By Alagi Yoro Jallow
I have been thinking long and hard about some of the exchanges I have had with colleagues recently; thoughts that drifted to the Gambia’s current political discourse and to say that I am saddened by the latter would be an understatement.
The current socio-political mood in the country sucks massive!
We have become such a compliant, morose and apathetic country that I am not sure what the future portends OR what I could possibly be missing (that has others more optimistic/less pessimistic) than me.
I am either way off mark in my characterization of the prevailing zeitgeist or I am spot on and things are as bad as the “sensational” headlines scream out.
The Gambia’s rising hypocrites? Or, that their fastly eroding fame and image has to be reinvented? Or has the nemesis of Abiku tired of playing in the shadows of pecuniary expediency? Hopefully, Gambians haven’t forgotten those so-called activists turned- politicians set forte at dawn and how they narrowly escaped one enthralled.
Then, they must remember there was no democracy, and free speech was costly.
In the current political dispensation that ushered in a “chastened” and born-again democrat, the Gambia suddenly finds herself back to the days when this same born-again democrat reigned supreme.
Today, the repression, organized kleptocracy in the guise of democracy is now flourishing.
Those supposed social activists and pundits and anyone who dare to mention “Adama Barrow” is beaten to a pulp and taken away to read “the man died”! Today, the new normal “Handshake” has taken over the previous power brokers and things have just gotten worse.
Yet those ostensible activists have maintained the silence of their thunderous roar! The wordsmith can hardly speak truth to power as the impunity of power casts a bleak shadow over the land.
True, military generals from Alexander Hamilton, Ulysses S Grant, Arthur MacArthur Jr. and George S. Patton were known to choose their battles.
But they never refrained from any war that captured the expediency of the moment, they never wavered impishly like hypocrites do when power speaks to the worst impulses of man. Equally true, that man evolves with time because the only change is change itself.
So, man in his evolutionary mode must study his environment and adjust to survive. But does that survival mean a selling of one’s conscience for body and soul to be at peace? When a man’s conscience is sold to the highest bidder, what else is left? Integrity, what integrity?
Today, you are an activist, tomorrow you author an article of a certified rogue.
Yesterday, you were badmouthing corrupt men from the crocodile infested swathes of the society, today, you are dining with suspected rogues from the crocodile infested regions in rented chic five star hotels, drinking fine wine, gulping down Super Kanja, Shushi and Chicken Yassa in Banjul and or in the Diaspora community girls, rubbing shoulders with murderers, bank robbers and powerful politicians who wire millions from the collective till to the Bank of America in plain “error”! Of course, with a fine trumpet.
We know, “Handshake” will be accompanied with creative prose and eloquent narrative to die for. But will it include all the missing links in the jigsaw puzzle? Will the metaphor stay true to its hype?
A quick scan across the headlines of the country’s major dailies – “The Jaliba” and “Jalinding” echo chambers – all have a common thread and theme running through them: It is open season for stealing from the national treasury.
It is also open season for those suspected and/or caught from the national treasury BUT are not connected to some “Kunubaa” who can intervene on their behalf! Call it sensationalism or glass completely empty darkness but the local dailies et all, a consistent theme is a variant of “Who Stole How Much from Where and How?” It is this reality that also makes the now-distant-past and meaningless so-called activists and opposition “handshake” even more meaningless and worse – utterly detrimental to the short and long-term viability of the country, its economy and its cohesion.
To begin with, why would journalists agree to keep their meeting with politicians off the record? If you’re a true journalist, what is the point of speaking with a powerful politician if you agree in advance that it’s all going to be kept secret? Do they not care what appearance this creates: the most recognizable journalists meeting high with the country’s most powerful political officials, with everyone agreeing to keep it all a big secret from the public? Whether it is collusion, whether it is subservient ring-kissing in exchange for access, it certainly appears to be that. By agreeing to such conditions, journalists expected to deliver the news to the public must not withhold details of a newsworthy meeting with the president or with any politician.
True Journalists should not be wavering or hoisting the flags of any political party or their conscience for a few thousand dalasi from a politician for their selfish interests.
It’s time not to be cashing checks from politicians and party apparatchiks for cheap meals and handshake photo shows? It’s unethical for journalists taking money from politicians for favors. It’s sad that the country has more greedy and hungry journalist than Politicians.
It is this reality that informs my pessimism.
Folks, this is what being held accountable by a viable opposition looks like.
It is hard and spirited.
It borders on shouting matches and biting oftentimes caustic exchanges.
Both Civil society activism and Opposition politics is also relentless and unforgiving.
It is factual as much as it is spin and more recently, lies, half-lies and alternative facts. Being called out when you do something wrong – like delete a comment – which either changes the substance of the exchange or is discovered late in the exchange – can be discomfitting if not outright embarrassing but one lives to fight another day – metaphorically of course.
That’s what oversight and checks-n-balances looks like.
That’s what the Gambia is currently missing: A viable hard-nosed activists and opposition that can command the national stage and ferret out the majority’s lack of candor, duplicity and outright deceit/lies! Corruption and misappropriated funds every month for five years? How the heck does that happen and if it is “sensational”, then (a) the auditor has some questions to answer and (b) so does the “Jalibaa media” whose ration of Jalibaa would be cut in half for publishing incorrect/misleading information! That’s what a viable civil society activism ad opposition compels – factual reporting.
State House caught in fake tender saga? Really? So what the heck was the “handshake” in Banjul, Seattle in the United States and in Manchester in the United Kindom about and how credible is the fight against corruption if the office of the man whose legacy rests on “slaying” the gaf dragon is smack in the middle of the scourge? A true and fearless social justice activist and opposition would call out all those in the office of the president implicated in the theft without fear of anything.
Being derided and ridiculed can be disheartening and make one back down or cower under the intense double-barreled attacks of individuals who are aligned philosophically.
Being exposed and mocked and ridiculed also makes one up their game and get their shit together – for the next time around.
Right now, we have thieves across both wings of the ruling party without any national outrage and the one man who had the gravitas and heft to marshal and lead the national movement against the parade of incompetence and indifference-induced graft and abuse of office is figuratively handcuffed by the activist and opposition handshake!
A viable and credible opposition would nationalize the on-going parade of scandals and force the ruling party to act beyond the weak and tame machinations now on display by a co-opted and discriminating judiciary.
What am I missing? What of our children’s future? Are we satisfied with being pushed and pulled and taken for granted by an educational system that claims to have their interest at heart yet enacts policies that are haphazard and thoughtless; more designed to line the pockets of “shadowy” characters who are NOT as amorphous and invisible as they are made out to be?
Aren’t we outraged with the headline of a flossing tenderpreneurs juxtaposed alongside those of ordinary everyday citizens in all stages of pain and suffering and hardship wrought on by the kleptocracy of those flashing their ill-gotten gains?
I know I am and that explains my passionate oftentimes defiant stances.
It is also what makes some of the exchanges invaluable in helping crystallize the various sides of the debate – and for that, I appreciate them.