Njundu Drammeh

Dear Saffiyoungba,

Where were you?

Just about 10 months ago you and I were living under one of the most repressive regimes in Africa, you in Basse and I in Banjul, the seat of that power. At two extremes of the country and we are strangers to each other. Think about these facts as you read through my letter.

Saffiyoungba, of late you have become too “dangerous” for our fledgling democracy, you who used to be with the “people”, the oppressed under Jammeh. Now even at innocuous remarks, you fling at people the most toxic, counterproductive, sanctimonious, patronising statements wannabe love to shout from the rooftop:

1. Where were you when Jammeh and his thugs were terrorising and killing people? I have never heard your voice or name.

Saffiyoungba, if you daily direct this question to those who were the very pillars of the Jammeh regime, his propagandists, architects and implementers of his bad laws and policies, errand boys and self appointed spokespeople, I won’t have minded. We know where these guys stood and with who. But you often throw this question at the face of the others.

Saffiyoungba, I want to ask you too: where were you? We never heard your name or voice. But even if we have heard, did that lone voice dislodge the dictatorship? Did that lone voice frighten Yaya? Did you, as a person, take up arms or organise a solo protest? What did you say? Who listened to you? Stop brother. I know you are not in that group who, at risk of life and limb, confronted Yaya and his butchers in their den or planned to oust him but were betrayed. They paid the ultimate price or suffered imprisonment or endured tortured or were forced into exile because of what they stood for. But these people won’t ask my whereabouts because their sacrifice wasn’t to earn recognition or for cheap popularity. Theirs was borne out of the highest sense of citizenship, that awareness that change and revolutions are engineered or midwifed by only a small group of committed, selfless men and women who are willing to be shunned or martyred for others to be free. They would not shout from the rooftop because they know theirs was a sacrifice for posterity. If you are in this special group and want to hold me accountable, then am ready to accept my failing.

Saffiyoungba, if you truly understand dictators, their monopoly over power and their ever readiness to use the instruments of torture, you will know that nothing wears down dictators more than “guerrilla” warfare, a constant battle of attrition which eats away the heart of dictatorship, silently and gradually. From lands afar, people used the opportunities of the social media and its platforms to influence minds and expose the misrule of Yaya. Others organised protest marches around the globe to highlight the plights of Gambians and the garrison State The Gambia had become. Countless others in the Gambia and abroad transferred monies into the accounts of the opposition parties or raised funds for them; wrote articles and satires to highlight the foolery of Yaya; mobilised underground foot soldiers in the communifies; convinced relatives to vote against Jammeh. And you have the effrontery to ask people where they were?

Saffiyoungba, do care to know where the man and woman living in the backwaters, on the fringes, in the suburbs, from every nook and cranny were at the time of neef? The youth man in the ghetto? The young ladies and boys who became brigades? You want to ask where they were too? Did you not see them sweating profusely on that snake shaped queue on elections day, with the patience of Job? With their votes, they engineered a political upset seldom witnessed in Africa and brought to the end a dictatorship.

Saffiyoungba, what do you hope to achieve by asking that inane question? To look warrior, as if you were the David who slew the Goliath? To set yourself on the highest pedestal? To feel good about yourself, that you were in the thick of things, at the vanguard of the revolution? To make others feel guilty of their apathy and thus subdue them into silence? Unless you are “omnipresent”, you will never know or hear about these efforts and people behind them. How could you have? Their sacrifices were not for the gallery.

Saffiyoungbaa, if your aim, by asking the question, is to silence dissent or merely to ridicule, please think again. The new found freedom we are relishing is the result of collective efforts and sacrifice, albeit at varying degrees and levels. Some public, most underground. All done for the motherland, without anything expected in return; for posterity to live in dignity. And yes, next time if you disagree with what i say or write, just counter it with your opinion. Let our opinions clash in the market place. It is tyranny to shot and shut down opinion with this “where were you?” question.

Saffiyoungba, where were you? I was in my house, praying for victory for the Coalition?