After delivering them from the Pharaoh and his tyrannical ways, the Israelites started questioning Moses immediately, even doubting his claims. Both versions of the narrative from the Islamic and Christian perspective, spoke of the defiance and resistance Moses had to contend with from the Israelites. Maybe they were on edge or nervous about surrendering their new found freedom to a new ‘leader’. Whatever the reason, what this points to is the tendency of people to show ingratitude and our impatient nature.
Fast forward to our Gambian situation today; certain segments of Gambians society have taken it upon themselves to not only question the motives of the new administration, but make it a point of duty to cry foul about any and everything emanating from the leadership with hardly any single word of commendation for their show of mature leadership displayed during the most tense political period in Gambian history. They have been accused of being weak, not up to the task, or simply incompetent. Doubt from the get go.
These condemnations starting just within weeks of an election victory that uprooted two decades of tyranny and authoritarian rule. During which period not a single word of condemnation emanated from that segment now claiming the spotlight of vanguards against tyranny; with the exception of a handful. Maybe the guilt of the silence of that period is compelling some to speak up now. Whatever the reason, the claim of holding government accountable or expressing one’s opinion is not a valid one simply because the new administration has not promised anything we did not agree with on the campaign trail. Secondly, they have not started work in earnest for anyone to observe that they are deviating from the promises made; and finally, assuming that they will bring back the old ways, will not reform much, or will seek to entrench themselves in power is all speculation and conjecture with no basis to argue on.
There is nothing wrong with questioning those entrusted with authority, in fact that is encouraged to hold them accountable. Questions get answers as a response. Attacks are responded to with defense mechanisms. On the other hand, if all of one’s preoccupation is to condemn, attack, and criticize, over time your voice drowns itself and whatever positive contribution you have to make struggles to find an audience thereby depriving the nation of a perspective perhaps only you can offer.
The desire to transform The Gambia into a democratic country, one governed by the rule of law and equal treatment of all citizens has brought to the political scene energetic young minds determined to realize that dream sooner rather than later, and rightly so. Their agenda to see rapid transformations in the political and governance sphere is understandable and commendable.
Being subject to two decades of tyranny and authoritarian rule (a lifetime for most of the young activists) can only inspire aggressive pursuits with a sense of urgency to restore democratic governance. Now that the battle has been won, what is needed is a cooling down of the tempo and to give the newly entrusted leadership a chance to implement the promises made. This is in no way calling for the guard to be let down in preserving the democratic ideals won.
The Gambia, and indeed Africa is in need of fresh ideas, policy, and new visions to progress into the 21st century and stand on a somewhat equal footing with nations around the world. That fact is indisputable; the strategy employed may be the bone of contention.
What should not be lost on us is that for far too long, people’s creative minds and political awareness has been confounded by tyranny and authoritarian rule. They are not to blame for their lack of understanding of the strength of their power over that of the state. They will move with caution in their dealings with the state and any representative of state power, which could be an effect of the trauma they had to endure under tyranny.
As informed citizens, with access to information beyond what is sieved out of the state controlled media, we owe it to them and to ourselves that we slow down to their pace and move with them into that enlightened space. After all, it is an African saying that if you want to fast, go alone; but if you want to far, go together. One should not be naïve as to measure the political atmosphere based on the discourse amongst the politically informed or those expressed on social media. The largest constituency of voters does not share the same platform and they do not share the same ideologies; they ultimately decide who gets into public office.
Discounting them as irrelevant or believing that they will go along with whatever the ‘informed urbanites’ throw at them will be a fatal mistake for anyone with political aspirations. The seasoned politicians are aware of this fact and exploit it to the fullest. These are the ones being labelled as old, lacking in new visions, and being asked to step aside and give way to the youth.
Until such time that the entire citizenry is informed enough about politics and political culture, it will be prudent for any young aspiring politician to borrow a leaf or two from their book. Get close to them, watch them closely, learn from them and enhance your political strategy. They may not get everything right, none of us do, but learning from other people’s mistakes and making amends is what makes us human. The people flock to them for a reason. They have political capital.