Posted - 22 Jul 2022 : 08:57:55
"HOPE IS A FORCE MULTIPLIER": HAPPY JULY 22 (NOT WHAT YOU ARE THINKING)
By Dembo Fatty
The oxford Learner’s Dictionary defines hope as: “to want something to happen and think it is possible”. I had always thought that hope meant to want something to happen but I never realized it also has to be something one thinks is possible. So, is it fool hardy to hope in the face of impossibility or hope for the impossible?
Then again, I realized that impossibility is relative and quite difficult to grasp and define. What may look impossible to one group or individual is possible in another group or to another individual and the difference is a measure of one’s commitment.
In my formative years, sitting by the fires with elders especially during the harmattan season and grannies outdoing each other in story telling competitions while we listened and at the same time warmed our small frames, I learnt in one story the doctrine of the wolf. That whatever one sees and likes, is always within one’s grasp and that getting it is directly proportional to how determined one is. The wolf always had that unsettling role in many of the stories: mischievous, greedy but above all daring.
Similarly, the story of David and Goliath comes to my mind and I pondered why David stood his ground while everyone was running given the might and size of his opponent. David saw what his people did not see. While his people saw Goliath as too big to fight, David saw Goliath as too big to miss and so when he struck, it was fatal. Hope it was, that made him stood his ground. Was it possible?
Yes, it was from David's perspective but not his people. So, if we go back to our definition , hope has to include an element of possibility otherwise hope is nothing but a shadowy dream; an abstract devoid of substance and incapable of being converted into tangible or actionable thought at the bare minimum.
Since the beginning of time, what has sustained the human race is nothing but hope- the hope that better things are yet to be discovered. But humans never hoped while sitting and doing nothing. They hoped but also put in efforts to realize the dreams.
Failure was always a spitting distance away but that did not deter them because failure is a sign that someone tried to do something different but at the same time, failure provided valuable lessons that became “prior art” if I may borrow a leaf from a discipline called Intellectual Property.
You might be wondering why I am meandering around the definition of hope. It is one of the most important words in any language. It’s the very essence of human existence.
To want to see something happen and convinced that it was possible has been an inherent ingredient in the drive to advancement of human civilization.
A people who have for nearly 149 years been subjugated to the whims and caprices of a foreign empire, who were never invited in the first place, their desire for independence must have been based on hope that better days were ahead of them. Hope that by being free, they could steer their destiny to the safe shores of prosperity for all guided by the fundamental and the inalienable rights to life, liberty and protection of the state.
Foreign interest in what is today Gambia dates as far back as 1446 when the Portuguese arrived on our shores although there are early accounts of the French in our neck of our woods a century earlier. The Portuguese were later followed by the Courlanders who in 1661 set up a colony on St. Andrews Island and built Fort Jacob but later lost it to the British in 1664 when the Courland King Jacob was held captive by the Swedish army and they lost most of their influence in not only in Gambia but in Tobago in the Caribbean. St. Andrews Island was later renamed James Island by the British. From then on, the British continued some level of presence up until 1970 when we became a Republic.
The struggle for independence and freedom has always been part of the fabric of Gambian life dotted across the landscape. From the Battle of Sankandi to the riots in Banjul; from the showdown in Sabiji to the defeat of the British by Kemintang Camara in 1841; from the declaration of war by Musa Molloh in Fulladou to the defeat of the British at Barra in 1831, and many other examples of theatres of war.
That land called Gambia stood her grounds to defend liberty and freedom and provided sanctuary to thousands of enslaved Nigerians and Ghanaians and resettled them in a place called Fort George. The current grounds of the Banjul Market served as the processing center for freed enslaved Africans rescued in the Atlantic. Albert Market was to Gambia what Elis Island was to the United States.
This land, my land, your land and our land, made the headlines in the recent past preceding independence in 1965, when the United Nations sent a fact finding mission to determine if we were capable of taking care of ourselves because all indications by then pointed to the opposite direction.
At the time of independence, over 25% of our recurrent budget was funded by the British. We had a very poor if any industrial base of any kind. Education was totally forgotten. The primary schools built by Government were mainly in 1956 which meant that by 1965, none of these students had graduated from High School.
Our human capital was in dire straits. There were less than 40 Gambians with post-secondary education in 1965 and less than 40 registered taxis in the Colony (Banjul and Kombi St. Marys). No descent roads of any kind and in the Protectorate, feeder roads passable only on foot in the dry season were the only means of connecting settlements. Mortality rate was high due to poor healthcare delivery systems.
The people who mobilized themselves and met the UN delegation holding placards in Banjul later called The Bread and Butter Revolution, demanded immediate independence. They all had hope that we could. The store keepers who imported television sets in 1965 when we barely had a functioning radio station (2 hours of broadcast a day )also had the hope that a national television was possible with independence although it would have to take 30 years to see that hope realized but it did.
A country is a work in progress, and brick by brick, layer by layer we build but never to finish because there is always room for improvement till the end of times. The people hoped and expected those in power to deliver them to the Promised Land.
The Promise Land is an idea and an ideal and not a geographical entity in my opinion. It's an ideal of being free to worship ones God; to love and be loved; to be each other's keeper; to expect from people of trust to legislate just laws and dispense them without fear or favor and to enjoy the protection of the group.
That's why Moses never “delivered” anyone to any land as the Promised Land. Thou shall not kill; thou shall not commit adultery; thou shall not bear false witness, and so on, are the ideals of the Promised Land -; the promise of a free and equitable society not necessarily a piece of land to live on.
History would record that Joshua had to fight his way to the “Promised Land”. Martin Luther King Jr. said he had been to the mountain top and saw the Promised Land not in its physical sense but in its idealistic sense- a place of solace and peace where every citizen is accorded the dignity of a person with all the inherent attributes.
The Promised Land to me is our individual body frames inside which we exercise and enjoy our inner freedoms to be who we want to be without looking over our shoulders.
For those Gambians old and lucky enough to have witnessed the first, second and the recent political quake in our nation’s history, with only two presidents and three coups in 51 years, will agree at least to some extent that change only happens when people have the conviction that it is possible. Hopelessness breeds inertia, self-defeat at the least, and at most, extinction.
Another parallel will be the revolt in Sankandi in which many colonial officials were murdered when the British meddled in local leadership selection. Each unique to its time, space and geography and each grandiose by its time if you ask me. Yet we lived up to expectation and over the course of our history, we have, to a large extent, avoided bloodshed and national strive. The fight for independence was based on the hope that with freedom, better days would come.
In the second half of January 2017, we remained as cool as a cucumber and put on our thinking caps never losing sight of the big picture. Small country, but collected enough to handle our problems with minimal casualties if any that has eluded many nations.
Yet, an unwritten contract was signed between the people and the bureaucracy and they gave an implied stamp of approval that the things we want to see happen, are in fact POSSIBLE despite the challenges. It was based on hope. Simply put, it was a “contract of hope”.
And in the same vein and on July 22, 1964, a group of determined Gambians started Constitutional talks in London in preparation for Independence. These Gambians had hope that this tiny strip of land called Gambia had all it needed to stand on its own and be free. Unfortunately, we never celebrate this day nor do we even mention it in the news. July 22, 1964 is an important day in our historical evolution. Sadly, it was on another July 22, specifically in 1994, that we suspended constitutional rule. It is a paradox that July 22 is celebrated as a triumph of a people to be free but also a day the same people lost all the gains in advancing rule of law. Truly, history repeats itself but with a difference.
The following are the Gambian delegation who attended the talks at Marlborough House:
CONSTITUTIONAL TALKS ATTENDEES
Dawda K. Jawara, Prime Minister of The Gambia
Sheriff Mustapha Dibba
Paul L. Baldeh
Sheriff Sekouba Sisay
Pierre Sarr Njie
Seyfo Omar Mbakeh
Alieu Badara Njie
Famara Wassa Touray
I. A. S. Burang John
Kebba W. Foon
I. M. Garba Jahumpa
Philip Bridges, Attorney General of The Gambia
F. D. C. Williams
K. J. W. Lane
Rev. J. C. Faye
Sir John Paul, Governor of The Gambia
A grateful nation salutes you all and may the ideals for which you embarked on this journey never perish. As we go about preparing for the weekend, let us renew our resolve as in the words of our National Anthem “ to remain ever true” to the ideals of a just and equitable society based on rule of law and protections of fundamental rights without let or hindrance.
Happy July 22 to you all, not what you are thinking.
A clear conscience fears no accusation - proverb from Sierra Leone