By Madi Jobarteh
Since the APRC NAMs amended Section 48(3) of the Constitution in 2003 to make simple majority or first-past-the-post the rule for winning elections, it became clear that unless there is a single candidate going against Yaya Jammeh, the possibility of voting him out of office was almost impossible. This bad provision was therefore fundamental in the calls for all opposition parties to come together with a single flag bearer. For more than 10 years this was difficult to obtain until 2016 when the opposition created the Grand Coalition guided by a MoU and a Manifesto.
Hence these parties including the independent presidential candidate have a direct stake and responsibility in the victory of Barrow and the smooth and successful functioning of his government. Having lived through the dictatorship and suffered hugely, these parties therefore have a singular responsibility to usher the Gambia into a modern democratic dispensation as spelt out in their MoU, Manifesto and campaign promises. Their experience itself at the hands of the tyranny is a promise that they have no choice but to repair the damages of APRC and rebuild this country as decided by Gambians on December 1.
Yet so far the Coalition as a group and individual parties have not fully demonstrated to us that they have learnt their lessons and they are using their experience to remake this country. The way and manner of the Coalition members in their individual and collective decisions and actions so far leaves much to be desired. It appears our parties are more preoccupied about power and space for themselves than responding to the urgent needs of the society. For this reason, it is necessary that we become alert to that as citizens to monitor them closely knowing that we cannot anymore let politicians to derail and destroy our lives.
In my assessment I give them with a D score for the simple reason that these political parties that formed the Coalition are not providing the strategic and necessary support that Barrow needs. For example, they generated a lot of bickering in the way and manner cabinet ministers were selected. The back and forth and the amount of time it took to select ministers testify to that fact. Thus following the unfolding nature of events, what became evident was that there was not the necessary consultation and agreement among them as per the terms of their MoU. This vibration became more visible in the run-up to the parliamentary elections.
First they failed to pursue a unified position. Even in that failure they all failed again to stick to their individual desired approaches. For example PDOIS favoured an independent-led approach yet ended up fielding candidates in the name of PDOIS. It refused to stick to its desired approach even if UDP and the others did not agree to it. PPP also appeared to lean towards the PDOIS approach but they ended up also having their own party candidates and even competed against each other. Both of them therefore threw away the tactical alliance under an independent approach that they all supported originally. At the same time UDP, NRP and GMC also failed to stick to their party-led approach as they also failed to contest on the basis of a tactical alliance. Rather they ended up competing against each other in many constituencies. It is clear that party interests influenced all of their decisions.
Hence all of these parties in the Coalition have failed to provide the necessary unity and guidance that Barrow needs. This lack of unity continues to aggravate as it has produced a very unpleasant climate of acrimony between their supporters and surrogates and even between some leaders. Personal and tribal invectives are thrown at each other thereby threatening the nascent democracy we have just achieved as a people. if this trend continues it definitely poses threats to the stability of the Barrow Administration. This must be a huge concern to all citizens.
Consequently all of these make one wonder who really is advising the president. Does the Coalition Executive Committee function, as it should? What has been the role of the Coalition Chair and Spokesperson? As the ruling Coalition, do they hold periodic meetings to monitor the implementation of their Manifesto? Are they following their MoU?
The position and role of the Coalition Chair and Spokesman as well as the Coalition Executive Committee are significant for this administration. But I am concerned that instead of these structures providing the necessary leadership and guidance, rather we see only accusations and counter accusations. The fact that there has been so much rancour over ministerial positions and then the fallout over the parliamentary elections indicates that this Coalition is not standing on a strong foundation of unity with which it started. The continuing indecision over the appointment of the vice president as well as the conflicting positions of Ousainou Darboe and Halifa Sallah over the tenure of Pres. Barrow all point to the lack of consultation and leadership within the Coalition. Meantime the rest of the leadership remains mute over these issues. Why?
As we move forward, it is important that the Barrow Administration including the Coalition parties understand that there is a new narrative in the Gambia. This is the Coalition Government narrative. They are no more opposition parties under a dictatorship and they must not respond to issues as if they are still within that Yaya Jammeh scenario. Rather they need to be proactive and define themselves as the government, which has come to address the civil, political, economic and social issues of the Gambia. They must remain a united and focused Coalition. No one should seek to dominate Barrow and no one should seek to forsake Barrow. All must recognize that the Barrow Administration is their collective baby and until the end of the three years, they have a responsibility to take care of this baby. Failure is not an option.
Now that they are all represented in the parliament, we must tell these parties that what we expect is cooperation and consultation in the supreme interest of the Gambia. The Gambia needs a modern and robust democratic dispensation, which should deliver us out of poverty and deprivation into an advanced and prosperous society. The making of such Gambia lies inside the parliament. We expect these parties therefore to remember and respect their MoU and Manifesto to follow through it because they have highlighted critical issues that are necessary for the creation of that new Gambia. Failure to abide by their MoU and the Manifesto would therefore be a great disservice to the Gambia.
Let citizens now also take ownership of the MoU and Manifesto so that we use them as tools to monitor, engage, support and critique the Barrow Administration and the Coalition and its parties for the good of the Gambia.
God Bless The Gambia!