Gambiana

Opinion | The challenges of the Gambia’s chest thumping digital youths in civic and political engagement

Photo credit: Jason Florio

The revolutionary theorist and political philosopher Ibrahim Omar Frantz Fanon from Martinique said, “Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it.” 

The Gambian youth participation and political attitudes have betrayed the Gambia. They must rise now and spearhead national liberation. Alternatively, everyone will whine until the Mahdi returns. 

The youth generation has failed Gambians. Refusing to change makes our youth folk more qualified for a world that no longer exists. Old ways will not open new doors. Albert Einstein once offered one of the fascinating definitions of ‘insanity’ when he said: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

We have observed that the Gambia youth’s civic and political engagement and global citizenship problems are resistant to old ways of thinking. The Gambian problem cannot be solved by the same level of youths, perspectives, and thought patterns that created it in the first place.

The Gambia needs renewed thinkers in strategic places if we take this nation out from the present economic quagmire. We need vibrant youths with dynamic approaches to national problems that have defied conventional methods. 

We need youths that will be so much preoccupied with finding remedies that they forget about finding faults.

Gambian youths generally believe that they are unjustly denied the opportunity to occupy leadership positions. 

They describe themselves as digital-age products that are fully equipped to displace the analogs in power corridors.

Even if the Gambian youths are suitable for political leadership, they are going about this problem the wrong way. 

By resting their case for the occupancy of political offices on the mere fact of their age, study, and living abroad, they repeat the mistake of the analog, self-seeking “leaders” they are trying to displace. 

In simple language, some Gambian youths use the age effect and influence on academic performance to buttress the entitlement culture, just as their elders used incumbency to justify and entrench analog, self-seeking, and sit-tight leadership the visionary’s expense ideal-type.

The Gambian youths can only be ready for leadership if they demonstrate the will to rise above ethnoreligious acrimony and ponder win-win, holistic solutions to vexing challenges. 

As participants in the current political contest, organizing to compete in the political terrain, the questions they should be asking themselves are whether they have firmly grasped the essence of leadership.

If those parading themselves as leaders are worthy of the appellation when social science gets round to finding the correct term for the analogs, so we stop calling them political leaders, and what we, refer to them, is the need to do to be acknowledged them as bona fide leaders. 

If Gambian youths are thinking of challenges to tackle and make their mark, they do not have to look very far. Start with the challenges close to home—cultism on campuses, examination malpractices, corruption of values and institutions, sexual harassment, farmer activists, revolutionizing food activism, and undue influence on public service recruitment agencies and processes. 

Begin to impact any of these areas, and see how quickly they, the digital generation, will send the analogs adrift.

Gambian youths like to whine too much. Excessive taxes, high cost of living, no jobs, corruption, poverty, bad cops, bad roads, gangs, ailing hospitals, hunger, no water, no regular electricity, crazy public transportation system.

However, these are everyday things. That is life. Should Gambian youths keep quiet or, better, sing praises to Godfatherism or for the government for doing its best to serve them in these challenging times. 

The Gambia would be better, don’t you think, if the people asked themselves what they could do for their country instead of what their country can do for them?

That sums up the thinking of the youth’s political illiterate. They ridiculed themselves for extreme indoctrination on politics, social networking, and young people’s political engagement. Look at Europe, they said. They pay higher taxes, but who grumbles?

Such blatant contempt for citizens by ‘tangal cheeb politician’ would bring a government crashing down in a country where democracy works, where people’s voice matters. 

Not in the Gambia, a dystopia where youth political participation and decision-making become myopic and do not think, not the other way to reinvent democracy for the long-term political project.

Here, in the Gambia, political illiterate’s impact grows fat and fast on youth political leadership participation, comfortable knowing that the people are defeated. They are too caught up in their daily struggles for survival to pose any serious threat to obscene elite power and privilege. 

Public anger means nothing. Annoyed and outraged for political expediency and driving up base support may seem like a politician’s tonic in the modern age of social media. People will make all the noise and do not be fools of rethinking political correctness.

So, when are the Gambian youth in politics going to get a government that listens to them instead of one that ridicules them to silence? Not any time soon. The sinking feeling that the Gambia will never change for the better pervades the country. You are on your own. 

Do whatever you can to get by. If you have the opportunity and somebody offers you a fantastic opportunity, take it but will not steal public money, do not be dishonest. You are a fool.

Got a place to run to? Go. Are you out of the country? Do not come back. Last week, a man regretted a Facebook post that his silliest mistake was to return from the diaspora. 

Twice: However, why is this not happening? The Gambian youth is mostly inward-looking. They are preoccupied with personal success. They wage their battles for change on social media or from the comfort of the barstool. 

Alternatively, they pray for miracles in disco-like town churches owned by flamboyant superstar preachers promising personal financial breakthroughs but who says little about how to create a prosperous and just society.

The silent majority of our educated youths engaged in politics are politically immature. Besides whole communities willing to die for their tribal demigod, the country is characterized by tragic fragmentation of the social forces that could change.

Since signing up as a youth voter on or about  May 1982, I promised myself to remain ever be genuinely independent and objective politically in today’s polarized politics, which I have until today vote intelligent. I have never voted for someone just because I know him to have money or promised me goodies.

I have voted for politicians who authentic, honest, and ethical. I believe in politicians who can promote youths’ empowerment to eradicate unemployment and poverty, although most of them lose. 

Much as that is so, I am happy I always make the right decision. Thus, I have a very comfortable pillow; A CLEAN CONSCIENCE. I do vote for my clear conscience and principle and the common good.

“Italian writer, politician, and political theorist Antonio Gramsci (1891 – 1937) once wrote: The crisis consists of the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum, a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.

This is where our country, the Gambia, currently finds itself. The old order where a handful of affluent families and powerful politicians lord it over the inferior masses is not dying. 

The old order of a society built on the quicksand of tribalism, corruption, and impunity is also not dying. The old order, where thieves in ‘ganila boubous’ and Italian suits walk along the corridors of power pretending to be captains of industry, is still alive.

However, the new order cannot yet be born. The latest beloved community of tangal cheeb youth politicians is not built on a foundation of truth, justice, and brotherly love. 

The new order of tangal cheeb is not governed by the rule of law and justice, where nobody can be above the law. The new country where we uphold the inherent dignity of each citizen is lacking. 

This new order of truth, the rule of law, and justice cannot yet be born with the kind of youth leadership because of the morbid fear of those who temporarily wield power through Solasso and tag yengal kind of politics. 

The old order sense that power is slipping away, and they are terrified, for they know what and how they did to attain power, and those tangal cheeb politicians know what they have done with the taf yengal legal system of governance and the sense that the hour of reckoning is at hand. 

The old and the new are scary. After all, the Gambia youths cannot survive in a world of fair competition because they have never had to. Furthermore, the educated youths are anxious that they may not have a place in the new Gambia.

An emergent democracy is developing, a greater democracy that requires constant and sustains structures. Thus, we stand stubbornly in the way of the train of change, knowing that it will crash them but unable to get out of its way. 

However, we welcome them, these anxious, terrified countrymen and women of ours. We reassure them that the Gambia belongs to all who live in it. There is space for all of us. We all have a contribution to make. 

However, then, there are the political illiterates, particularly some of our educated folks and those who traveled the world with a broader world view, who disgust. 

They are the worst illiterates of all. They hear nothing and take no part in political life. Those who actively engaged in political either become a demagogue or a sycophant. 

They do not know that the price of essential commodities is beans,  rice, oil, rent, flour, and medicine, all of which depend on competent political decisions. 

They do not realize that political decisions limit opportunities, derail the economy, lead to the erection of structures that collapse, killing hundreds, and allow drug barons to thrive. 

They do not realize that political decisions make journalists and thorny Writers be arrested, killed, and (or) exiled. 

These political illiterates even pride themselves on their ignorance, stick out their chests and say they want to introduce a new political system. 

They never participate in democracy, and they do not know their lack of political education and participation comes out abandoned children, back way syndrome of traveling into the Mideterrain sea, stolen public resources, corrupt officials, and lackeys of exploitative multinational corporations, which we are condemned to work for to earn a miserable living, and retire to a much more miserable old age where you cannot afford medicine, let alone food. 

These political illiterates say the politicians and politics suck. Well, where do they think they come from? They do not fall off the sky? They do not pass through a membrane from another reality. We make them. It is what our brains, wishes, and systems produce. 

These political illiterates do not know that if you have selfish, corrupt, half-brained, and ignorant citizens, you will produce selfish, dishonest, half-brained, and clueless politicians: garbage in, garbage out.

They do not know that we will not change a nation because they do not vote or influence others to choose the right people. They think by being on social media of politics, directly or otherwise, they are good and holy. They do not understand that they are writing their destiny with a pen of indifference about things that matter in their lives, their children’s lives, and future generations too. 

By the way, do they think all will be well just by going to study abroad or starting NGOs funded by people with vested interests? What do they think?

You begin to die when you opt to be silent on things that matter. It is like what Martin Luther King could say, that you are just dead, only that your passing on will be announced later.  

Political illiterates do not realise that the difference between them and their desired destiny is their political participation in choosing leaders with the right minds.  It is a Godly duty to elect good, intelligent, and service-oriented people into office.

By Alagi Yorro Jallow

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