Sidia Speaks The Only Language Jammeh Understands!

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President Sidia Bayo of the Gambia

The Gambian Diaspora is currently in uproar over a young French-Gambian name Sidia Bayo, who has made known his intent and readiness to head a body called the National Transitional Council of The Gambia that is intended to replace the criminal and illegitimate government headed by the murderous tyrant call Yahya Jammeh. Much of the hoopla trailing Bayo’s emergence has very little to do with The Gambia. Rather, it has everything to do with some individual Gambians’ personal ambitions and views of themselves. There are a multitude of categories of Gambians shouting down Bayo for just as many diverse reasons.

First, there are some who believe that years of cheap noise-making from afar has entitled them to a prominent role in any post-Yahya Jammeh dispensation in The Gambia. And these people are upset – nay make it livid, that this young man who they’ve never heard of, has come out of the woodwork to draw up and place himself atop a list of Gambian – Leaders-in-Waiting that does not include them. For that reason, they’re out to malign and destroy the young man. It’s shocking to read or listen to some of the baseless accusations being lobbed at Bayo by some who, given their own fiber-glass abode (thanks to their colorful weather-vane pasts), ought not be throwing a cigarette stub, much less a stone, at anyone else – to paraphrase the famous axiom about glass house residents and stone throwing.

Then, there are some that are trying to tear down Bayo out of jealousy -pure and simple. Having talked to several people on three continents this past weekend, it is obvious to me that young Bayo has the sort of contacts in Francophone Africa that those of us who have trekked the same path before him lacked. I know firsthand that this is the most crucial piece of the tenuous geo-political tapestry that holds Yahya Jammeh in place. I know for a FACT that had we had the requisite support and cooperation from our Francophone neighbors in the past, Yahya Jammeh would have been long removed. Yet, some are angry because to them young Bayo is basically jumping the line. They want Sidia Bayo to set them up with his contacts, hand over the resources he has, take a backseat, and shut up. Because he hasn’t done so, they’re ready to throw away the baby with the birth water. And never-mind some of the folks howling at the young man wouldn’t be able to figure their way out of a shoebox if their life depends on it. Why they think a smart chap like Bayo would agree to hand over his valuable chips to a bunch of serially ineffectual “Kotos” only because they’re older than him is baffling. The boy has more sense in his fingers than some of those trying to tear him down have in their heads!

Further, there is the Merry-Go-Round Democracy camp. Though you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who will readily admit this to you in a public forum, there are still quite a few Gambians who believe that the Manding, and now the Jola “have had their turn, and now it’s someone else’s turn.” If you don’t hear this, then you don’t really listen to the nuanced language some Gambians use when it comes to their notion of democracy. The same obsessive ethnic bean-counting that has made so many Gambians to close their eyes to all the tell-tale signs of the barbaric tyrant Yahya Jammeh had set out to be very early on in his reign, is still very much a factor in private Gambian political discourse. Never-mind the very premise of a Merry-Go-Round ethnic-based presidency runs counter to the idea of true democracy. And that’s not even its main drawback.

Thanks to Yahya Jammeh, we now know for a fact that there is such a thing as “Tyranny of a Minority,” which should give every conscientious-minded Gambian pause. How do we balance this fact with the imperative to make our country an all-inclusive nation where no segment of society is limited by circumstances they have no control over (the accident of parentage?) It would be helpful if the quiet but determined advocates of a Merry-Go-Round ethnic-based presidency whose horrible consequences we are currently enduring, see it fit to engage the rest of us in an open and honest debate on why we should fall behind another “ethnic minority” (purely for that reason alone,) in the infantile pursuit of an ideal far removed from Gambian reality. I am sure Sidia Bayo’s Manden roots is the deal-breaker for some of the screamers. Don’t be fooled.

Then finally, there is my “favorite” group of Gambians. I say favorite because god knows such people provide me real comic relief. I look at this group of fellow Gambians with a mixture of wonderment and much amusement. It’s the wonderful Gambians who would never lift a finger or a dime to do anything or contribute to doing anything substantive, but are never hesitant to reel out a laundry list of “We Don’t Wants” and “What we wants”: “We don’t want any violence;” “We don’t want war;” “We don’t want coup d’état;” “We don’t want someone we don’t know;” “What we want is peace;” “What we want is freedom;” “What we want is justice;” “What we want is fairness;” “What we want is for all the arrests to stop;” “What we want is for the killings to cease;” “What we want is for people to be able to enjoy their lives, run their businesses;” yada, yada, yada!  What THEY fail to realize is that peace, justice, freedom, and fairness almost always come at a price. Looking back at the last one thousand years of human history, it is the rare nation that achieved the bliss we Gambians are seeking for free. Throughout history, the norm is, in order to get the “What we wants,” peoples have had to swallow bitter dosages of “We Don’t Wants” to get there.  Freedom, peace, and justice are earned -often by blood.

Part of our problem as Gambians has to do with the fact that we attained our political independence on a silver platter, and for the past fifty years, each time we have a pressing national issue, we look to some exigent power or force to save us (think annual Food Aid, think Action Aid schools, think Catholic Relief Services, think MRC health facilities.) This has created a Dependency Mentality in us Gambians which is why grown men are sitting on their laurels like helpless little kids doing absolutely nothing, even as an illiterate autocrat continues his ignorant and brutal rule over us going on twenty years. Many are waiting for some benevolent outsider to step in and save us. Never-mind when it’s opportune, we never fail to remind the world that we are a sovereign and independent nation! Some independent nation we are.

My “wonderment” comes from this Gambian type’s failure to see the connection between Struggle and Enjoyment. You see, nothing on earth worth having comes easy. And my “amusement” comes from their baffling belief that those pushed to the wall by their oppressor should fold their hands and listen to loafers telling them what THEY don’t want. Why should people bearing the brunt of the savage tyranny of a deranged autocrat continue to submit to such rule meekly? There is no higher call worth answering  than rising up to throw off the yolk of unbearable tyranny off one’s back? Yahya Jammeh’s tyranny is analogous to a rotten tooth that has gone septic in the mouth: either it goes, or the patient dies. It’s that simple! Standing up to Yahya’s barbaric rule is not merely a moral imperative, it is to reaffirm to the rest of humanity the rejection of much of what he represents.

Beyond the high profile crimes of Yahya Jammeh that get widespread international attention are many that are only discussed privately by Gambians because of their nature. These include – but is NOT LIMITED to: the systematic use of rape as a political weapon to teach “troublesome” women “lessons” to be quiet; the cold-blooded murder of Gambians at random to satisfy the blood lust of Yahya Jammeh’s peculiar medieval cult deities; the constant provocation, harassment, and humiliation of segments of The Gambian population for ethnic reasons; the assigning, awarding, or denial of public jobs and business opportunities on ethnic basis; and the abuse of the state’s Police powers to deprive citizens of their properties, again often with ethnic connotations. Countries in modern times have fought civil wars for reasons less serious than what Yahya Jammeh is doing in Gambia today.

Yet, some are beating down a young man determined to do something about Yahya Jammeh. We may not know fully who Sidia Bayo is, but what he most certainly is NOT is an agent of Yahya Jammeh! Those that don’t believe in him should leave him alone.

This is not to say that I think Sidia Bayo is what we have been waiting for. Not at all. In my personal view, even after watering down the criteria for my ideal leader, Bayo still leaves me pondering several questions:

1.) Tops for me, Bayo is still an unknown quantity. Even those that have been dealing with him directly for close to a year don’t offer much beyond subjective palliatives like “he’s smart” or “he’s passionate” or “he’s articulate.” These are fine qualities in a leader, but hardly exhaustive “leader-material” yardsticks. We need to know the entire Skills Set (the composite of education and life experiences) that Bayo brings to the table. It’s fair and reasonable for Gambians to demand to know what Bayo’s antecedents are.

2.) A cardinal quality that some of us insist on in our leader is CHARACTER. Is Sidia Bayo a man of his word? Is Sidia Bayo the man he is purporting to be? Can Sidia Bayo stand up to scrutiny? Because Character – arguably more than anything else, matters! Especially in a Non-System system like ours where institutions are weak or completely non-existent. In political climes like ours, virtually everything public runs at the behest of the head of state. I need not elaborate on what happens when a crook is at the helm of such a Non-System system like ours because we are living witnesses to such a deplorable situation! Every right thinking Gambian ought to be concerned about the potential of replacing one crook with another. Since the honest answer to most of the foregoing questions about Bayo is “we don’t know enough,” it’s Bayo’s responsibility to win over reasonable skeptics. He can ignore the noise-makers.

3.) Bayo’s youthful inexperience is a cause for concern. The very brouhaha he is currently embroiled in is mainly self-inflicted. And it betrays a lack of basic understanding of Gambians generally, and The Gambian opposition in the Diaspora in particular. Bayo and his advisers have clearly confused some noise-makers for serious people. You see, not everyone hurling insults at Yaya Jammeh is genuine. Some of the loudest voices against Yahya Jammeh are as morally bankrupt and narcissistic as he is! Some of the characters on Bayo’s list are best treated politely but otherwise ignored completely. I advised one of Bayo’s closest confidantes to tell their team to open their eyes and take a closer look at us the Jammeh opposition. If they do, they’ll realize that some of us throwing stuff at Jammeh are no better than him.

4.) There is very little genuine altruism in global geopolitics. Almost everything works on a quid-pro-quo basis. Those helping Bayo are probably not doing so because of bleeding heart liberalism, but more than likely they expect something in return. What do they expect from Bayo? What has Bayo promised to deliver if he succeeds? But more importantly, is the “quid” that Bayo has promised for the “quo” that his contacts are offering worth the price? And is that “quid” Bayo’s to give in the first place?

These and other minor issues are what I’ve been pondering the last week. I’ve told some of Mr. Bayo’s close confidantes my thoughts privately. Now, I do so publicly. Tentatively, I support Bayo’s initiative 100%. That, because he is speaking the only language Yaya Jammeh understands. If Talk-shops and endless written critiques were adequate or effective, Yahya Jammeh would have long been gone by now. Instead, not only does he hold unfettered sway in Gambia, he actually feels comfortable enough to invade our turf by buying a multi-million dollar property with our money in the USA of all places!  And we haven’t been able to do a darn thing about it. So much for our intellectual and pacifist war against Yahya Jammeh. If anything, Sidia Bayo has sidestepped the trap that has bogged down some of us who thread the path before him for years: over-planning, over-thinking, and over-analyzing something that isn’t really complicated at all. Because it’s not like we don’t know what we need to do: Yaya Jammeh himself has told us countless times what we need to do to get him off our backs! So, Bayo’s concrete step to set up an alternate structure is a very welcome move. The problem is, there is only one Sidia Bayo. We need one thousand Sidia Bayos.

What is crystal clear to all with eyes to see at this point is that time is running out for Yahya Jammeh. Only he and the sycophants around him don’t seem to realize this. Be it Sidia Bayo’s team or one of the several other competing groups, one of the forces working assiduously to uproot Yahya Jammeh will get him sooner or later.  It’s then that Yahya Jammeh will realize that like Khadafy, Mubarak, and other power-drunk autocrats before him, there’s a big difference between playing god, and being god.

Dr. Amadou Janneh Walks From his Kidnappers

The news of Dr. Janneh going home is welcome, not least because he does not belong in prison at all. Janneh’s case, like so many others exposes the Yahya Jammeh for the fraud that he is.  Newspapers are calling Amadou’s release a “pardon.” This is inaccurate. One has to commit an offense first, after which the offended pardons. In letting Dr. Amadou Janneh walk, all Yahya Jammeh has done is release a conscientious man who should never have been arrested in the first place! The death of one of Janneh’s colleague’s in jail would be used as another count against Yahya Jammeh and his gang of criminal WHEN we prosecute them. Amadou should hold his head up high. Standing his ground and obstinately maintaining his dignity throughout this ordeal is the best thing he has done himself.

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