By Suruwa B. Wawa Jaiteh
One of the most crucial tasks we faced after the December 1, 2016 Presidential poll is to mend the tattered fabric of our society and to resuscitate the dying spirit of the nation. The proposed strategy for this lays in an internal democratic revolution directed toward an understanding, appreciation and internalization of our rich democratic heritage as a foundation for developing pride in ourselves as a people. This strategy should be designed to reinforce “the awakening” of the Gambian from his 22 years of “democratic amnesia,” to enable him to see the life and culture he once proudly possessed, the indigenous traditional beliefs, mores, and values that extended back to thousands of years.
In order to give full expression to the purposes, aims and goals of the New Gambia, it will be necessary to launch simultaneously a comprehensive programme of much-needed reforms and initiate innovative ones covering all aspects of society and culture. The two-pronged thrust must be directed at two types of transformation: a) a reform of society’s political, economic and other institutions, and a reorientation of the individuals system of values, attitudes and beliefs.
This approach must be based on the recognition that meaningful and lasting change entails the reshaping not only of the existing social order but also of the consciousness of individuals that together make-up that order. It is envisioned that whatever intermediate gains the reforms would achieve would eventually converge upon a single common purpose – the attainment of organic unity within the body politic. In the final analysis, the strength of the internal democratic revolution would hinge upon the ability of our people to work and live as one in the pursuit of the goals of the New Gambia.
For a people to effect internal democratic revolution, both collective will as well as individual striving are required to bring about such a collective will, for which the central government must provide both the initiative and direction towards creating the infrastructure for material things as well as educating the people on the “uphill battle” we are against. However, it is not only with satisfying our material needs that we must concern ourselves. The other side of the coin demands that individual striving be effected through the regeneration of the self.
Democratization of the reform and/or proposed transformation process we shall continue to pursue as our core trust but internalizing the democratic revolution must remain a more basic and urgent task. The pursuit of such a task can only become and enduring success if we make the objectives, principles and ideals of the democratic revolution a part of our being.
Making it a part of our being is the challenge all Gambians are asked to face. Man, woman, adult and child must look into himself to contribute his importance and his worth. Reconstituting Gambian society cannot be relegated to just a few, nor to the outsider. It must be the Gambian who must choose to make of himself the creature he wishes to become.
How can we honestly go about resculpturing the heart and mind of the Gambian after going through twenty two years of nightmare in a fools’ paradise? I am suggesting seven concepts which we can use as policy and conduct in this difficult job of creation. These concepts must be seen as the distillation of the collective will of the Gambian people and, therefore, constitute the working principles under which the New Gambia must operate. We shall call them the seven pillars. They are the firm and upright support for the New Society’s cultural awakening.
Much of these concepts have been put to work. But, again, it seems that the majority of our people have not fully grasped the full intent and meaning of internal change. I have been made to understand that, during this crisis, the New Gambia has propelled domestic and international challenge and hope. The youth, they say, got frustrated the old became indifferent. Many of these people have now consoled themselves that a new system is in the making and positive changes are expected to come their way. This situation excites everybody’s patience.
But changes simply do not mushroom overnight. The success we have so far achieved, putting a popular, democratic system in place can be nullified by indifference. Wrong attitudes can even negate our achievements.
The material and physical benefits that we expect to harvest from the proposed changes, must be balanced by the internalization of the democratic revolution. Gambians must recognize and accept this condition that inner transformation must be an act of moral will. This is the revolution we must try to put across, a revolution with a humanist dimension, a revolution that shall not only clothe our naked backs but bring pride back to us as a nation of decent, law abiding human beings.
For ease of understanding, let me put these concepts in operational dimensions. Each of these seven moral postulates should be able to guide the New Gambia in its modus operandi and each has the potential to serve as a working principle to achieve set goals. One principle is closely linked with the next until all become an expanded formula for our ways of thinking as a distinct people. We must be purged of two decades of robbery, unproductive and immoral vices and these seven moral postulates could be used as a guide in this cleansing experience. Democratic revolution is no other than this moral act of self-renewal:
1. Gambian Identity – Faceless for twenty two brutal and immoral years, the Gambian has worn a succession of masks imposed on him by an alien intruder (Yahya Jammeh). No one knows the depths of his confusion and bewilderment; no one can truly measure the intensity of this hurt and shame. A moving shadow, he drifts aimlessly. Feeling unworthy of his own true self, he embraces other peoples’ values and claims them to be his own.
To be a dynamic instrument for nation building and social reconstruction, the Gambian therefore must seek to recreate his identity. He must get back to his roots, his culture. Necessarily he must, for the culture of a people is their convent. It is the distinguishing mark, the source of identity that sets him apart from other peoples. It provides the inner strength that shapes the collective will of our body politic and the structure of the national society.
The process of such a rebirth is not only monumental; it is also as complex as it is creative. In the re-sculpturing of his identity, he must, with all consciousness and consummate skill and artistry, dedicate every detail of his acts and thoughts as purposive ingredients in the process of the creation of the New Gambian.
2. Nationalism and National Unity – A man who is not proud of himself will never have cause to be proud of a larger entity – his nation. National unity can only be had after the individual has learned to be proud of himself. National unity becomes the foundation on which a new nation is built. It gives rise to consensus for all that matter most to the nation.
Nationalism and national consciousness transcend individualities. The individual becomes subsumed to a national society mobilized in harmony to advance national interest and for national survival. Nationalism entails that everyone transcends the divisive parochial demands of ethnicity, creed, social station and occupation, and move on to the larger concerns of all the people.
Basic to this concept is a central political authority which can focus and mobilize collective strengths and capabilities of all individuals and all groups on the common aspirations and goals of the entire national community.
3. Social Justice and Equality – This principle is anchored on a definite and deliberate plan of action to transform the great mass of our people into full participants in nation-building. The change of heart and change of mind can only be for the better if the direction of transformation leads to the concern for fellow men.
To put this principle to utmost use, not only built-in constraints inherent in the inherited system must be dismantled; by necessity positive intervention of the central political authority must be effected to equalize opportunities and alleviate the poor and the downtrodden. This is where the positive function of the state or government comes in.
The present dispensation must be understood in this regard. When the participatory force of the people, “peoples power,” as citizens and as voters was harnessed to come together and shame Yahya Jammeh and his tribal and killer APRC machinery, so as to bring about the reforms needed for the formation of a New Gambia, it was merely giving substance to the rebellion of the poor and the nationalists.
It was an emphatic gesture of “concern for fellow men and for the dehumanizing state of the nation.” Emphasizing the need for “existence in diversity” as the cornerstone of the New Gambia is meaningfully instituting social reforms to benefit the broad mass of our people. It was also a means of providing complementary concern for the restoration of order and the security of the Republic.
But social justice and equality should not be the special domain of concern of government. Maximum support to the private sector (as an agrarian society, famers are the biggest private sector) can have much to contribute toward providing opportunities for everybody to improve his station in life.
The assistance and the initiative that the government will be committing to the agrarian sector will be the machinery that will generate, reinforce and stabilize what is known as programme for sustainable development (PSD). This must be a priority policy and hence, the agrarian sector, must be challenged to conspicuously do its share in the task of nation-building.
4. Participatory Democracy – The indigenous people of the Gambia possessed, up to this point in time, homogenous kabilo sub-cultures which developed from the prehistoric past. Participatory democracy in these kabiloolu was a vital democratic ingredient of governance. The incursions of exogenous cultures do not necessarily mean that an ancient social experience has ceased to be functional.
Participatory democracy is still very much relevant to our contemporary, changing, and complex situation. It can effectively work out for the present. The revitalization of this democratic process, after twenty two years of tribal and brutal and barbaric governance, will provide new dimensions for the Gambians penchant for doing things the way he wants them and in the way he believes he can best do them.
This means evolving new formula where the spirit of untrammeled participation as well as the conflicting demands of specialized interests can be given full play, at the same time, resolving them satisfactorily.
This hope is not empty. I have known the Gambian well and that, he has not failed tests; he has always been equal to challenges. Participatory democracy is not a new concept to him. The Gambian people are asked only to seek its fullest utilization.
5. Development and Prosperity – Man, for all intents and purposes, is still the nation’s strivings. Development efforts geared towards anything other than the uplift of man himself becomes an irrelevant enterprise.
With this in mind, we need to be guided in placing proper stress on developing and challenging the human potentials of our people. Requisites to this are a set of related variables. First and foremost, there is the imperative to restore a sense of rightness in the society with respect to the sharing of the fruits of production and the benefits from them. Efforts at participation in production, asset formation, wealth creation and the comfort arising from them should not be the monopoly of a few just because they have the resources and the recourse to make things come to pass. Such amenities of life should be enjoyed by all. The weak should be helped by the strong.
Secondly, those to whom the custody of the national patrimony is entrusted should take cognizance of the fact that their privilege as stewards requires a corollary social responsibility. Those who hold the keys to the barns and storehouses do not have the right to plunder, much less use the country’s resources to enrich themselves. The government official is only a custodian; he is only an instrument in the improvement of the lot of many.
Thirdly, it is the inescapable duty of the leader to promote the nation’s welfare to further its advance as one of his first tasks as well as his high priority amongst his other responsibilities. This is the essence of effective leadership. The people and the leader must be united by a covenant of mutual concern for the judicious use of the nation’s resources. A people who shall not have to worry whether they have food to fill their bellies shall have the opportunity to concern themselves with the highest goals of life.
Development and prosperity not only ensure the regularity of one’s daily bread; they provide the vitality that fills both the thirst for productive labour and creative contemplation.
6. Freedom of Belief – This sums up the many freedoms that should constitute the making up of the essence of the culture of the new Gambian. Freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, freedom of worship are not only liberties from the constraints that fetter him to a narrow range of action, but these are, above all, freedoms to accomplish what he sets out to do, and for which he has need for the proper means to do it.
7. Internationalism: Oneness with Mankind – Central to the philosophy of nation building is that the goals of man must be pursued and attained in the dynamics of action and interaction.
In our actions and decisions relative to other nations, we must seek to demonstrate the logic of our own internal development. By joining hands with other nations, we shall be made to project, with the cooperation of like-minded people, example after example of the ways by which different people can be integrated fully into a moral community as valuable participants thereof. There are ways by which our diversity can be put at their service, and in the service of others.
The internal revolution (democratic/cultural) is understandably a long and painful process. The way that leads to it is not, however, vague. The seven moral postulates are both steps and strategies that are not neither feasible nor insurmountable. All we need as a people is to recognize that the need to service, maintain and sustain change requires of us our moral reserve. Our nation will only be as strong as we, the people as citizens and as voters, are willing to make it.
The task of internal revolution may take us back into the deem recess of past memories in search of archetypal patterns of ways of doing, thinking and believing. It may take us out of the realm of our own selves and be integrated as participants in a larger and wider social order. All this becomes meaningful when we change our attitudes and outlooks. It is a necessity to change institutions, to effect new social arrangements, to organize a new government or to establish a new society. The most dynamic innovation that must accompany these changes is a change in man.