We have always been a struggling nation. Our fight for independence, although not done with arms and was not bloody as was the case for some of our counterparts in Africa, it was a struggle to restore dignity to a people who have been denied it for far too long.
Colonialism never cares about the natives beyond what they were needed for; in our case it was cheap labor for raw materials needed in European industries.
Ordinary people rose up to demand a seat at the table and THAT was all they cared about; a voice to relay their concerns with. The most prominent and most effective of the political pressure groups was the Protectorate People’s Society (PPS) which later morphed into a political party; the Protectorate People’s Party to be later renamed People’s Progressive Party (PPP). This was the party that would lead the march to Gambia’s full independence riding on the backs of ordinary men and women ready to reclaim their land and with it, their dignity.
Their movement dealt upsets to the status quo. Later on, after independence was attained in 1965, some of the smaller colony parties ceased to exist; others joined the PPP and United Party (UP) in short lived alliances. No formidable opposition against the PPP came along until mid-1970s when the National Convention Party (NCP) was formed by then former Vice President of the PPP administration.
Shortly after independence, the ordinary man and woman that volunteered and took active roles in ushering in the PPP government officially ending colonialism; started feeling increasingly disenfranchised and excluded from the affairs of state administration. Worse, the hopes that independence and self-subsistence promised were still far off. To many, the disappointment was glaring and the fallout between the President and the Vice President was a confirmation and a vindication of their disappointment. PPP became shunned by a lot of those ordinary men and women who carried the party on their bare backs and NCP was embraced in its stead.
The discontent was still there and corruption was on the rise. After the NCP failed to unseat the PPP in its first attempt, hopes dimmed a little more. Four years later a bloody armed uprising ensued claiming the lives of many. But beyond the cosmetic, there were hardly any reforms to satisfy the people who felt abandoned while public servants amassed wealth. The ordinary man and woman would not relent in their campaign against the PPP, a government they installed but felt let down by.
They persisted in their politics and their message resonated with the average rural native. But the status quo persisted, the people’s conditions remained as it was before independence save for a few changes. Corruption meanwhile persisted and was on the increase. The discontent that gave rise to the armed uprising in 1981 would reverberate again and in 1994, the state instituted army will take up arms to oust the PPP government. They succeeded unlike in 1981.
What was their excuse for seizing power? You guessed it; “rampant corruption.” The people rejoiced because the soldier leaders, all of whom were rural natives spoke the feelings of the people. They promised changes, progress and development for the people; they were flocked to. But disappointment was not too far ahead. The soldiers swallowed their words, broke their promises and gradually became the very thing they fought against. With time they became more visibly corrupt, brutal and oblivious to the plight of the people. Meanwhile self-serving sycophants gathered around the seat of power. People who very recently to the coup were the embodiment of PPP became the praise singers of the new order and unashamedly decried the ills of the PPP of which they were front and center.
Again, the hopeful masses got disappointed and rose yet again. Any claim aimed at enlightening the people about the ills of the government and their broken promises was met with hateful rhetoric, insults, threats and even physical assaults; not only from the state but supporters of the regime who were motivated only by personal gains or connections to the powers that be from whom they benefited directly or indirectly.
The ordinary man and woman yet again will persist in their struggle; conscientious citizens joined them from afar to decry the injustices, the economic stagnation and the poverty that pervaded the state. Persistence pays, and on December 2, 2016 the culmination of a series of events led the people to resoundingly condemn and reject the tyranny that became synonymous to the country itself.
Hopes were renewed when a new dispensation was ushered in. But the politics of old it seems has taken root yet again. Corruption, self-perpetuation enhanced by sycophancy; the beast that refuses to die and the victims who get blamed for the faults of those whose words they believed and entrusted their affairs to. This it seems has been our perpetual struggle.
Ordinary people who recognize the need for a functioning state machinery, entrust the tasks thereof to people they believe will hold true to their words only to be let down by the same people whose failures will get blamed on the victims because they trusted the politicians they believe they can relate to in the first place.
These are the same people who roll up their sleeves and demand that the state does right by them. As soon as they effect change, they feel betrayal slowly creeping in; the people who should have helped them better position themselves towards their goals abandon them. When they rise up again to object to wrongs they do not want to condone, they get blamed for allowing it to take root in the first place; the cycle continues, the blames persist. Meanwhile, as it obtained in the past, people who were the very embodiment of the past regime and the errand boys and girls of tyranny are converging around the seat of power yet again, welcomed with open arms and placed front and center.
Here are a people who need help; the common man and woman who do not need politicians to lord over them with promises of pies in the sky. They are not demanding that a state be instituted, one that will put food on their table or clothes on their backs. They just want to live in dignity by their own hands. They want a state that can assure them that their back breaking labor on the groundnut farms and vegetable gardens will earn them enough to help their children be positioned for a better life than they had. They want a state that can facilitate their connection to markets and families afar. They want a state that knows that they need help to get better when they fall ill; help they can afford and is close at hand. They want a state that can help them acquire seeds and fertilizer after an unsuccessful farming season, a state that can bring opportunity to their doorsteps so that their children can stay with them, learn a trade under their watchful eyes and grow up into independent individuals. That’s all they ask for; nothing more!
Around these ideals they assembled and called for help from those who claim to be educated in the ways of modern governance; few answered their call. But these are ideals they will not let go of and whoever wants to help them will have to join them on that path. Not many showed up, they put forth their best foot, but that was not good enough for the times, but they will not relent in their pursuit for that which they desire, it doesn’t matter what others think they need; they know what they need and around those things is the only place they will gather.
Few things stood out in all three republics; all rode on the backs of collective desires for change. All three were welcome and embraced by a majority of the citizenry. All three renewed hopes of a brighter future, of better days and all three were full of promises. But like the first republic, as the second, and the third; people flocked around the new “sheriffs” with personal goals in mind. The masses that carried the “revolutions” on their bare backs and sacrificed life and limb for, fell along the way side; “they are a nuisance”; “they feel entitled”; “they know nothing of how a state is run.”
But all they want is someone who’d stand up for them, just for once; someone who would turn to them and ask of them; “where do you want me go? Tell me and I will lead you there.”
They are the victims; victimized only for hoping, for daring and for trusting.
They believe in their dignity and for that they will fight sincerely; the same sincerity they demand of those who promised them, promises they believed and thus entrusted those who promised them with the collective gain!
Can you help them? Will you help them? They deserve it, but they will not wait for help and they will not relent.
So if you offer to help them; ask them how they would like for you to help and do not tell them how you want to help. They lead, as they should.