By Dr. Assan Jallow
Disclaimer: I am not defending Honorable Bah on his statement. However, there is truth to his statement and that the science of facts demands that men and women of conscience reason and start a debate on this critical issue to understand the historical genesis behind the stigmatization and marginalization against the Fula tribe all geared to advance national unity and healing, amid our fractured and damaged democracy.
Do not be accustomed to the demagoguery of utter disinformation and misinterpretation. To swim in the pool of infinite waters, one must avoid feeding the faculty of his/her reasoning with a preconceived mind. A mind that is bedeviled with the absence of objective reasoning is conflicted and will make wrong judgments that are based on anecdotal assumptions with the proposition to dictate, control the narratives, influence, and feed others with the wrong interpretations that can spark a political crisis. Feed your mind with positive thoughts and you will be able to save yourself from the disgrace of interpreting words or statements wrongly or with the pretext of poisoning the minds of others. When we speak, let us avoid personalizing things and embrace the culture of objective reasoning with conscience rather than catastrophizing emotive feelings and negative reactions. Remember, emotions drive thoughts as much as thoughts drive emotions.
Throughout my adult life, I have found out that if statements are made, it is best to listen to it with an objective mind to be able to discern the facts out of the uttered statement without prejudice against the messenger. In this context, the focus should be on the message and not on the messenger. This helps one to understand the thought process, and intention regarding the rationale of the message, and not jumping to the conclusion by adding extra spice to stir public outcry. Listening, understanding, and engagement come in handy rather than resorting to condemnation and demanding the immediate sacking or resignation from the public office of the individual in question. What would the demand for the resignation and sacking of a public official benefit us, if the laid bare contentious issue continues to be ignored by the majority? Nothing at all! Thus, leaving the expressed problem unresolved. Confronting issues with reasoning abilities without malice is the best antidote, rather than resorting to emotive feelings which is counterproductive. In a democracy, the space of sharing our thoughts and values are democratized in an open field for all and sundry to express their opinions. And, in the pool of public opinion, it behooves all to share our stories whether good or good. Sharing our stories will invoke an invitation of interest on public policies to discuss pertinent socio-economic, and political issues confronting us as a nation or thwarting our unity in diversity and taking unjust wrath on our personal lives in the public space. From the look of things, it is important to accept the statement of Hon. Bah as the truth and avoids opinionating his shared thoughts on a heated issue. Objectivity is one of the most important and fundamental features in journalism. However, it has been hijacked by charlatans who do not understand the ABC of the profession in The Gambia’s new found democracy. It defies logic to state that you want to hold public officials to account while failing to account for yourself in the spirit of democracy and transparency. Journalism should be driven with ethics and professionalism and not on the quagmire of creating divisiveness and being used as proxies for politicians.
Steve Maraboli notes that “it is when we hurt that we learn.” However, that is not our case in The Gambia as we tend to give no credence and attention to our social ills, thus moralizing wrongs and ignoring them in the context of living in denial, while objecting to having an honest conversation in our national discourse. One thing I found out counterproductive in our national development is focusing too much on trivial issues on 2021 and avoid talking about critical issues surrounding youth unemployment, energy and water crises, the economy amid COVID-19 and post-COVID, land disputes, corruption, nepotism, private-public policies mismatched, failed health service delivery, damaged and politicized press, rising theft, and burglaries, insecurity, and tribalism to the extent of denying its existence by the progenitors and agents of destruction. The statement of Hon. Bah is not the first and it will not be the last as what he stated is the fact and cannot be denied. Denying it can be likened to burying one’s head into the sand and that will not absolve you of any crime or responsibility. The unimaginable stigma and marginalization faced by the Fulas can be contextualized in the form of pathogenicity. This is the stark reality, that is pathetic, evident and in existence and continue to be the bane faced by the Fula community as they are associated with all form of derogatory harassment and discrimination, stigmatized with the tribal slurs with the following words (immigrants/non-Gambians and Guineans), and treated differently in The Gambia. I had lived it and experienced it. Denying the existence of this social ill is disingenuous and further accentuates tribalism. This brings me to understand that our society is damaged and morphed in senseless hypocrisy and pursuing the trajectory of self-denial that could degenerate into a tribal war if labeled on the premise of a false impression. We all immigrated, and we must all be treated with respect and dignity as human beings and Gambians regardless of tribe, age, gender, religion, and status. The truth is “Who is more Gambian than the other”. If there is a special provision, then I will invite those preying on the Fulas as sub-Gambians to come forward and share before the public as I am of the view that the 1997 constitution has laid down clearly and concisely the articles on citizenship and sovereignty. Let us stop the hypocrisy and speak truth to power, otherwise, we are building a country on the false premise of nationhood where one tribe is superior to the other. That is a risky path to pursue as a country transitioning from dictatorship to democracy.
To conclude, there are so many lessons to be drawn from Hon. Bah’s statement. As a country, this is an opportune time to engage in national discourse as citizens of conscience to denounce such inhuman characterization against a tribe (Fulas). Failure to engage and seize the moment in history will resort to doubting intentions and living in self-denial on the existence of marginalization and tribalism while walking on the continuous treachery path of unforgivable lies and deceit.