Scaling it up or down?

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By Musa Bah “I am not desperate to be president…,” The Gambia’s Mandela told congress attendees last week. Oops, but some say he is not Mandela. Anyway, that’s a debate for others, not me. But that statement really threw the doors of political pluralism wide open. With his godson Ado clearly edging towards announcing his bid for the highest office; many of his supporters were keen to hear his side of the story. Many expected him to come out openly and speak his mind on the issue, but he chose to be diplomatic about it. Well, he is a master at that – diplomacy. He is not one to spew acrimonious views. The statement though is as clear as day. The Mandinkas have a saying, kumoo mu nisiringo leti (meaning: spoken words are like … or forget it, I won’t translate that). Everyone worth his or her salt in the political arena knew exactly who was referenced here. It’s been weeks and everyone has been talking about the apparent (or let me say not-so-secret-power-struggle) between father and son. All eyes are on the presidency. These are interesting times. Some people were of the view that a time will come when ‘son’ would turn against ‘father’ and perhaps sack him… but that’s a little too heavy. The man contributed immensely to the struggle to end dictatorship in Mama Gambia even if the finish line found him locked up, or away. Well, some say that was the turning point. Whatever the case, it is unlikely that the meek and respectful Ado will take that drastic; and certainly foolhardy action (of giving Darboe early retirement). He didn’t go overboard with such drastic action but he sent some jibes earlier this year. He said that any talk of choosing a different flag-bearer for the UDP while he is still president was a betrayal. Haha. The UDP stalwarts laughed! Who is betraying whom? They asked in derision. The UDP and Ado are giving us the drama spectacles of the year. Their son has become a sort of a hot potato of late. Having presented Ado for consideration to run against the erstwhile alkalo of Janjangbureh (by the way did you know that until his defenestration, Yahya Jammeh was the alkalo of Janjangbureh? That was the most ludicrous portfolio he held)… well, back to our Ado, when he won and became president, UDP were over themselves with pride. Our son has become president, much like the Gambian mindset with children. When a child succeeds, he or she is everyone’s child and is hailed. But a few months later when Ado started fumbling and making gigantic errors of commission or omission, like dishing out envelopes of ten thousand dalasis to National Assembly Members; or saying that he was the one who made the change, well, things were no longer rosy. Suddenly, he became semi-isolated. The UDP started holding him at arm’s length. They did not want to go down with him, if he were to go down. Thus, the Barrow Youth Movement (builders of mosques and gardens and perhaps public toilets) became a rallying point. Many thought that it would – and still could – be transformed into a political party to champion the flagship of Ado. So, many – perhaps myself included – thought that when Ado returned from Sharm-el-Sheikh he would throw tantrums at the outcome of the UDP weekend rally. But, he deviated; some will say semi-diplomatically which simply means that he indirectly did what was expected. He said instead of focusing on petty political squabbles (perhaps not in so many words) and concentrate instead on bridges (no pun intended). He was going to Basse to inaugurate a bridge and then he will open Banjun (Banjul for the rest of us) and develop the country. That is what I have been employed to do by the Gambian people. He got that part right, he is employed by the Gambian people. Now, let’s turn our focus on budgets. This week has seen many other episodes of this seasonal drama we call the Ado-led Administration. First, they presented a budget that was called a ‘budget of shame’ by the energetic and erudite Madi Jobarteh…(some say he comments on everything in The Gambia, and some jibe him for his long posts on Facebook; but he is a true thick-skinned patriot, at least in my opinion). The budget gave a huge amount of money to the Ministry of Defence (though we are not at war or on an arms race) yet; this ministry has no minister. Ridiculous! Some will say. The budget and the Supplementary Appropriation Bill engendered a France-Yellow-Vest-like protest at the National Assembly building though the numbers dwarf in comparison. But what it shows is that Gambians – the youths in particular – are no longer willing to sit idly by and see politicians pisirr-pasarr their money. They were met though by riot police who appeared like they are going against armed rebels. This is becoming ridiculous. Everywhere in the world citizens have the right to protest against anything that they think is not in their favour. The democracy and freedom of expression that the Ado government is so proud of cannot be true without protests. Protests are an important part of democracy. That has to sink! On the news again was Sir (or not so much sir) Henry Gomez predicting that he will be president by the next elections. His party, the GPDP held its congress – quietly I might add – last week. Perhaps the only attendees were elected… no selected party executives because they couldn’t have been more than twenty-one or so. This reminds me of a Senegalese presidential aspirant in the ’90s who got zero votes in the very polling station he and his family voted. He cried on RTS claiming that everyone knew that he would not vote for Abdou Diouf… African democracy… a huge joke, most of the time. Well, for the past month also we have seen Latirr Carr talk repeatedly about his Black Magique, I wonder what happened to his Red Black Nonsense. I used to enjoy that part of The Standard newspaper a lot. Will it ever be back? You know, we have to understand that literature is a wonderful vehicle to enlighten people and correct (or attempt to correct) society’s ills. I urge Latirr to bring them back. Again I miss that part of The Standard where Baba Sheriff Bojang used to spice up the weekend with his didactic essays. Those used to be devoured by me like a hungry wolf meeting a goat after maghrib in the outskirts of a sleepy village. Why doesn’t he write anymore? Is it because of his stint with Fangbele’s government as a spin master? Whatever the case, I would love to see essays like Once Upon a Time Three men visited God! What times those were! Bring them back my boss! Scaling it up or down? You be the judge of that… I am off to invigilate exams… See you next week!]]>

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