Beyond life and property, there is another value of a human being or society that must be protected because without it, the potential for the human being or society to lose its worth, dignity and self-esteem is quite high. And when a human being or society loses that value, that human being or society could transform into its worst form and perish. This value is what I call virginity, innocence, purity or sanctity. It is divine.
Just like a man or a woman can be virgin, so also can a society or country. The Gambia, as a society is a virgin whose innocence and purity is being threatened by 22 years of the misrule of Yaya Jammeh. The virginity of a society lies in the compactness of the bonds individuals and communities share. It is about the culture of care and share that exists between them. It is about the respect and the reverence individuals have for themselves and each other, particularly in the relationship that elders and the young share. The innocence of a society is reflected in the humility and honesty of its members and the adherence of the members of that society to the common good and justice. A society’s innocence is peace, trust and confidence in oneself and towards ne another. When a society loses its innocence, it self-destructs.
Until now, the innocence of the Gambia is largely intact despite the severe bruises that the AFPRC/APRC regime has inflicted on it. But the innocence of a society does not last forever. Hence it has to be protected and cherished because when it is destroyed, it fundamental changes the bearings of that society. How does a society lose its virginity?
A society loses its virginity by the manner of its governance and the attitude of its leaders. Leaders produce behaviours and attitudes in people. When the leaders are humble and honest and caring, they will produce a society of good men and women. When a leader is dishonesty, callous and pompous, it will produce men and women of vanity. It will create a culture of shamelessness and disregard of the sacred values and virtues embedded in the culture and religions of that society. Such a society becomes an enemy and a parasite onto itself. It becomes a dog society of man eat man; woman eat woman. This parasitic culture is what the AFPRC/APRC regime has been inflicting on the Gambia.
Failure of Yaya Jammeh to relinquish power would potential force our society into an open armed conflict. One of the leading causes of the destruction of the virginity and innocence of a society is war. In war, human beings engage in acts that outrage the conscience of humanity. This is why you have concepts like war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide as the highest forms of crime a human being can commit. War causes men to rape women. War creates child soldiers and makes them killers of their own mother and father. War makes human beings to mutilate and butcher their fellow human beings. War hardens the hearts of people. War destroys all the sacred virtues and good norms and values of a society and its culture and religions. War transforms a people who share and care and live with each other in respect and love to become enemies and haters of each other. War makes a society eat up itself like how fire consumes paper. War destroys the future.
In our lifetime, we have seen war and its effect on societies in Africa. In Sierra Leone, fellow citizens brutally and mercilessly butchered each other’s limbs and life. In Rwanda, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Sudan, Congo, Somalia and many other places, we have seen how war has destroyed a society.
We the Gambians, must not allow the little innocence and virginity that is left of our dear country be destroyed by one man who has been hell-bent on the destruction of our society since 22 July 1994. The evidence is abundantly clear. Who would imagine that a small boy like Minister Sheriff Bojang could openly disparage an elder like Dembo (By-force) Bojang even in the context of partisan politics when this man could be older than his own father? Who would imagine a small boy like Seedy Njie of the National Assembly could disrespect an elder like OJ as if this man is not the same age, if not older than his father? Who would imagine that small boys like Pierre Minteh or Babou Gaye Sonko could face elders in the opposition and insult them as if they do not belong to our society and culture? Above all who would imagine that a small boy like Yaya Jammeh could face the nation and say that he will circumcise imams and community elders if they allow any female circumcision in their locality? Who would imagine that a Gambian president could face our people and tell them that women bleach all of their bodies but not their private parts? Our innocence is being damaged!
As a child growing up, it is taboo to speak about sex and sexuality openly. Elders, any elderly person is deserving of respect from the young. We had the innocence and purity, which made us the embodiment of humility and respect and self-esteem. It is this innocence that Yaya Jammeh is gradually destroying in the Gambia for the past 22 years. By his numerous festivals and parties of vanity, he has not only inculcated a culture of wastefulness and uselessness into our youth, but he has equally corrupted our elders as imams, chiefs and alkalolu that today most of our imams and chiefs have lost complete reverence and confidence in our society. Who respects the Imam Ratib of Banjul today? Who respects the imams of the Supreme Islamic Council today?
Gambians, this is why we must save the Gambia by standing up and together we demand that Yaya Jammeh steps down. Failure to make him step down means he will force this country into a conflict in which the little left of our innocence and purity as a society will be damaged. We will then have a society of immoral and intensely selfish people who fear no God and have no regard for the good norms and values of our culture. We will become a society of Nyaaka Jom, Malibaliya, Hamadi, Kulubaliya, Rewandeh. A society in which people lack self esteem and do not respect each other. A society of parasites where we have no regard for the common good. A society of selfishness where truth and justice are trampled upon without shame. This is why we must save the Gambia.
Stand up for the Gambia and save her innocence, virginity and purity.
By Madi Jobarteh