The Spotlight: Scramble for the Gambia 2016; Part V
By Yero Jallow
“A man who calls his kinsmen to a feast does not do so to save them from starving. They all have food in their own homes. When we gather together in the moonlit village ground it is not because of the moon. Every man can see it in his own compound. We come together because it is good for kinsmen to do so.”― Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart.
Gambia’s 2016 election is what you call an interesting election year for obvious reasons. Power is one of those things that is so tempting (sweet); jokingly people say power is not that thing you try (taste) and pass around willingly. Exactly why even Jammeh is not willing to leave, added to his fear of retribution for his open criminality against decency.
On today’s discourse, let us piggyback on developments registered so far on the efforts for a unified coalition against the Incumbent Jammeh in the forthcoming 2016 Presidential elections. Right after the EU met with the opposition and left for home, the Opposition were able to reconvene on September 26th 2016. At least three top party Presidential aspirants were present and two deputies of the other parties. Some others showed up and were possibly asked to rescue themselves as the meeting was for Presidential aspirants only. The goal is to make sure the actual leaders all sit down to sincerely talk. The session will reconvene again, maybe next week, or who knows, kiss off to unity goodbye. The latter is undesirable as it will create a more than three-way race. In a ‘simple majority’ game, that is not a safe thing, not even close to comfort level. The selection of a pope is normally done in seclusion and I too wonder if we have to get to that in Gambia’s situation, because the more information that comes out, the muddier the politics and the least likely that unity will be achieved. God save the Gambia!
It is no doubt the political season is here and that is when we hear the best and ugliest politics; as we all know politics is a messy business. It is also that time when peoples’ blood pressure elevates so high, because the politics gets to them. People at times resort to hate, others resort to division and hypocrisy, others resort to tribalism and racism, others resort to nowhere or being neutral, and probably a few will stand tall and stick with the truth and reality to save grace. The bias, belief, instinct, the unknown, and tomfoolery are just factors of division and to small part, unity. Political glamour also offers itself. The moon will shine so all the little boys and girls will come out to play, the least, play ‘hide and seek,’ the known game of ages, even older than the baobab trees. Like Professor Abdoulaye Saine once put it, it is also called healthy political debate “to agree to disagree without being disagreeable.” Critics and proponents should also learn to be decent, mature, and to criticize and offer solutions. It is a sign of being empty to bring about all the vices, or just being a stooge of blind support. The Gambia is bigger than any one individual, and unity sounds like a way to go on this one, as the political equation is too complex.
Some of the parties in the case of PDOIS believe in primaries. Such will require the selected leader of each party to present him or herself to Gambians, from where a selected pool of delegates representing the constituencies will choose from. Proponents of primaries argue that it is a great litmus test for candidature and being saleable. Critics of primaries argue that time is not in our favor and it requires a lot of resources. Oh well, PDOIS’ primaries idea are older than the hills and it is well spelt out on ‘Agenda 2016’ which was a subject of critique online years back. Back to square one, right! In 2006, Halifa represented NADD.
Parties like the UDP always argue that they form the largest party, and as such, they should be allowed to lead, so others can be part of. True based on the past Presidential election results from 1996 to 2011, the UDP pulled out the most votes. Critics easily trash that fact, downplaying it that no single opposition party can win in a simple majority contest. True. But do numbers matter in politics? If it does, then the UDP really have a point. As such Adama Barrow, who succeeded Lawyer Ousainou Darboe, will now have to act tough, to piggyback on those numbers to present an argument before the table.
Then we have the NRP; many of its pioneer supporters now show support for Mama Kandeh of the GDC. So Hamat while he may not have the top numbers, he too believe he have been on the game from the get-go, and needs to be the leader. He too have a point, at least even his critics will agree that he contested elections, the highest position in the land. In 2006, Hamat partnered with the UDP when NADD was aborted at the 9th month pregnancy. In 2011, Hamat partnered with PDOIS and Gomez, and ran as an Independent Candidate. That is so much to disregard, and he too must use that for his argument.
At the corner block, you are not far from meeting a respectable Gambian in Bolong Bojang, who as we known showed interest in being a President. He now partnered with the NCP, and they too claim they are the longest Gambian opposition, and they should be allowed to lead. Critics argue that the NCP compromised itself at some point, and even joined camp with the APRC.
Then we have the newest two; Mama Kandeh of the GDC and Isatou Touray of the Independent. Mama and the GDC believe they have a solid momentum based on tours they completed countrywide. It was characterized by mass numbers, believed to be people tired of the day criminal regime, and now interested in some change. He offers a package that resonates with some and from a political point of view; he was able to score political points. He too is right and his show of support which made him as one of the key players to shape this year’s Presidential elections. His critics charged that he was a serving Parliamentarian in Jammeh’s criminal regime where he helped pass a lot of bad laws.
On the other hand, Isatou Touray too came and presented her candidature as an Independent. She came with a party manifesto and thoughtfully presents that the opposition couldn’t unite, and as she put it in her own words, she is the cooking pot, and the others will provide the fire (heat), while she cooks the ready meal for consumption. Based on years of tying to unite, Isatou too is right that unity is really difficult among the opposition. Isatou’s critics charged that she hijacked the political show and imposed herself without a base, and that an independent in this case should have allowed the other parties to make her an Independent, especially the case of the manifesto.
Then we have the balancers; even in musical instruments, you have the base, the mixers, and the equalizers, so the DJ was basically just the show man. You have Lawyer Joseph Joof (Independent), Barrister Mai Fatty (GMC), Henry Gomez (GPDP), Lamin Waa Juwara (NDAM), OJ (PPP), and any that hasn’t announced their candidature yet. OJ and Waa are already disqualified by the age limit of 65 years. Even though it is unlikely that the latter will contest elections for the presidency, no doubt they too would play some roles in weighing in, hopefully in the best interest of our nation.
So now, based on these submissions, at least each have an argument to be President of the Gambia, and it is not something that I or any have to agree with, but these things presented themselves. So how do we steer our sailing boat from here? Please don’t miss out on part VI.
To be continued…