Women of Substance





The Spotlight: The Scramble for the Gambia 2016; Part VII

By Yero Jallow (Dalton)

“When a leader tries to change the rules in the middle of the game just to stay in office, it risks instability and strife -- as we’ve seen in Burundi. And this is often just a first step down a perilous path.  And sometimes you’ll hear leaders say, well, I'm the only person who can hold this nation together. If that's true, then that leader has failed to truly build their nation.” – Barack Obama, Remarks for the People of Africa, July 2015.

The issues of coalitions are never easy. We are however faced with some tough realities; that is hijacking of a decent nation by a pariah soldier through the July 1994 overthrow which left us with lasting bruises. Even though I wanted to get updates from Friday’s meeting to write part VII, I changed my mind, with the hope that the key political players and their many surrogates are following things closely, so my part is to put across a convincing evidence on the need for unity, without which the chances of defeating Jammeh in the forthcoming Presidential elections are so slim that it will be easier to get a 400-pound live elephant through a needle hole than to defeat a 22-year old autocratic incumbent. So I hope each of the aspirants and their followers will put country first before anything else.

Who are the expected Presidential aspirants against Yaya Jammeh of the APRC?

Hamat Bah (NRP), Isatou Touray (Independent), Halifa Sallah (PDOIS), Mama Kandeh (GDC), Bolong Bojang (NCP), and Adama Barrow (UDP). We already discussed in part 5 the argument and weight of each of the parties. Mai Ahmed Fatty (GMC), Lamin Waa Juwara (NDAM), Henry Gomez (GPDP), OJ (PPP), and Pabi Joof (Independent) haven’t strongly expressed interest in fielding Presidential candidates, though their weighing matters equally, especially if they have a desire to influence the outcome.

What type of coalition should be aimed at? As it stands, there are three possible options.

(1)Party-led – This is where one of the parties that expressed interest in the Presidency will be allowed to lead. The cabinet will have representation from all key players, either by agreement of equal representation or proportionate to a party’s structural weight and establishment.

(2) Independent-led – This is where an independent candidate can be chosen, someone probably neutral within party lines, or have at least some strong respect and regards for each party. This will be a compromised candidate to ease the push and pull of getting a party leader. It can also have equal cabinet representation from member signatories.

(3) Coalition-led (Flag bearer) – This is where the key players will agree on a selection process. It can happen through primaries where a handful representation of each party and constituency will participate in a mock selection. This is a one of the best ways to gauge electability and being saleable.

A Compromise – Who must lead? Love for nation should include compromise. Any genuine leader should be ashamed to be found wanting in leadership, especially where we are dealing with a mighty dictatorship. A compromise can include agreeing to serve one term of three (3) years only and to have a cabinet with equal seat representation for each party. Such a compromised candidate above must not favor any of the political parties once his/her mandate ends. Such compromise cannot be done on lines of race, tribe, religion, friendship, family ties, cultural ties, gender, and geographical orientation. It should be based on competency, electability, being saleable, one with desire to liberate and unite Gambians, and an urge to see peace, development, and harmony among Gambians.

Victory – What is a victory? A sweet victory will be where one of the Presidential contestants (hopefully only one of the opposition leaders) will beat Jammeh in vote counts. Since the electoral laws have it as “simple majority,” a leader can emerge by even few votes, though the goal is to widen the margin, so the incumbent can be defeated hands-down. Such a law is different from the “over 50% round of voting” where a winner will be required to have over 50% of the votes.

Failure – What is a failure? A failure will occur when this race is more than two-way race, in which case Jammeh will have an advantage. In fact even with a coalition, the chances are still slim to unseat Jammeh. Is it possible to unseat him? Yes, only with a united coalition. Anything short of that will be a waste of time, money, and resources. The whole idea that some major parties can do it together without the others is wishful thinking. There is nothing wrong daydreaming for better; perhaps it is better with a true self-assessment of our situation. Don’t even try going into elections in a three-way race.

Attitude – So what should our attitudes be? No one is saying people cannot talk about these matters, or that these leaders should not be criticized. What is expected is to criticize in a civil way and offer solutions, especially those of the oppressed that share a common struggle. Part of what we are fighting right now is exactly that – oppression, bad-mouthing from Jammeh, and human rights violations, so our attitudes must be better than what we seek to replace. Some of those that come to these forums and sweet-talk but are hell-bent secretly on destruction and division must look themselves through the mirror. The best attitude is to be respectful, recognize, acknowledge, criticize and offer solutions. Any show of aggression, name-calling, alienation, ‘kabuudu’ grouping, and other divisive tendencies will make everyone fail. Common sense and ethics will take us back to the golden rule; treating other parties and their surrogates the same way you would like you and your party to be treated. It is also a sign of emptiness to focus on the negatives and what divides us further apart; as anyone with substance and a genuine fighter for liberation knows better not to get trapped in division, political hypocrisy, and entrenching a dictatorship. Every citizen can and is encouraged to participate in a country’s democratic process. Birthright is not an accident; it is God-given right.

Part VIII will follow in a few days and it will include Friday’s updates on the coalition talks, possible fund-raising, citizen mobilization, the IEC and election deposits, and involving the local and international communities for continued vigilance. Long live the Gambia! Long live the struggle for liberation, down with division and dictatorship!!

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