National Assembly

The Gambia shares so much with Lloyd Jones, author of ‘A History of Silence.’ For Lloyd, the family trait is silence. All around him, he feels it. He knows that willful forgetfulness is what “the shamed bestows upon the progeny.” And he could see great wreaths of silence wound around his life and those of his siblings. 

You cannot live in the Gambia of today and not feel like this scholar of Silence. Like him, in the windows and hallways and highways of our lives are conformist garlands. Only those who know how to keep quiet get decorated. Golden prizes wink at every repented troublemaker in this republic of wonders. I wish I could keep quiet too. People who close their eyes and seal their lips enjoy the breeze of salvation here.

Today’s Gambia is one of such. The silent ones, the ones who see no evil and who say no evil, are the saved here. The deaf and dumb are the wise; they never lack anything money and positions can buy. 

They live long too to enjoy the fruits of their Silence. In the public sphere, they will not ask why torture survivors/victims’ mothers and fathers hail their tormentors; Why the abductors of priceless sons and daughters suddenly became saviors. The wise will not ask questions, and they will have peace.

The pursuit of Silence, argues George Prochnik, “begins with a surrender of the chase; the abandonment of efforts to impose our will and visions on the world.” So many things happen same time – or rapidly, one after the other. 

Moreover, in the maze of the confusion, we drop the glove; we surrender. What is the need struggling with the new Gambia that is beyond repairs? With every change or solution comes an even bigger headache. Even the chilling silenced of journalists to call the government by their names. They are spelled and pronounced in Silence.

Furthermore, after the massive noise of December 1, 2016, “Gambia Has Decided,” we thought nothing gross like that would ever happen again. However, it happened; it happened – a clone of its inglorious precursor, but the noise was muffled. 

From abroad, interest in this version of change was disappointing and weak. The vocal cords lost their strength because this is 2019, the Gambia where noise is a crime.

If a child loses quality education, he is done for life. If a child does not get quality healthcare in the first two years, he is destroyed for life. The Gambia is that child. It is lost. Can it still be saved? Silence! 

Remember, the world is not waiting for anyone, but the Gambia is dragging into its misfortune of stunted existence. It educates only children of the royals. The hewers of wood are very happy scavenging in the woods; they are richly blessed, contented with their miseducation in the youth.

For decades, political leaders abandon the poor to fund their fancies. They borrow and spend tomorrow’s money, building long bridges that lead to nowhere. 

American billionaire Bill Gates told African leaders this much sometimes ago: “if you build roads without educating and caring for the people, your roads and bridges are mere ornamental tragedies.” Bill Gates did not know that we do not listen to wisdom and truth here, especially in the Gambia. 

Even our ancestors warned us: “The child you left unbuilt will auction the brick and mortar you are investing in.” Did we listen? We ignored the ancestors. We spurned them and their meddlesomeness. We are seeing this clearly in the Gambia’s misfortune. 

The foundation is also being massively laid by a generation of politicians with strange ideas. Mega schools, zero education is the craze-concept everywhere. When you do that what do you get? What you harvest is an army of the miseducated, or the under-educated or even the uneducable. 

This odious collage will soon file out de-civilizing humanity. That should explain how the country-bred its current leaders- gentlemen who break bridges of peace with ease.

The Gambia’s cup is full. It is facing the consequences of its lousy hereditary leadership. The long years of country’s mistreatment of its poor and the minorities have driven the chicken home to roost. 

The uneducated, the marginalized have become kings of the elite roads, the wealthy and the powerful, abducting and releasing to get billions.

It was also their business plan.

An organised or determined Africans could have shut down the slave coasts as effectively as the west did when they were done with the trade. It was the privileged position of Europeans in the campaign to end slavery that made it last three centuries and caused it to end on the iniquitous terms such as the financial compensation of slavers rather than the enslaved, and the compensation of European states by the enslavement of the entire continent through colonialism.

The problem with the Gambia.

Any organised herd can turn its destiny around. However, it would have to be a herd of humans, not of cows. Cows, as we will have to accept, will violently resist potential liberators. They will follow the herdsmen they know, loyally, to the slaughter slab, and we must leave then to their destiny.

What we must fight though, as humans, is our heathenish pedagogy of oppression: As a people, we seem to have replaced ancestor-reverence with a cultural, unthinking, worship of leadership. 

From the 2019 gates of England’s Buckingham palace to the pre-revolution gates of Ethiopia’s Jubilee Palace, the human serf does seem wired to be owned by the great, to celebrate his oppression by the big chief, however bloody or immoral the historical basis of his authority or the source of his wealth.

Even so, our local treasury looters: they go from known drug peddlers to inexplicable billionaires after a stint in public office and our heathenish prostration reflex kicks in. No. We must resist the deification of our leaders. We must kindle a republican understanding of the paper truth in our constitution: the leaders are servants of the people. It is not the other way around.

The citizen is the sole sovereign of this age. Our leaders serve at our pleasure, and if the people are displeased, we must show them the exit though our vocal displeasure and the exercise of our democratic sovereignty. 

Furthermore, because we the people, by our seasoning in grassroots corruption, are complicit with the Gambian Problem of Grand Corruption, we will not be romantic about the sanctimonious rhetoric of any new leaders. 

Every new leader chosen from the people must immediately receive the same level of scrutiny and accountability as previous dethroned leaders.

“Flawed servants may still lead,

 but the citizenry must police”

– Ode to The Manifesto.

By Alagi Yorro Jallow

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