaw, it is his craving for publicity. Rather than carry out his task quietly and professionally, he made profound statements on national television and pages of newspapers about his intention to sanitize the Gambian body-politic. He thoroughly enjoyed the media exposure Essa Faal accompanying each high-profile perpetrator and witnesses that the commission summoned. He sometimes found it difficult to draw a line between his role as a public officer and the growing public perception as an appendage of the opposition and some civil society activist’s agenda. His conspicuous role played into the hands of his critics, who maintained that instead of exposing human rights violations Yahya Jammeh and his government committed, he and the TRRC had become forces that some political actors deployed against its opponents. As noted above, Essa Faal has this innate urge to be noticed. It should not be difficult to figure out why he wanted to become President. I may, of course, be wrong. I leave others to reach their conclusions.
Fatoumatta: Whether in the US or The Gambia or Foni or Niumi, the deftness of the moves was/are unmistakable. In politics, the man who wins is the one smart enough to empty his opponent’s pocket. The spectator who wins is the one with the right player. If you are in the spectator’s seat, sit up, watch and think. Life is a game of more losses than gains. Humans, in every bad situation, look for saviors in the wrong places. The American white was disgusted by the spectacle of a black man and a blacker woman in the White House. He wanted his country back. So he crowned a Trump whose grandfather was from Germany. On November 8, 2016, Americans voted the billionaire as their lord and savior, and there has been some remorse somewhere inside them. However, it is too late.
Ambush is a reality of life for all who seek escape from the facts of existence. It happened to the Gambians too. We celebrated the coming of the Lieutenant as Head of State Yahaya Jammeh in 1994. Young, mercurial, charismatic, the young man spoke the right words. The hungry folks saw his famished neck and his shrunk tummy and accepted him as prayer answered. This is one of our own in fate and future, we reasoned. We think he was the long-awaited deliverer from the fangs of the sit-tight Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara. Twenty-two years after the optimism of that arrival, the wise realized the limits of ordinary wisdom. The farther the sufferer runs from trouble, the surer he finds himself in its grip.
In presidential elections on December 4, 2021, lions are on the prowl preaching safety for the lowly of the forest. The ones who never participated in the fight for the restoration of democracy, in essence, were entirely silenced for all the horrors of two years of despotism are now the champions of genuine democracy and human rights. As a result, power-hungry politicians in the new Gambia are carefully choosing their following gameplan.
Fatoumatta: We have records of those vocal critics of dictator Yahya Jammeh’s evil dictatorship. Those paid the ultimate prices that gave birth to the very democracy we are enjoying and allow those denied their freedoms and liberty yesterday to exercise their God-given rights in the modern Gambia. Many of those parading themselves today as heroes of democracy champion for human rights advocacy and defenders of the rule of law and freedom of the press were actually in bed with the miscreants aiding and abetting the dictator. Some of them were complicit, a conspiracy in their silence and impotent cowardice, and others fled into self-imposed exile. Others went to seek international appointments with multinational and transnational organizations( African Union, United Nations Agencies and, World Bank). They fought vigorously to make sure the democratic struggle to end dictatorship was reversed. They said and did despicable things for political gain and filthy lucre to survive. However, nobody remembers it again. They now grandstand and lecture us on democracy and the resistance to kleptocratic rule.
Today, they will marvel at the conduct of the demagogues, sycophants, and pseudo-intellectuals who have become latter-day saints of the democratic order in this government of President Adama Barrow. Some of them act without conscience. They lie to gain favor. They pretend to give an impression. They sell their souls for a morsel. The judgment of God is upon the deceit. Experience and evidence have proved they had no genuine struggle for democracy and human rights in The Gambia. The fight for democracy and human rights died in 2016; others are mere caricatures.
Fatoumatta: Gambians must get to know some of the unsung democracy and human rights heroes that fought and sacrificed blood, toil, tears, and sweat for the Gambia that ushered the second liberation of the Gambia.
They know the Gambian voter lacks wisdom. Voters get raped every five years by the same trick, in the same bed. The carnivores are out again with barbed baits. Furthermore, are they here like a thief in the night? Thieves in the night no longer come quietly. They announce their arrival with shots and bangs. The sounds are unmistakable again. Political parties and aspiring to contest elections as independent is the laboratory for deceitful political experiments. The activists and elites and their amorphous neighbors are something else for another day.
Essa Faal and other Presidential aspirants are not the only ones playing and dancing “Arrwatam or Jamba Dongo.” The specialists in political engineering are at work putting the nuts in the right spots. Politicians love totems and symbols. Some of them will have to explain what Friday means in their voodoo acts. Twenty-six years ago, July 1994 was on a faithful Friday. Essa Faal, the official, announcing his candidacy on Friday in Banjul.
Fatoumatta: Was it not persistent allegations of betrayal of the Gambia during the dictatorship that silently sank their Titanic? Furthermore, as it happened to its parent, has the ship of the NPP not hit the iceberg of mistrust already? The politics of 2021 was not about the past, and it was wins and losses. It was a con-game targeting tomorrow and its loots. It was also not about the Gambia and their whatever interests. The eyes can see now, and the prize is more significant for the politician. The big players are on the board. They played in the past, won, and lost the loot to the tortoise who appropriated their shared identity. They are today hurting and baying for blood and playing for conquest. In the game of Sosalasso and Taf Bengal politics, the one who wins is the smart expert sly enough to lure the enemy to a false friendship. That was the game in attempted state capture. It is the game of state capture forever played in Banjul.
Alagi Yorro Jallow