My fellow citizens, I presume you will agree with me that curiosity is one of the major characteristics which differentiates humans from other species. Hence from the beginning of time, with an aggressive desire to conquer the planet, humans strove to improve civilisation through their advanced intuition. Despite their supposed superiority, they struggled for many millennia to achieve this. But with the advent of the Internet, mankind has been able to instantaneously share information widely, and communicate more quickly, transforming the world into a global village. By further use of the imagination, problems of human life were conquered in a short space of time and people were able to control their lives just using their fingertips. Then came social media.
For the first time in human history, through the prevalence of the Internet, ordinary people could control their own destiny without consultation with a higher authority, such as their parents, or the government. Modern humans are happily obtaining comfort, not through a sermon given to them by a priest from a church or imam from a mosque, but from obscure individuals operating both off and online. Consequently, social media has effectively stripped the privilege that the powerful elites possessed only a few decades ago. For example, vital information such as tomorrow’s weather forecast which used to be known to a few is now easily accessible for many. All that it takes is just to use your fingertips. Therefore, governing has become harder for governments, worshipping has become more challenging for the faithful, and truth is harder to find.
I believe that in the post-modern society, he who controls social media will undoubtedly control human behaviour. The smart phone which was initially designed to make humans even smarter and wiser, is slowly depriving mankind of the desire to nurture social cohesion in the pursuit of community development. This thriving technology has pushed our human ego to a high gear, whereas emotional love for one another is no longer a priority. As result, emotional empathy for one another, which is the core of human values, could soon be a thing of the past. Despite that, I still firmly hold the view that responsible use of the Internet and social media is more productive than harmful. And the good news for the government is that when we are frustrated, instead of venturing our anger in the street, we merely publish it online. Rather than questioning the government, we prefer to debate with our friends on our social media timelines. For that reason, there is no need for the government to intervene in order to control social media, as long as we remain disciplined and peaceful.
I am delighted that Gambians are increasingly using social media in a positive way. Recently, two witnesses who appeared at the TRRC, Mahfugi Sonko and Yahya Bojang, received large amounts of cash from generous Gambians, thanks to the efforts of those who created a GoFundMe account in order to solicit help for victims of the past regime. In this regard, in honour of the holy month of Ramadan, I am personally appealing to all Gambians to emulate the example of these generous individuals for the betterment of our dear motherland, and in addition, let’s put aside our political activities in order to observe the holy month of Ramadan. I wish you all Ramadan Mubarak.
People belittle the powers they have to bring about changes
Most of the time people belittle the powers they have to make or bring about changes in their societies and or nations. Most Gambians have such fears. This, one can say is as a result of the types of governments we had before and after colonisation. During the pre-colonial era, most dominant of the ethnic groups such as the Mandinka, Fula and Wolof had rulers and these rulers were involved in decision-making processes leaving others out. As a matter of fact, there was a class system in more than five ethnic groups in the pre-colonial Gambia and this is reflected in our current societies. The class system made a certain group in an ethnic group superior and the rest inferior accordingly. It started with the ruling group, middlemen, griots, smiths and craftsmen, all the way to slaves. This influenced the confidence of the people to participate actively in the decision-making processes.
Notwithstanding, there are people who stood during trying times and spoke for the people. They were not necessarily part of the ruling class. Such is still going on, we have a lot of people fighting for the common good, making sure that they act as checks and balances as well as speak for others. There is still fear in the people, especially women, about participating in politics and related fields and this could be justified by the fact that our society is patriarchal in nature.
The participation of women in politics had been recognised as nearly zero. All that women involved themselves in is running after male politicians, organising events, attending meetings and clapping for them. This has eaten so much into the women folk to an extent whenever a female seeks to run for a public post, before anything, it is other women who thwart her. Some bitterly argue that their fellow women will never lead them using errant traditions and misunderstood Islamic teachings that women should not make decisions. With the progress being made by activists, groups, media, other world examples, through honest conversations, perspectives are now changing. The mayor of Banjul, Rohey Malick Lowe, is a female. She is rated by majority of the people as the most hard-working mayor in the history of the capital.
With the influence of media, so many people are standing up for themselves and for others to see that their participation and involvement in decision-making process is respected. Having won the Face of Beauty Gambia 2018 on this topic, it has essentially drawn my attention to this area.
With disappointment and knowing that more efforts are needed, we still strive towards encouraging our brothers and sisters who think that voting during elections is of no use and a waste of time. Voter turnout has always been low, but the 2016 presidential election registered a difference, thinking that things have changed, only to find out that during the National Assembly elections it went down, and the mayoral elections was the worst.
It will take a little more time for all Gambians to understand and know that it is their human rights to be involved in decision-making and no one has the key to that right but themselves and voting during elections opens the door.