By Alhagie Jobe
Adama Barrow, the recently nominated party leader of the United Democratic Party (UDP) has been duly elected as the opposition coalition standard bearer to face incumbent President Yahya Jammeh in the upcoming election on December 1st.
Mr Barrow was elected at the Sunday’s National Convention of Political Parties held at the Kairaba Beach Hotel.
Four candidates who were vying for the coalition leadership are Hon. Hamat NK Bah, leader of the National Reconciliation Party (NRP); Hon. Halifa Sallah of the People’s Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS); Adama Barrow of the United Democratic Party (UDP) and Lamin Bojang of the National Convention Party (NCP).
After a democratic and transparent election, the returning officer of the Natonal Convention for the election of the opposition standard bearer Aja Fatoumatta Jallow-Tambajang certified and announced the results as: Adama Barrow of UDP: 308 votes (62.9 percent); Hamat NK Bah of NRP: 72 votes; Halifa Sallah of PDOIS: 65 votes and Lamin Bojang of NCP: 40 votes and the total number of votes registered was 490; invalid votes were 2 and 485 valid votes respectively.
The National Convention for the Opposition Parties was held under the theme “United to salvage Gambia for peace and justice”. The objective of the convention was to elect a single standard bearer for an alliance to face the incumbent President Yahya Jammeh who is seeking for a fifth term.
Initially, the coalition comprised of seven (7) political parties and the Independent Candidate but at the latter part, it finally became only six (6) political parties as the Gambia Democratic Congress party of Mama Kandeh and only Independent Candidate were absent.
With 10 delegates from each of the five administrative regions of the country with voting rights of 560, the absence of the two parties subsequently reduce the voting rights to 490, making it compulsory for the winner to pulled out 246 votes in the first round without which a second round voting would have been conducted and an absolute majority becomes the winner.
Accepting the election as the coalition leader, Adama Barrow of the UDP, reaffirmed his committed and loyalty to the coalition saying history has been made.
“I once more pledge my committed to what we have agreed to salvage our county from the destruction it has gone through for the past 22 years” he said.
He particularly thanked Halifa Sallah for the foresight in making this coalition a dream come true. He also thanked Fatoumata Tambajang for her work aimed at ending dictatorship and always with the confident that Yahya Jammeh must go. He also thanked other party leaders and all delegates for the confidence bestowed upon him and assured that he will work with all everyone.
According to Barrow, the diverse nature of the coalition is an indication that the country can continue to be united saying Gambians are tied of Jammeh’s 22 year misrule. “I humbly accept the election. Forward never, backward never” he concluded.
In his solidarity speech after the election, Hon Hamat Bah of NRP urged the people to make history on December 1st saying the Gambia needs change. “The clapping should start on December 1st. Clap with your votes” he urged people.
He assured of his total support to the elected coalition leader saying they will work hand in hand, door to door in every Gambian household to make sure that the coalition brings change.
Halifa Sallah of the PDOIS in his solidarity message said what happen today is historic and has never happened and shows that The Gambia will never be the same again. According to him, ‘this is a beginning of a new beginning’ reminding people that they are coming together to strengthen the multi- party system and win the elections.
To the coalition leader, he said the person is standing as an independent candidate, serving no party.
“That is what we agreed. This person elected is the instrument to end impunity in this country. He will make a promise to serve three years, then that cabinet will be dissolve and we go on election and all parties will stand independently. This is coalition of hope, coalition of democracy and justice. This is what we are looking for. No one should utilize the coalition for individual interest. The national interest should be supreme. Collectively, we are together, we can utilize our intelligence and energy and make history. We are in the process of making history and we can make history only if we make change and bring in a system that will earn the respect of the people” Halifa said.
Omar Jallow alias OJ of the People’s Progressive Party who gave the vote of thanks, urged the people to vote massively for the coalition during the December 1st presidential elections.
Earlier, in her welcoming remarks at the start of the convention, Aja Fatoumatta Jallow Tambang who is co-chair of the Gambian Opposition for Electoral Reform (GOFER) cited the urgency of election of the standard bearer to face the incumbent in the December polls.
Hon Samba Jallow, NRP Party Member of Parliament who is also the minority leader urged all the rally behind whoever is selected and work hard to win the elections. He said there are many Gambians in the Diaspora who are not able to come home right now and this should make it important for all of them to support our efforts. “We will also work with those who are not here so that we can collectively join hands and regain our country” he said.
Prior to the voting process, each of the four aspirants of the alliance leadership have their mission statements. They all expressed their wish to be elected and called on the people to vote for them massively.
Hamat NK Bah, opposition NRP party leader & contender for the coalition flag bearer spoke of why he is qualifies to be elected as the coalition leader.
He gave a brief background of the past coalitions in 2001, 2006 and 2011, how it ended and urged all to avoid same scenario saying “our ultimate objective today is to come with one candidate that will win. We are here to select a candidate that will win, that can carry the Gambian agenda and do what the Gambian people want. The candidate must transcend tribal, party and regional lines but for the interest of the Gambia and Gambians.”
Adama Barrow of the UDP also outlined his plans before the convention and urged people to vote for him. He assured that if elected, he will lead the opposition coalition for transitional period of three years. He highlighted many reforms that he plans to make if elected President of The Gambia.
Hon Halifa Sallah of PDOIS also highlighted the deteriorating human rights violations in the country and the need to change the APRC regime. He said if he were to become the leader of The Gambia, I would make sure that my heart will beat in unison with the heart beat of every suffering Gambia and prevent every Gambian from been subjected torture, inhuman and nay degrading punishment.
He assured that if elected, he will only serve two years as president base on his age.
Lamin Bojang of the NCP also highlighted the reason why he should be voted and urged the people to ensure that there is change in this coming election in December polls. For him, incumbent President Jammeh has totally loose authority and will surely lose in coming election.
All delegates where later sensitized with the voting process and a transparent and democratic voting was conducted.
Independent Candidate’s position
Meanwhile, the only Independent Candidate and first female aspirant did not attend the convention though rumors had it that she had pulled out of the coalition following a meeting she held a night before the convention and expressed confident that she is confident of defeating Jammeh without an alliance.
She was quick to respond to concerns with a post on her Facebook page expressing deep concern that Gambians have raised about her absence in the ongoing opposition convention.
According to the statement, she equally deeply regrets her absence in the important meeting, but however appealed to all Gambians to exercise restraint and decorum as she would give a press conference on Monday October 31 to speak on the issues and the way forward.
She confirmed that she has not pulled out of the opposition coalition, contrary to reports on social media that she has abandoned the process adding she remains highly committed to the unity of the opposition as manifested in her involvement in the process of the coalition building over the past few weeks. She further assured all Gambians that whatever the outcome of the convention is, she will stand in solidarity with the opposition to ensure that the Gambia regains her democratic credentials on December 1.