The danger of Single Narrative My Mandinka brother Natta, started by reminding me of the old Mandinka adage: “Kumo fore nyaa yeh kumo tinyaa leh” but conveniently fall short of completing this beautiful adage: Barri Kumo fanang fore nyaa yeh kumo dedaa leh!
You see, I love culture and tradition because as my grandparents used to tell us they help one develop a broad perspective of society.
However, I’m not too sure when last did my brother visit our “deeply conservative society” to help him draw inspirations relevant to my article that he couldn’t use in “unmasking Mbenga”. I must admit, I’ve never heard of this brother and I need not to, but I have learned not to allow my biases to drive my conclusions. So I did my research on him. I watched his YouTube videos, and his attack on people critical of the new political dispensation. Finally after reading his “unmasking Mbenga” under – Kairo’s related articles to mine – I should confess; that though I was repulsed by his deceitfulness vis-à-vis our “deeply conservative society” notwithstanding, I honestly admire his chutzpah. As if that wasn’t enough to convince me about who the brother is holding brief for, sadly juxtaposed with his video https://youtu.be/eACsB3r-JWc counter 5.20 to 5.40 – makes my clarion call for serious attitudinal change a distant dream. Ah, wait a minute!! Did I hear “cynical and motives in that video”? This reminds me of the famous French philosopher Voltaire, who once said, “Judge a man by his questions, rather than by his answers” and I will let the readers be the judge of the objectivity in us devoid of single narrative in our articles as demonstrated by Kemo Kinteh who has no dog in this fight.
In my article, I argued that ”There will be no New Gambia if the regime change gained is not complimented by serious attitudinal change” and in his desperate attempt to “expose” my cynicism, he cried, “How much more cynical can one’s take be of the ‘New Gambia’? Others are hopeful and if they dismiss such cynicism it is because they hope for better days than has obtained in the past”. Wow, hope is a wonderful thing but didn’t they say prayer without action is superstition? I went further to say “This has nothing to do whatsoever with Barrow the person but everything to do with our Gambian society” with behaviours that have destroyed Jawara, turned Jammeh into a demigod and set to undermine Barrow’s legacy. Now, did I name names from the Barrow or Jawara camp? No! But surely I’ve called out lots of names from the Jammeh camp. Surprisingly, I did not hear my objective brother coming to the defence of the likes of Seedy Njie, Bakary Marong, Rambo, Fabakary Tombong Jatta, Yankuba Colley et el, but instead he was quick to brandish his list of names marvelling with superlative evidence of facts to prove theirs was “frankly civic duty” responsibility to The Gambia. I wonder what Seedy Njie and the rest will say when asked of their role during Jammeh’s reign. I’m sure they will say theirs was civic disobedience! Seriously Natta, it is this type of apologist politics that has kept Jammeh long in power and by extension the Gambia in its current state. When will we start to be just and fair? And raise above this nonsensical political patronage! Oops my bad. Wasn’t I reminded by my Mandinka brother that “Kumo fore nyaa yeh kumo tinyaa leh”? But hey, to tell you the truth, I have neither the time nor patience for such tiptoeing on issues of national interest.
Mr Mass argued: “Based on that logic too, one can conclude that those opposed to the “UDP government” are still in the struggle because their wishes of an alternative government within which they can serve did not materialize and so they keep the struggler mentality.” Back to cultural lessons. Didn’t our elders teach us to strive for – Ndamang Tara jehh, woleh fisah yatah ndang Mann teng or the wollof would say Boku machi morgen du man kenna. I know my brother Natta clearly enjoys his logical thinking as evident in all his pronouncements, but If I were to choose between principle and logic, I’ll choose principle at anytime! You know why? If we don’t fight for what we stand for with honest words and just actions, it then begs the question whether we really stand for anything? We need to drop this self-aggrandizement and instead stand up for what is right, regardless of who is committing the wrong, and this has always been the raison d’être for all my articles since 1999. Mr Mass, rather than becoming the unsolicited spokesperson for UDP/CDl, it would be more profitable to examine the socio-structural circumstances that turn well intent African leaders into dictators. In fact empirical study of history has shown that all too often one time popular leaders tend to replicate the ills they denounced in their predecessors. The best illustration of this is Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Uganda’s Museveni and the list goes on. Thus this was and will continue to be my warning to our new government.
Mr Mass also went further to reprimand me, crying, “You mentioned Isatou Badjie but not the arguments put forth by those criticizing her appointment.” To that I say, it will be interested to know those arguments from her exponents, but I was unequivocal in my verdict when I said, “They cried, fire Isatou Badjie and hire…. you know who! Yes “them”, recall all the ambassador and replace them with… you know who! Yes “them”. Fatou Camara should not be hired but instead you know who! Yes them! Fatou Ceesay should not be hired, Saul Fraser should not be hired, and Banta Njie too, fire Ba Tambedou, and etc etc etc.” I don’t know why he decided to single out Isatou Badjie in a lineup of about a dozen, but he surely hasn’t got a clue what the group correlation was. He sees tribe – the single narrative – and I saw non UDP fanatics. You see, what set my Mandinka brother and I apart is the standard we set for our country. Bless him, where he proudly celebrate civic duty, I called for civic competence. I’m sure he is aware of the fact that civic duty is what’s expected of every citizen: to vote, jury services etc etc. It’s a calling many will answer to with less difficulty. When these two terms (civic duty and civic competences) are confused, the rebound effect becomes the circus at display (executive order and my job depends on it excuses) in the Janneh Commission. As if Mr Mass was waiting to zap the last energy out of me, he argued that “Calling for the hiring or firing of individuals may be seen as lobbying.” Again I asked, lobbing for what? In the interest of public good or private good? I will leave that to the jurists to decide. It’s such fatalistic attitude of winner-takes-all that has led to discontent and civil unrest in my African countries. Even God Himself has enjoined us to learn from the past with phrases such as afala ta’qilun (Have you not understood), afala yatadabbarun (Aren’t you reflecting), Afala yubsirun (Do not they see), la’allakum tatafakkarun (In order that you may think). Think! my brother! think! It’s interesting how Mr Mass in his nonchalant manner of analysing my article chose to develop a selective memory of remembering only parts of my article that pierce his heart and call it generalisation of The Gambian populace but excluded points raised about Jawara and Jammeh’s political hangers on as if they are not part of the wider Gambian social organisation.
Therefore, I am still struggling to make sense of his one sided complaints. Now Let me try to get some answers from my Mandinka brother at the meso [half-way] level . I said “The happenings on social media about government appointments, the Nawec saga, the misguided #OccupyWestField madness, the Halifa Sallah shenanigan, and the subsequent reaction of the Jonny-just-come late to the UDP “supporters” is a cause for concern. Now tell me Natta, qhere did you see yourself in the above categorisation. Ah! Wait a minute “Jonny-just-come late to the UDP”? I hope not! How about this? “These rewards have now become the motivation and cue for lazy job seekers to outmanoeuvre each other in the praise singing war by upping the ante.” Now let’s see how nicely your assertion will fit in here. You argued that: “Some people are seen as divisive figures and hence their hiring decried.” Divisive? I wonder who is determining the character of those being hired! Surely it’s not the presidency otherwise they won’t be hired in the first place. Furthermore, I said: For these loud, angry, and intolerant dominant section of party agitators/activists, everyone who supports this government but not a visible supporter of UDP does so – not out of honest love for our country – but out of a selfish desire for material enrichment that should be reserved for them only. Where is the mismatch in what you’ve said and what I highlighted? These are the kinds of statements that re-enforces my point above. The single narrative biases I guess? I went further to say, “Anyone who disagrees with them, however mildly, is an enemy of Gambia. Anyone who expresses anything, however small, that shows Barrow and Darboe’s shortcomings, that person is a secret Jammeh sympathiser, and supports dictatorship and human rights abuses. Constructive criticism of their party and its leader, is sacrilege ”someone else puts it beautifully in the comment box.“ However, my question is: how many percent of our population can read, understand and able to digest the information in this piece? Not to mention who are oppose to reasoning, who are blinded by greed”- Kabir. Tell me Natta where do you see yourself? My brother, the people in developed countries are not successful as a society because of the nation state. Rather their successes are a consequence and a reflection of their social organisation and this is what I am evoking in our new national discourse. It will be futile and foolish to nominate yourself as the high priest of proscribes undermining such changes. We are all too aware that societal and attitudinal change – in values, norms, habits, behavior and shared mentalities is a process – was missed in the first republic, frowned upon in the second republic and we won’t stand by to see it become a missed opportunity in the third coming through the mentality of Its Our Time To Eat syndicate. My question is, do we really need straw men in this time of overheated rhetoric? Solution needs all of us to be stakeholders together for this “New Gambia” to realise its potential. There are things that work perfectly in developed countries because of the actions of multitudes of ordinary citizens anonymously (not the showboats) doing many small tasks. These are the people I salute and celebrate, they don’t have to be visible to effect change. They just need to know what is right and do it for the common good.
I will conclude with this beautiful poem by Suzy Kassem:
“We must all work in harmony with each other to stand up for what is right, to speak up for what is fair, and to always voice any corrections so that the ignorant become informed and justice is never ignored. Every time a person allows an act of ignorance to happen, they delay our progress for true change. Every person, molecule and thing matters. We become responsible for the actions of others the instant we become conscious of what they are doing wrong and fail to remind them of what is right”. Let justice guide our actions, towards the common good!