Opinion| Saul Saidykhan offers his insights into Gambian politics and the TRRC report, described as “Lack of ethics” stupid!


By Saul Saidykhan

Paul Begala and James Carville saved Americans from the countless TV Talking Heads by capturing the essence of the 1992 presidential contest between Bill Clinton and then President Bush I in the now famous phrase: “It’s the economy, Stupid”! 

The Gambia’s TRRC submitted it’s report and Recommendations to the president several weeks ago. Like most, I’m yet to find the time to read the report. But I’ve looked at the Recommendations. One particular recommendation jumped at me: 

“Reviving (the inter/intra-ethnic and regional) Joking Relationships of yore to defuse social tensions and prevent conflict.

 At first glance, this is a great idea except the Joking Relationships never died! Even in the darkest period of our recent past, the Fulani bantered with the Jola, just as the Sarahule did with the Mandinka, the Nuiminka with the Jarranka, the Baddibunka with the Sarahule, the Jammeh with the Darbo, etc. 

In fact, this was not only a survival tactic many deftly used to escape myriad troubles during the dictatorship, but many also used it as a means of landing job and other opportunities they would otherwise not get or qualify for.

So, in my assessment, what the TRRC missed is the CAUSE of the disease that is slowly killing Gambian society – lack of ethics!

 Every major problem currently bedeviling Gambia (corruption, lack of integrity, lack of genuine principles, shameless opportunism, hypocrisy, public boldfaced lying, etc.) boil down to lack of ethics in how we view and approach issues at the personal, communal, and national levels – especially by the elite class (Western or Islamic.) 

Many of our Islamic scholars are just as bad nowadays. The good news is, this is fixable through the education curriculum. The bad news is the current administration cannot sincerely undertake this task because it’s the textbook definition of an unethical organization by orientation, policies, words, and action!

When my children were younger, I settled for a Nursery school under the Supervision of Ms. Debbie having tried a cheaper one first. I quickly formed a strong bond with the aging woman when she told me she started teaching Kindergarten the year I was born. 

I still feel blessed to have found her to teach all my three children the rudiments of ethical living. On Ms. Debbie’s Beginners’ Class Teaching Board are several Key Words she makes the little children repeat after her daily:

 “Objectivity, Justice, Fairness, Integrity, Honesty, Responsibility, and Freedom”. Because I can’t help but ask questions in most situations, I asked Ms. 

Debbie why she makes the kids repeat these words daily when they neither understand the words nor even correctly pronounce them? “Young man, without these values, we cannot have a functional civilized society” she replied.

 Basic ethics she called it! Without ethics, truth doesn’t matter - even the SHAPE of the moon could be portrayed or accepted as being subjective. 

Now, as an African and a student of history, a Toubabo mentioning civilize to me in a sentence makes me uneasy. 

But I got what she meant. And countless times, I find myself recalling this exchange when I read, watch, or listen to African discourse - especially Gambian.

 Recently, a paper educated fellow caused a stir by penning a daring rewrite of Gambian history with overt ethnic undertones. Initially, I thought the author must be too young to have fully remembered the Jawara era. 

Apparently, he’s not. For the record, of the over two dozen Jawara era MDAs- Ministries, Departments, Agencies, and their major projects (GPTC, GPMB, GUC, Telecoms, GCDB, GRT, GPA, NTC, PWD, ADB, Jahally Pacharr Rice Dev project, RDP, RDI, GTTI, GNIC, VTC, GCU, MDI, NIB, GCCI, GOC, PSC, the Scholarship Board, MTB, GNA, and GPF), only the ADB, Jahally Pacharr, and GPTC in the late 80s were headed by Mandinkas.

 More, in the entire Jawara era, Sankung Janneh and Lamin Samateh were the only two Mandinka Perm Secs – no Mandinka SG, Establishment Sec, IGP, Army or Field Force Chief.

 The biggest native private businesses in the Jawara era were Cham and Secka industries, Chellarams, SS Sesay Cleansing Services, Sankung Sillah Soap factory, Jimpex, and Sheriff Sowe’s operations.

 There were Mandinka merchants and a few dump truck owners mostly from Baddibu and the Upper Gambia. Their families still live in the Tobacco Road area of Banjul. But that’s about it.

 Yet, we still hear or read “educated” Gambians swear that a Mandinka “Teri Kafo controlled Jawara’s Gambia (to the exclusion of others) and “we must never allow them to come back and rule us again!”. 

But exactly what did the Teri Kafo control in either the public or private sector? I’m sure someone will remind me of the areas Mandinkas control beside elective office that I missed in my recall. See the impact of lack of ethical training and the paradox it has engendered: 

Africans being the most religious, but also the most unethical people on the planet? An older friend of mine from Nigeria believes it’s a continental problem that will ruin our development prospect unless we tackle it head-on.

 It explains why an educated member of a destitute community where basic cooking utensils are still a luxury sees no wrong in lying to defend the electoral heist of a shamelessly corrupt pol whose propensity for industrial scale looting of our common weal and lack of care for the suffering masses is not in doubt.

While the “Mandinkas are the Gambia’s problem” thrust of the notorious piece isn’t new, it exposes a very dangerous new variant in the toxic narrative underpinning this madness. 

I was particularly struck though not wholly surprised by the author’s personal background: immigrant parents from Guinea hosted and embraced by the Dibba Chakus - a Mandinka community in Baddibu. 

Those older than the author remember a stubborn and hard-headed Foutanka kid whose parents were cared for by one of the doyens of the founding families of Farafenyeh. 

His immigrant parents rented in Sir Farimang Singhateh’s compound (another Mandinka benefactor) which the late doyen Fa Dibba managed.

 It was that generous old man – father of Burama Dibba of Gamtel who enrolled the troublesome Foutanka kid in school when his playmates started school without him, and his own parents couldn’t help because of their status.

 Several in the know told me late Fa Dibba’s generosity towards Guinean immigrants isn’t restricted to the author of the incendiary tribal narrative. Another beneficiary was Dr. 

Babagalleh Jallow of the TRRC whose fisherman father wanted to end his education prematurely and would have if not for late Fa Dibba’s intervention.

 Shouldn’t educated people like these be singing a different tone on tribe? Why would the author be reinforcing the toxic ethnic narrative started by Yaya Jakut when his personal family experience contradicts such? 

See Ms. Debbie’s point on ethics? Would anyone educated on ethics sow such seeds of discord based on lies, half-truths, or bias confirmation? 

Why are the Dibbas of Farafenyeh not better Mandinka models to the author than the nameless Mandinka NBR, CRR communities whose pre-election “aggressive” behavior towards Fulas he wants us to believe swayed their vote towards Barrow?

I purposely mention Babagalleh because people like him should not play deaf and dumb when those associated with them engage in destructive behavior. 

Besides the obvious ingratitude, personal integrity goes beyond only watching one’s words and actions. How we react to errant associates reveal things about ourselves. 

Especially because Gambia is way too small. See how easy it is for one to get the Lowdown on the author from afar?

Apart from the potential disharmony such toxic narratives could trigger, the utter senselessness of the ethnic militancy that undergirds the approach is both baffling and counter-intuitive. 

If your parents saw cause to migrate to poor Gambia for better economic, or social cohesion opportunities, why in the world would you do anything to upset the scene that made them trade their resource-richer homeland for Gambia?

Put differently, how does contributing to the Niggerization of Mandinka people started by Jakut (a subject for another day) help the cause of moving Gambia forward as a united entity at peace with itself?

So I conclude where I started: lack of ethical training is our biggest problem. It’s the reason male teachers from Primary School to university sleep with their female students; it’s the reason we close our eyes to our crooked public and private sector ethnic kinsmen, family, and friends looting our common weal or depriving us of tax revenue and thus starving our country of the funds needed to build or develop schools, hospitals, roads, and other public infrastructure.

 And yes, it’s the reason many of us lie to defend what is blatantly false or fraudulent like our 2021 presidential election. If we don’t teach our young ethics, we’re doomed! Signed: King of ALL Nuiminkas.

About Author: Saul Saidykhan, Is a Political Scientist Based In US. 



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