Alagi Yorro Jallow
Fatoumatta: An African proverb tells us that a man who does not know where the rain began to beat him cannot say where he dried his body. In the Gambia, when will the rain stop beating us? (with apologies to Chinua Achebe,” There Was a Country,”) I submit the rain that beat the Gambia began in 1994 when we, Gambians, chose, and adopted the totalitarian government system. We are now reaping the consequences, which include most of the ills associated with raw capitalism and worshipping of man, human-made gods: Godfatherism, the Godfather of modern worship, the cult of personality and celebrity worship, “praise and worship leaders,” power and materials; instead of the revealed God.
Fatoumatta: When the narrative at the heart of a system of rule falls apart, when the flow of history runs counter to the story told by those in power, then we know the entire edifice is crumbling under the weight of its contradictions. The political crisis arrives when the people sense that the prevailing order is built on a foundation of oppression and lies. The rulers panic, scrambling to reweave the matrix of fables and myths that justify their waning supremacy. At such points in history, the truth is up for grabs – and a change of regime and leadership is in the offing.
President Adama Barrow may be timid and not pigeon-hearted, but he is not stupid. He is not tired of being president like someone he upstaged. Therefore, he has no ambition to become a martyr and will not offer himself to be nailed to the cross for some ill-defined democracy. He was destined to lead this once proud nation on the path to greatness once more and experienced honor to rule, and that has been his portion since the beginning of a time of the coalition victory in 2016.
Fatoumatta: President Barrow is a very brilliant man. In one short sentence, he can deliver a thick brew of sarcasm and satire and irony and other ingredients of hemlock for the side he chooses to fight. You are preparing for war, and you think it is a winning strategy to give your armor to the enemy. Who does that except the one who is tired of everything? Before this case, I had not heard of a human being opting for suicide as a short-cut to being loved and canonized by his enemies. President Barrow loved his foes so fondly that even they loudly announced their shock at his lion, turning out a lamb.
Faoumatta: President Adama Barrow is a strongman breathing down on a gasping nation. By popular demand, his hurricane rushed out coalition 2016 and its tired tactical alliance two years ago. The power of that hurricane may have been considerably reduced by the wear-and-tear of (mis)used energy, but the powerholder does not believe anything has changed. His market is still full; he boasts and dares anyone to hold an opinion that puts a lie to his. That is the world of strongmen. Writing in Time magazine in May 2018, Ian Bremmer said humanity had arrived at the shore of puritanical macho leaders: “In every region of the world, changing times have boosted public demand for more muscular, assertive leadership. These tough-talking populists promise to protect “us” from “them.” Depending on who is talking, “them” can mean the corrupt elite or the grasping poor; foreigners or members of racial, ethnic or religious minorities. Or disloyal politicians, bureaucrats, bankers, or judges. Or lying reporters. Out of this divide, a new archetype of leader has emerged. We are now in the strongman era.” Adama Barrow fits right here. He is saving us from the past – all the past – except his part of the past. If you ask him, he will beat his chest and say two years from now, and his mountain will be in the Statehouse, immovable. Moreover, because strongmen don’t lose allies, they don’t quit – even with court orders- they stay. They don’t go home; power is their home.
Fatoumatta: Ousanou Darboe is a very confident, hard-to-break man – a political footballer who believes his every pass must reach its destination, and his every shot a goal. When a man’s can-do spirit sculpts his image on the granite of his people’s political history, he will pay the princely price himself in a pure diamond. Ousainou did that with the boast that his opponents are gone forever in Equatorial Guinea. He has managed to foist his hegemonic ideology on a choosy, proud race, so far without consequences. That was why he was sure his tendency would prevail forever. However, is that what history teaches? History will not be history if what it says is that there are empires that last forever. If you are an Ousainou Darboe believer, wait for a little before you disagree with this view. The man himself agreed with this position a day before the Barrow’s declaration. Ousainou is an ardent fan of floundering, drab Manchester United, a club that has seen better times like today’s struggling United Democratic Party.
Fatoumatta: Success is complicated to manage. That bit rings true of every human being and every organization, including political parties. The truly successful ones understand victory in battle as a means to something more significant in value than war. The party should not be like the forgetful fisherman, who was an exemplar in poverty but now sleeps in riches through a sheer smile of luck. His wealth has become so much that sleeping in a palace of gilt, gold, tapestry, and damask makes him think he is the greatest. He soon loses all like others like him. That is my little gift to the UDP. It must wake up, learn, and change. Power, like riches, is the buffeting waves of the ocean. It comes and goes.
However, why would a clever Ousainou Darboe not see football’s turbulence as a hint for his politics? If the titanic Manchester United could flounder ceaselessly as it does, who says a political party cannot suffer the same fate if it also has the wrong coach? Furthermore, UDP has an efficient, effective wrong coach now! Every empire has an autumn — an end. Ousainou leads a far-right orchestra, which he would instead package as a progressive party. He is so effective acting Big Brother that he now thinks, exceptionally, that he would be the lord of this animal farm forever — whatever he does with the farm and its products. There is a problem when an abusive husband boasts that the wife is stuck with his trauma forever. He has reasons to think so.
Furthermore, you all know you are the reasons. His party would rule the land forever, even as vital in remain comatose, altering destinies in their hundreds of thousands. His party would remain the darling of everyone, including those serving in the diplomatic service who and other prestigious civil service positions. Because he has carefully spread his “our time and our own to eat” ideology across the physical space, penetrating all social categories, his supporters now see themselves as privileged beneficiaries. Furthermore, because he has been so successful doing these, his fingers are on every pie and his eyes on every friend to keep — and on every foe to buy or break. So, has the future of the South-West (with its trophies) been sold wholesale and forever to this bright, smart, wily, even devastatingly foxy Man-United? The answer cannot be Yes unless the Ousainou club abandons its buccaneer ways and always does good. That is what can give the club any hope of a long-lasting reign on the league table. Even then, the Real de Banjul should rather see the football club called Manchester United, with its paradise lost, as living proof.
Fatoumatta: Gambia’s political class knows some will unquestioningly swallow its propaganda. The leader’s tribal grip is the gasp of mass hysteria. The politician knows you will nonsensically rationalize anything the master has said, no matter how ridiculous. In the circumstances, is there such a thing as objective truth in the country? Is a sober conversation possible? An ethnically docile population such as ours is dangerous to itself, the country, and future generations. Such is the tragedy of zombie republics.
Alagi Yorro Jallow