The Paradox and Emergence of the Gambia’s Political Maverick!!
Alagi Yorro Jallow
Fatoumatta: Oxford historian and professor of Jurisprudence, James Bryce, warned long ago. Nobody listened. He said we should be careful, in fact, do away with career power addict salaried and maverick politicians, a class of people whose office and shop are in the store building called politics. Bryce warned specifically that these maverick power-addicted politicians tended “to have mercenary moves and venal habits…!” If you want to know the import of that description, just consult your dictionary. What do mercenaries do? What sort of people attract an adjective very venal as venal?
Fatoumatta: In this third republic, there appears a swam of politicians determined to strangulate the country and still continue to claim their livelihood from you and me and from our children- forever. They do not have any business apart from politics. Ruling you and ruining you is their business and they enjoy doing just that. Bryce described them as mercenaries with venal habits. Jonathan Swift in Gulliver’s Travels describes them as “pernicious odious vermin.” Very harsh? I do not think so. Vermin’s are snakes.
Fatoumatta: We were taught very early in life the universal wisdom that you do not allow a snake a place of comfort on your ceiling. It is nobody’s friend. But we understand what our friends are saying. We may loathe today’s politicians, but I am also against the power addict politician. This bit our friends do not want to hear. They insist we must have a choice. And we may ask why. What is the meaning of choice when there is no choice? These power addicted politicians have progressively destroyed the economy. There is corruption and plunder. Integrity is gone! Politicians are conservatively slamming criminal taxes and levies on the people while unpardonably refusing to pay taxes but remember to pay security votes to themselves. So, which one should we choose, the big snake or the bigger snake?
Fatoumatta: These Politicians their generosity had been at least partly venal, they masquerade as democrats, progressives, mavericks, patriots or change agents who engage in politics of deception, identity politics, gerrymandering, politics of violence and vandalism, ethnic-chauvinism to snatch political parties’ candidacies just to win elections. We have to know and note that they are not doing so because they want to serve the people, society or country. They do so to grab power and use same for primitive accumulation, to loot or loot again the resources of the State. They are no better than armed robbers who use violence to maim and kill. In many ways, they are even worse than armed robbers who use threat, force and violence to dispossess their victims of cherished belongings.
Fatoumatta: This political season we are getting into actual campaigning before 2021 General elections. Political parties are all busy planning their campaigns, striking alliances, announcing candidates and finalizing election strategy for 2021. Energy is being spent in mobilizing resources and producing campaign material for print, electronic and social media. A very large number of well-meaning people turn to politics during elections. This is a positive trend. They are motivated by the feeling that they must contribute to nation building. Lawyers, journalists, youth leaders and feminists’ groups, economist, bloggers, sports persons, and achievers are being persuaded by parties to join them and in some cases even become career politicians. This is also a season for many to switch parties. Switching of parties or defection during election time is called re-polarization of political forces.
Electoral politics are also a great occasion for the mavericks. A maverick per se is independent in thought and action. He is not bound by the conventional rules. He is out of the ordinary. He shrills and at times is outlandish. He knows every trick on how to focus attention on himself. He attracts attention and publicity. He has no qualms about switching positions. He is more colorful on electronic media than conventional politicians. Social media particularly Facebook and the Twitter has a huge space for accommodating the maverick opinions. Many mavericks are committed to ‘rent a cause’ philosophy. They are on the lookout for causes which they can espouse.
The word ‘maverick has its origin from the name of Samuel Augustus Maverick who was a land baron and a legislator in South Carolina in the 19th Century. He started as a land baron, handled his father’s business and thereafter studied law and opened a law office. During the Texas Revolution he was put under house arrest. He served as Mayor of Texas and held several elected offices. He had a small herd of cattle which was allowed to wander and the term ‘maverick’ was born to imply an unbranded calf.
Fatounatta: How and why? Unlike the armed robbers who use only the instrumentality of violence, the politicians, in addition to violence , employ deception, falsehood, lies, sweet talk and sophistry to gain power, which they knew would be deployed, upon attaining political power, to disempower , dispossess and emasculate the people. When will the people refuse to allow politicians to use them? Why do the people insist on perishing when they do not lack knowledge?
Fatoumatta: In less than two years, we will have to choose who decides the fate of everything in this country and in the National Assembly representatives. We will elect a president with executive powers of life and death. If some people are determined to continue to pay themselves salaries for devaluing our existence, shouldn’t we just get off the horse of cynicism and see if it is possible to replace these career power addict salaried hawks without skills with a new set of birds of good omen?
Fatoumatta: The Gambia has its own share of mavericks. Many of the free thinkers join parties temporarily and then find themselves as misfit. Some have even formed political parties. Their style is unconventional. They make arguments in an idiom intended to derive maximum publicity. A maverick has a habit of making allegations without substance. Conventional politicians are reluctant to join issue with them because a maverick is capable of hitting below the belt. He is a wild card.
Fatoumatta: I have always wondered how to deal with a maverick. Do you answer questions which a maverick put to you? Do you meet him when he tries to gate crash into your house? Do you allow him to occupy the center stage by engaging him or do you ignore him and continue with your conventional style of setting the agenda? That I feel is a safer option. Silence can be the best response to a maverick. Silence is dignified. It saves you the embarrassment of engaging with a maverick on his bizarre agenda.
Fatoumatta: How? These career salaried politicians have forgotten where they are coming from. The power addict politicians, in conspiracy with the generation that has always brought the country down the drains, have just devalued everything devaluable. Be it defection, decampment, alliance or merger, most Gambian politicians are power mongers, restlessly and desperately searching for power without accountability and authority without responsibility. They are always obsessively hunting for platforms that will catapult them to political power, which they often use for primitive accumulation of capital. For them, the end of politics is power. No power no change, we are told. But their creed is: no power, no plunder.
Fatoumatta: And this cuts across the entire spectrum of the Gambian politics of thievery and impunity. This is why politician who served as Ministers in Government and fired will do everything to be in power again ” decamp”, and possibly become opposition, so that they will have the latitude to power and have access to wealth, contracts, empower proxies and fronts, and engage in corrupt self-enrichment. Most Gambian politicians are power addicts.