Njundu Drammeh

Dear Saffiyoungba,

It is said that Che Guevara’s last words to his heartless executioner were “Shoot, you will only kill a man”. In deed he killed a man. But he could not killed Che’s ideas, the respect he earned by his deeds, the love he had from ordinary men and women whose liberation and freedom from the clutches of colonialism, imperialism and capital he so ardently fought for and for which he died. Che lives on…

I began with Che’s story because everyone of us will be remembered by where we stood at the time of greatest need, or what use we made of the “tool” that was in our hands, whether it was a pen, a microphone, a laptop, a cellphone, etc, to contribute to the liberation of our people. Remember Moses had only a staff in his hand. The man and woman in the backwaters of The Gambia had only their vote in their hands.

Saffiyoungba, since our stay on earth is transitory, just a journey, it would be important to think of how we want to be remembered, what legacy we leave behind, what history they will tell posterity when asked about our contribution or lack of it to the growth and strengthening of democracy, good governance, human rights, justice, equality or just the cultivation of good neighbourliness. If a man or woman cannot die for anything, then he or she needs to check the purpose of his or her life.

Speak or write just the truth however painful or inconvenient it might be to you or others you love. If you cannot, then keep quiet. Silence is golden in such an instance. If you are to, then say or write as it should be, nothing “extenuated” or set down in malaise. Focus on the issue, not the person or personality. When you write or say otherwise, you can kill, destroy careers, ignite hatred for the person. Your lie may never be discovered but if you have a conscience it would trouble you till the cows come home.

You do not have to huff and puff about everything. Some things are not worth the brass button on your coat. Hear them and move on. You dissipate energy and time when you want to respond to everything people say about you. People have a right to their opinions which you should respect but not necessarily accept. You have the right to respond but do you have to exercise this right at all times?

There is something you must never lose with people: your INTEGRITY. People can forgive small mistakes but when you betray their trust, or become untrustworthy, when they are aware of your credibility gap (incongruence between what you say and do), when you are absolutely incompetent at your job (competency gives trust), you lose integrity and may not be given a second chance. So be sincere with people. You cannot fool them all the time.

I admire your newfound courage, that interest in politics and speaking truth to power. We must be interested in what is happening around us and take active part in finding solutions to the problem. You must be part of the solution, not the problem. That is way much better than being part of the problem. Remember though that you must speak truth to yourself too, be willing to be held accountable for your words and deeds and be transparent.

Stop being judgmental. Be understanding. Be appreciate of the small efforts of others. Don’t use yourself as the yardstick to measure others. As Einstein advised, we shouldn’t judge a fish by its ability to climb or a squirrel by its ability to swim. Or even a person’s intelligence by his or her mastery of a foreign language.

It is easier to love than to hate. Hate is debilitating and cancerous. It consumes the hater too. So have love in your heart and mind. Be the light that lights the paths of others.

Till we meet at the vous.