By Mathew K Jallow
Even in its abomination and insidiousness, despotism under Yahya Jammeh’s ruthless regime offered glimmers of hope for change and renewal. The gloom and joylessness presented a unique break from an ugly past, but also an opportunity to rebuild a nation with the aspiration of its people. But, along the way, a combustible cocktail of ignorance, intellectual dearth and absence of mental fortitude, combined to illustrate a dangerous political paralysis that torments the mind and promises to plunge the Gambia into another period of political nihilism. 2016 was the culmination of twenty-two years struggle, which ended with a renunciation of the lawlessness, barbarism and tyranny, which inducted Gambia in the pantheons of pariah nations; not unlike the Hitler Third Reich. In more ways than one, Yahya Jammeh was a true personification of Adolf Hitler, or perhaps, an Idi Amin Dada reincarnate; a malignant carcinogen that needed to be exorcised from Gambia’s body politics. But, soon after the Coalition took over power, the rapturous euphoria that had swept across the nation, quickly dissipated into the void, triggering the disbelief that continues to haunt the sensibilities of Gambians holding on to hope for radical transformation. What, instead, soon became apparent is how the Coalition government was unfurling as a new iteration of a familiar Gambian political convention, which, in effect, once again balkanized Gambia’s political triumph into an unremarkable and anachronistic fidelity to self-serving tribal and political party interests. Even for Gambians without political education, deflation of their hopes and dreams is not an unprecedented path, driven by tribal bigotry and party loyalties, a Gambian orthodoxy deeply rooted in the collective psyche. But, the Coalition further displayed irreverence towards Gambians who spilled blood, sweat and tears, so as to restore peace and rule of law in the country. What made the Coalition’s indifference so spectacularly dramatic, is the renaissance of elements of Yahya Jammeh’s catastrophic reign of terror and economic plunder. These days, the demons of former president Yahya Jammeh, the Gambia’s most hated, dominate the corridors of power in Banjul. The correlation between these government fraudsters and the recent surge in economic crimes, is a rude awakening to Gambians still hoping to eradicate the vices of the past.
The sickeningly absurd paradox that the Coalition government is pursuing, is more broadly condemned as patently farcical and completely devoid of dialectical reasoning, but in my view, it’s even far worse than that. It’s quintessence African politics, driven by greed and the need to plunder state resources to satisfy the self serving primordial instincts of politicians and bureaucrats. But, there is another dimension to the collective amnesia that pervades Gambia; the Coalition government’s stealthy and insidious transformation into a normal and regular government, in complete contradiction and contravention of the spirit and letter of the Coalition MoU. This new curveball the Gambia is being death, so soon after the signing of the MoU, is clearly a gratuitously power grab, with potential to stir up passions and agitate political turmoil and instability. This could easily send Gambia to a tailspin into the political abyss. Over the past two years, the Coalition’s unforced blunders have ostensibly worsened, as the fault lines between President Adama Barrow and the United Democratic Party, manifest a deep and abiding ideological schism. President Barrow, having tasted the inebriating perks of political power, is determined to retain it, irrespective of consequences to the national interest. No longer burdened by the need to submit to party loyalty or subject himself to the hostile invectives of UDP party guard rails, and party rebel-rousers, President Barrow is charting his own path to entrenchment in political power. This deviation from standard political practice, in a democratic state, is a potential threat to the national security. Power grab is anathema to the central tenants of democracy, and apart from violating the public trust, it has an uncanny ability to heighten the sense of skepticism about government’s filial obligation to the national interests. In so many ways, President Barrow, in hiding behind the blurred veneer of development, under the Barrow Youth Movement, has easily transcended the excesses of Yahya Jammeh. What is so remarkable is the detachment from reality that borders on dereliction of duty, which the National Assembly and other state agencies responsible for the treasury, have implicitly and explicitly become complicit in the activities that subvert democracy and good governance.
The Barrow Youth Movement, Adama Barrow Foundation for Inclusive Development, and the a First Lady Fatoumata Bah Foundation, are boondoggles whose source of funding is still a mystery; and illegally and offensively so. Since the donations of vehicles to National Assembly members, in 2017, effectively corrupting and compromising the Assembly members into indifference to President Barrow’s self-serving activities, he has continued to finance questionable organizations and individuals, in the exclusive promotion of his political interest; and in particular, seek support in negating the Coalition MoU. President Barrow is committed to challenge the 3-years term limits of his transitional government. His hubristic disposition is emblematic of the African inclination to take ownership of governments; a surreptitious and conspiratorial seizure of power; often done legally by changing national Constitutions, and at others, quite unethically, but always with coercion and ruthless Machiavellianism. When entrenchment in political power supersedes the commitment to fortify the democratic system; the lynchpin of economic development, resistance to such state lawlessness is more than just necessary; it becomes the patriotic duty of every conscientious citizen. Many Gambians have fought too long, and too hard for the empowerment of democracy, to let their selfless efforts slip away under nebulous circumstances designed to primarily bewilder and ensnare Gambians into submitting to political greed. In African, and by extension, in Gambian politics, there is visceral impulse to overreach and subordinate the public interest to the insufferable smug of selfishness, an overarching issue of concern. It took President Adama Barrow just one year to relapse, with gleeful contempt for ethic and morality, into the stereotypical fecklessness of African leaders. The quandary the government is plunged in, is a manifestation of Coalition’s contempt for those in the diaspora who gave all for Gambia’s liberation. In part, the Coalition also keeps at bay, Gambians with principles and commitment to the tenets of democracy and the rule of law. Co-incidentally, Gambians with principles and those commited to the democracy and rule of law, present challenge to the Coalition government. And as doubts linger over the qualification and selection of President Barrow as Coalition leader prove increasingly more convincing, so is the decline of the morale around the country manifesting as strident opposition to this Coalition government. Increasingly, 2019 promises to be the Gambia’s crucible year in politics.