By Lamin Gano
It is indisputable that in order to maximize the chance of defeating Jammeh this year, it is crucial for only one candidate to run against him. However, there is one important reason why it is too early to identify/endorse that special candidate and an equally important reason why it is extremely dangerous to do so right now. I will start with the security reason.
When Jammeh said a few months ago in Lamin that some people will not live to witness the elections, he was not referring to people like Ebrima Solo Kurumah (May his gentle soul rest in perfect peace) but instead he was referring to the main opposition leaders. Jammeh has absolutely no doubt that he is defeatable in elections and most especially in this year’s election. Jammeh knows that Gambians will not give him a new mandate but nonetheless he will not be going to the elections like a lamb to the slaughter.
In this regard, Jammeh will most like try a number of tricks to get rid of any opposition leaders who poses a serious threat to him in the election. First, he will try to manipulate the constitution/electoral laws by coming up with some weird/flimsy fabrications such as educational qualifications or some sharia laws against any such candidate(s). If he cannot make that to stick, then he will magic some criminal offences against any threatening opponent(s) to entangle him/her with Justice Dada until after the election. And if he cannot find any legal dirt/obstacles to throw in their ways, Jammeh may finally resort to his nine feet deep option.
My serious concern and fear is that one or two of the most prominent opposition leaders at the moment will not make it through to the nomination. And if our opposition leaders identify and selects a single leader at this moment, then Jammeh’s target will have in fact been presented to him on a silver platter. All he has to do is to wait until the first week of November and force Alhajie Alieu Momar Njie to reject his/her nomination based on some bogus fabrications.
In my opinion therefore, the best way to avert this existential security threat against our opposition leaders is for them to hit the campaign trails individually and separately until after the nomination. If the major opposition leaders of Gabon can throw their weights behind Jean Ping a few days before their election, our leaders can also do it. November will not be too late to decide and agree on a single candidate to take on Jammeh in the final showdown.
The reason why it is too early to decide on a single candidate is that there are four brand new presidential aspirants who have not yet hit the campaign trail; they have not yet met the people that really matters; and therefore there is no hardcore empirical evidence to judge their electability. These candidates are Mr. Barrow of the UDP, Dr. Bojang of the NCP and our two independents Dr. Touray and Lawyer Joof . Majority of the voters knows little or nothing about some or all of thems.
To simply rely on educational achievement/experience as the basis to claim that a candidate will be a political success may not be accurate. If anyone believes that a high level of education/intelligence is an automatic ticket to the presidency, then you were not following the US Republican presidential nomination contest. In spite of all his university degrees, great intellect and scientific discoveries, Dr. Ben Carson could not even expressed himself properly and was quickly bundled out of the race by the less educated Trump.
In fact, even political experience and super loaded manifestos cannot be used as a basis to determine the electability of a candidate. If you don’t believe me, please go and ask Halifa Sallah and Seedia Jatta. These two fine gentlemen may have the broadest political knowledge/experience in our country and yet their party has never been able to win even 10% of the votes in 30 years of active politicking.
And if anyone thinks that belonging to a majority tribe/party is an indication of political strength/success, please go and ask Mr. Hamat Bah and Lawyer Darboe. These two gentlemen and seasoned politicians are from the two biggest tribes in the Gambia totaling to about 72% of the population and yet 72% of the population voted against them in the 2011 presidential elections.
The most important qualities that makes a candidate popular/successful in elections is his or her personality and charisma which is manifested by the ability to captivate and win the hearts and minds of the people. This is what democratic elections are all about. You don’t necessarily even have to have a good message or manifesto because Trump had neither and yet he was able to win the Republican votes. Therefore, a Gambian candidate can have multiple degrees with 30 years of political experience and be a Mandinka, Fula, Jola, Karoninka, Aku, Bambara, Wollof, Serrer, Njago, Sarahulley, Jahanka, and a Bainunka all rolled into one and yet s/he can be a terrible politician like Dr. Ben Carson.
There are two months for the official IEC nomination and all our presidential aspirants (most especially the four newcomers) should use this period to hit the campaign trails to see how many fruits they can unplug/gather by shaking the big green Kanilai tree. That is the only way the elections will be won but not by making fancy speeches in five star hotels or by throwing smoke and shooting fancy videos from one’s support bases.
In a previous blog, I made a claim that the APRC will not get more than 30% in this year’s elections which means that out of the 72% who voted for Jammeh in 2011, 42% APRC votes are out there for the grabs. It is this group of potential APRC cross-carpeters who will be the decisive factor in determining who will be the president of the Third Republic. Any candidate who cannot get the APRC supporters to cross-carpet by winning their trust then s/he will not make it to State House.
In conclusion, my prediction is that only three of our opposition presidential aspirants will make it through the nomination process. In my opinion, November will be the best time to start any serious talks about coalition and the few finalists are the only ones who have the right to sit around a negotiation table to talk about a coalition formation. And by that time, it would be absolutely clear who is the most popular, promising and formidable to defeat Jammeh. I am hopeful that when that moment arrives, common sense and love for country will prevail and these finalists will do the right thing by agreeing (through whatever formula) for only one person to contest against Jammeh.
Long live the Republic of The Gambia and long live our peaceful and harmonious co-existence.
September 3, 2016