Alagi Yorro Jallow

Fatoumatta: A sycophant is “a person who seeks favor by flattering people of wealth or influence” according to Webster’s New World Dictionary. Sycophants do not make waves or criticisms. A sycophant will never criticize or correct his or her superiors.

Timothy Njoya is both a brilliant scholar and a skillful storyteller has marshaled a persuasive argument with a profoundly human touch and evokes that “The reason Jesus refused to allow anyone he healed to become his disciple is because indebtedness is the worst kind of sycophancy; It kills reason.”

Fatoumatta: Have the Gambian culture, political organizations, government and institutions become sycophantic? Today in our political development, people say and act just to get the attention of the powers that be for their own personal gains. In fact, our politics is sadly infected with quintessential professionals who have the habit of singing hosannas when they really mean crucify him.

For political and democracy pundits, this is a dangerous emerging trend. Today, the role of civil society activism as the Fifth Column is not restricted to the traditional responsibilities of advocacy, civil disobedience protestation and boycott, but also as instrument for grass root development and to engage the public, Govt—including influential politicians, religious, traditional, youth and women leaders—and help facilitate public debate. Both steps can make a stark difference in educating people about the impact of policies and good governance. In most instances, policies have been driven by external considerations. Civil society activism can help reverse this trend and ensure that local perspectives are heard and that initiatives are locally owned.

One of the key objectives of civil society activism is to mobilize public opinion and catalyze political support for further action at national, regional, and international levels before Govt become totally unmanageable. In other parts of the world, civil society–led efforts have helped overturn political, social, economic and environmental norms.
Activism is now seen more as a factor for change, development, growth and not mere clicktivism or cyber activism, this expectation rings bell in the minds of the citizenry more than any other functions.

The display of loyalty by blind activists without cause and those sycophants who lacked ideology, remain in favor of the Govt’s wishes, surpassed basic politics and logic. The loyalty we are experiencing in our political circles is, however, turning into something evil which, if not checked, has the potential to derail us from the democratic track. And for me this evil is more dangerous to our democracy than the coup makers. This evil is what we know as sycophancy.

The stakes are high: paychecks, hand-outs, appointment to state jobs, patronage and development. Government itself easily makes the people subservient with its power of force always at the ready. Too often Gambians confuse criticism with impoliteness.

Fatoumatta: It’s not in doubt sycophancy in our socio-economic and political life is the biggest threat we face in shaping our society. People are just licking the shoes of authority in the name of loyalty; some to score personal goals but the majority to undermine others.

Today, there exists a thin line between loyalty and sycophancy to such an extent that the two seem to be synonymous with each other. People no longer mean what they say and say what they mean.

Sycophancy is not far from full time praise singing, perennial lobbying for personal gains, obsequious flattery, servile, parasite, fawning, buttering and sucking up. Our democratic process faces an unprecedented elevated level of respected professionals from across board playing to the gallery through sycophancy. Their main weapon to achieve laurels is to “effectively lick the boots” of leaders at the right place and time.

It behooves on our leaders to be wary of the sycophants clothed in the colors of the loyalists and be extremely mindful of the strong derogatory concept that sycophancy connotes. All political party leaders are dotted with a strong axis of sycophants masquerading as loyalists.

Fatoumatta: For Gambians who remember APRC regime, our griots, traditional commentators, religious leaders and even the ‘King of the Kora’, Jaliba are all a stark reminder of the sycophants of those days. The likes of politician Lie Saine and the former paramount chief Demba Sagnia, who at some point referred to then President Yahya Jammeh to become a Constitutional monarch and the Supreme Islamic Council ordained him Nasiruddin Al Islam, a title reserved for caliph, the Supreme spiritual and temporal rulers of the vast Muslim empire of the Middle Ages.

Fatoumatta: The sycophants are so powerful that they could easily reduce a performing state servant to that of a disgruntled one. Their motives are simply to infect the system of government and hence end up doing grave damage to our democracy and the future development of our beautiful country. And for me this is the evil scaring our democracy!