by 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 who 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 that indebtedness is the worst kind of sycophancy; It kills reason.”
Fatoumatta: l has been privileged with certain information given out to me in confidence because they trust me. In some other instances, l was a witness. A major challenge of our leaders at various levels, not just in government, is the issue of sycophancy. And there are different levels. I would give a few examples. When Yahya Jammeh was the President, the then head of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) wrote a false security report about a known and credible person who was a supporter of President Jammeh. But President Jammeh didn’t act on this security report. He invited the subject of the report and similarly invited the head of that NIA who wrote that report. The subject was confronted with the report and by the time he totally discredited the report with facts and dates, the Security Chief was thoroughly embarrassed and apologized because Yahya Jammeh wanted to fire him for misleading him because he had personal issues with the man. That tells you how leaders are held, hostage.
Eventually, when President Yahya Jammeh wanted a replacement for the late NIA boss, he pleaded with this subject of false security report, to be his NIA. The man declined. He said it was morally wrong for him to accept the position because he would not be able to trust that head of the agency and if he asked that he be fired, it would appear as if it’s a matter of vendetta. So, he declined.
Fatoumatta: The second story would shock many of you, on the level of sycophancy in the corridors of power. During President Jammeh’s regime, if you were a minister and wanted your file attended to quickly by the almighty President, you gauged his mood, eat dinner with and make some silly jokes.
So, one day, few of these Cabinet Ministers were with him and the news was on Gambia Radio and Television Services (GRTS), where somebody made some scathing criticism of the President. Momentarily, two of these Ministers (names withheld), in a fit of sycophantic, feigned anger, moved towards the 80-inch 4kUltra HD Flat Screen Television set and smashed it, saying they would replace it. “How can they be saying such rubbish against a very patriotic, hard-working president?” they chorused. President Jammeh felt like an emperor whose ego has been massaged. Those two sycophantic Ministers got their files signed by President Jammeh that night. That is another level of sycophancy.
Fatoumatta: One prominent seyfo (name withheld) in the Greater Banjul Area once Asked for Yahya Jammeh, that he would die if President Yahya Jammeh did not transmogrify into, a King, the Gambia become a Constitutional Monarchy stating that the Gambia is finished without President Yahya, Jammeh in his well-funded state campaigns. President Yahya Jammeh has been in exile since 2017 and the Seyfo has still refused to commit suicide.
Fatoumatta: Listening to Vice President Dr. Isatou Touray, I feel education has taught people nothing but sycophancy, a short cut to success. Her political statement at Statehouse “that opposing president Adama Barrow is disobeying God” went further to say among other things that “the time for politics is over” is an example of fawning sycophancy, very nauseating, someone exasperating farrago of distortions, misrepresentations and outright sycophancy masquerading as a highly sophisticated and knowledgeable politician.
Dr, Isatou Touray when not in sycophancy mode, is a brilliant orator but her comment is marked with obsequiousness and infused with unashamed intellectual dishonesty! This is what sycophancy can do to a well-educated person. Dr. Isatou Touray in her sickening servility- is forgetting that history is witness to the fact that truth temporarily can be obfuscated but it cannot be obliterated.
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 an 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.
Fatoumatta: 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 becomes 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 cyberactivism, this expectation rings a bell in the minds of the citizenry more than any other function.
Fatoumatta: The display of loyalty by blind support 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, the appointment to state jobs, patronage and development. The government itself easily makes the people subservient with its power of force always at the ready. Too often Gambians confuse criticism with impoliteness.
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.
Fatoumatta: So, you see them, the bane of leaders is the sycophants around them, including fundamentalist supporters who cannot see the larger picture. A person like President Yahya Jammeh and President Adama Barrow, for example, would never listen to a piece of good advice but the lies of sycophants. And there are also present-day politicians like that, not just the presidents. There is no difference between a religious and a sycophantic political fundamentalist. They lead their idols into the blind alley.
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.
Fatoumatta: 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.
For Gambians who remember during the APRC regime, our griots, traditional commentators, religious leaders, intellectuals and even the ‘King of the Kora’, Jaliba are all a stark reminder of the sycophants of those days. The likes of Banjul politician Lie Saine who at some point referred to then-President Yahya Jammeh to become a Constitutional monarch and the Supreme Islamic Council ordained Yahya Jammeh as Nasiruddin Al Islam, a title reserved for the 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!
Source: Culled from Alagi Yoro Jallow’s Facebook page