History is replete with events from which we could learn, and that in essence is the purpose of history; to serve as a source of learning for current and future generations. Through this, we learn to avoid the pitfalls of others before us and improve on their gains. The ‘game’ of life and living never changes, the players change (different generations, different cultures, different environments etc.). History therefore is indispensable if we are to chart a better future.
For the literalist though, history is just a narration or even myths with no bearing on current events, this is more so in the spiritual sphere. The stories of the Prophets are increasingly being seen as fables of old, but as people of faith we find relevance in these stories if we reflect on them and dig deeper for the message contained.
As humans, we are social animals and no society functions without some form of organizational order which means we are all subject to some authority; be it parental, spousal, natural, or some centralized form of authority.
In the story of Moses and the Pharaoh (because Gambians are mainly adherents of Islam and Christianity), we see a tyrannical and oppressive king who faced off with the Prophet Moses in the latter’s attempt to have him reign in his oppressive ways and rule justly. The unyielding king saw his authority as absolute and should not be challenged, but as the story unfolds he fell to the wrong side of history while the divine injunction of human dignity prevailed. In the story, we learn about his brutal and iron fisted rule and the misery he visited upon the Israelites that he enslaved. Moses became their savior, freeing them from generations of bondage and servitude and restoring their dignity.
With their new found freedom, their desires and goals shifted towards materialism and competition which was in conflict with Moses’ preaching of moderation and submission to the will of God, the God that chose Moses to lead them to freedom and away from the Pharaoh’s tyranny. With that conflict of interest, they defied their savior. The Quran teaches of the reminder sent to the Israelites lest they stray too far in their new desires;
“And (remember) when We rescued you from Pharaoh’s people who were afflicting you with the worst torment, killing your sons and letting your women live. And in that was a great trial from your Lord.” (7:141)
Perhaps the events leading up to this reminder could be found in the Bible which teaches that;
After the Israelites heard the reports from the twelve men who had explored Canaan, the people cried all night and complained to Moses and Aaron, “We wish we had died in Egypt or somewhere out here in the desert! Is the Lord leading us into Canaan, just to have us killed and our women and children captured? We’d be better off in Egypt.” Then they said to one another, “Let’s choose our own leader and go back.” (Numbers 14:1-4)
Whether genuinely out of fear of further oppression, or a distrust of authority, the Israelites have concluded that they were better off without Moses. The age old adage “better the devil you know” captures their reaction perfectly. Before that moment in history, ANYTHING was better than being under the tyranny of the Pharaoh but now that they’ve seen the Pharaoh and his people perish before their eyes, they have no further need for Moses and what he was calling to.
Being cautious and wary of entrusting people with your sovereignty is a natural human instinct, but being rational should precede all actions and thoughts.
We can draw similitudes from this narrative to our current situation in The Gambia. It is sad and indeed disheartening to hear people make comparisons between Yahya Jammeh’s authoritarian rule marked by sheer brutality and our two month old infant democracy. Some have gone as far as insinuating or outright saying we will be better off under Yahya Jammeh. One thing is clear from that, those making such statements have never been directly victimized by him, or have had their privileges cut with the departure of Yahya Jammeh. Evidently their claim of political awareness is lacking if political disagreements could frustrate them so easily.
Our political leaders and activist may not be Moses, but Yahya Jammeh clearly had the Pharaoh’s traits. For all their troubles and sacrifices, it beats the imagination as to why they are all of a sudden being vilified after decades of risking it all for country.
Worse yet, how could any decent soul wish misery and torment on any of them, especially Lawyer Ousainou Darboe that many have claimed would be better off in prison. How low can one go really? Here is a man who knew full well that him stepping out onto the streets meant not coming back home to his family, his instincts of what consequence awaited him inclined more towards being murdered than being imprisoned but he went out anyway. How soon we forget.
Politics is about ideologies and approaches to addressing social issues which is why there are varied parties, because ‘there are many ways to skin a cat’. Why is it so wrong to present an alternative approach, isn’t that what democracy is about, PLURALITY?
If you have ever uttered a word of contempt against this noble son of the land, and indeed any of the other political figures who braced a raging inferno to see us to this day, you owe him and each of them an apology. Apologize not for having a difference in opinion but for diminishing and trying to invalidate their contributions towards what we are all celebrating. Apologize for vilifying them and denigrating them. We are better than this, we are informed enough to discuss issues based on their merits or otherwise without being condescending or insulting to personalities.
Not everyone is passionate about the person or ideology you are passionate about, trying to render the other person’s passion irrelevant is disrespectful and calls for retaliation. That is how we degenerate into personal bickerings while sidelining the real issues.