By Sulayman Jeng, UK
The Gambia under the current watch of President Jammeh exudes gagging political heat waves which condensed at an alarming rate. One does not have to be a Fatou Camara, Amadou Sanneh or Ba Kawsu Fofana to feel its repelling melting lava.
Dictator Jammeh is not only hell bent to tighten his grip onto power but equally avails and alerts himself to utilise any means necessary to continue saddling on the fragile Gambians with impunity. The litanies of atrocities President Jammeh committed and continually continues to commit against Gambians are enumerable: the murders of Ousman Koro Ceesay, Dayda Hydara, Daba Marena, and Chief Ebrima Manneh coupled with the unlawful arrests and subsequent detentions of a host of others illustrate Jammeh’s tyranny. Varied and conflicting reasons have been opined and argued to either justify or condemn Jammeh’s unenviable cold heartedness and chilling disregard for the very Gambian constitution he swore to uphold and defend without fear, favour or ill-will. However, for Seedia Jatta of PDOIS to assert that “Gambians want to be oppressed by President Jammeh” left my hairs standing like spikes. At first I was angry with Honourable Jatta for repeatedly saying Gambians want to be oppressed by President Jammeh. My appreciation of Honourable Jatta’s honest and candid assertion was limited by my anger. In my moment of anguish, I wondered it is my imagination or is he trying to tell us something. But as he went further to clarify his standpoint for Mr Demba Baldeh of Gainako Radio and his listeners, it dawned on me that Honourable Jatta could not have said it any better.
First and foremost, for any meaningful political change to take place, the people must take it upon themselves to effect the change. As a result, for any Gambian to expect that and angel will descend from heaven and liberate us from Jammeh needs to be archived in a museum. Truth hurts. And it is about time we face it squarely. Because most of us expect someone else to do what we ought to do ourselves, the likes of Seedia Bayo will continue to take us for a ride and enrich themselves at our expense and President Jammeh will continue to oppress us for a very very long time. Some believe that it is the responsibility of the Army to remove Jammeh while others look upon the opposition leaders as those destined by virtue of their political obligation to grab President Jammeh by the forelock and send him crashing into bambadinka. Both parties got it absolutely wrong. The onus of liberating the Gambia from President Jammeh is every Gambian’s obligation. It is not Ma Demba’s neither Ma Samba’s. It is every Gambian’s calling. Allah has abundantly warned us in the Quran that He will never change a condition of a people until they change their own condition. What did the Wolof say to this: ndibal nachi fekka lohoye boroom? Each one of us is endowed with the power to change someone else’s life despite our own unfortunate circumstance. Moreover, some are excellent with their hands, others with their heads and a few with their tongues. Needless to say if each contributes according to his or her ability rather than leaving everything for someone else, we can establish strong civil societies. To set the pace for such strong societies, Gambians must first unshackle their minds from fear. This brings to mind what one of Africa’s finest sons, Steve Biko, said: “The most sophisticated weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed”.
One of the fundament tasks of each civil society will be to educate, inform and enlighten its members. Most of us so-called intellectuals look down on our own people whom we branded illiterate. Consequently, we naively conclude that it is rather herculean to politically raise their awareness. Contrarily, it is us intellectuals who are very knowledgeable but deficient in wisdom. Suffice it to say knowledge without wisdom is synonymous to a nation without walls where anyone can walk in and out to cause mayhem. Wisdom unlike knowledge is the ability to make informed choices between what is right and wrong. For instance, a medical doctor knows cigarette smoking is bad for his health but because he lacks wisdom, he smokes. Therefore, for one to hide his face behind a finger with the flimsy excuse that it is not possible to enlighten a people who cannot read and write is not only a fallacy but an intellectual dishonesty. I must admit the process of enlightening a people isn’t as easy as ABC but it is not unsurmountable also. If each takes it upon him or herself to educate, inform and enlighten the other soon all Gambians will be political empowered to make informed choices on matters and affairs affecting their lives. The only power that is not both passive and reflective is knowledge embedded in wisdom.
An enlightened community is an empowered one. In a nutshell, when a people become empowered, they free themselves from all forms of subjugations; poverty, fear and illiteracy. The concept of freedom I espouse contrasts the one in which a person or group of people rejoice from being shielded from a despot’s tyranny while not realising the very essence of being free and complete. In other words, I do not bow in reverence to freedom which wallows on the ideal of just doing what pleases the self. For instance, President Jammeh has the state apparatus at his service hence he is free to suppress and exploit Gambians, commits atrocities, and plunders the national coffers. However, a closer look at his person will reveal that his own depth of conscience is frozen. Wisdom teaches that since his conscience is buried alive, he becomes an empty pompous shell. Thus, one can assert that he has not only chosen to trek on an unjust path but also denies his truest being. In sum, any person who gratifies himself from dehumanizing others is not only devoid of the basic ingredients which differentiate us from the lower animals, but becomes the most ruthless monster.
Lauren Kennedy posited: “Without a doubt our attitude, our beliefs and our perspective influence our lives immensely. A positive attitude can help us get through the storms of life. Our belief systems can enable us to recognize ways to benefit from seemingly adverse situations and to form new ideas for ways to avoid similar pitfalls in the future. An expanded perspective can allow us to see beyond our mere ego concerns, grant us some understanding of the larger picture, helping us to suspend judgement of situations, people, behaviours and creatures that we fail to fully comprehend…consciousness is not the result of our brain, it is not dependent on our beliefs, it is not affected by our intellectual intelligence, it is not increased or diminished by external circumstances, and it is not concerned with our ego or our personality. It is the awareness behind our thoughts, the observer of our life experiences, the subtle urging towards honesty and virtue in intention and behaviour. Consciousness is the space in which we integrate our experiences and create who we are.” It is, therefore, fitting to infer that any freedom which is not rooted from consciousness is cosmetic.
Furthermore, is also common for one to hear disheartening comments about “the Gambian” particularly on the Gambian diaspora media houses. For example…the Gambian is selfish, the Gambian is greedy, the Gambian is laidback, the Gambian is a coward and it is difficult to unite Gambians. Many critics of President Jammeh and his government often refer to one or two of such assertions as the contributing factor(s) for the failure of concerted efforts to restore democracy and the rule of law in the Gambia under the watch of Jammeh. For a while, I pondered why is the Gambian two-faced even in matters of national issues and importance? Suddenly, in that state of intense contemplation and reflection, Ambassador Essa Bokarr Sey’s witticism crept into my mind. When I first heard him allude to the person who stood before a mirror and got angry at what he saw threw me into a hysteric laugh. As he went further to separate the chaff from the grain by explaining if one is dressed in a robe of mud and stands before a mirror expecting a charming reflection is nothing but a psycho it then dawned on me that he was signalling a very powerful coded moral lesson. I concluded perhaps what Ambassador Sey is highlighting in a nutshell is it pays to accept things the way they are rather than the way one wants them to be. Most Gambians live in a state of denial. Yes, we may differ in our political view and alignment but the Gambia is one and we jointly own it. Its growth, security and fortification are not the responsibility of only a section of the population. It is just like when the rain is failing, compound A cannot say to nature don’t rain in compound B or better still don’t pour in my compound. When destruction strives no one will be safe. So before it is too late, we must all for the sake of the Gambia and generations yet unborn tell Jammeh to see sanity and avert his modus operandi. This is a national issue and not a partisan politics. Whether we are his supporters or his opponent the safety and wellbeing of the Gambia is the responsibility of all of us. Let us put our differences aside and put the Gambia first. When the worst come to worst, Jammeh and his immediate family may not be affected but most of us will not be able to guarantee the safety of our families
In conclusion, astuteness instils that unity is the bedrock of strength, love, harmony and looking out for one another. Consequently, for any society to subsist and develop progressively, its people must hitch and put their societal interest and values before individual goals. Suffice it to say a society which is closely knitted will be very difficult to divide and rule. In such a society, the people not only value and respect each other but also avail and alert themselves to protect, support and guide one another. Each contributes according to his or her ability to the betterment of the society. Wisdom teaches that no matter the truth some people will always see only what they want to see. It went further to buttress that there are others who would take a step back to look at the bigger picture only to realise that they have been looking at what was there all along. For some it will be the hair-splitting realisation that their lies have almost caught up with them. It is also interesting to note that amongst people is a handful that opts to run as far away as they can just to avoid taking a look at them. This brings to mind what an old friend once admonished: “Honest communication is where good and genuine relationships are based.”