People cheer as ECOWAS Senegalese troops take position near to the state house in the Gambian capital Banjul Sunday Jan. 22, 2017, one day after Gambia's defeated leader Yahya Jammeh went into exile. ECOWAS troops are moving in to prepare for the return of newly installed President Adama Barrow. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

The Gambia’s slow dangerous march towards a crisis state

A young man name Alieu Bah is being celebrated for being the Tiger behind what is being bandied around as a genius idea in the New Gambia: the right to protest for the sake of protesting. That the idea is at best adrenal-driven, and bereft of any sense and sound logic doesn’t seem to matter.

A Gambia where even the dull and the ignorant will have their say (to paraphrase the Christian Desiderata Moral Code) is the country that many of us fought to help create. As such, Alieu Bah and every other Gambian have the right to protest or demonstrate as long as their actions do not encroach on the rights of others. This, because freedom in a democracy isn’t absolute, it’s relative.

And speaking of freedom and democracy, I’ll urge Alieu and his Gallant followers to use the same zeal they’re using now to organize their Occupy protest to read the Federalist Papers (these are 85 essays) written by the intellectuals behind the American revolution and democracy which we’re trying to imitate.

I believe they’ll find the views of John Jay, Alexandra Hamilton, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson invaluable in trying to understand the thinking behind the establishment of American democracy as regards placing limitations on governmental power versus the duties and responsibilities of the patriotic individual citizen. Jefferson’s views on sedition might be especially useful.

Additionally, reading Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America should help these young people understand the type of citizens Gambia needs to become an enviable home the way Americans did over two centuries ago.

See, I wish I could identify with Alieu Bah and his group, but I can’t. In fact, after watching his interview and reading several of his posts, I find him to be clever, but misguided, naïve, and susceptible to easy manipulation by the experienced and cunning operatives egging him on. Alieu Bah truly believes electricity is a right.

Yet, if it is, someone hasn’t told Americans! In my long years here, I’ve visited 35 of the 48 contiguous states of this country at this point. But I’m yet to hear an American make such a claim.

The U.S. Constitution only guarantees citizens “the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Electricity is an amenity that is essential for modern life, and is arguably a means to attain happiness.

In areas like healthcare and industry, it’s a necessity, but again the U.S. Constitution only guarantees citizens the right to chase happiness, not happiness itself. How one gets the things that bring him or her happiness is entirely their problem in these United States. Now, how does this relate to Gambia?

I believe Alieu Bah’s excuse for the Occupy protest is illogical, and unreasonable for many reasons.

First, the cause of the NAWEC disaster is plain: 52 years of deficient investment in the utility sector and sporadic band-aid fixes.

Nothing strategic was put in place. For the immediate past 22 years, we now know for a fact why there was no serious improvement in the sector from revelations at the on-going Janneh Commission, where shocking first-hand witness tales of the primitive looting of Gambian public resources by Yahya Jammeh and his associates is unfolding.

Second, the dire financial status of our country is no longer in doubt.

Third, contrary to perception, the Barrow administration has nothing to do with the mess.

Fourth, the issue isn’t solvable by a magic wand. Fixing a five-decades-old problem will take time. At the minimum, there is always an incubation period with such capital projects.

The president can fire all the officials in charge and it still won’t get us the efficacy we desire. More, what makes anyone sure the replacements will be any better? The plain truth is we Gambians are generally a selfish, corrupt, and incompetent people.

Notice how witness after witness appears before the Janneh Commission to point fingers at Yahya Jammeh. Even my nine-year-old knows this is bullcrap. How can a semi-literate buffoon like Yahya Jammeh steal the billions of Dalasi he did without the willing connivance of so many professional Gambians of all shades? Making sure Barrow holds these crooks accountable is a fight I’ll endorse.

Sixth, there is more to Gambia than Banjul and Serrekunda. For the first time in 52 years, parts of the country that never had electricity now do. I confirmed this. And unlike many of the urban noise-makers, these communities actually contribute positively to the Gambian economy through agriculture.

So perhaps, it’s not too much to ask that Alieu Bah and his group tone down their tantrum and rhetoric. It now only betrays a sense of entitlement, it shows the contempt they have for other parts of the Gambia.

The bottom line is our country is still under-developed after 52 years of flag Independence. To change this, our youth and younger generations will need to dedicate themselves to the acquisition of skills and knowledge that would enable them to transform the country into the living space they desire.

This takes time and discipline as anyone who has pursued higher education knows. Cheap talk, senseless drama and endless one-line quotations of foreign intellectuals whose realities are at odds with ours are distractions we cannot afford.

Quoting a brilliant mind is always a good thing, but understanding the context of what that person is speaking to is much better. The Occupy (Wall Street) movement in the U.S. was justified and had a powerful symbolic meaning. On the contrary, what the heck is Occupy Westfield supposed to connote? Alieu Bah has a lot to learn.

After sitting through a session of the Gambia’s Parliament in 1965, below is what Berkley Rice the American writer said of a postulation by nominated MP, Mr. M.D. Sallah, president Jawara’s former school teacher: 52 years on, not much has changed in terms of the fallacy, Rice wrote about accurately.

Unless young Gambians are willing to acquire knowledge and skills needed to propel the country forward, there’ll always be some phantom exigent factor Gambians will point to as a scapegoat for the country’s retardation.

It was the colonialists, then Jawara, then Jammeh, and now Barrow. This is not to say that government is blameless, or cannot alter the country’s destiny. I believe both education and healthcare should be rights. But I also know that wouldn’t mean anything unless we change our attitudes at the personal level. What do I mean?

Let’s see: we have nine solid months of reliable sunshine and enough arable land, yet we continue to import vegetables like onions and other vegetable products from Europe of all places. We grow grains like couscous and Findo organically which are the best feed for poultry, yet we continue to import hormone-fed chicken from Scandinavia; for all our 52 years, we’ve had more cattle than people, yet beef and dairy products are still a luxury. Where is our creativity? Get the drift?

So, to Alieu Bah and his group, after you’re done with this futile attempt to desecrate the glory and memory of Ebrima Solo Sandeng, please #OccupyYourMind with generating ideas that will help yourselves and make life better for our people.

Ebrima Solo Sandeng sacrificed his life so we all can exhale freely. Solo Sandeng didn’t get any support from Gallant Alieu Bah who is “outspoken” and “always speaks his mind.” Even after he died, only geriatric grandees went out to demand his remains. I can’t help but wonder where Alieu Bah and all these young tigers where just last year.

Anyhow, now that we can all enjoy freedom, manufacturing a crisis out of idleness is not only an abuse of democracy but an offense to our collective sensibilities.

I won’t even bother with the adults behind this foolishness. This nonsense isn’t about democratic rights. It’s about not liking the outcome of the two clean and fair elections we’ve had in the past eleven months: I’m not part of running the show so I’ll prove how indispensable I am by fanning the embers of discontent to create a crisis. It’s pathetic.

Pondering the answer to a simple question will suffice: How many times in the last five years have electricity and water supply been interrupted protractedly in urban Gambia? So why the ruckus now even while they’re installing new generators? More importantly, what is the game plan of this protest?

My advice to government: Don’t refuse a protest permit even to certified fools but always have security officers keep a close eye on them, and arrest and fine anyone who breaks the law. It’s what they do here. It’s the Americans we’re imitating, aren’t we?

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