The end of an era!! Two scores and two- Gambians have spoken!! By Baaba Sillah mu Sabel

Friday, February 10, 2017

Without risking an over-kill of this point, here are some more examples that will drive home the point I am trying to put over. When you try to chase out a frog from her comfort zone at the cool and moist foot of a tree; what is the frog’s reaction? Will it not fill her abdomen with air to scare you? When you come near a hen with her chicks? When you come near a dog and her puppies? 

When people are scared, you can see them jump over walls as high as ten feet, something we cannot do ordinarily. Maybe you can ask those that fled, what was going through their minds and how they felt and why they left? For those that decided to ride out the storm, if it came, what was going through their minds? Perhaps ask Mr Jamme what happened to him when the jet fighter wooshed past state house? Did his stomach rumble or did he experience some inner tensions making him want to release something in him? How did he feel when he peered through his pair of binoculus and saw the war ship inching close and docking out-stream? 

Fear is a phenomenon that is difficult to master. It may even paralyse and emasculate us. It may transform and turn us into shadows of our real selves. It can make us lie needlessly. And turn us into a band of grovellers and children who cannot make their own decisions but depend on an overlord to do so for them.

Do we; some of us… tell lies when we are afraid... Afraid of what we don’t know, afraid of what others will think, afraid of what will be found out about us?

Have you noticed that every time we tell a lie, the thing we fear grows stronger?

I will tell you what Jamme knew and how he played with our fears and anxieties? The same fears he himself harboured and tried to manage when he knew that a case had already been filed against him at The Hague. He saw his friend Gbagbo, Charles Taylor, Foday Sankor, Strasser… all of them go, and the list is long!

Jamme then held out the fears below as a Damocles over our heads:

Fear of the midnight knock

Fear of his own Revolving dock

We fear the unknown, what obtains behind those tall grey walls; torture and the rumors of torture. 

The fear of losing one’s job

The fear of being put to shame

The fear of imprisonment

The fear of what the neighbors will say?

The fear of poverty, destitution and their consequences

Are there any more?

These fears among several others gave Jamme the leverage he had utilized skillfully to instill fear in us, between and among us, even with our neighbors in Senegaal and the international community. ‘Gambia will never be recolonized as long as I am alive’; he will say to invoke local nationalist sentiments. For a long time, Gambians bought into his antics and it did play out well on our sub-conscious minds to the extent that we even feared each other, our neighbors, our friends etc. We became a people that looked over our shoulders; looked around before uttering the name of Lord Voldemort, a population of whisperers, gossipers, a divided society and the division of that society was based on those that knew   his treachery but still held the Hare and chased with the hounds.  There were of course those who saw through him and disapproved. The latter he called the ‘cockroaches’ of the Diasporas.

Interestingly enough,   Jamme himself feared us so much that he evolved methods of social control rooted in fear to contain us and his own fears. Could it be that Mr. Jamme even waved the gratuity entitlements of his members of Parliament as a carrot for them to extend his illegal bid to stay in power?  On a final note on fear, we all experience fear to a greater or lesser extent and in different contexts. This is what dictators know and utilize to their best advantage.

Ultimately, we, you and I, all of us developed what I call a mass psychoses of siege with its blend of associative mentalities such as connmanship, one upmanship, fang-kung fang-kung, boppa -sa boppa pardon the phrase…  arse covering and pretence. 

I will now try to draw some lessons from the past fifty two years and what to watch out for.

I have the modesty to admit that I might have missed out on some very important lessons. The list is in exhaustive and by the way, you can add, take away or suggest something that are even better than I have hitherto proposed in the tentative list below:

 

          That politics is not about ethnicity. Yes we may come from different ethnic groups but to use this as a trump card to rule over others because you are the majority ethnic group takes us back to the dark ages. You see why Jamme and many other leaders in Africa imbued with this backward thinking failed dysmally.

I am going to knock this point firmly on its head as it is a very dangerous phenomenon that threatens the coalition and the way forward for The Gambia, post Jamme.

In the past, colonisers whipped up ethnic differences in order to divert attention from the colonial situation at their door-steps. Is it not intriguing therefore, that those so-called enlightened politicians, who can see the wood for the trees and evil from immorality of the danger of using ethnic and religious politics   as a means of feathering their nests.

The problem since independence is that the African elites that assumed the helms of state, had difficulty in seeing beyond colonialism, the Empire, their greed and self-aggrandisement. The withdrawal of colony and Empire had meant that the elite were left in a void and were deprive of any meaning and purpose. Without the Empire, ethnic and religious nationalism are the most attractive, viable and vibrantly vitalising forces for them, as they fit nicely into their brand of opportunistic politics   in which, any intrigue, alliance or betrayal is justifiable. The coalition must therefore guard against this menace/pitfall/tenency!

          No matter how long a people are held in captivity or against their will, they will rise up and free themselves. They do not need to use the same methods as was done in elsewhere. They will always find country-specific solutions to their country-specific problems.

          Both the Jamme and Jawara regimes disemphranchised and alienated their country men and women in the diaspora when they should have been accorded them the status of non-negligible partners to the development of their country.

The Gambian diaspora has kept the country afloat through a turbulent period especially during the past decade and half through remittances, investments  and revenues they have generated. They will continue to be an important resource and development partner for The Gambia. 

          Dictatorships of all forms, must be denounced and opposed. This includes the denunciation of all spiritual leaders and turncoat opportunistic  elders who only represented themselves and no one else. Instead of denouncing and opposing terror, they kept on singing the praises of and praying for the perpetrators of terror to rule and reign over us and implore God to save them. Intrestingly, those that profitted from Jamme’s rule by being given favours saw what happened when he was on the verge of losing his grip on power. Jamme withdrew the previleges he granted them and even humiliated them.  

          Isn’t there somewhere in both the Quran and Hadith where it is said that if a malaise is prevalent in society, as a muslim, it is incumbent upon you to remove it? If you cannot remove it, speak openly against it? If you fail, keep it in your heart for future deliberation? My haunch is that the religious/spiritual elders did not speak or try to remove the blatant misrule and excessess of Jamme and had turned a blind eye to his misdeeds because it was convenient for them.  They had a stake in the Jamme regime because he bribed them with either money or with vehicles perhaps a trip to the Hajj? I had indicated earlier that in his psychological make-up, there is no such thing as charity in him. Giving was always tied to a returned favour. He will not send you to Hajj if he does not expect a return favour from you. This is where he had cornered many people in the same way that he had cornered the recipients of material gifts from him.

Isn’t there something in the Quran and Hadith about Hajj where Muslims are forbidden from going to Hajj with funds that come from dubious sources? Do we all not know how much Jamme earned every year and juxtaposing that against the colossal funds that went towards the number of pilgrims he sends every year and do the figures add up? Aren’t there the Hajj Emirs who can warn us about the infractions of the rules of Hajj and the consequences of that?  

It is sad that they that have monopoly over the interpretation of the scriptures and spirituality had to stoop so low; so low, lower than a snakes belly. Some of them had conveiently misinterpreted verses and sections of the quran and hadith completely out of context to justify the Jamme tyranny. I have heard them say time and again that leaders were placed in their positions by Allah and Allah will remove them when he wills. If this is the case, then we will all pack our bags and go to sleep. I hope that the same Imams can refer back to the confrontations between the prophet Musaa and Pharoah; the rule of Umar Ben Abdul Aziz ... And let us know whether he and the other rulers of Makka sat on their hands and did nothing in order to buy back the freedom of slaves, free the poor from the fetters of necessity, eliminate poverty in Mecca  and still maintained a balanced budget at the Baity Maal?

          God has instructed us that our mission on earth is to worship him and him alone. Live a clean and righteous life and earn your keep by the sweat of your brow. They should perhaps remind us and themselves that faith, planning and labour are all interlinked and interdependent variables. Our faith should ginger us up into planning our lives; how we are going to put bread on the table by pulling ourselves up by our own boot-straps and not depend on others for handouts, charity and the goodwill of politicians and connmen . This way, we are not so susceptible to manipulation, abuse and compromising our Diin by tinkering, meddling and doubling into politics.

          Many Gambians had all learnt that in unity lies strength! If the opposition and the diaspora Gambians did not unite, there was no way they could unseat and show Jamme the door. I am still in doubt whether the coalition government has learnt that the principal contradiction was Jamme and not how many fulas, wolofs,  akus or mandinkas were in their parties. People from all ethnic grpuos came together, railled around the oipposition and over threw the monster.

          I trust that the coalition government will have also learnt that the politics of patronage and the old-boy network should be consigned to the tombstones of yesteryears.

          The future of Gambian politics lies in the youth and not of re-cycling spent forces.

          A coalition government is a government that puts together all the stake-holders in the society.

           The allocation of Ministerial portfolios is not tantamount to a horse-trading excersie. It is about finding the right people for the right job which in management parlance means matching like with like. Each according to his ability and each job to be matched with the abilities and aptitudes to do them.  No more square pegs in round holes all over again. ‘Who give dog horn?’ say my Jamaican brethren.  Do not give whiskers to hens. They will not know what to do with them.

          This is the chance for the coalition government to put the right button in the right button hole, once and for all!

At the last count, there were thousands  of Gambian professionals-mostly University professors, researchers and technocrats all over the world. The coalition can engage with and harness both their material and human resources for the country’s benefits. A way must be found to initiate a dialogue with them. By the way, even locally, there are some very able people who can input in the new Gambia project  in significant ways. In fact, if I had my way, no coalition leader would be in the government.

That in any coalition government, pragmatism is a cardinal principle in the management of the partners of the coalition. We must learn to give and take with the best of intensions,  do what you must for the right reasons and live with your differences-this is the stuff of life!   This is not to say that principled politics should be compromised but one must quickly accept that there will inevitably be divergent views owing to perhaps deep ideological differences but, it is how one manages these dissenting views/stances for the interest of the common good of all.

I also do not believe that it is realistic to think that twenty two years worth of damage can be repaired in three years. I will suggest a few things for the new government and they are as follows:

          Stay together and put up candidates for the up-coming elections in April and the following term. Fifty two years of damage cannot be repaired in just three years. You will win with an even greater margin( pardon the ponditry).

          Institute some electoral reforms for the purposes of bringing in and giving voice to the voiceless and power to the powerless that is to say, those that need to have it ie, the average, run off the mill Gambian.

          Immediately, engage in massive civic education programmes through all available media. Back this up with actions so that the average person can relate ideas with tangible actions.

          Establish a joint think tank  between ministries and independent trustees and call members of the diaspora and civil society to join in and be a part of the change and have ownership to the new project, the new Gambia project

          Repair the damage done to relations with foreign governments, bi and multi-lateral institutions around the world. 

          The observance of human and peoples rights, the rights to worship, the freedom of the press  continue to be a core principle of governance in The Gambia.   

          Establish an outfit, something  like an upper chamber to include the leaders of the coalition, academics, leaders of industry, commerce,  retired but active and knowledgeable persons with experience, jurists, etc. as a means of regulating the excessess and the provision of sound advice  to the government especially in relation to fiscal and policy matters.

          Aim to build capacities of individuals, among individuals in all the sectors especially the public sector institutions.

          This is a sore point I know but we must address it. Instill dicipline, change attitudes, instill some work ethic all across the board especially among the uniformed officers, civil servants. We have a serious problem there!

          Review the salaries. This will be based on a constant market-basket surveys so that the worker can have a living wage and will not be tempted to do otherwise.

          Review the entire educational curricula from early childhood to University levels and provide them with the scope of addressing  the economic and other sectors of the economy.

          Institute procedings for the control of waste, mismanagement and fraud.

          A thorough review of all the sectors of the economy  is needed and all of them must generate a ten-year policy and plan of action with a budget.

          Institute policies and plans in relation to education, agriculture, fisheries, tourism, energy, infrastructure health care, youth, sports and culture, all of which  must demonstrate sound judgment and, pragmatism and must speak to the realities of the local terrain.

          As much as possible, work with the ECOWAS and the regional groupings in the African Union. Try to harmonise our economies especially our energy policies. We cannot hope to industrialise without a coherrent, realistic  and tangible policy in our energy sectors so that African unity and African independence do not remain the empty slogans they have been for the past sixty years. ECOWAS’ action in The Gambia is a good and laudable start so, keep the momentum.

          For Mr Jamme and his cyphers, the message is clear. Tyranny is a very high place from which there is no easy descends. Is there a role anymore for the APRC now or will it go the way of its leader?

          For the coalition, you have a behemoth to conquer. Only your commitment, dedication, selflessness and devotion will help you to conquer the challenges ahead in spite of its enormity. Remember! You are starting from year zero!  

All the best to you and The Gambia and Gambians!

Source: Picture: Baaba Sillah mu Sabel