Alagi Yorro Jallow
For Gambians living through these times, asking which is better between the past and the present is like asking one of the most sacred, functional relationship known to man which is better between women and wine as well as wealth. In treatment and in effect, all are the same. Either intoxicate and are very dangerous to your health — especially when taken in excess. And you can’t be more careful really. The bad stories are the same. Nothing really is new or news anymore. This is the post-news era when nothing is truly new, and nothing honestly shocks nobody again.
President Adama Barrow and his predecessors have been allegedly accused of corruption and mega sleaze. Billions stolen by big men in big places in government. These are not new things. “Time past and time present are contained in time future and time future contained in time past.” The same sad tales have always dominated our nights of dark moons.
We read of billions of Gambian Dalasis and foreign currencies missing in 1994 when Yahya Jammeh overthrew the People’s Progressive Party. We read of even more billions of hard currencies stolen too when Yahya Jammeh exiled to Equatorial Guinea by the coalition government led by Adama Barrow. Today, the government of Adama Barrow, we hear horrific tales of massive corruption and abuse of office? So, why should we be shocked when politicians eat the meat, the bones and the bones marrow. They own the future just as the past served them.
The First Lady’s Foundation Board is under investigation. The case of a mysterious bank transaction amounting to a little over $750,000 that originated from Hong Kong via the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China lodged into the account of the First Lady’s Fatoumatta Bah Barrow’s Foundation (FaBB) at the Guaranty Trust Bank in Banjul. Story, story, stories. Have you forgotten that anonymous donor to President Barrow? Which anonymous philanthropist donated 57 vehicles to Adama Barrow? Which anonymous Arab Samaritan donated D11 million Hajj package to Gambian pilgrims on behalf Adama Barrow? Didn’t we read of millions of dollars ferried directly from the vaults of the Central Bank during that period of the impasse? Can’t you remember all the sleaze and the noise and our arrogant vow that never would such happen again in this country? The big men of those eras, where are they now? They are cozying with government officials, guaranteed protection somewhere, they are in Brusubi, Kerr Sering, Manjai- Kunda and Kololi graciously getting richer, and they’ve got the real estate to prove it and add a few personal touches.
Nothing is new under the sun. Sixteen years ago, I wrote that all you need to do to know that our world has refused to move an inch from its horrid past is to just read any old newspaper, no matter its age. The headlines would always fit into any date with disturbing exactitude. Sixteen years ago, the Independent newspaper reported, the story of the day was about workers at the Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation “Protesting Bad Treatment”. Last week as the newspapers and social media reported, one of the dominant stories about Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation workers on protesting against the Managing Director? Sixteen years ago, the lead story of the Independent’s edition of November 16, 2003 was: “SSHFC Protest Bad Treatment.” You just substitute “Bad Treatment” with “Protest Against Managing Director” and you succeed in perfectly grafting the Gambia of 2003 to and 2018, The Gambia.
Another hungry, angry pensioner at that protest was one Samba Nying. Angry, hungry, hopeless, he was quoted in that report as saying: “My pain is that the SSHFC has not paid me my pension arrears. They are owing me months of pension arrears and they only started paying in April this year. What happens to the previous ones? We have borrowed money to keep the family alive. It is disappointing.” Kebba Jaw, a pensioner claimed, in that report, that his colleagues had been living on a meagre D2,000 monthly and then appealed to the then exiting Managing Director to pay their outstanding pensions as a “parting gift”. And did they get the parting gift? Does it really matter if they got anything? At least one person got paid arrears as his own parting gift, ironically, from these same disgruntled pensioners.
As I said in 2018, nothing has changed. Nothing will change. We have never really learnt any lesson and may never learn. We think every preacher has God’s anointing. We take every winged monster for an angel. We take serpents for friends. Whatever answers snake is no belt for holding trousers. What happens to the one who ties his load with a snake? We have been doing just that, scratching our itching noses with the teeth of a black mamba. Every offer made with smiles is accepted as made in good faith. It is not so. The mind of man is dark. It is darker when he comes offering to be your servant pro bono.
We are the drunk man. Never learnt anything. Even when providence saves us from a tragedy, we quickly drag ourselves into another. We give every stranger with the right smile access into our inner rooms. We take every being with a stethoscope to be a doctor. We throw out the old wisdom in not using the cassock to judge the monk. We invest in a promise that fulfills the past we are running from. Nothing will change. Hunger will stay and breed its monstrous like unless we accept this moment that the future will be the past unless we truly work hard and well to break the chains.