The Gambia is at a crossroads. It needs new faces and thinking. Gambians may choose to think “inside the box,” outside the box,” or perhaps more boldly still, think “without a box.”
Now is the time to think bravely and without limits, in what Thomas Friedman calls being “radically inclusive” by bringing aboard as many groups and processes as possible to develop a new road map for the country we call The Gambia.
The Gambian electorates are tired of tribal politics with dishonest and selfish politicians. Resistance is targeting all sides and will soon evolve into anger and cynicism. Gambians may be divided on many issues, but most agree that the current and past political class is the greatest single obstacle to the nation’s development.
Few months ago, several media houses carried a report that former President Yahya Jammeh’s assets and bank accounts have been frozen in the United States by the treasury department, which had been robbed from the Gambian people. The news was greeted with laughter, applause, and high-fives in the company I was with.
The consensus was that now we know how we feel when politicians rob us right, left and center with their thievery of state treasury, junkets, allowances and tenders.
Now, can we expect impunity to continue and not just eliminating corruption, bribery, patronage, cronyism, and economic crimes in Gambia. Of course, because selfish politicians divided the nation, they should hardly be entrusted with the responsibility of reconciliation and putting Humpty Dumpty together again.
Ultimately, the failure to institutionalize “micro parties” and peripheral political parties will be the country’s greatest political catastrophe. However, the current political formations are no more than personal properties. They are private enterprises without political identities.
Furthermore, these “micro political” parties have no distinct ideologies or philosophies other than the pursuit of power and political careerism. Most are tribal cells and special purpose vehicles for the acquisition of power and wealth to benefit themselves.
However, the current political line-ups will explode and disintegrate before the 2021 general elections. The same players will shift positions and change tunes. The tribal voter will tag along and be led closer and closer to the political slaughterhouse.
However, certain political personalities in our politics do not operate within a set of any known principles or ideology. Most of them, especially the careerist politicians, are political prostitutes akin to the Galliano kind of ancient Rome: Professor George Ayittey’s popularized political synonym the “Cheetah versus the Hippo” breed of politicians in The Gambia have perfected the art of personal opportunism.
They served in virtually all administrations since that of former Sir Dawda by changing their allegiances in tandem with the political spur of the moment – just like chameleons. They have never stood for anything other than cheerleading any regime in power for personal gain. They have never made any real or imagined sacrifices for the nation. Rather, the nation has always bent backwards to accommodate them and save them from political oblivion with positions ranging from posh diplomatic assignments and cabinet roles to public jobs for their family members and friends.
It is difficult to envision a way out of the current mess unless we either miraculously find a way of mobilizing beyond tribes or a dictator takes over and drives the nation into disorder and chaos. We are in one of the most desperate situations a nation can find itself in with pseudo politicians and dishonest personalities commanding our destiny.
Civil society may then be reluctantly pressured into becoming the official opposition to authoritarian rule. Human rights groups are perhaps the one section of society that remain united, consistent, and not torn apart by ethnicity in the recent past.
Veterans of integrity and courage have remained steadfast even in the face of hostility and deregistration. But now they face their biggest test. They may possess the vision, capacity, and integrity to advance a reform agenda, but they currently lack a constituency.
They need to move beyond the conference rooms, press conferences, and academic reports and find a home at the grassroots level if they are to resonate with the real needs of the majority. They may live, unwind, and work among the 20 percent in the middle class but must humble themselves to listen and learn from the 80 percent of the grassroots population.
So, what is next, for modern Gambia?
I think it’s the realm of the genuine intellectual, not the selfish politician, that will deliver us to the next phase when we will move from being a country to acting as a nation.
Politics will become useful again, but only after we sweep out the old ideas, now worn out, that are the poison killing our dream of a nation. We need an intellectual revolution in The Gambia now, a radical transformation of how we think, delivered by courageous thinking and analyses that moves The Gambia’s sovereign people to wrest leadership from the political class – who then must become the public servants they are envisioned to be in the constitution – if we are ever to live in the nation envisioned in the national covenant we embraced in 2016.