By Sheriff Baba Bojang
I have a dearly friend who always tells me that no one can cage him. I tell him, no one wants to cage you, it’s your nafs, your self, your ego that encages you. Fight it and conquer it and you will be free – or feel free – like the condor or the harpy eagle.
Priapic ego, masking as self-confidence is pride and pride has led to the death of many men. In Greek tragedies which I studied at Gambia High School, a recurrent tragic set of character flaws revolves around hubris, which refers to an over-reaching mixture of pride and arrogance. Remember the story of brilliant boy Icarus whose father Daedalus made him a pair of waxen wings in his desire to seize the power of flight from the gods, in order for them to escape imprisonment. He flew too close to the sun, his wings melted, he fell, and was swallowed by the sea. Ignorant or unconcerned with his mortality, in flying too close to the sun he encroached upon the realm of the gods, and in doing so lost touch with his own rationality, and life.
Daedalus lost his son, his invention was destroyed, and although his body was free, his spirit was broken.
I was with President Jammeh in his room the day after he lost the election. The presence had left him. Slumped across his desk, he forlornly told me, “Can you hear them cursing my mother?” Even in the fortified executive office in the depths of the presidential office building, I could hear the frenzied crowds chanting the death of the dictatorship. I did not reply. I looked him straight in the eye. He was alive, breathing, but his spirit was broken, dead. My eyes misted. This was not the end I wished for him. I had become close to him. And like the dauphins to the French king, although I deeply love him and deeply hate him, I never wished him such an inglorious exit. But God decreed so.
Indeed God decreed so, but in political calculus, what one does or fails to do basically determines one’s fate. If President Jammeh had listened and acted upon the advice of some of his aides, he would still have been resident at No 1 Marina Parade. Just like Donald Trump would have continued to live No 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for another four years if he had acted likewise. But hubris, they say, presages a fall. President Jammeh had no love for President Trump.
Jammeh told me Trump was a racist and it was for that very reason he was cutting ties with Vladmir Putin of Russia (whom he regarded as Trump’s puppet master) and ordered the shutting down of the Gambian Embassy in Moscow and the recall of Ambassador Aki Bayo.
Forget for the moment the biblical wisdom “why seest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye; and seest not the beam that is in thy own eye?” Jammeh was right. Trump is a racist. He neither cares nor likes black people or Latinos. He called Haiti (a 100% black country in the Western hemisphere) and Africa “shithole” countries. The Washington Post reported that his antipathy to Africa was so ingrained that when his wife Melania Trump planned a 2018 trip to the continent he railed that he “could never understand why she would want to go there”. Trump has been the only president in many decades who has not bothered to visit the continent. In his four years in office, he threatened civil rights legislations, engaged in voter suppression activities and housing discrimination targeting blacks. Not to talk about his refusal to condemn police brutality against blacks and his overt support for white supremacists. His former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen who described him as “a racist, predator and con-man” wrote in a recent book that Trump told him: “Tell me one country run by a black person that isn’t a s—hole.”
A former employee of Trump’s Castle, in Atlantic City, New Jersey, told a writer for The New Yorker: “When Donald and Ivana came to the casino, the bosses would order all the black people off the floor.”
In fact by all accounts, it was “birtherism”, the lie that Barack Obama, the first black president, was not born in the United States, that catapulted him on the political main stage. He set off his 2016 presidential campaign proposing to bar Muslims from entering America and limiting nonwhite immigrants.
Trump ran a shitty campaign and did and said all the impolitic things like we did in The Gambia in the fall of 2016 and lost like we lost. Now he is holed up in the White House brooding and challenging the results like we did. The tragedy is, everyone knows after all the bluster and the twitterrants, he will, like the proverbial emperor, realise his nakedness and bow out, for the play has definitely come to an end.
To be continued Friday.
Baba Sheriff Bojang was a Minister of Information and Communications Infrastructure. He is the managing director and proprietor of The Standard newspaper.