By Foday Samateh
In the wake of the mesmerizing heroics of Lawyer Darboe and his fellow freedom fighters, you couldn’t leave us alone. Like a mad fool terrified of being relegated to a mere afterthought, albeit an appalling one, you had to stomp upon the scene to distract our spellbinding concentration away from the enthralling drama about democracy and the rule of law performed with the eloquence of courage and daring.
After being prodded to listen to your latest grating tirades, swearing screeds and puerile venting about the Mandinkas, I fell into a paroxysm of laughter. Initially, that is. Yes, I confess I am a sucker for dramatic irony. Even if it is low grade as you, a parody of a head of state, are wont to pantomime. There you were accusing the Mandinkas of being tribalist even as you spewed tribal hatred in the most noxious form.
My moment of levity eventually passed and the comic relief gave way to somber grief. Unlike many others, I wasn’t hurt by your chest-beating harangue punctuated with childish insults, schoolboy taunts and mindless provocations. Your temper tantrums deserve no one’s anger. Rage should be reserved for worthy adversaries. You should get only our contempt because you are a contemptible little man who is a joke to the world and a shame to our nation. No leader of renown, respect or character has time for you. You are a pariah abroad, and at home a criminal overlord running rackets and gangs of murderous minions under the scepter of state power.
I’m the least concerned about your threats against the Mandinkas. In case you didn’t realize, Mandinkas have been in The Gambia long before you were born and Mandinkas will remain in The Gambia long after you drop dead. And as for your sick insinuations about ethnic cleansing, look to history to know that victims of genocides have almost always been minority tribes. At the root of the Rwandan genocide, for instance, the most overlooked fact is that Paul Kagame launched an ethnic-based armed rebellion of Tutsi minority in a country of Hutu majority. The traumatic consequences are still haunting the world. As brutish and diabolic as Apartheid was, even Afrikaner racists of Botha’s ilk dared not think of exterminating the African majority of South Africa. And as bloodthirsty as Saddam Hussein was, he didn’t have the cojones to attempt wiping out the minority Kurds much less the majority Shias of Iraq. So Yahya Jammeh, go ahead after the Mandinkas. I don’t see anyone holding you back. If by murdering one brave son of the land, Solo Sandeng, you sparked so much unanticipated outrage and incited Lawyer Darboe — the most mild-mannered, peaceful man — to march in the streets with his top aides daring you to shoot them, imagine the conflagration of a backlash that will consume your worthless self when you target an entire tribe.
Your fulminating spiel at the Mandinkas at a rally in Tallinding dwelled on gripes that have been incurring the wrath of your infantile ego. I am not so much perturbed by your foaming and frothing at the mouth as I ended up getting disturbed by the sheer imbecility of it all. First, you took umbrage at the Mandinkas because here and there some folks among the tribe would say they own The Gambia. Any person with a clear head on their shoulders would chortle at or ignore such sentimental but fatuous bragging as just arrant nonsense. But a petty man with a petty mind like yourself wouldn’t let such pointless pride feed on its own fantasy. You had to again howl and scream on a crusade of vengeance to fight street-level silly talk with grievance-filled bigotry.
In a fleeting moment of lucidity, you pointed out the gospel truth that The Gambia belongs to all Gambians. Why is that not the end of the matter? Why make a fuss about Mandinkas originating from Mali? And so what? Why discredit what scant of sanity you still have in you by referring to Mandinkas as foreigners in The Gambia? Who are the true aborigines, then? The Jolas, as you claimed numerous times in the past? Is that not just as tribalist? Why does it matter in any event who first set foot centuries ago on the territory known today as The Gambia? By the way, aren’t you the most self-trumpeting Pan-Africanist? How can citizens be foreigners in their own country? How can a self-anointed exponent of Pan-Africanism point to a people with a rich and legendary history that can be traced back to one of the greatest empires in Africa and anywhere else for that matter and call them foreigners on the African soil? What you said about Mandinkas says all about you and nothing about the Mandinkas. You only succeed in laying bare your own smallness and stupidity for all to see.
Second, you chastised the Mandinkas for acting arrogant toward other tribes, demanded we change our language to your liking, and instructed us to repent with humility to God to become proper Muslims. To demonstrate here and now my Mandinka arrogance, screw you Yahya Jammeh and go to hell.
Third, you whined yourself hoarse blaming the ignominious reputation of your criminal regime on the Mandinkas. If you are not so lacking in self-awareness and help yourself to a little of the humility you recommended for the Mandinkas, you will realize that no one else is responsible for your problems. They are your own making. You don’t need any help on that front anyway since you are doing a pretty good job exposing yourself as a deranged usurper clinging to power through buffoonery, chicanery and thuggery.
Never one to own up to your own malfeasant actions, you had to offload the blame on (who else?) the Mandinkas. The mass migration from the country couldn’t possibly be spurred by your horrendous economic and political situation, so it must be the Mandinkas out to deceive the West into believing that the paradisal bliss in The Gambia is in reality Dante’s Inferno. Understand one thing: There’s more to life than people genuflecting themselves into cheering props for your phantom greatness. People have their lives to live and dreams to pursue. What little you’ve offered is too disproportional to the immensity of our ambitions and hopes. Even at your best, you are too mediocre for the progress we seek, too ignorant for the enlightenment we aspire, and too deficient in personality for the leader we need.
We owe you no damn iota of gratitude for your underfunded schools, your under-equipped hospitals, your awful Arch, your leaky airport terminal, your few kilometers of badly tarred roads, your floating university that still docks at the campuses of other institutions with no research labs and academic freedom, your lousy television modeled on Goebbels’ art of propaganda, your dysfunctional bureaucracy, your dismal economy, your ballooning budget deficits and national debt, your security forces turned errand boys, your network of spies and informants, your roadblocks, your torture chambers, your detention gulags, your mercenary judges, your corruption and thieving, your brainless speeches that retard our collective national IQ, your demagogic predilections, your messianic delusions, your superstitious masquerades, your crazy witch hunting, your so-called miracle cures, your grabbing of private properties, your mafia-style businesses, your high-speed motorcade shuttling between Banjul and Kanilai, your Marie Antoinette of a wife depleting our treasury on nonstop globetrotting and compulsive shopping sprees at luxury malls around the world, and the whole enchilada of you squatting at the State House. The dark decades of your misrule amount to a generational waste.
Fourth, you gloated that the Mandinkas should “lick their eyes” if we can’t stand you as God’s appointed head of state. Only squabbling kids speak out of spite like that. But since you are too much of a man child, no surprise there. So much for elections then if God made you the leader. As a cousin of mine would say in response, that same God made us also to oppose your despotism. Both Pharaoh and Moses were forces of divine plans. And we all know which of the two was the genocidal maniac who ended up doomed in the Red Sea.
Fifth, you had the chutzpah to contend that Mandinkas are a self-hating tribe for opposing one of their own as the president. You, Yahya Jammeh, actually stated that if not for the other tribes, Jawara would have served only one term in power rather than 31 years because his own tribe had opposed him. Can the Mandinkas ask for a better vindication against charges of tribalism?
We neither need nor want your exoneration. I bring this up to lament the fact that you, a blowhard this incoherent and illogical, confer on yourself the sole responsibility to think for an entire nation when you can’t blather two words without bumbling into a rhetorical cul-de-sac. Also, to note that you are a lying hypocrite of the worst breed. After years of accusing the Mandinkas of causing all the problems in The Gambia, you now commended the other tribes for keeping in power a man whom you overthrew and called every name in the book. What were your reasons again for toppling Jawara? Didn’t you announce to the nation that you seized power to eradicate “rampant corruption” and institute “accountability and transparency?” Now you blamed the Mandinkas for not sticking by a man whose government , by your own telling, had been nothing but corrupt and useless? Would you not have taken up arms against Jawara had he been a Jola or you been a Mandinka?
We know the answer. No tribal allegiance would have stood in the way of your lust for power. How many Jolas have you surrounded yourself with to reinforce your hold on power only to turn against them time and again? How many Jolas have you fired? How many have you thrown in prison? How many have you tortured? How many have you disappeared? How many have you killed? How many times have the Jolas been on the receiving end of your filthy big mouth? And you are the last person to wish every tribe were loyal to their own. How else could you occupy the office of the President given the numerical minority of the Jolas? Take your false preaching elsewhere. We want none of it. Even in your diatribe at Tallinding, you repeated your trite and hollowed criticism that Jawara had done nothing for the country for 30 years. And then, with no irony lost, you segued into scolding the Mandinkas for not showing him blind tribal loyalty.
Your pathetic attempt to make us feel guilty for opposing you and shame us for opposing Jawara was neither here nor there. I expounded on it only to further underscore your rank hypocrisy and royal dishonesty. But more important, to prove that you still have no response to our two-pronged challenge to your fallacious allegation that the Mandinkas oppose you because you are not a Mandinka. After you had been declared the overwhelming winner in overwhelming Mandinka districts in four consecutive elections, we asked whether Mandinkas have been actually voting for you or you have been rigging the polls. We are still waiting for your answer on that one. And we asked how could you claim that the Mandinkas oppose you out of tribal animosity when the strongest opposition to Jawara had always been the Mandinkas. Instead of giving a cogent answer, you doubled down by barking from both sides of your Tony Daaba (big mouth) that the Mandinkas oppose you because they are tribalist and they opposed Jawara because they are self-hating.
Can we be both tribalist and self-hating?