FATOUMATTA: Do Not Be the Proverbial Fool That Brings Down the House:
It is not true that only women gossip. Men do it too—
Alagi Yorro Jallow
Fatoumatta: These are very difficult times in the Gambia. Sad, mournful and dolorous times, the Gambia opened with ethnic bigotry popularly known as TRIBALISM. Of course. Ethnic chauvinism suddenly seemed to have enlarged itself against the nation. We have problems as nation, many of which are a result of our individual action or inaction.
Faults are thick where love is thin. There is prejudice in the country. Plenty. There is insularity, in prodigious quantity. There is animus, antipathy against anyone that is not of your ethnic or religious stock, or that belongs to a different political orientation or persuasion. If you meet him, kill him, if you can’t catch him, poison his footsteps, seems to be the singsong among some Gambian people.
Fatoumatta: It is not true that only women gossip. Men do it too— especially about the other sex. At a meeting of male animals, Lion complains bitterly that he is not lucky with the wife he has.
“My wife nags and nags,” Lion laments.
“My own steals and lies,” Tiger says.
“My own is promiscuous. She sleeps with any male thing who can muster an erection,” Buffalo joins in the lamentation.
Yet another complains, and another, and another. But an amused Tortoise laughs and tells the beasts of the jungle that they should thank their stars for what they have. His own wife, he says, is worse than all theirs combined.
“What does she do?” the congregation choruses.
“My wife has no shame. She is shameless,” Tortoise bellows.
A sober meeting ponders on Tortoise’s statement. They agree. A shameless person is the very embodiment of all the diseases of the world.
The Gambia is Tortoise’s wife. Ethnic chauvinism, bigotry, classism, elitism, misogynism and virulent tribalism. It is shameless –and that should explain the revelry which forever warms our bad ways and manners. Lack of shame can be the only explanation for the calm of the nation despite the rancid nakedness of these times.
Fatoumatta: We are a constitutional democracy grappling with the concept of pluralism. Our idea of pluralism is that which is organized around ethnic identity, not ideas. Ethnic groupings compartmentalized into coalition supporters and tactical alliance for the time being. We have played this zero-sum game for far too long. The tactical alliance supporters now in opposition started to blink an eyelid in the malfeasance of the government. On the other hand, the coalition supporters of the government are not taking the government to accountability and transparency.
Maybe, just maybe, if both government and opposition supporters start appreciating that our collective destiny is found in a basket called The Gambia, demanded for democracy and good governance, whose results yield credibility across the political divide, irrespective of our ethnicity, we could not have been where we are. Opposition supporters see a “political crisis” while supporters of the government are on with the “nothing bothers us” attitude. Whichever you look at it, the country has missed a step and it will take time to recover.
Fatoumatta: We may not like this tribe or that tribe, this leader or that leader. In many instances we will not even agree on how the country should be governed but we must learn to engage with each other to reach a middle ground on any given national or political issue. We have failed to do so in the legislative and municipal elections. Many nations have crumbled due to political leadership unwilling to dialogue and compromise. Ethnic intolerance and religious bigotry brought down Bosnia Herzegovina and has inflicted deep physical and emotional wounds on Rwanda. Central Africa Republic is torn into two, arising from a pseudo religious conflict.
Fatoumatta: Only fools enjoy the potential of self-destruction. As we seek to destroy others, we may as well be destroying ourselves. Allow me to use the analogy of a house. For example, the Gambia is like a mansion with many rooms and a large family. A section of the family feels entitled and privileged while other feels excluded and dejected. If the family intends to REMAIN together, then as a matter of collective self-preservation, the family must come together to overcome or extinguish sources of discord and friction among family members.
The other option is to physically destroy the house. Bring down the walls brick by brick. Tear the solid roof apart and loot whatever moveable property that remains in the desolate remains of the former beautiful mansion only to realize that you have no place to call home anymore. In a fight for the little remaining property kill the weakest of family members, one at a time. This experiment has been tried elsewhere, with drastic consequences – Liberia, Angola, Central Africa Republic, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, Syria, Somalia. South Sudan is in the formative stage of toying with the idea of reducing their new “mansion” into rubble.
Fatoumatta: Don’t be the ordinary Fula or Mandinka who buys into falsehoods of the Fula or Mandinka elite. A falsehood of defending tribalism which is styled and designed to profit the elite, their families and close associates. If you support the opposition, exercise your right of choice, but ask the tough questions. Are there truthful reasons? Do not be the Mandinka guy, who has hated for an ordinary Jola on the street and vice versa You may not know it, but you are sailing in the same boat. The daily struggles of an ordinary Mandinka are no different from those of an ordinary Fula and a Serere man.
Fatoumatta: Do not be the citizen who is quick to praise injustices carried out by a regime headed by your kinsmen. Do not a praise a flawed government, just because it seems to deliver constant “victory” in a certain direction. Injustice has a potent boomerang effect. Tomorrow, the shoe will be on the other foot. Political formations change, leaders come and go, but the Gambia will always remain, if we allow her to thrive.