Looking from the outside, non-Gambians often cite our ego and pride. How we hold grudges and find it hard to let go. This is usually said of Africans in general. But it seems with us, Gambians our ego and pride stands in the way of a lot of things. We hate being wrong and often loathe even more, the one who points to that wrong.
This, in my opinion; among other things is the reason our political engagements are very emotionally charged. We cannot all agree on the same things, be that politics, religion, culture, values or anything else for that matter. But regardless of what it is, we find it hard to not invest emotions and use such emotion as launching pads for the debate to follow. I recently termed it as “staying in your lane” type of attitude, where you pick a side and stick with it no matter what. If you come across as a staunch opponent, you can never be seen to not be opposing and vice versa. That points to a lack of objectivity, and we all struggle with it given different circumstances. If we look back on each others’ track records we are bound to notice inconsistencies when confronted with similar scenarios. That then raises the question, do we espouse values or are we stuck on being right regardless of what the objective facts present? Let’s look at a few examples;
We call for unity and one Gambia but have no issue looking at things with a sectarian lens. Who is appointed? What is their tribe? Qualification is secondary. Who is accused of wrong doing? What tribe are the accusers? What tribe is the accused? The evidence becomes secondary.
We value strong leadership, but we have no qualms being the foremost cheerleaders of a man whom, as a lawmaker voted to pass an indemnity act shielding trigger happy brutes who mowed down our young children. That one act sealed his fate in the eyes of all value driven advocates.
We treat each other with suspect as having ulterior motives and some hidden agenda. When general outrage was shown in condemnation of the incidents at Faraba, some insinuated selective outrage based on tribe because some compatriots branded ‘government mouthpieces’ deviated from norm and were outraged. The reason being because such outrage was not on hand when a similar incident occurred in Kanilai. The facts and circumstances sacrificed. Just for note, a lot of the residents of Faraba belong to the same ‘tribe’ as those of Kanilai.
When the former Interior Minister was relieved of his post with no public explanation, the rumor mill started spinning their own ‘facts’ as to the reasons why. Claims of corruption and bribery were rife. Some went along with it or were sympathetic to it, others outraged by such claims. Today, they have switched roles. When the Agriculture Minister was named as complicit in the disposal of expired fertilizer for “financial reasons” in an investigative newspaper report, the foremost proponents of corruption charges in the former case albeit rumor based, became the strongest defenders in the latter despite affirmations that official probes were being conducted. A witch hunt claimed.
Being principled really is a tough sell. Therein lies our problem, we suspect each other and we are always pointing fingers. ‘Pro-government’ want to entrench sycophancy and corruption; blind loyalists who cannot see country first. ‘Anti-establishment’ want to undermine the administration until it collapses only to turn ‘pro-government’ after a favored candidate ascends. We go in circles, switching positions depending on who is giving or receiving what. Of course this does not apply to everyone, but it is common.
We have to find a middle ground, that not all ‘support’ and commendation is sycophancy and not all criticism is malice-laden. In short, let us be objective. Sometimes those you disagree with get some things right, join them. Other times those you agree with get some things wrong, point it out, it can only improve and better things.
“E ning dor ka sonka wonteh jawwo ti.” (Not all you have altercations with are enemies)!