Is This the New Normal for Gambian Politics?
Alagi Yorro Jallow
Political discourse in the Gambia is causing noise pollution of a different kind. But it is as harmful for Gambian democracy as it is for the health of politicians and political parties. Allegations and counter-allegations, abuses and vituperative comments are exchanged between members of rival parties, especially on social media networks. And each one accuses the other of having started the process.
No stone is left unturned in digging up dirt against each other. Political dominance and winning is the only goal but how one does it is immaterial. No one seems to pay heed to Mahatma Gandhi’s sage advice that noble goals should be achieved with noble means. The politicians, instead, seem to have taken the adage of China’s former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping to heart: “It doesn’t matter whether the cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice”.
Is this the new normal for Gambian politics? Isn’t each side pedaling half-truths, believing that no one can figure it out? Aren’t politicians ceaselessly creating post-truths? “My honey is the real honey; everyone else is selling sugary syrup!” But why should we feel outraged? Isn’t everything permitted in war and politics? Isn’t our mythology replete with instances when our venerated heroes turned a blind eye to the wrong being done before them? It seems our politicians apart from advice on statecraft, it offers realpolitik recipe for outwitting, outmaneuvering and defeating one’s enemy.
But questions like “couldn’t Gambia have developed as fast as South Korea and Singapore if it was administered more efficiently and honestly?” are valid questions, and there is nothing wrong in discussing these issues.
Does junking at any cost using divisive politics and all the resources at the government’s command betray an ostrich syndrome? Isn’t this its unwillingness to introspect, dissect, draw sound lessons from failures, assess strengths and weakness and adopt new strategies to fight another day? All political parties tell half-truths most of the time! But who cares?
Should we not applaud something good just because the credit of doing it goes to our competitor? How many times Kevin Durant and LeBron James, the two great NBA stars, have acknowledged and applauded each other’s good shots though they fight to win? That’s sportsmanship! Would politicians lose anything if they emulated themselves? Simply put, even if 60 per cent of the schemes initiated by President Jammeh get implemented, our country will be transformed beyond recognition. Shouldn’t we welcome such a prospect?
Our decisions might go wrong, but we won’t be doing anything with wrong intentions, it’s a healthy and reassuring approach but shouldn’t gracefully acknowledge good things done by the previous governments? It’s fashionable to criticize Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara today but didn’t he take the nascent independent Gambia forward? Did Gambia have reaped the benefits of globalization if President Barrow’s two (Jawara & Jammeh) had not introduced economic liberalization in decades against strong skepticism? So why shouldn’t we be large-hearted and give the credit where it is due? Any policy, scheme or initiative serving the Gambia is good. It doesn’t matter if it was initiated by Sir Dawda Jawara, Yahya Jammeh or Adama Barrow!
Why can’t we just press the pause button, take a deep breath and have a dispassionate look at what we are doing and ask: Is it in Gambia’s larger interests? The blame game won’t help, balanced alternatives might.
Will the buzz and hype surrounding mega announcements be worthwhile if Gambia isn’t united, isn’t at ease with itself and many its citizens feel they aren’t part of its success story? Can the Gambia blossom as a great nation without celebrating its bewildering diversity; its multi-religious, multilingual and multi-cultural society? Can the Gambia be great if it isn’t just, fair, equitable, inclusive, disciplined and law-abiding?