By Alagi Yorro Jallow
Sometimes, self-criticism is necessary for us to make progress and what makes nations successful is the ability to find public policies and political institutions relevant to their people. Intellectualism and ideas are life; they must be relevant to our lives; they must be relevant to the African realities.
Intellectualism are dead or non-existent if they become irrelevant to the lives and aspirations of the people.(see my paper “Dictators’ Lessons and Intellectual Prostitution”12/29/2016). Intellectuals and expert commentators are seen to play a crucial role by representing various positions in a debate, and critically engage with issues.
They are also assumed to bring specialist knowledge or complexity to the discussion. While intellectuals are often defined as members of a learned intelligentsia, popular thinkers, drawing on grassroots experiences, who engage with pertinent issues in reflective and complex ways recognized.
Antonio Gramsci spoke of all men as intellectuals, allowing for the existence of what he called “organic intellectual” but he observed that “not all men have in society the function of intellectual”. Others have argued (notably Edward Said) that “intellectuals, as thinkers who are independent of the state and other interests, have an obligation to speak the truth to power”.
You may not agree with what I am going to say but as African academics, scholars and intellectuals have let down Gambia and Africa badly by not providing intellectual leadership to the democratic struggle.
“He who doesn’t know where he came from doesn’t know where is going,” says an African proverb. The intellectual community are lost; they don’t know where they are going. I shook my head when I read “It’s a patriotic duty to serve your country.” It seems they are way behind the curve, late to the struggle for democracy and good governance in Africa and are only playing “catch-up” with proposed conferences,” belly politics”, lure for ministerial and diplomatic positions. What is strange in The Gambia is those who have usurped the role of identifying themselves as intellectuals negotiate for dominance in the public space.
The nature and role of the intellectuals includes the search for the truth, the interrogation of the meaning and implications of both public conduct and policy decisions.
The recent upheavals in Gambia caught them completely off guard. They did not see it coming because they were pre-occupied elsewhere. Thus, they have become irrelevant to the struggle. The youth, who are driving the struggle for change, no longer listen or look up to them. they have failed them. In fact, our post-colonial record of advancing the cause of liberty in Africa has been abysmal.
Afflicted with “intellectual astigmatism,” they can see with eagle-eyed clarity the injustices perpetrated against the oppressed by the dictator. But they are hopelessly blind to the equally heinous injustices committed by dictator leaders against their own people. Too many of them sold off their integrity, principles and conscience to serve the dictates of tyrannical and barbarous African regimes.
Military brutes such as Idi Amin, Sani Abacha, Haile Mariam Mengistu and Samuel Doe and Yahya Jammeh could always find intellectuals and professors to serve at their beck and call. Some of them even preferred military to civilian rule.
Per Colonel. Yohanna A. Madaki (rtd), when General Gowon drew up plans to return Nigeria to civil rule in 1970, “academicians began to present well researched papers pointing to the fact that military rule was the better preferred option since the civilians had not learned any lessons enough to be entrusted with the governance of the country” (Post Express, 12 Nov 1998, 5).
Imagine. Individuals close to power who argue certain positions cannot be true intellectuals. Those people are called pseudo- intellectuals, individuals who take on the guise of the intellectual to promote embedded political position.