Politics of patronage; who’s to blame!
The people saw the need for a government to run their affairs; a few men presented themselves as capable and trustworthy enough to be tasked with running such government in the interest of all. Based on shared values of being raised to uphold honesty, integrity and sincerity, the people entrusted them few with the government machinery. Lo and behold, from their first call, they have been insincere, their hearts and tongues were not in alignment so they lied and looted. They grew richer and neglected the people who entrusted them, and when reminded of their charge, they invoke scripture to demand respect for God’s decree; “I am here because God willed it, who are you to question that?”
But the people know better, they know that the men who presented themselves to be trustees have turned into politicians and have broken their covenant with them and by extension their covenant with God. Some of the people chose to speak out against the politicians but some others from amongst the people who became direct beneficiaries of the lies rose against the ones speaking out. Those who benefitted became cronies of the politicians. Some of those speaking out retreat to their corner and became wary. Five years later, the politician and his cronies’ consciences were never pricked, they kept on taking and grabbing more. They come back to the people with new lies and excuses, but distrust had set in, the lying and deception became normal because those who spoke out against it were bullied as jealous heretics who question the will of God. Self-serving gratification trickled down and the people flocked to the politicians to take their share.
With time, because we have experienced enough of it, we normalized lying and deceptive politicians; our general acceptance of their lies and deception made it okay for them to break their campaign promises. It has become fashionable to associate dishonesty with politics. The irony in that is that politicians are the ones we entrust our collective wealth to and expect them to enhance our collective welfare.
Because we expect corruption, lies, and deceit from politicians, we busy ourselves in trying to beat the very system set up to serve us collectively. Voters know they ain’t ever gonna see those politicians except around election time, so they try to get from them what they can because they have come to accept the fact that everything the politician said during their encounter was nothing but a whole heap of empty promises crowned with lies.
“The Gambian voter only cares about a bag of rice!” now that is not true; they care about a host of other things but they know, as sure as the sun will rise from the east that they will not get what they need or deserve from politicians, so it becomes a case of get what you can while you can before it passes you by. If “politicians will always be politicians”; then people will just have to be people and act accordingly, and people have needs that they seek to fulfill.
And so, the politician gives and comforts himself with “the voters will be there for me as long as I give them something.” The whole notion of politics then becomes what you can or are willing to give out not what would directly benefit the most people. Since its about giving, the politician spends the next many years before another election cycle amassing personal wealth to buy more votes and damn the needs of the people. It’s unconscionable.
This cycle keeps repeating itself and before long we have a political crisis that could easily turn to civil strife. 1981 comes to mind. The clock was reset in 1994 and 2016; but before long, the people’s newfound hope turns into disappointment as the new politician jumps into the skin of the old snake.
Adama Barrow is one such example; he naively credits himself for the freedoms Gambians enjoy today, but in every other way has taken after the corrupt ways of Jammeh. He knows, as well as his handlers do, that Jammeh’s highest crime was his heavy handedness and disregard for the dignity of the human person; the wanton violation of human rights in all of its ugly forms. This was the one unforgiveable crime of Jammeh and he had refused to listen to any good counsel to respect human rights. When people had enough they rose against him. Only a mad man would think that he can takeover immediately after Jammeh and restrict or abuse people’s rights in the same fashion that Jammeh did, so Barrow can fool himself about winning Gambians their freedoms all he wants but if he dares encroach on them, that will be his end.
At this point in our political evolution, it is safe to say that although all decent Gambians abhor corruption, the greatest part of our focus is on entrenching our earned freedoms; yes we earned it. Barrow cannot and did not give anyone any freedom, if he doesn’t believe that, let him try to take them away as if they belong to him and see. Because we are so focused on entrenching our freedoms, he went in the direction of being corrupt, lazy and incompetent since there is not as much focus there as is on guaranteeing freedoms. He does not want to change the conditions of the people, he just seeks to enrich himself and his cronies more. So when he shows up in the next village with his bags of rice, they will take it cos they know that “he is just another politician.” The people are just taking what they are certain to get, even if that benefit will last a day or two; for tomorrow is just an empty promise.
This whole cycle started with the politicians betraying people’s trust and cursing our age old values. It will take conscientious politicians who put human dignity above all else, who recognize trust for what it is and act accordingly to break the cycle. Let us not blame the people for seeking to fulfill their immediate needs. Let us keep fighting for their sake and demand right and just administration from those who put themselves forward. As long as that fight persists, we will, together, break the vicious cycle and set ourselves free.
Keep talking, keep writing and keep campaigning!