Hello Editor: Analytically, we must admit the country in a large part, The Gambian people created the cult personality in the form of Sheik Professor, Dr. Alhagie, Yahya A. J. J. Jammeh, Babili Mansa. How you might ask how with simple origins, Yahya A. J. J. Jammeh morph into such a long name with numerous appellations? I am inclined to say that we the people of The Gambia created the sycophant, and senseless man of the century, Jahya Jammeh.
The creation of this long praise singing name for one man was the beginning of the making of a man who will join the ranks of the world’s most brutal leaders in history. Yahya will stake out a top position among the world’s 20 most cruel leaders since time immemorial. For me, Yahya ranks along with Ivan IV “The Terrible” of Russia. Back in the 16 century, Ivan the terrible was Russia’s greatest, and most terrifying leader; an evil man who indulged in his sadistic tendencies. Ivan was a paranoid leader who created the secret police that mass executed political dissidents, killed, tortured, and raped at will.
Here now in the 21 century Yahya Jammeh can easily be referred to as the incarnation of Ivan the terrible. Yahya Jammeh over the years progressively became terrifying for The Gambia. For 22 years Yahya used the state machinery to deal with his real and even imaginary enemies. Yahya created the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), a tool at his behest to act on his whims when and where needed. The NIA is the equivalent of Idi Amin’s State Research Bureau (SRB). This now brings us to relatively rank Yahya Jammeh right along with Idi Amin of the 20th Century. Yahya therefore, is the Idi Amin of the 21st Century. In this narrative the aim is to look at the simple things that we the citizen, the institution, and commercial industry has done to create the cult personality that lead to the country been captured at ransom by the dictator we, ourselves created. We created the cult of Yahya Jammeh in the following few ways:
Firstly, the people began by glorifying and mystifying Yahya Jammeh in simple things such as calling him “your Excellency” or HE. This antiquated appellation of yester years; a left over from the colonial era; a colonial baggage has been a recipe for massaging the ego of a megalomaniac like Jahya Jammeh. With such additions of Doctor (Honorary), Yahya began feeling very important and reaching for the epitome of self actualization. The dream of a life time to feel important was quickly becoming realized for Jahya as additional appellations like Sheik Professor (both honorary); as we all know Yahya’s academic achievement did not go pass secondary education with sporadic military training in the United States. Yahya’s middle names of A. J. J. are all an attempt to further feed into his desire for self aggrandizement.
With a newly found freedom, and soon to be ushered third republic in the “new” Gambia, I would hope that we will now do away with “HE”, and hope the new president Barrow and subsequent presidents, will accept and insist on people calling them Mr. or Mrs. President. Referring to the president as Mr. President allows for humility and check of his ego. Hopefully the people will also insist on calling him Mr. President for he is the man of the people, the people who gave him the seat of the presidency, and that he the president remains a servant of the people, and not otherwise. The president, remember, is the top public servant. We should therefore call the man the most ever respectful Mr. and not His Excellency. Thank God Yahya did not become a King.
Secondly, the state institutions were used as a personal property of Yahya Jammeh, and the leaders of these institutions pandered to Yahya Jammeh by allowing for his whims or caprices. These institutions took out newspaper advertisements (Advs.) praise singing Jahya Jammeh; congratulating him on holidays, birthdays, and other notable celebratory occasions.
The institutions almost fell over each other jostling in taking out these Ads. These actions also added to the creation of the cult personality of a monumental proportion. This added to making Yahya one of the “Big Men” of Africa; a phenomenon that caused the cancer of bad governance in all failed states in Africa and beyond.
As historians will tell us, this is how “Banana Republic” originated and became the night mare for the citizens of failed States. So here again we urge the state institutions, and para-statal organizations to refrain from contributing to creating a cult personality of the new president Barrow by not pandering to his ego with flattering advs.; boosting his ego while favor seeking. For a man like Yahya Jammeh a simple painted portrait of him plastered on the gates of the Yundum Barracks caused self-aggrandizement. The army was his personal property to use at will on his countless number of farms and gardens. He used the army to guard his sheep, and other livestock across the country. In a nut shell, Yahya used the Gambia National Army as his errand boy. This was the epitome of abuse of office, abrogating his duties as President. Jammeh simply set aside the constitution of The Gambia, and The Gambia and Jammeh were one and the same. This is a dangerous game, and we must refrain from it.
Thirdly, the cult personality of Jahya Jammeh was created in large part again with road side bill boards. Drive on either side of the River Gambia, be it on the south bound or north bound roads from Banjul to Koina, and you will be greeted with Telecommunication Company paid bill boards, and street light pole hanging posters of advertisements with Jahya Jammeh’s picture in his trade mark attire of all white, and occasionally sporting a sun shade of the GQ type.
Driving on the highway passing these bill boards and sighting himself can do magic to a man’s ego, and I am sure this added to Yahy’s megalomaniac tendencies; feeding big into his ego. So here again we ask that these bill boards remain neutral in their message while appealing to the target market of their choice. For this writer, these billboards were a total put-off, and made me averse to any company that clearly was pandering to the president of the nation.
Here again we appeal to the correct senses, and not necessarily the politically correct senses of these companies to remain a business, and not play politics by pandering to the ego of the president. Do the business of business, and not politically correct business; there is a difference. Do not participate in building a cult personality. This is also a dangerous game of feeding into the ego of Yahya Jameh, which we must now refrain from, and not repeat with a President Barrow.
Fourthly, I must give credit to the intelligence of Yahya’s political machinery for they were good at selling the “product” Yahya Jammeh; or was this yet again feeding into his ego or be removed from the party? Yahya Jammeh became a phenomenon to the average Gambian in the rural areas, and to my dismay to seemly and fairly sophisticated citizens of the country. The APRC machinery unashamedly took advantage of the limited political sophistication of the rural folks, and really built Jahya’s name/image to be so big that Yahya Jammeh was regarded by these folks with reverence of the highest order. Many of these folks believed that Jahya had supernatural powers, and that he would actually rule for “a billion years” what a farce!
Here again the party militants of any party must learn to avoid worshiping and praise singing the name of the president/party leader. Even where the president abused his powers, these party militants endorse mediocrity, and simply ignored the wrong on the part of the president. Party militants must learn to hold the president accountable, and insist on transparency and sensible policies; hallmarks of good governance. Party militant must act as a check to the power of the party executives including the president. We must be ready to say no to the president, and insist on our opinions being heard.
And finally, lessons learned in the case of Yahya Jammeh should act as education for all Gambians. As we rise in the early hours of what I would now refer to as the Gambian renaissance. The Europeans had their renaissance in the 14th to 17th century, and they have not gone back since. Now with the removal of Jahya Jammeh, and relegation of his legacy to the dustbins of the political history of the world, we should all rise to the occasion, and reclaim our nation and not allow the experience of cult personality in the likes of Yahya Jammeh…never again and not in our names ever again.
The experience of Yahya Jammeh should bring us all together as Gambians, and even non-Gambians, who live in our country, live in peace and harmony without regard to race, tribe, religion and any other orientations. We should all be our brother’s keeper, and remember we all want the best for this nation. Lastly, congratulations to our armed forces for the professionalism they have shown in this hour of national importance. We are proud of our armed forces. God bless The Gambia!
Written By Morro Krubally, a concerned citizen of The Gambia