Alagi Yorro Jallow

Blackmail is the ultimate art of political survival. Political blackmail is the threat of -publication, or the actual publication, of true but more often invented stories with the aim of causing an opponent political damage, of slandering him or her, or of depriving him or her of the possibility of engaging in political activity. In our politics, party surrogates and pundits have tried to influence the media narrative with false claims and have created campaigns that shackle democratic gains and weaken the political process.

The political blackmailer is Satan personified: Always going around place to place; networking and socializing looking for whom to devour or smear. He or she never rallies supporters nor woos opponents; never puts out one good word about his target. His total essence is to destroy, to put asunder, to push out.

Propaganda is information that is not objective, primarily used to influence an audience and further an agenda by spreading fake news. Political blackmail relies on misleading claims driven by propaganda and falsehoods. Our political campaign headquarters are filled with propaganda. Our politicians and their party surrogates are masters of the art of double-speak. In political rallies, our politicians, especially those in support of President Adama Barrow’s government, tend to maintain a choreographed message of sobriety and progress, while in private the different camps are busily propagating contempt, blackmail, hatred, character assassination, falsehood, and propaganda through social media.

Current politics is largely driven by political blackmail. A major cabinet reshuffle resulting in the hiring, firing, and recycling of certain cabinet ministers morphed into President Barrow’s attempt to write the political obituaries of certain powerful and political mavericks who served in his cabinet and were later fired from his government. President Barrow’s government has been tainted by constant leaks, blackmail, and the pedaling of false news on social media; for instance, there has been a series of false news releases, involving top government officials, that has reverberated through the political landscape.

Blackmail cuts both ways, however. In a political mudslinging contest, the winners are usually those privies to quality information that their opponents do not have. The only person in the republic to receive full intelligence briefings daily is President Barrow. In the political blackmail “market,” he is at the top of the information chain. The current “campaign on corruption,” including investigations into the awarding of contracts to and the appointment of friends and relatives to top jobs in the civil service and other government agencies, as well as the much-touted impending lifestyle audits, is the construct of either from Statehouse or the Intelligence Services.

Now, who is a political blackmailer? A person who is tendentiously evil, manipulative, destructive and selfish. The hatemonger is at once a spirit, a human being and a seed. As a spirit, it can bewitch anyone. Political blackmail, germinates in the Gambia, is shrouded in parochial survivalism. It’s selling cock and bull stories about someone to a person of influence with a view to tarnishing the person’s integrity and reputation so that he or she falls out of favor. Political blackmail is in the DNA of every Gambian politicians; but it cannot fly with leaders who’ve strength of character.

 Latest misinformation and smear campaign and old-age propaganda techniques and a common occurrences in our politics  has been directed  against the former vice president and the Director General of the State Intelligence Services by no other person than the hyper-paranoid and very disagreeable Tuku Jallow who made to use audio she made from voice recording, exasperating farrago of distortions, misrepresentations and outright lies being broadcast by her own unprincipled theatrical shows masquerading as an activist and a politician. We can’t let these who think and believes in prehistoric times destroy our country, destroy our democracy and everything beautiful in it in our country.

Recently president Barrow’s special youth advisor Musa Jeng has attempted to throw enough mud to the former Interior minister Ahmed Mai Fatty. Mai Fatty has been accused of bribery, corruption, and abuse of office. Mr. Fatty has also been accused by some activists of constructing a multi-million-dollar mansion after less than one year in office. It is for this reason that politicians like Fatoumata Jallow-Tambajang and Mai Ahmad Fatty should be worried about the proposed lifestyle audit. The lifestyle audit could be misused to crucify some members of the political class.

Fatoumata Jallow-Tambajang and her pack of greenhorn politicians should exercise their objections to the government cautiously. Blackmail, including the assertion that the lifestyle audit must include all cabinet ministers, only serves to give President Barrow the excuse to push ahead with his intended purge. Through their uncalculated remarks and actions, they are contributing to the breakdown of the coalition government and turning Adama Barrow from an asset into a foe.

Adama Barrow is quickly alienating himself from certain politicians who are engaged in unnecessary wars, at least from a timing point of view, with the likes of Amadou Sanneh, the Minister former Finance minister is an essential eye for President Barrow in the cabinet. The President TRUSTS him. Not everybody gets appointed to this important docket. “Black mailers” greenhorns are directly targeting some of the most trusted civil servants and to those shown commitment and loyalty to the establishment. Translation? Blackmailers are busy opening self-defeating war fronts, including bringing battle to the President’s door.

These episodes of blackmail, exposés, leaks, propaganda, and the pedaling of false news on social media all have a common thread—an urge to score quick political points against political rivals. The “fertilizer saga” has being pursued as an attack against former Minister of Agriculture Omar A. Jallow and his ministry. The controversy and contradictions surrounding the appointment of a government spokesperson, first denied by the Director of Press and Public Relations at the State House and then later confirmed by the Minister of Information as an authentic appointment, is a classic case of political blackmail. The vote of no confidence and protest the Managing Director of Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation for alleged abuse of office and corruption is another blackmail scheme alleged to have been master-minded by the Secretary General and Head of the Civil Service in retaliation for his removal from office in the past. The false reporting of the firing both the Minister of the Interior and the Director General of the State Intelligence Services (SIS) has led to a continuous battle of words on social media and the concerning alleged shortage of essential services and drugs at the main hospital, coupled with deplorable health care conditions.

Leaks surfaced following the Gateway Measuring System abuse of office involving the Ministry of Information and Communication and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, becoming a subject of kitchen table and social media conversation. The doctors’ strike, which lasted for weeks, aggravated the poor health care conditions, doctors demanding the resignation of the Health Minister as lacking credibility to head the health care system. Mass protests the government became a routine for citizens concerned about protecting their communities. For example, the youth of Gungur and Sanyang protested Chinese businesses polluting their environment. In other villages, citizens resisted foreign investors coming in to destroy the environment or grab their ancestral lands, causing the deaths of three villagers who were shot by the police; several others were injured during a protest at the village of Faraba Bantang.

Politics thrives on perception. The symbolism of President Barrow opening an investigation into members of his past and present government could be of significant value, showing that no one is sacred, including Mai Ahmad Fatty, Amadou Sanneh, Omar Jallow, and Fatoumata Jallow-Tambajang. President Barrow may then turn on perceived “barons of corruption” in the coalition. He could allow cosmetic arrests just to prove this point. If the President takes that route, many careers will be permanently put on ice, including those of current and past cabinet ministers, while those suspected of corruption and racketeering may face criminal charges.

To establish principles of integrity and avoiding slander, political witch-hunts, public officials past and current serving government should publicly declare their assets. The Office of the Ombudsman should be empowered to verify the claims made on declaration forms to ensure that public officials do not over-declare their assets in anticipation of using public office to enrich themselves.

Asset declarations of ministers and senior government officials are not meant to be a perfunctory exercise in box-ticking. They are primarily instruments of transparency and accountability, potentially powerful mechanisms that could help to limit the incidence of corruption, one of our country’s major challenges.

In the blackmail game, as President, Barrow sits at the top of the information chain. Remember the famous quote on stones and glass houses? Be warned.