Alagi Yorro Jallow.
Fatoumatta: To adjudge or judge from the vast disillusionment that the ‘Sosalaso and Tangal cheeb politicians’ have instigated in Gambians so far, the “change” mantra may become a “devil term” in the Gambia in 2021 and beyond if it has not already become one. Change has now come to be associated with lies, deceit, hypocrisy, double standards, endless whining, and blame-shifting by people’s exceptional like its political divide across, descent from bad to worse in living conditions, incompetence in high places, unpreparedness, astonishing elite insensitivity, economic and social bondage, pauperization, reverse Robin Hoodism (which I once defined as robbing of the poor to enrich the rich), personalization of power, extreme nepotism, ethnic chauvinism, and provincialism, facile and arrogant disavowal of promises made during campaigns, etc.
These are all attributes the current “change” some politicians embodies in colossal measure, which will undoubtedly cause the “change” slogan to become irretrievably damaged in the Gambia’s linguistic, rhetorical, and political landscape.
Fatoumatta: Are Gambian voters created for electioneering and political campaigning, rallies, defections, decampment cross-carpeting and permutations, all-night plotting, and scheming as part of our daily lives? When you see Gambians in a pivotal political season approaches — both the leaders and the misled — at their best. The excitement is out of this world. Newspapers sell more copies, and news websites get more hits and page views—the proliferation of political advertisements, personal information collection, and the spread of misleading information. However, you will never see the same excitement when healthcare, education, or power issues are at stake as December presidential elections draw near.
I have imagined in this political season the level of campaign and propaganda things, electoral outcomes, and the dynamics of elections in the Gambia busy on posters striking political jingles display of musical composition and framing Sloganering with hyperboles mixed with political and tribal messages and metaphor. Daily rallies and permutations—election promise and intrigues. Politics is here with us again! It is as if Gambians were created for elections. We live for times like these. Again, the ecstasy is out of this world. We do this every five years. However, a few months after the inauguration of a president, we return to square one: weeping, wailing, moaning, and gnashing of teeth. Then we look forward to the next election to “vote out” bad leaders and “vote in” new ones. It goes on and on, and besides, Gambians remain essentially the same. That means we are not getting right. Our leaders are not simply connecting the dots for human development to reach milestones.
Fatoumatta: For instance, Al Maktoum bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of the United Arabs Emirates, Dubai, once said that he would build five-star hotels next door to these facilities for the relatives of foreign patients who come for medical tourism and treatment and surgery in Dubai city in the United Arab Emirates. The objective was to add another dimension to the Dubai story – trade, travel, real estate, and medical tourism. So, fellow Gambians, may I, with all pleasure, inform you that Dubai has finished building the most amazing technologically modern advanced hospitals in the world, a top masters in health care administration. That is vision. That is leadership, that is exemplary leadership, that is transformational and visionary leadership. That is what develops a country. It has nothing to do with ethnic chauvinism, tribe, or tongue; it has nothing to do with oil or gas; it has nothing to do with the 1997 constitution or restructuring. It has everything to do with competent and patriotic leadership. There is no substitute.
Fatoumatta: Moreover, you know what? Gambians, particularly the hegemonic political elites and the political millionaires, are shamelessly frequently trooping to Dubai for medical tourism for treatment and surgery. We fought for quality health care and express highway roads for high-speed traffic, but when will these projects start? Or do any of the political parties capture the politics of sustainability and developmental goals in their manifestoes? Will, there be any form of disagreement, in short, medium, and long term, in their development goals, and how about architectural problems of building new modern world-class hospitals and building inspiring modern schools and campuses. It is not about fixing our roads with gravel and tar. Is it not about making the Gambia a land of trade and tourism destination? It is not about turning the Gambia into an exporter of mobile phones, like South Korea, or dairy products, like the Netherlands. Politics is about meeting the needs and aspirations of the people with raising aspirations strategies, and social mobility of citizens requires more than personal ambition,
Expectedly, I got my regular dose of abuse from some readers who were mad with me for not pitching my tent with one of the feuding factions. I was accused of sitting on the fence and trying to be politically correct. The fad in the Gambia is that you must belong to a camp in the political football that these guys are playing with our lives. A mere case of class misunderstanding among the political oppressors of Gambians is framed as a fight between democracy and dictatorship — or a struggle between the good guys and the bad guys. You know the drill: the progressive politicians versus the regressive politicians. My opinion then was that this fight was not about how the Gambia would be a great nation — and the Gambian people were not going to be the ultimate beneficiaries of the tussle. We were mere pawns being tossed back and forth by the politicians. It was all politics. However, as usual, Gambians were sucked into the excitement. People get the kind of leaders they deserve.
As the season of politicking is sucking us in yet again. Much heat is being generated in the polity, and I want to seize this opportunity to remind Gambians that these politicians are toying with our lives again. Nothing has changed. Our tangal cheeb politicians, as expected, are playing politics the same way they played it for 27 years —divisive and toxic politics using tribalism and hate speech and emasculating their opponents.
Fatoumatta: I do not suggest that politicians should not politick. It is like saying fish should not swim. However, to what end? Swimming just for the sake of swimming? Why is there so much passion for politicking and little zeal for development?
On the other hand, I am not suggesting that the Gambians be interested in these political intrigues. We are political animals, and all said and done. However, should that be the ultimate source of our enthusiasm? Should that be what we live for every so often? It is excruciating that Gambians cannot just see through these politicians. If we were wise enough, we should be pelting these pot-bellied politicians with rotten eggs rather than siding with any of them.
Fatoumatta: It seems the Gambia is not ready to practice democracy the way it is done in civilized societies; neither are Gambians themselves interested in the principles of democracy. We have turned politics to an end in itself, rather than politics being a means to an end. Everything starts and ends with politics. We have allowed the politicians to pull the wool over our eyes. However, all these intrigues, counter-intrigues, scheming, plotting, and politicking — by those Sosalasso and tangal cheeb politicians — are about holding on to power or regaining it. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. I have never seen any difference between the sosalasso and tangal cheeb parties. My glasses are very genuine, even if I have to say that myself.
There is a demand-and-supply aspect to the national mindset on politics. We derive cheap entertainment from politicking. Our leaders, to meet our entertainment needs, place politicking above development. They take the easy way out by supplying us entertainment in abundance. It is the forces of demand and supply at play. We are madly in love with the intrigues and the drama. It helps our leaders a lot. It takes the pressure off them. They orchestrate political divisions to get us excited. We get excited. The most critical issues take the back seat. We are just too happy to be entertained. We deserve all the drama we are getting.
Fatoumatta: What then? Since our politicians cannot seem to get politics right, maybe we should start distracting them by focusing their attention on the people’s basic needs — education, healthcare, security, infrastructure, and such. Let us discuss these issues with the same level of energy, the same intensity of enthusiasm, passion that we deploy whenever we are talking about defections and elections, and tribalism in our politics. Let us troop out to campaign for greater security of life and property the same way we troop out for political rallies organized by these guys. Likewise, let the media prioritize coverage of development issues the same way they cover political intrigues.
Fatoumatta: As I write this, hapless Gambians have died of Covid-19 and malnutrition in the last two weeks — but, sorry, 2021 electioneering is our priority. Go to the general hospitals: most of them are still as they have ever been before and after elections: no bed space, no drugs, nauseating nurses, disdainful doctors, and torn window nets. I worry more about infections more than cross-carpeting and defections. Priorities.