By Njundu Drammeh
Society is often made or destroyed by three groups of people: the guardians of law (the Judiciary or lawyers), the guardians of morality, collective values and national conscience (the Clergy or religious scholars) and the politicians (those who run the polity). For what aspect or department of our lives is not controlled, supervised or defined by law, morality or politics?
And so when these three groups up their games, act in the best interests of society, follow the dictates of their “professions’ or abide by “integrity” as their “Codes of Conduct” demand, society progresses. Throughout modern history, most revolutions which disturbed the status quo and engineered new societies were either spearheaded by lawyers or had them at the vanguard. Similarly, most “conscience driven” movements which birthed phrases such as “equality, dignity, freedom, liberty” were spearheaded by men and women of religious backgrounds.
About politicians of modern Gambia, the verdict of the jury is in the open. For their role, “politics”, the science of governance and the distribution of power, has been given a very dirty name. The classic case “give a dog a bad name and hang him”. We know though, as the Greeks argued, that one who has no need of “politics” is either a god or a beast.
With politicians out of the equation the fundamental question to ask becomes: what has been the roles of the guardians of law and that of morality/values/conscience in modern Gambia, as “classes”? Individuals amongst them have sprung out, to defy the odds and dare the devils (and as well out of the “politicians). Individual acts of courage and unmatched leadership have been demonstrated and continue to be shown. But as classes, and both “learned”?
Of the two “classes”, I ask much from the guardians of the law. And so whenever I have the opportunity to discuss with them I ask the questions: what is the purpose of law in the society? Why do we have lawyers and what are their purpose in the society? Do lawyers know what society expects from them and from the law? Can lawyers, as the guardians of the law, anaesthesised themselves from the ills of society, to remain a detached, solitary, unconcerned class? Can law definitely occupy a world of its own, with no interaction with the larger part of public decision making left entirely to the politicians?
I call out on the guardians of law because law is the prime instrument of collective action and one which has the portentous power to fight all that makes lives of people miserable, poor, brutish and short. Even the religious class, the guardians of morality and values, often look to the law to bring about conformity…. Covid-19 shows clearly that law can and often regulates religious rites and rights; and most of morality too.
All is not well in our world: corruption, injustice, poverty, poor health, infant and maternal mortality, poor transportation and inadequate energy, epileptic governance, inequalities…. And few years ago: impunity, extrajudicial killings, brutality, corruption, rule by law, human rights violations…. What is and has been the role of law and the guardians of law in fight against these ills? What has been their attitude to these?
About the guardians of morality, collective values and national conscience, I have heard them loud and clear: you don’t oppose a leader however tyrannical, wicked, corrupt or unconscionable the person it. You endure and pray to God to soften his or her heart. They say it’s wrong to speak truth to power…And so I know partly why we are where we are. The other conundrum, unresolved, is where stands the guardians of the law, the other “learned” class.
He told me few years ago that everyone has a price; that most of us have sold our souls to the devil. I know that there still are men and women who don’t have a price, albeit a dearth. About selling of souls to the devil, you can only sell what you have. Most don’t have souls.