By Alagi Yoro Jallow
Marriage of convenience for practical reasons or marriage by force is sleep with the enemy, a snake in the handbag. Struggling with political impotence.
The Gambia’s new democracy is a forced marriage or a marriage of convenience conducted by 2016 Coalition (MoU) Memorandum of Understanding – we called it “a forced union of marriage” which we prayed would result in “peace and prosperity” and would “last forever.”
But we couldn’t have been right. No forced marriage has ever truly worked to the satisfaction of the parties.
A ‘continuum of coercion’ is the tonic that sustains forced, involuntary unions. But is it not said that hundreds of tiny threads of love, not chains, hold marriages together? You can renegotiate a union of crises to one of peace and prosperity.
But unworthy husbands are always afraid of the wisdom of their wealthy wives and children.
They resist and ban family conferences and enthrone a dictatorship of the privileged weak. That is the case with President Barrow’s new Gambia – the husband won’t smell dissent; he calls it treason.
The abusive union has grown like cancer tumors killing destinies from Kartong to Koina and birthing hungry, ill, uneducated, chained and frustrated kids.
The poor husband has remained laidback and poor, living off his burdened wife. He sees no reason why he must work or why he must educate his kids when the “lady of means” he used for money ritual is still vomiting cool cash from all her public and private pipes.
Where are those who told us there was no alternative to Yahya Jammeh? Where are those who said the Gambia will go up in flames without Jammeh? We hear this evil chorus by charlatans all the time.
It is true that Adama Barrow belong to no one. In hindsight, it is more of his affirmation for structural deficiency.
Adama Barrow does not own the structures that brought him to power in 2016. The beneficiaries of his government like “the United Democratic Party were active in the “2016 Coalition”.
They had all the knowledge and idea how Adama won the primaries. The structures that brought Adama to power can be activated and deployed by those who built the structures for anyone.
The elite and the dregs of society create a consensus of popular in 2016 was; Yahya Jammeh is bad for the Gambia’s continued existence. There is an emerging elite consensus in 2019 that Adama Barrow is not worth wasting political capital on. His is an outsourced presidency.
The Coalition has shown it has learned a thing from its 2016 failures based on the collapse of the coalition.
Opposition to Adama Barrow can only be successful if, the good elements within the Coalition break away and get a new methodology and strategy for the next Presidential elections.
They must be ready to play hardball and educate our people.
They must play differently. The politics that can ensure freedom, survival and dignity of our people must highlight the image of a corrupted and self-interested political class.
They must expose, in simple language, the incestuous relationship between the three arms of government. A lot will unfold in 2021. A year is eternity in politics. Watch this space.
How many Gambians do not have access to safe drinking water? In simpler English, they get their water from unhealthy sources, such as streams and ponds.
I will deliberately leave out the stinking statistics on people sill practicing open defecation and the number of people lacking decent toilets to answer the call of nature.
When hundreds and thousands of people drink unsafe water, the consequences for their health are obvious.
That is why we keep experiencing regular outbreaks of diarrhea diseases, notably cholera.
Guinea worm disease, typhoid and dysentery are products of drinking unsafe water.
This is to say nothing about the social costs: children having to trek miles every morning, loading heavy buckets on their heads, to fetch water for their parents.
Some do the round twice or thrice before going to school. They get to school tired and disoriented — and we then begin to teach them chemistry and mathematics.
This is wickedness.
How many of students in rural areas failed their WAEC examinations. We cannot establish a link between water and education.
Most grievously, we cannot establish a link between the well-being of a child and the development of the Gambia. We just think the Gambia is backward by some coincidence.
I am not a Marxist, but I am deeply intrigued by the thoughts that shape, or seek to explain, the socio-political and economic philosophy. Antonio Gramsci, the Italian Marxist philosopher and communist politician who died at 46 in 1937, propounded the theory of “cultural hegemony” in trying to explain the societal order in a capitalist society. He said the state and ruling capitalist class — called the ‘bourgeoisie’ — use cultural institutions to maintain power.
They develop a “hegemonic culture” using ideology to propagate their own values and norms. These become the “common sense” values of all. The status quo is thus entrenched and maintained.
Let’s come back to the Gambia. If you are very attentive, you would notice that the powerful socio-political groups and mighty opinion leaders in the country hardly raise issues about infant mortality, maternal mortality, access to clean water, sanitation, quality education and other indices that affect the wellbeing of at least ordinary Gambians.
Let’s go back to Gramsci. He talked about the ‘bourgeoisie’ maintaining hegemonic values and norms to keep their hold on power; I would replace the ‘bourgeoisie’ with the ‘Gambian elite’.
The average member of the Gambian elite class sends his children to schools abroad, has borehole in his house, is well protected by the police, flies to US or UK for medicals and has a generator to bridge the power gap.
The children are guaranteed jobs at corporate institutions and the banks.
It is just a phone call away.
The governor, the minister, the DG and the MD are his friends.
He himself could be the governor, the commissioner, the minister, the DG or the MD. It is their country, basically.
To maintain this societal order, they have their own ‘institutions’ that control our thoughts and shape public discourse.
In their corner, they have a legion of professors, journalists, activists and elder statesmen who direct public discourse in a way that not only maintains the status quo but also diverts our attention from critical issues that matter to the ordinary Gambians.
They are so powerful, and they always succeed in reproducing themselves among the ordinary Gambians. Go on the social media.
The patterns of debates are clearly influenced by this hegemonic ideology built on ethno-religious and regional sentiments, unconnected to the urgent existential needs of Gambians.
Are we in a hopeless situation? I would not say so.
We need a new class of thought leaders in the media, academia, civil society and polity to focus public discourse on the things that matter the most.
We should stop heaping all Gambia’s woes on the 2016 Coalition MoU marriage of convenience that gave new Gambia President Adama Barrow and his tenure elongation to 20121.
Why can’t we also spend some of our energies on demanding for water, education, healthcare, power and security — which most Gambians apparently agree on? Inevitably, the rich and the poor will benefit.
National productivity will increase. This will ensure social stability. The elite class needs to be far-sighted enough to connect its own interests with those of the ordinary people.