Njundu Drammeh

(JollofNews)- Freedom is lost and rights are violated or abused or denied when the people who sacrificed sweat, blood and tears go to sleep after winning these or out of over-confidence fail to water, manure and tend their gains.

‘Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty’ says Wendell Philips. But ‘eternal vigilance’ becomes a worthier price to pay only when the people are willing to support and fight for that liberty, whether for themselves or for others. The battle for liberty, freedom and rights is an on-going struggle, a momentum which must never slow down or be allowed to dissipate. Even when these have been won, through a struggle or at a canter, there is no resting either on the laurels or oars. Aptly put by Oliver Wendell Holmes:

“…….The riders in a race do not stop short when they reach the goal. There is a little finishing canter before coming to a standstill. There is time to hear the kind voices of friends and to say to oneself: The work is done. But iust as one says that, the answer comes: ‘The race is over’ but the work never is done while the power to work remains. The canter that brings you to a standstill need not be only coming to rest. It cannot be, while you still live. For to live is to function. That is all there is to living.”

Elections are over but the battle to protect rights and freedom goes on. It is a perpetual struggle and each day confirms that there are ‘miles to go’ before we can even rest for a moment. Whose duty fundamentally is to keep alive this struggle? Who has everything to lose if they keep their eyes off the goal or go to sleep at the post? It is certain that politicians will not ‘keep’ or safeguard our freedom and liberty for us.

Theirs are protected. Theirs they can demand and will get. The masses, after the inauguration and swearing in, are left at their own mercies until the next elections. The common scenario is that the politician thrusts himself or herself into another class of their own or hobnob with the bourgeoisie, the business class, the real estate owners, the tycoons and the monopolists and the industrialists, the importers and exporters. He or she loses the common touch, loses affection for the commoner, loses connection with the realities of the poor, insulates himself or herself from the woes of the masses. He or she disengages or disconnects.

The one who promises to deliver the people to the land of Canaan, to fight for their rights and be their voice, becomes a soi dissant Moses, the friend and defender of Capital and status. Saints and statesmen amongst them stand on a pedestal and fight alongside the people but theirs is often a lonely voice which get drowned in the cacophony.

A lyric by the late Lucky Dube goes like this: “Now that you got what you wanted/You don’t even know my name”…… This surmises often the attitude of politicians after electioneering, after the cajoling and the promises and the eventual winning. Politicians will, by and large, remain politicians. While a saint or statesman comes from amongst them every blue moon, the rule remains the same.

When electioneering is done and dusted and that vital vote secured, they eat their words, those honey coated propaganda platitudes and sanctimonious irrelevances, the promises which won them the votes. This fact is public knowledge yet every five or so years we fall prey to the same sweetened sonorous statements; we believe the same vote catching ‘promises will come to pass, will be honoured, will be fulfilled. Juxtaposed against the promises of the previous elections, we can see a lot of similarities, same ‘promises’ delivered through different cheeks.

The Golden Lead Factory at Gunjur, the environmental degradation it is causing which has been documented and proven and the open support of the Kombo North Constituency National Assembly and the Minister for the Environment to the factory doing the damage (or their public denial of the damage) illustrates that in the fight between capital and the masses, the poor, powerless masses, the Politician or the political class is most likely to side with Capital, the economic or business class.

The representative and the Minister, just few months ago, were with the people, swore to stand by the people, to defend the public interest, to never betray the people. Few months later, they are standing by Capital. Those stalwarts who canvassed for votes on their behalves or that of their party, who braved insults and intimidation and assaults, are now branded ‘public enemy’. How easily men forget!!!

The case of Babucarr Nani Sey also shows that unless communities stand shoulder to shoulder with social justice activists and take on capital head on, businesses and politicians will continue to exploit the masses, will continue to dole out to them pittance while snatching away their lands. The promulgation of the State of Emergency in the heat of the political impasse by the former National Assembly to safeguard the interest of one man at the detriment of stability, peace and justice demonstrate that when the chips are down, politicians will abandon the public interest to protect each other and their interest.

For rights, freedoms and liberty to be respected and fulfilled, the people, or the majority of the people, must be ready to defend these, to demand for them, to insist on their observance in letter and spirit, to sacrifice for these. The whole community, or again the majority, must be agitated or hurt when the rights, freedoms and liberty of an individual or a group is violated, abused or unnecessarily shackled. The majority does not have to be wronged to stand up, to speak out, to protest, to demand for justice.

Pursuit for justice regardless of who is the victims, steadfastness in the service of truth, underpinned by fellow feeling and that spirit of collectivism, communalism and camaraderie which come about when ‘love for our brethren what we love for ourselves’ are essential bulwarks against tyranny and abuse of power or office, against betrayal by politicians and against the unholy alliance between politicians and capital or business.

If our rendezvous with destiny is not to become a tryst with despair, all of us must be willing to put aside our political differences, protect the public good and galvanise our efforts to safeguard our rights, collective and individual. There is a higher ideal in solidarity; that the bell of injustice may also toll for you and there would be compatriots to fight for you.

The community must refuse to be divided by politicians; must hold politicians accountable no matter which political shade they belong and must be ready to cross the political divide when the right of a member is threatened or violated regardless. Without the willingness to stand for others, without the understanding that we have a duty to support and protect, justice will elude most of us. As Learned Hand says:

“Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it. The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the minds of other men and women; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which weighs their interests alongside its own without bias.”