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Conferred cosmetic recognitions received on a silver platter do not radiate the pride that successes achieved through sweat, tears and blood reflect. In a nutshell, one tends to value and cherish things that one has toiled hard for more than those received from the hand of fortune. The same can be said of a freedom achieved on a silver platter and that fought for tooth and nail. That precisely explains why those who fought to achieve their freedom will go to any length to preserve and protect it at all cost as opposed to those who inherit it. Some argue the “struggle” against dictatorship is successfully achieved thus closing its chapter. Others, on the contrary, maintain a beginning of a new beginning has just began with the advent of new Gambia. What I saw and heard President Barrow said yesterday swept me off my feet. As a consequent, I will endeavour to check my emotion less it garbs my judgement as I take a reflective tour in my mind’s eyes on new Gambia’s chosen one and his rainbow government.

“President Adama Barrow”, Facuru Sillah observed, “is a lovable and pleasant personality. He’s trustworthy and trusts in God. Entrusting him with the affairs of the Gambia is the best thing we have done for ourselves”. Sillah augmented, “His personality has pulled unprecedented crowds in Gambian history. We thought he could never pull a crowd like he did on his nomination day. We thought he would never get a crowd like the one he had on his return from the provincial campaign to the Greater Banjul Area. We thought the crowd celebrating his victory on 2nd Dec was the biggest ever. We thought the crowd that greeted him on his return from Dakar was overwhelming. We thought the crowds of his inauguration cum Independence Day February 18, 2017 was the most superlative. He will keep on breaking the limits of our expectations of public approval of his personality as head of state”. Facuru summed, “The man is just wonderful”. Indeed, President Barrow keeps his resolve and possesses a starling character guide by conscience.

However, what worries me most is how some custodians of society and governance carry themselves in this crucial time of our hard earned freedom and democracy. 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 President Barrow and his rainbow cabinet. Whether one supports him or opposes him, 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. The way he intents to steer the nation if not derailed, it will sail to shores of sustainable development and equal opportunity for all Gambians. Respectable leaders of society who were nerve-rackingly robbed of their respect and unable to speak out the truth openly for fear of Jammeh’s impulsive retaliation have been given back their pride and freedom by Barrow. True some of us are here trying to put across the veracities and options available for us all to nurture and preserve our freedom and resuscitate our democracy to sail new Gambia to safer political and economic shores. It is also a sad fact that there are others who are hell bent to see that some of us disappear beneath the waves of cowardice. Such people even though are alert to the fact that their chosen route does not lead to any good yet they adamantly bury their heads in the sand like the proverbial ostrich for the preservation of their own personal selfish gains. Such people do not care if our freedom and democracy is compromised as long as their interests are protected they are fit to go. To such people I say gone are the days when political bullies submerge the voices of reason.

For us to succeed in our effort in entrenching democracy, the rule of law and economic development, we need to address the factors and by-products which created Jammeh to avert moulding Barrow in the same stature. Yahya Jammeh was not a result of a coincidental accident but a product of our own making and nurturing. How did we create Yahya Jammeh? To answer such a question of fundamental importance, one needs to take into account a numbers of factors which in a nutshell sums up a Gambian: spiritual belief, “maslaaha”, greed, selfishness, tribalism and false hope.

Generally, every Gambian has a religion: Islam or Christianity. To assert that both faiths denounced black magic in the strongest term would be an understatement. Interestingly, spiritual belief especially marabous is a bedrock on which many Gambians wholly depend on for their livelihood such that many descended into associating partners with Allah. Black magic according to Islamic teaching, originated during the reign of Prophet Sulayman (AWS) when two angels were giving the knowledge as a trial. It is important to highlight that these angels made it categorically clear that they were only for a trial and anyone who learns and practice it will have nothing in the day of resurrection. Despite all the warning by the two angels and the Quran, many Gambians still heavily rely on marabous for every aspect of their lives. For instance, if one is travelling or seeking a job, one often visits a marabou for spiritual counselling and advice. Such marabous who are often well versed in the Quran and living in makeshift status give you unrealistic advice for all the wrong reasons. Let us say for argument sake, that they are good at what they do. Some will solicit the help of the marabou to get rich or a certain job. If the marabou can make you rich or get you a job why is he not rich himself or having the best job in the country? Or doesn’t he want to be rich or his children being ministers or even a president? These marabous are one of our biggest problems today. They equally abet in planting the seed of discord in families as they will tell you, for example, that your Uncle is hell bent in destroying you. They also meddle in politics. Fellow Gambians how can something so wrong feel so right? What can a marabou give you that has not been destined for you by Allah? Can any marabou add or subtract a second in your life?

“Maslaaha” which literary means compromise is another stumbling block in our fight against corruption, injustice and political malfunctions. There is nothing so cruel and unjust than giving up on something that is right and worth fighting for. Justice is usually sacrificed on the altar of “maslaaha” in the Gambia. For instance, one would see a crime committed in the open but for some reason I find absolute hard to understand is covered under the duvet of “maslaaha”. Public servants, security officers and ordinary citizens all get away with crimes against the state as well as other fellow citizens under the auspices of so called “maslaaha”. This is precisely why Yahya Jammeh abducted innocent Gambians and detained them for unbearable long periods only for his council of evil elders dressed in the devil’s parada set in motion the wheels of “maslaaha” between tyrant Jammeh and his victims of captivity. Eventually, the victims became criminals and Jammeh the victim.

Another factor which created Yahya Jammeh is greed. Very few Gambians are content with what they have and the life they live. Many of us are so obsessed with material gains particularly financial wealth that we are prepared to trade our self-esteem and integrity for few bututs. To make matters worse, some of us entrusted with public responsibility steal from the state to enrich ourselves. Consequently, it is quite common to hear public officials opining that “a person have to survive where he or she works”. In other words, it decriminalised corruption and bribery at work. This explains how church mouse Jammeh who was not worth ten (10) dalasi before he became president is now richer than the Gambian government and all its assets combined. It is also an impediment for us to address issues objectively. Religious leaders who are expected to be telling our leaders the truth and guide them back on track if they stray choose to fill their pockets instead. Everyone wants to be seen driving the lasted car, living in the most expensive mansion and wearing designer cloths yet we don’t want to earn our wealth the right way. What does this make us fellow Gambians? We are so blinded by the get rich quick syndrome that we negate our duty to state and country.  Corrupt and brutal leaders like Jammeh will easily slip our attention as we are consumed by the self-eating desire to amass as much wealth from the state as we could. Corruption and bribery become the order of the day and anyone who challenges the status quo becomes the bad one.

Selfishness is the cousin of greed and they work hand in glove. This is where one comes first above anything else. Even though one is employed by the state to run its affairs, one side steps the state interest in pursuant of one’s own goals.  As one hastily pursues one’s personal goal, the state’s interest is trampled upon with amazing pride. Jammeh was a clear manifestation of this Gambian phenomenon. Instead of running the affairs of the state as he was sworn to do, busied himself in running his personal enterprises. The wellbeing of all was sacrifice for personal development. No one takes a minute to say hold on a second; the Gambia is larger than oneself. Sadly, the job that should have been done by everyone is left for someone else to do which at the end is done by no one leaving state institutions to wallow in decadence.

As a result, we must help President Barrow by keeping him busy and on check constantly. If we finally decide, may Allah forbid, dining with the piper we must then be prepared to pay for the tune.

Sulayman Jeng

Birmingham, UK

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