Alagi Yorro Jallow

Gambians are a unique people. We have continued to mesmerize the world with our unique coolness and intolerance towards greed inspired egotism. We have never been defined by our differences and neither have we ever cherished things or people that divide us or bring out the worst in us.

In this regard, we need to commend ourselves as Gambians for defying the odds that have threatened the very foundations of our cherished values and unity of purpose. We have risen above our political differences and chosen to stay true to who we really are as a people in the midst of a very heated political atmosphere that ended decades of brutal dictatorship.

We are simmering in this state knowing that regardless of our political difference, the choices we make today, and our actions will either inspire hope and different forms of life or reinforce despair, anarchy and different forms of death. The fear is real.

The unknown in a turbulent sea of incoherence and a fragmented and continually melting ‘glue’ that is supposed to hold a nation together have a way of gnawing at the very core of many-a-soul. The fear can be felt on a personal and collective level.
This is a defining moment for the Gambia and every Gambian has a choice to make on many levels, through omission or commission.

Our personal choices have a direct impact on the collective outcome. Every Gambian has a responsibility to determine what happens to the Gambia, through our personal choices and actions. May we hold this responsibility with seriousness and in a stewardship of care to help influence a future Gambia that recognizes and knows all her children and their fundamental human needs and human rights. Freedom being one of them. A right to life another. There are many others. Our key solution is tolerance, that everybody has the right to belong to any political party but what we demand of our leaders and ourselves is sobriety.

Whatever happens we shall have to co-exist. That we must find space to keep speaking to each other; talk with and not at each other, We acknowledged that we have ethnic, political and religious differences, as Gambians. However, this are the differences that make us strong. This are the differences that make the Gambia such a great country.
But what scares me more is this: Each leader maintains the hyperbole and rhetoric of his faction. And their followers are entrenching themselves further and more strongly in that rhetoric to ultimately become purveyors of exaggeration and propaganda.

We (Gambians) still worry that we could degenerate into aggression. It is partly a pavlovian response to tribal politics because in our 51-year history as a country, we have always been a restrained kind of people — even at that time when a dictator held the reigns of our nation for 22 long terrifying years. We had never disintegrated into wanton aggression, as we did then.
Never again, right?

Our worries also stemmed from the way that we are — we seem to titter at the precipice of violence, as leaders and social media users make these brazen aggressive comments that give rise to fear and anger. These statements of false bravado and warmongering increase consternation among those of us who simply want to see peaceful Gambia. What’s worse is that many of the party supporters who make the reckless statements get away with them, time and again — ostensibly because they support the president.

Meanwhile, middle class Gambians remain oblivious of the real hurt and fear in some parts of the country. Instead, like others in the diaspora, they hide behind their keyboards — many of them to hurl unthinking tribal and divisive vitriol at each other, recently I was astounded to read a post by a middle-class fellow, suggesting that the Gambia is ready for a “benevolent dictator” as if such a thing is possible.

Social media is not merely about negative energy; can also be for positive energy. We need to use the power of talking/debating issues, but not bulldozing things and issues since we are a democracy.

Of course, we will blame our leaders for where the country is today. But wait a moment: How many of us now remember that we have a country to jealously protect (each according to ability)? How many of us have ever invited our colleagues in the opposing camp for a cup of tea to reason things out (at our level and for the interests that we share as members of the political class)? How many of us find it in ourselves to restrain ourselves from insulting Halifa Sallah, Ousainou Darboe and Mama Kandeh or fan who’s just posted something we do not like/something against our leader. How many of us look beyond the failed leadership in both camps and see the need to contribute (however humbly) towards saving a lovely country that gave our mothers/parents space to bury our umbilical cords? We must trash the prevailing naivete here; debunk the myths, and to once again stand on our two feet, move away this political mentality of dog-eat-dog-or-dog-eat-nothing world! And with all that we have in the Gambia, we cannot be a dog-eat-nothing society.