By Janko Camara
This morning, my attention was caught by the above captioned article tempting me to react. In doing so, I would like to make it abundantly vivid that I do not feign any mastery of the processes and procedures that gave rise to the CORDEG Executive, the subject of this polemics. Therefore, what I am about saying should neither be considered as an endorsement of CORDEG, nor an attempt to degrade the author of the article or his opinion. Rather it is an attempt to re-direct our discourse to matters of higher priority in the present scheme of things.
Considering the events of the recent past, I have come to accept the sordid fact that our biggest obstacles to unity as a people are Ethnocentrism and Tribalism. A few weeks ago, I sent a rejoinder to an article not so much about the UDP but more importantly about the article’s tribal undertones and the likely effect such misguided and tribally charged statements could have on our efforts to unite our country and people. However, it appears there is no end in sight to articles with tribal sentiments. Unlike the first article which was a direct attack on a particular tribe, the author of this article took a rather different approach but still beating home the tribal sentiments. The thrust of this author’s message, based on my understanding, is: Tribal considerations should be factored in national matters.
Whilst on the periphery, this argument may sound intelligible and convincing, beneath is a venom most lethal to any nascent nation or country. Should the ethnic or tribal card be the one to put first when it comes to matters of national concern? I do not think so, more so for a small country like The Gambia with under 2 million people.
Let us step back a bit and hear what The Creator of the universe has to say about Ethnicity/Tribe and nations in the Qur’an 49:13 “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted”.
Clearly being Wollof, Mandinka, Fula, Jola, Serahule, etc, is just for us to be able to identify and “know one another” and nothing more. In the sight of Allah, what clearly takes precedence is righteousness in all its ramifications. Therefore, even though the composition of CORDEG, in terms of ethnicity, may be questionable in some quarters, I think in taking a cue from the above Quranic verse, what should be our basis of assessment are:
1) “How righteous are they jointly and severally; and in dealing with the public”?
2) “Considering the enormity of the challenge at hand, can they deliver i.e. can they rise above all vested, parochial, tribal and myopic interests and/or considerations to deliver the goods”?
I am not here to defend CORDEG or any similar body. However, (and without attempting to guide anyone’s thought process) I sincerely think the question that should be given premium should be: How does CORDEG members fair as far as the above two parameters are concerned? Whilst I am a strong advocate of accountability and the fact that any person and/or entity that seeks to represent Gambians and Gambian interests, including CORDEG, should be ready and willing to subject itself to scrutiny, the basis of such scrutiny, however, should not be their tribe as that has very little to do with their honesty or ability to perform.
On a final note and as a reminder, when our all-knowing Professor Jammeh came to power in 1994, he had a lot of unsolicited advisers willing to offer free advice. Some of these so-called advisers were purely motivated by tribal sentiments and perhaps “vengeance” against perceived enemies – real or imaginary. However, 20 years down the line, which tribe in The Gambia can confidently say the man they helped to create has not turned to become their nemesis, in addition to looting the meagre wealth of the nation? The lesson to learn here is that the decision to throw one’s weight behind someone’s candidacy should not be based on their tribe but rather how righteous they are, considering the task at hand. So let us endeavor to move beyond tribe and put The Gambia above every other ephemeral consideration. Remember we shall all be accountable to some authority either here or in the hereafter.
Greattttttttttt!!!! Sharp observations!!! But CORDEG needs a better wisdom. Even if the top 4 execs are the best Gambians, common sense should have reminded them of what the average Gambian might think! We have a pluralistic Gambia. And any organization, especially today amidst this Yahya Jammeh conundrum, should be wise enough about how to bring people together. This is about strategic thinking, not cronyism!
There are so many Gambians not interested in any positions, be it Jammeh’s offers or anything associated with titles. But they want a better Gambia! Let CORDEG revisit this false start! Gambia is bleeding with gashes too deep! I’ve been too time-pressed to write more. These are my quick two cents.
My Beloved Brother and Compatriot,
Your points are well noted and indeed worthy of consideration. In my opinion, people tend to lean towards ethnic/tribal considerations because they believe their interests would be better represented, protected and/or taken care of when one of “their own” is part of discussions or decision-making processes that are national in outlook. I understand their feeling which can be summed up thus: those who do not have any affinity with our tribe do not (and would not) care about our wellbeing as a tribe. So we have to “fight” and get one of our own to protect our interests. I must admit that The Gambia of today is indeed a country composed of people who do not see themselves as one, thanks to the machinations of our all-knowing and cunning professor and his cohorts. So in that kind of environment, where there is total mistrust, it is natural for people to think that way and indeed such concerns can become so genuine.
However, looking back at the events in The Gambia in the past 20 years, I am of the opinion that what we need most, and which seems to be so much lacking, is that honest and God-fearing leadership. When Jammeh assumed power in 1994, there were people who saw his ascendance to power as an opportunity to whip the majority tribe whether for the right or wrong reasons. Such people did not hesitate to teach Jammeh to play the tribal card hoping they would end up faring better as individuals and as tribes. Well, after 20 long years, they now know how wrong they were? Having used the tribal card to established himself, what became the overriding objective of our Kanilai professor was how to consolidate his power and if he needed to use tribalism to do that, so be it. So the promotion of a particular tribe over the rest was just superficial to his primary objective, which is the entrenchment of his rule over us. In the last 5 years, Yahya Jammeh has systematically dealt with all tribes in The Gambia without any exception. His own Jola tribe faired worst. So those Jolas who played the tribal card and chastised one of their own (the man I consider a true patriot), Honourable Shyngle Nyassi, for refusing to tow the same line, have now been shamed. So if there is one lesson that Gambians should learn, that lesson should be: how to “fight tooth and nail” to ensure the enthronement of a leader who is very God-fearing, upright and knows his responsibility as a leader of a country, not a tribe. Such a leader will strive for the interest of the country and not just one tribe. Such a leader will refrain from using the tribal card to promote his own narrow and selfish agenda. In fact, there is no space for the promotion of a selfish agenda, with a God-fearing and upright leader. This is why, I would like to influence our discourse to focus on matters of substance which have far-reaching consequences on our collective wellbeing. I am looking for that person (irrespective of his tribal affiliations) who has God in him and knows where his rights stop and recognizes and is willing to accord others’ rights in a Gambia where we all feel safe and happy to stay. I am looking for the restoration of that pristine Gambia our forefathers had bequeathed to us but which we have now destroyed. Let us work together and collectively help to restore that beautiful Gambia where the birds sing in harmony.
Peace be with you My Beloved Brother. I have been your admirer because you represent substance. Anytime you write, I learn so much from it. We need your powerful brain to create a better Gambia for ourselves, our kids and our grandchildren. I am crying as I pen this last line for I know what my compatriots are going through back home. Being away from home, in the comfort of my abode has not for one day made me forget the suffering of my people back home. Let us use the might of our pens to unite our people. Let us enlighten them. Let us make them understand no society fairs better when we are divided along tribal line. Afterall, with their sweat, we got “educated”. We must therefore give back to them what they have spent on us. It is a moral responsibility.
Trust me, I feel your heart! This is what true patriotism really is! How I wished the average Gambian sees what you see (And that is, seeing beyond tribe when it comes to the country’s good). Unfortunately, our people still cling unto certains things they seriously value, tribe or ethnicity being somewhat paramount. Wollaahi, Allaah knows how I felt while going through your lines.
Gambia seriously needs your prescriptions of a leader who’s “God-fearing, upright and knows his responsibility as a leader of a country, not a tribe.” Brother, how I wish I could keep hearing that as a wake up whisper every morning! We need more Gambians that think like you do!
We have to be very wise and strategic when forming organizations. Gambia’s society is very different from USA, UK, or any other Western nation. Forming an organization might be easier in the West. Gambians will ask questions according to their level of thinking. And tribe plays a key role in many people’s way of life back home. If they see an organization whose top four all belong to the same tribe, that’s a serious thing to them! It’s not a serious thing to you and I. But it is to them.
Wollaahi, I sense the burning desire in your heart for a united cause. You’re just like a twin thought and perspective to me. I need Gambian’s like you. And Gambia needs Gambians like you. And the world needs humans like you! Allaah be pleased with you!