Reorientation of political cultures for political stability
It has become an incontrovertible datum that Gambians have achieved, in a short period of time, what other nations have failed to achieve in decades. Within the period of one year, Gambians have collectively exerted efforts to peacefully uproot an entrenched dictator of two decades through ballot boxes. Since the installation of new coalition government led by H.E President Adama Barrow, The Gambia has embarked on a long process of erecting an almost-collapse nation, a process that includes not only building democratic institutions, but also reconciling with the past, as a necessary step to restructure our already-fractured social bonds. Despite this, loomed in the surface of our political scene is the lack of coherent shared set of beliefs that will make this process smoother for Barrow’s government. This is compounded by budget constraints, unrealistic expectations of citizens about the amelioration of their living standards, constant social problems related to unfound tribalism and security challenges. Thus, the process of achieving a political stability become challenger than it was being projected during the presidential campaign.
Therefore, while all the indications suggest a bright future for the Gambian political and social stability, amid prosperous of its economy from its current recession, needed for the speed up of this development are existence of shared cognitive orientation (knowledge and awareness about political objects like politicians and political institutions) and shared effective orientation (feelings and emotions about these political objects), which together institute our political culture. In other words, we need to build a shared set of ways of thinking about politics and government i.e. a pattern of orientations to political objects. This will produce a conducive environment within which political conflict is conducted and public policy is made. To archive this thorny task of political stability, our political cultures should be reoriented to reflect the following spirits:
1. Patriotism: This entails identification with nation and ensuring political loyalties to nation as well as putting the security and the welfare of the Gambia and the government above all nations and governments.
2. Trust in people: This means that we should not trust only members of groups we belong to (family, tribe, class, religion or regions), and that we should not see anyone else as enemy should they hold different views and beliefs from ours.
3. Confidence in institutions: there should be a popular confidence that our authorities have won their positions and posts rightfully, and that they make and enforce their decisions by proper procedures. This is necessary to respect their decision and to ensure compliance to policies.
4. Citizens’ obligations: That is obeying the law; which means doing what the authorities have required and not doing what the authorities have forbidden regardless of whether citizens agree with the wisdom or fairness of the authorities’ decisions.
5. Cultural and social tolerance: this means accepting others and their cultural heritage which includes, their languages, music and their ways of life. This should be reflected in our daily lives as well as in our official dealings.
We need to develop these consistent political cultures to nurture our democracy and political stability. Thus, it is incumbent upon our politicians, especially oppositions, to inculcate these cultures into the belief system of their supporters. Likewise, media fraternities and educational and religious institutions should give enough space and time to the teaching of these to the nation. Online radios in diaspora, activist and active members of various political parties should reorient their political beliefs and discourse to reflect these five components. Unless this is done, materializing political stability and stable nation will remain an elusive dream to Gambians.
Alieu SK Manjang