Gambia: There is a widening chasm

Who is Reading the National Thermometer?

By Njundu Drammeh

A friend of mine expressed frustrations and disappointments with things as they are in our country. “I have given up”, he said in desperation, arms flying in the air. He wasn’t taken aback by the cesspit or cesspool we are swimming in, a given in a society where some people abhor honesty and malign or lampoon honest, principled individuals. He was and is angry by the lack of leadership to straighten things up; the inability to be exemplary in words and actions; the reluctance to ask everyone, without exception, to follow the straight and narrow.

My friend’s pessimism is amply echoed here: “Our public life seems to be degenerating into a fen of stagnant waters; our conscience is troubled with doubts and despair about the possibilities of improvement. We do not seems to be profiting either from history or experience. We appear helplessly to be watching the sickle of time taking away the rich corn, leaving behind the bare and withered stalks” Sadar V. Patel

It goes without gainsaying that a certain cloud of consternation, fear, despair and disappointment seem to be enveloping us. Everywhere there is doubt as to the betterment of the future, a certain cynicism wrapped in pessimism inside palpable frustration. The euphoria and great expectations that greeted the ousting of Jammeh and heralded the dawn of a new era of hope, optimism, belief in the future are fast dissipating and in their place anxiety, worry, a “disgruntled hope”, and a fading unity which once provided leadership, guidance and inspiration albeit shortlived. Political expediency and exigency have replaced political sobriety and national interest can be read as “political parochialism”….

I understand my friend’s anger and disappointment, especially when so much is at stake and the good will, local and international, which accompanied our “out of the woods” journey seem to be fading away. Momentum is a leader’s friend or enemy, depending on how it is seized. Terrible when it is not seized and the grass is allowed to grow under the feet.

I don’t know if anyone is reading the political thermometer of our body politik but the temperature, by every account, is not normal. I don’t know also if the governors have their ears to ground but certainly no one seems to hearing the imperceptible, the unheard. There is widening chasm between what the people want and the government is giving them, between the facts of national live and what the government assumes them to be, between the dreams of the future and the stark realities of the present, between the destination the people want to reach and the direction the government is taking them. There is a disconnect between the governors and the governed.

And it is truism that a leader’s greatest strength lies in having the ability to hear the unhearable, the unspoken joys and pains of the people and their secret sounds, not the obvious and superfluous.

Since countries are not cats with nine lives and since it is the people, not the Government, who learn from history, it would behoove the people to be constantly standing guard, to know that sovereignty resides in the people, to hold the duty bearers fully accountable, to demand respect of the basic covenants or contracts between the governed and the governors, to insist on the observance and application of the rule of law. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty….

On the part of citizens, it would require a dispassionate and depersonalised discussion of national matters, a commitment to speak out when a right is violated and stand up for victim, a willingness to hold each other accountable regardless, to epitomise the democratic person.

If the nation is to preserve the fundamental values of a democratic society, every person, whether a public functionary or private citizen, must display a degree of vigilance and willingness to sacrifice and to play by the same rules as every other. Without the willingness to uphold the values of a just and democratic society and having the commitment and desire to act according to what is just and right, we may find it difficult to get out of the woods.

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