Historically, power has been concentrated and unitary. However, the dynamism of power, especially political power has shifted shape in the twenty-first century. This is evident by active citizen participation in politics. For instance, in The Gambia, the number of citizens frequently engage in political convos across the length and breadth of this nation – in the streets, in the markets, in workplaces, in “bantabas”, and even in schools are an embodiment of active citizen participation. Added to that is the growing interest of young people in political office.
The power of speech empowers citizens, gives them voice, gives them courage, and the capacity to make abstract judgments on what is right or wrong. Likewise, it also renders a golden opportunity for politicians wishing to market their policies. Since the activity of politics results in decisions that establish constraints and possibilities for how people live, it behooves citizens to be proactive, discipline, and civil in leveraging on this power. This demands that civic space does not have to be toxic, or repugnant, rather democratic, free, fair, and impartial.
Often, when we engage in political debates, we owe it to our audiences to discuss issues of significance and relevance to national development. Freedom of expression offers an opportunity to change, and influence behaviors of the polite towards a political belief or ideology – as political discourses like debates make room for the generation of ideas. Thus, we must not, and cannot allow cynicism, tribal sentiments, and demagoguery to continue to shape our political narratives.
It is an election year, and the voter registration exercise has ended, notwithstanding campaigns are just at the corner. Thus, it is fulfilling to engage in diverse forms of political conversations, however, these platforms must be spirited by decorum. We have to shift it from character defamation, and sentimental rhetoric to a conversation on policies, programs, and ideas politicians and their parties have for the electorates. For instance, debates on poverty rate, infant mortality rate, food insecurity, malnutrition, unemployment, the high surge in crimes, and skyrocketing prices of basic commodities, etc. which are the burning issues of our people, Gambian masses.
Maybe, and just maybe if our discourses focus more on such subjects, we will install a government committed to eradicating poverty, end hunger and malnutrition in all its forms, improve health care delivery, provide quality education, and create job opportunities. Thus, the Gambian electorates would not have to face the conundrum and dilemma of voting choices in each election. As voters would be informed by sound policies, ideas, and achievable promises of each politician prior to any election.
In addition, our choice of leaders would cease to be informed by ethnicity, nepotism, or some sort. This requires our public and media conversations to shift shape from spewing hate speech, derogatory remarks, and enticing acrimony amongst ourselves to bringing peoples’ attention to issues that affect us all. By this, politicians and duty bearers would be challenged to provide concrete rather than abstract initiatives that are attainable. Consequently, our political discourses would advance ideas that interest us all.