The Gambia’s political party architecture? Top-heavy bureaucracies navigated by strongmen – its “owners”. Weak by design and deliberately set up to dysfunction. The party officials – its apparatchiks, will be expected to play subservient roles to secure party “crumbs” and state appointments. Overlapping mandates: a cacophony. Fundamental structural flaws that cannot simply be cured by “change of guard”. Let’s empathize (not sympathize!) with our political parties. Our political outfits are a mess.

We have not developed serious political parties; what we have are vehicles for contesting political seats and which are trashed immediately the objective is achieved. They do not have branches and offices other than ad hoc groups. None of the parties have validly elected officials. When parties fail the democratic test, as they have done so far, they lose the legitimacy to govern a nation.

A party with “democracy” in its name should ensure that democracy is in its DNA. It must always, project fidelity to its constitution, the Political Parties’ Act and, good manners. After all, the least we expect are ego massaging, fisticuff internal party elections, hand-picking of officials, ejections, dissonance, disarray and, the total absence of concise, coherent and distinguishing party platforms:

The leader of a political party is fashioned in the image of a dreaded demigod, directing the tribe howsoever he wills. The political class lives under pathological fear of the tribal leader. The members follow and support the leaders not because they love him or believe in him, but because they are afraid of him. Where the leader moves become a party, so to speak. The space he vacates ceases being a party. The country is a graveyard of erstwhile popular political parties.

The problem at hand is not party hopping, but the practice of party politics. Political parties in the Gambia are purely vehicles for ascending to power. None subscribes to any ideology or ism. Secondly, party nominations are always a terrible mess. It is worrying when the leaders of major political parties. Push for such an amendment and whip their party MPs to vote for it. Not only are they being insincere, but they are trying to perpetuate dictatorship of party leaders, which is an affront to democracy.

Our political parties are a haven of personality cults, a temporary arrangement of convenience. Hope we learn something from the US election contest. Our politics has regressed to depend more and more on identity rather than policy or ideology.