The Gambia is an emergent democracy, but some Gambians are not democrats. Whereas democracy espouses freedom of speech, choice and association, some pseudo-democrats who, with all intents and purposes are natural autocrats, are diametrically opposed to these basic tenets of democracy.

Unless and until they embrace dissent as a cardinal principle of political engagement, they may inadvertently turn The Gambia into an autocratic castle and not a democratic edifice.

Electoral politics is marked by verging convergence, not conformity, from complexities. There are times when individuals disagree with party positions, especially in contests, so they go independent. The practice is for the major parties to treat them as if they were party members.

In strongly multiparty traditions like Italy, Israel, India, differences are considered part of the democratic process. Rebellion is part of the constitutional matrix.

Great politicians and statesmen are those who have learnt to dialogue rebellion and opposition against their ideologies. They convince them. Complexity, not conformity, defines political processes. Today, politician may build a bipartisan (multipartisan), alliances or coalition approaches at the best or find themselves abandoned by their own political clan!

A popular satire is George Orwell’s Animal Farm—we all quote from it the few sober occasions we are tired of the inequality in which we live. There is Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and its tale of moral midgets. There is Voltaire’s Candide. There is Hasek’s The Good Soldier.
There is Shem’s The House of God with its agony of absurdity. T

here is also Cervantes’ Don Quixote and its mockery of fleeting chivalry. There is Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales which tells of the age-long three-some implicating politics, religion and pretentious piety.

In The Gambia, satire must not criticize with inverse jokes. If it does, it becomes the joke. President Adam Barrow used satire (in Mandingo) to interrogate the mystery of the elusive persona called Ousainou Darboe and the world almost came to an end.

Even the ace media satirist had to quickly hang a banner (as expansive as the sky) on the front page of the Standard newspaper explaining Adama Barrow’s satire was just a satire – almost like “You take down a stiff-necked wrestler to the ashes.”

One of the tragedies of politics in The Gambia is that politicians seldom bridge the gulf between practice and profession, between doing and saying. A persistent schizophrenia leaves so many of them tragically divided against themselves.

On the one hand, they proudly profess certain sublime and noble principles, but on the other hand, they sadly practice the very antithesis of these principles.

How often are Gambian lives characterized by a high blood pressure of creeds and an anaemia of deeds! They talk eloquently about their commitment to the principles of patriotism, and yet their lives are saturated with the practices of treasonable acts.

They proclaim their devotion to democracy, but they sadly practice the very opposite of the democratic creed. They talk passionately about peace, and at the same time they assiduously prepare for war. They make their fervent pleas for the high road of justice, and then they tread unflinchingly the low road of injustice.

This strange dichotomy, this agonizing gulf between the ought and the is, represents the tragic theme of political leaders’ earthly pilgrimage.

The Gambia is a nation of irritable, shameless partisans. All they see is a contest for rightness or wrongness between Godfather and Godson – Ousainou Darboe – and – Adama Barrow.

They quickly remind Ousainou who attacked the Barrow Youth Movement for Development of the warning at the UDP biennial Congress: “I will not spare anyone no matter his or her description… watch any one tries to divide the party… I am not desperate to become president, but I am not equally going to stand by for anyone to split the UDP because I am elected by the people to lead that party,” he warned. “UDP will never be divided into two. There is no UDP 2016… There is only UDP 1996.”

Darboe’s strong message coming on the heels of widespread belief that the party was heading for division between Darboe and Barrow camps, was widely interpreted to be a warning to those who entertain any desire to use the UDP for anything outside his influence.

But Adama Barrow, even in his naked aloofness, occupies the other end of the anointing table, and so he tells Ousainou’s loyalists and ministers in his cabinet and government officials in his administration, who are trying to undermine his national development blueprint to resign before he fires them.

“My cabinet ministers are here. If you are in my cabinet, and your aim and objective are to sabotage the National Development Plan agenda, please resign before we come for you… we will not condone anyone to sabotage the NDP agenda…. we are ready to fight anyone bent on sabotaging the NDP agenda,” Barrow told a huge rally in Wuli Foday Kunda.

President Barrow went on: “If I know anyone who tries to undermine my government, we will do everything to fight you…we will not allow anyone to undermine this country again.”

Barrow said he was ready for anything as far as the realization of the NDP was concerned, adding, “We are more than determined to fight any individual bent on undermining or obstructing the NDP agenda.”

Barrow also took time to defend the Barrow Youth Movement, adding that the movement is here to stay. “So, anyone who criticizes the movement, in my opinion, has an agenda… the movement is not the only organization in this country… there are other groups and all the political parties in this country have similar groups…. why picking on the Barrow Youth Movement? Their (critics) objective is to divide us…. your work is really scaring them,” he told members of the movement at the rally.

President Barrow was also not sacred and be untouchable even by the purifying implicitness of satire. What Gambians saw last week was a trial of language, power and absent leadership, a query of the meaning of what should be meaningful.

And while they fight over who should beat one’s swords into ploughshares whom because of an absent leadership, they act, like in Joseph Heller’s Catch -22, rationalize irrationality. They can’t be taller than the miserable midgets they are with their accommodation of anything to please power.

Even when power repackages hardship and delivers it as uncommon benevolence; even when it brews and bottles crude cruelty as milk of presidential kindness, they still excuse it because they eat from its kitchen. And I am talking of the rich kitchen of Adama Barrow and the other party, United Democratic Party.

As Michael Honig, author of The Senility of Vladimir P, notes, what matters here is not their tomorrow and the value of values. What matters is “how long the feast would go on, like fish gorging themselves on a whale’s flesh, even while the whale (is) still alive.” That is the satire of their naked shame which the combo called power and absent leadership called Gambians to watch last week — and we are still watching the fighting of the Godfather and the Godson.

The value system of The Gambia’s contemporary political leaders has eroded the labour of our hero’s past. In such a depressing national context of civism, political education has lost its principal recommendation to the electorates as the pathway to worth, value, and upward mobility in society.

In a land devoid of any role models in the political space since the advent of democracy in December, it has become almost counterproductive a defeatist to recommend political education to the younger generation.

In a country that has effectively sent a message that politics is a sure pathway to unethical standards; in a country whose skewed values reward corruption and dishonesty, how do you make a valid case for politics to the younger generation?

By Alagi Yorro Jallow

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