By Njundu Drammeh
The dream of the future is supposed to be far better than the history of the past. In fact our political past is not anything to write home about except chapters of brutality, tyranny, administrative malfeasance, utter disregard for the rule of law, muzzling of the press and people, marauding NIA, killer Junglers, citizenship apathy. Our dark age. A blot on our national conscience and “family” escutcheon. Very little to be proud of.
Came 1 Dec 2016. A rebirth. Regaining of lost pride and dignity. New Gambia. A political impasse graciously and gallantly negotiated. 19 January 2017, New President… Old order yielded place to the new. Yahya banished to the Land beyond. Freedom is ringing all over the place and voices once suppressed and mouths hitherto muzzled have regained their lost power. Freedom is sweet and sweeter still is the power to hear one’s own voice even if none is listening. Sweetest is to live in an environment free from fear, of the midnight knock, of disappearing into thin air, of silhouettes against the walls with whips and shackles, of ubiquitous agents with one sole mission, that of carrying out the wishes of their Master. Nothing is more salutary than celebrating one’s own hard won trophy.
We have won for ourselves prized freedoms and rights. However, the banishing of Jammeh into exile and the ascension of the Coalition Government is testing our appreciation of the freedoms we so fiercely fought for; our willingness to accept it for those who don’t share our political beliefs and ideologies, who hold dissenting views or who simply are neither here nor there. Good thing though is that ours too is the process of growth and “differences” are bound to accompany such growth. The test of our democratic maturity and tolerance will be determined by the amount of security and liberty that everyone enjoys, guaranteed by the State and respected by each one.
As we continue to negotiate the thoroughfare of democracy with its bumps and potholes, optimistic that the future would be brighter and better, we have the rude awakening of the colossal betrayal by the watchers of our public Treasury. Not that we didn’t suspect; we just didn’t know the magnitude and the level of complicity of our “good and nice” bosses- it is numbing knowing the callousness and hypocrisy of our chief executives.
The greatest betrayal, though, is the emptying of the pensioners’ coffers. Heart wrenching that past chief executives of SSHFC, without a blink and slightest remorse, allowed the squandering of the pensions of men and women who gave their youth and best to Mother Gambia and who are now left high and dry. That beats every shred of decency. Where was the milk of human kindness that was supposed to flow in their bosoms? Where were their guardian angels? It is evident now, going by what are being revealed at the Janneh Commission, that these chief executives knew what malfeasance and unethical behaviors they were facilitating. How they served as willing conduits to satisfy the gluttony and ignominious life style of a president who parroted pan-Africanism and Islamism while abusing his people, squandering their wealth and evading national responsibility and accountability. Terrible.
“There is nothing more tragic in this entire world than to know right and not it……..” MLK Jr
What is disheartening though is that public complacency and “complicity” in this day light robbery, albeit indirectly. Yahya was our Nasirudeen; the philanthropist of schools, mosque committees, musicians, footballers, poets, the security forces, market vendors, communities, etc. We fought to eat from his hand. We flocked in our numbers to buy from his bakeries and butcheries. We vociferously fended off every criticism against these largesse. We labelled these critics as “people who are eenyaan”, unpatriotic and haters.
They were the “haasidos”… We were complacent because we were “eating”. We detested accountability because we were “eating”. Which community, school, faith based council, yai compin, security agency, region didn’t eat from Yahya’s hands? He supplanted the State and we acquiesced in this subversion. We aided this catastrophe.
The more we are knowing about the financial improprieties and transgressions of Yahya and his gang, the apparent it is becoming that his was a “failed” regime; the death of values, ethics, morality and probity. But greater should be the realisation that the dictatorship was feted upon by chief executives who threw away their values and ethics and refused to follow the dictates of their conscience, mainly out of subservience to their Master. Nothing else.
Hindsight, we should all have vigorously fought against the overthrow of Jawara; there should have been a mass upraising. Not because the Jawara government was good but for the preservation of the democratic foundation it laid, a beacon of human rights. We got deluded by sanctimonious nonsenses and revolutionary platitudes and exchanged the substance for the shadow. We traded liberty for promises of economic security. On the journey we realised that the route to economic prosperity by way of political dictatorship is a costly one. We did not get economic security and lost our liberty.
Yaya got away with his misrule because in the citizens he had willing accomplices and men and women in his likeness who were equally destitute of integrity and character. The legislature and judiciary, organs expected to check executive excesses, played second fiddle, served as the cat’s paws, used their powers to bolster the dictatorship. Our security agencies were greener than APRC and more “Jammehist” than for the people. I still doubt their loyalty to the people. They never were. Everywhere, fences devoured the crops they pretended to be protecting.
Individual liberties were crushed. In some of these scenarios, some of us jubilated and “justified” the high handedness of the State. We encouraged the State in its brutality, cheering it on when a right is violated or a freedom trampled. The “individual” was killed. Nothing can be so diabolical than a deliberate, conscious attempt to destroy in any person his or her will to be a man or woman. When that last bastion is destroyed, crushed or taken away, then the man or woman ceases to be a being; he or she becomes a tool for others.
We cannot refuse to learn from our past. But we have choices. Experience is a good teacher because it often the result of bad judgment. We cannot refuse to learn.