The Elephant in the Room is Envy and Survivor Guilt.


Baba Colley

Most people will die from natural causes or accidents, but there are those who place themselves in death’s path for something greater themselves. Yahya Jammeh’s brutalities have been felt by many and in many different ways. It is amazing how quickly we all forget. Two years before the most improbable election victory in our country’s history, Gambians holding passports of other countries set out on a dangerous mission to liberate our people. Two of these gentlemen did not make it back alive to their families in the United States. In fact Yahya Jammeh was heartless enough to parade their mutilated bodies on television for everyone to see. One of those men was someone that I’ve known since I was a teenager, and I even exchanged messages with him a few months before that day. He had everything going for him. A family that loves him and a great career that would afford him a life that many people can only dream of. He put all that on the line because he wanted something better for his native country.

After everything that we know about the sacrifices made by these individuals and many others, we find ourselves in a place where people are openly questioning the fitness of people like them to offer the Gambian people their services.

It seems like it was just yesterday when everyone was crediting the citizens in the diaspora for speeding up the liberation of our people from the tight grips of a monster. No one was making the distinction then who held what Passport, but I guess the times have changed now.

The draft of the new constitution is out, and Gambians holding citizenships of other countries got the bastard child treatment from Mr Cherno Sulayman Jallow and his team. They said you can keep your father’s last name, but you will be written out of his will.

There is no shortage of reasons given for why this is the case. And there are defenders of all stripes for this disrespect. We even have people in the diaspora who swear up and down that it is the right course of action, but history has plenty of instances where people fight against their own interests, so that is nothing new. You know there is a problem when the rationales given constantly keep changing. Every new argument put forward so far, is as ridiculous as the last one.

First it was split loyalty. Those who pedaled this lousy argument were saying that a Gambian with an American or Swedish citizenship will not be sufficiently loyal to the Country of their birth and that of their entire extended family, because they will be beholden to their new home. These people have certainly never met or heard of Captain Njaga Jagne.

As it is typical with these individuals, as soon as that argument fell apart, they moved on to an even more bizarre and an unfortunate argument. This argument is bizarre because there is no logic to it, and it is unfortunate because it exposes a very ugly side that we only whisper about. It’s hard to ignore the presence of a 13,000 pounds animal in the living room, so we might as well address it. That is how much an African bush elephant weighs. I googled it so you don’t have to.

The new argument goes, “If you want to run for office, or be considered for certain jobs in our government, you should not be able to hedge your bets and go back to your ‘good life’ if you fail to get elected.” Going by this twisted logic, a doctor should not be able to run, because if he or she fails to get elected, she or he will go back to being a doctor. A wealthy person cannot run, because if he or she doesn’t get elected, he shouldn’t be able to go back to being wealthy and comfortable. What did the people in the diaspora do to deserve such disdain? Is it because they appear to have escaped the hardships that many of our people face on a daily basis, and for that reason alone, they get looked at as a group of citizens that doesn’t deserve all the privileges and courtesies extended to all others?

In order to run for some of these offices, a Gambian in the diaspora needs to first give up their other citizenship. In the event that they fail to get elected, what is one more unemployed person? After all, the help that these individuals are able to provide their families is not important enough to protect. So we are now working on jeopardizing all that, because we are opposed to the idea of one of these people coming to ask for a chance to serve. The question is not what they do after the people chose them to lead. No, it is the simple act of asking people to consider you for the job. This is where we are.

The elephant in the room is and has always been envy. That ugly feeling of wanting what others have, and hating them for having it. It is that social comparison mechanism that puts us in our place. How dare you leave us here and now you want to come back and make your case to look after this honeypot we call government? To these people, the government is all they have to measure up to those of you in the diaspora, so anything that puts you in direct competition with them over that, is a non starter. Stay away with your knowledge and experience, because we can screw this country up all by ourselves.

By the way your favorite politician feels the same way too. The diaspora did not turn their backs when Yahya Jammeh’s madness ruled the day, so don’t try to treat them and their children as second class citizens. The people are smart enough to chose their leaders, and if they feel like picking a Badibunko in Switzerland, then that’s who should lead them.

Many brothers and sisters in the diaspora suffer from what is called Survivor Guilt. Here is a definition I pulled off the Internet. “Survivor guilt (or survivor’s guilt; is a mental condition that occurs when a person believes they have done something wrong by surviving a traumatic event when others did not, often feeling self-guilt.” The next time you feel obligated to help out a long lost friend, just remember that your good heart is not acting alone.
It is going to be out of this same guilt that some people are going to feel like letting them have their way, and some of the diaspora supporters are operating from this guilt.

I say we shouldn’t let them have it that easy, because this is not about us. This is about the honor of those who died to make this constitution possible. We cannot allow Mr Sulayman Jallow and his team to write off the patriotic sons and daughters of our country. The truth of the matter is that 99% of the people in the diaspora are not interested in running for any of these offices, but when did the absence of personal interest stop us from fighting for what’s right? What we should not do, is allow a few people write us out of the constitution as if we had nothing to do with where we are today as a country. Let the people vote it down when the referendum gets here. We need to have every single politician on record and know who stands with the diaspora on this one.
Word has it that 80% of the population agreed with that disrespectful clause. Since I’m not in the position to dispute the accuracy of that statistic, I can only ask Mr Sulayman Jallow that famous Barrow question. When did it get so dark that we cannot recognize one another?



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