Alagi Yorro Jallow

Fatoumatta: This year Tobaski (Eid Adha), is less than two weeks. Festival of sacrifice and feasts for almost all Muslims. Majority of Gambian Muslims struggled or are still struggling with rage to buy common rams for Tobaski celebration.

Fatoumatta: Elite greed breeds mass poverty which in turn tears the moral fabric of the society. The thieves President Adama Barrow disavowed to jail, and the secure ones in his own government, are bribing the people with Tobaki rams and the people are hailing them.

Adama Barrow’s Gambia is pushing them to do this. They have learnt to eat the unclean and say “Astaghfirullah” after Tobaski. I didn’t hear President Barrow declare war on the spiraling poverty wracking the nation. I haven’t heard Barrow vow to remove the life support plug of the overfed elite who daily escape abroad to use the toilet.

Fatoumatta: The Gambian elite are few and rich and they flaunt it. Even animals in the wild have a better sense of economic justice. Political economist, Henry George draws our moral attention to this. He says no one ever saw a herd of buffalo of which a few were fat and the great majority lean. He adds that no person ever saw a flock of birds, of which two or three were swimming in grease, and the others all skin and bone.

Fatoumatta: The Gambian poor yawn with envious red eyes while the elite feast. The Gambia personifies resistance to common sense. It is an irony that we have a rich country with poor citizens; we are a deeply religious but sinful nation. Official statistics always tell us that the economy is doing well. And we ask: what really is the meaning of doing well?

Fatoumatta: We hear very often that the Gambia is not poor; that it is rich and blessed with natural resources, the land of the “Smiling Coast”. But why should Gambians in their majority struggle to live with smiling depression? That is a question President Adama Barrow should ask himself and answer why he did not jail thieves adversely mentioned in the Janneh Commission as well as those serving in his government top positions.

Fatoumatta: The Ministry of Finance and Economics Affairs recently said in a press statement that inflation had steadily maintained a climb-down. But the market is not saying that. Muslims are in their season of piety and sacrifice. If inflation has gone down, why are Tobaski rams priced beyond the pocket of the conscientious Muslim? Why are politicians pre-buying 2021 votes with 2019 rams? Why is the middle class still miserable? Whether under Yahya Jammeh or with Adama Barrow what has really changed for the government worker who was hungry and continue to receive low minimum pay?

Fatoumatta: The poor man, the unpaid workman daily loses his loved ones to the inadequacy in the Gambia’s health care system. He is sad but he watches the egregious power elite with envy. He aspires and prays to enjoy what the elite enjoy vacationing abroad.

The unprivileged will always seek to make it – sometimes anyhow, especially where the system is rigged against him. Sometimes, he sees law as a hindrance to his “making it.” He seeks to subvert and demolish the house of values and make it big like the big man before him. Aristotle said so: “poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.”

Fatoumatta: I ask daily: Why are Gambians so poor? Even you can ask that question till the end of the world, you are not likely to get an answer. It is a conundrum. Governments go, governments come, the paradox of poverty in opulence stays with the Gambians. It is an elite thing. They get richer and fitter while the people sink in debts and in wants and in illnesses. And the elite won’t ever take heed that from Rome to Greece to the Gambia, vast inequality of fortunes destroyed all the republics of the past. This ‘equality of fortunes’ includes access to necessary services, especially good health care. It includes equal access to justice, to the general patrimony and its dividends. It excludes jailing enemies who steal and cuddling friends who rob.

Fatoumatta: Mary Harris Jones, a United States labor and community organizer said something about this more than a century ago. In a speech at Coney Island in 1903, she spoke about the elite and their definition of justice: “I asked a man in prison once how he happened to be there, and he said he had stolen a pair of shoes. I told him if he had stolen a railroad, he would be a United States senator.” Here, they steal roads, embezzle airports and confiscate seaports, they then port to the ruling party to enjoy their loot forever undisturbed.

Fatoumatta: Apart from lucky Gambians who were in the, telecoms, and finance sectors, civil servants and corrupt politicians were also “doing well.” We know politicians always do well – even under the military. Who are the “civil servants.?” They are the miserable ones whose salaries remained detained in the greedy closets of their accountants. Those ones were the victims under the Jammeh presidency. They are still victims in 2019. And it has always been like that for the ordinary government worker.

Gambian civil servants, be it teachers, doctors, nurses and some police. They have to pay landlords. They are being ejected by landlords. No food-seller gives them credit. Are you saying that the Gambian civil service should die before they are paid decent wages?

The phenomenon of workers not able to afford Tobaski ram started with republic decades ago- with the Presidential System. It is a big disgrace – both nationally and internationally. As a result poor s wages, salaries and allowances as and when due, many workers have died, most homes have been broken, children have been withdrawn from school up to the university level because their parents could not pay their fees, a phenomenon that has never happened in the history of this country.

Fatoumatta: President Adama Barrow. I hope he will be jailing ugly thieves; he will have time to disown his rich, handsome statehouse advisers who won’t pay salaries but would jostle to pray and dine with him in Statehouse.

Neneh Fatoumatta: Let us hope the president will ask himself why majority of his people are hungry; why his insecticide is not stopping (and won’t stop) mosquitoes from infecting the nation with crimes and criminality; why poverty increases in number daily on the streets; why our politicians and their allies remain desperate for criminal riches – and why helpless people clothe thieves with mass presence in their homes and at their campaign rallies.