By Dr. Assan Jallow.
The political economy of a country is comprised of individuals and collective groups with varying “vested interests representing, elites, lobbyists, rent-seeking groups, or voters at large” (Mukand, et Al. 2016) to drive policies. As such, policies must be driven by the pragmatism of Gambia’s developmental value proposition based on the delight of rational consolidation that is generated through consensus, strategic thinking, and execution of effective negotiation on the influence of national dialogue that is citizen-centric and not party-based or politician-centric. However, that is not always the case as politics is not anchored on the science of rational thinking, not on the altar of philanthropy or volunteerism, but on the wings of expectations and fulfillment of citizens’ development needs and aspirations, where dignity, growth, development, and progress thrives and becomes the currency of national discourse. The proposition of this theory is that politics is a mutually-conclusive two-tier approach premise on the culture of “benefits in returns ” (i.e., either directly or indirectly) and ideation. What this implies is that politics is a transactional cost all over the globe based on agreed principles and expectations (that is intrinsic or extrinsic rewards). It’s deeply transactional and deeply rooted in the airplane mode of a one-way benefit approach in Africa and in which The Gambia is no exception. In essence, anyone that invests his or her time, effort, and money, expects something in return worth their investments. That is the gospel truth as most political parties are funded by wealthy individuals and corporate entities who are further compensated with government contracts, while individuals are given the special very, very important personality (VVIPs) treatments through the rolled-out “red carpets” with a range of options of government employment for themselves, relatives, and family members. Let no one deceives you with false prophesies that they are for austerity measures and against any form of deficit spending by throwing shades, categorizing and labeling others as strangulating the economy of a death row.
However, the ugly rise of political entrepreneurs and the reincarnation of black capitalists with no moral standings of conscience has infested the space of our national politics and placed it on the altar of masturbated madness and political prostitution. These merchants of greed and agents of deceit, disinformation, and misinformation have hijacked the politics of ideas and issues based on the specter of incentivized identity politics based on the sphere of influence and connections they have with those in the corridors of power and within the realm of civil society organizations to span the lurking horns of divisiveness and exclusionary tendencies all geared to sabotage and promote the false ambivalence of austerity measures and attacking deficit spending in the economy.
Historically, the Gambia is beset with alarmist and political déjà vu as the just concluded Mayoral and councillorship elections revealed our level of political consciousness and awareness across the national divide, particularly during the political season (that is debates in our rallies, platforms, and door-to-door campaigns. As such, our political education denotes rather a poor characterism, positioning, and unconscionable political leaning and culture that lack the gravitas of definite identifiable ideologies, values, and principles, where people support individuals based on familial relationships, collegiality, regionalism, and tribes, and not on the merits of their competencies, integrity, vision, and tested performance or delivered outcomes. This is politics without substance anchored on blind support and deliberate ignorance through the rhythm of interest-based politics and not ideational politics. Consequently, this is a total deviation on our pathway to progress in our development governance and is not convincing because it places our politics and policies on the altar of convenience and masturbated prostitution that advance the cause of exhibited insanity of unconscious hooting and parroting, as we one wins the lottery or is promised heavens on earth. This can be akin in the Wollof parlance as “Gewel boh amut apaah”. That is “griotism” outside the delight of its known traditional roles for self-serving desires.
Drawing hypothetical correlations from the behavioral reasoning theory (Westaby, 2005) and the theory of reasoned action (Fishbein and Ajzen,1975), I present the arguments that the Gambians are in different clouds and classes on political awareness and education and hat we have the forces of imposter syndrome deeply ingrained in our polity. This is manifested in our elites and so-called intellectuals whose reasoning is hijacked with prejudice and conflated ego that exposes their level of unimagined arrogance and emotive arguments outside the merits of objective reasoning as if they are agents of ignorance with deliberate attempts to sell narratives that are not only flawed but debunked in the logic of human reasoning. This I called the “veil of ignorance and shortsightedness” in the human decision-making phenomenon as it reflects who we are as a people. In addition, the level of citizens’ political awareness is concerning and outside the space of sophistication for political debates on issue-based policies, as all one could see in our political rallies since independence to date is nothing but politics ois normalized ego and arrogance, personality attacks or political assassination, innuendos, smeared, divisiveness and insults, through the inglorious rhythm of “fayy chaa, wooye, ak “cheeb bou jenn” (that’s joloff rice, dancing, and musical displays) centered on patronage and personality cult. What an unconscionable situation marred with lost opportunities in the New Gambia.
By all fairness, democratic consolidation requires the power dynamics of the governing party and the existing opposition political parties to co-exist as partners in development and debate the issues, not personalities or work in silos based on the blame game syndrome. Sadly, our case falls short of the politics of development as most of us are blinded by the veil of ignorance. Added to that, most of us are preoccupied with the stomach infrastructure in our political climate and using their sphere of influence to recruit blind supporters (for example journalists or social commentators) to normalize the false ambivalence of a persona with political stunts, marketing, and branding through the regime of creative management.
As a result, it is worth examining to admit our flaws that the recent results in our elections are not a repudiation of Barrow’s presidency but rather a protest vote by the citizens on his government. Thus, the protest vote is a result of the country going through the cliff of a cataclysmic situation. That is the bubbles of an intense and continued spiral curve of unintended economic stagnation or stagflation in the economy in which COVID-19 and continued Ukraine- Russia are principal factors causing the vertiginous fluctuations in supply chain and cost on consumer spending. For example, when a country is dwarfed by seemingly intractable challenges of increased poverty levels, rising prices of basic commodities, unemployment, and lack of opportunities for its citizens, particularly its teaming youthful population, it will resort to a spiral flow of decreased voter confidence or perceived mistrust in the form of a protest vote against the incumbent political party. In essence, if a political leader or the governing party fails to address economic and governance issues, voters may lose confidence in their ability to lead effectively. This is caused by the absence of leadership in losing touch with economic realities or governing with quick fixes based on the sound bites of their close loyalists or lieutenants who lacks the wherewithal and evidence-based strategies or solutions, and not listening to the crying voices of the citizens, and by extension the silent majority who face the troubling nightmares and economic challenges of rising cost of basic commodities and energy prices. Governance and leadership is a contract and it must be citizen-centric and not based on the wings of transactional costs, aa the latter only reflects protracted and poor visioning and the externalization of increased public corruption, cronyism, and inequities in the commonwealth of our resources for the benefits of the few through the schemes of parochial interests and stomach infrastructure.
Overall, these factors can lead to defective governance and negatively impacts the ability of political leaders to govern effectively or get things done efficiently, leading to the uncomfortable quagmire of the continuum of regressed economic growth, palliative quick fixes, increased communal conflicts, division, insecurity, rising poverty, unaddressed public corruption, social unrest, and a lack of trust and confidence in our elected officials, as a result of protracted or uncoordinated policies.
With all calamity and psychotic volatility in our national politics and the economy, there is a need to set our politics and policies on high standards based on effective value drivers. Therefore, to get out of the mud and save our politics and policies from the scourge of the evil scourge of inherited self-serving transitional costs and soundbite of quick fixes, and put our country back on the launch pad of competitive leveraging strategies and course of moral compass, I suggest the following path to redemption:
1. We must center our debates on moral convictions rather than from a contrarian disposition of public opinions fueled by emotive arguments and partisan biases.
2. We must end the shortsighted visioning of our expectations that place us on the recipe of self-serving desires and parochial interests, as if we are panhandlers in the commonwealth of our resources.
3. We must establish a national commission on socioeconomic and political dialogue where practical policy reforms informed by evidence-based policies are developed, debated, and implemented for the greater good.
4. That political parties revise their guidance notes and avoid setting elusive expectations by ceasing their absence or failure to share alternative strategies to our economic challenges. They must be development partners and reach out to the government, after the end of an election cycle to help guide our course of development and not only exist during elections.
5. That our established political parties must adapt swiftly by promoting effective access to information and be open to public scrutiny of their funds.
6. The government and all established political parties must subscribe to the culture of assets declarations and campaign funding.
7. Our leaders (politicians, thought leaders, captains of industry, scholars, and researchers) need to conduct an impact self-reflection on leadership behaviors. That is identifying their deficits or behaviors that are outside the confines of human civility and performance outcomes. That is the magic wand for the flawless execution of our administrative and governance processes.
8. We must build Gambia’s value drivers (GVDs) that are objectively driven by the absence of partisan politics. These value drivers are critical activities we must enhance, captivate, and normalize as our development model if we are to achieve value-led and realizable economic growth and progress in all spheres of human development. More importantly, these value drivers must align with our national development plans (NDPs), if we are to measure success (i.e., increasing performance, enhancing efficiency, addressing waste, building capabilities, strategic focus, direction, resilience, and perfect execution of our set deliverables). As such, it is through political will based on effective leadership, partnership, consensus building, and collaboration that will help to harness our value drivers.
9. Additionally, President Barrow must champion a brand leadership that is centered on accountability and transparency through the dynamics of invisible fundamentals and visible differentiations by ensuring that the stench of public corruption does not bedevil our country under his administration, as corruption undermines our growth and development. In other words, President Barrow must exert leadership by driving a purposeful vision of development and growth while ensuring and committing to a non-compromising stance on the performance delivery of his lieutenants. Therefore, President must ensure an end to state capture. This is the codebook of leadership he must execute to engender public confidence and credibility through exerting the ability to learn, act with integrity, exercise social and emotional intelligence, and make bold and courageous decisions.
Convincingly, the proposed suggestions are critical as they present the must-needed dimension of a strategic shift in our state of development governance. Consequently, as citizens of the republic, we must embody a contagious enthusiasm and set ourselves with successful outcomes and not play to the gallery for self-serving desires and political convenience.
Finally, to get to the summit of a structurally defined direction, we must redefine our expectations by doing right and getting things done right for the collective good. However, doing so requires you to speak with facts-driven by reliable data and not on the wheels of misfortune under the spell of a spins doctor. Contextually, I conclude by re-echoing DeSantis’s words, following his announcement to run for president in the United States, “We recognize that the woke mind virus represents a war on the truth, so we will wage a war on the woe. We will fight the woke in education, we will fight the some in the corporations, we will fight the woke in the halls of our politics, and particularly in the hallowed house of Parliament and by extension in the public space”.