With Alagie Manneh
In this edition of Bantaba, anchor Alagie Manneh talks to the Brikama-based politician Momodou Bou Jarjue about the UDP, APRC and Adama Barrow who pipped him to the UDP candidacy during the 2016 primaries and eventually becoming president.
Alagie Manneh: You are a native of Faraba Bantang, but spent more than half your life in Brikama.
Yes, I went to primary school there too. I also attended Muslim High School and went to UK to study administration. I studied marketing and ACCA, which I did not complete.
It has ever been my intention to do something for my nation. In order to do a big thing for your country, one must involve in politics. Because of my aspiration to do well for the poor and vulnerable, I said I have to join politics. That’s what motivated me.
You were a senior member of the UDP, why did you leave them to join Jammeh in the run-up to the 2016 election?
My departure from the UDP to APRC was because I was not satisfied with the way the UDP had conducted itself at that very crucial time of politics. I am a person who believes in principles and ethics, and ethics of good democracy is to abide by the policies you lay out. If those constitutional policies are violated, then that institution would not be seen as a credible institution. That’s what led me to stay away from the UDP. I was betrayed.
But some people said you were angry after President Barrow was announced winner at the UDP primaries saying he was not elected but selected, and that was why you left. Is that true?
That’s very true. I just want to make a rectification here; I wouldn’t use the word ‘anger’. I felt i wasn’t treated fairly. That bad treatment made me to make a decision. I had to make a choice. That was not my first disappointment in the UDP. During a congress in Basse, I opted for the position of deputy party leader and our policy said in this case, where two people are vying for a position, an election should be done with delegates going into a secret room to vote for anybody they want to vote for. But that didn’t happen in Basse. Instead of going into that election procedure, they decided to raise hands for candidates. That’s how Yam Secka became deputy party leader of the UDP.
They said President Barrow told you he was not going to apply for UDP flag bearer position which turned out not to be the case.
He has been my friend and somebody I trust very well. He trusts me, too. What happened was, it was he who called me reminding me to submit my application for flag bearer seat for UDP. He said, ‘we think you should come in.’ This was on a Tuesday night and the closing date for applications should have been Wednesday morning. After submission of my application, I went to Mr Barrow to let him know I have submitted my application. That was the night he told me his support, and the entire support of his family is on me. He did not even apply for the position. The following morning, to my dismay, it was announced that Barrow is the new flag bearer. I did not reject him. I accepted him and took him to his home.
By joining APRC, don’t you think you have missed out on the honey pot?
[Laughs] I wouldn’t say I missed out on anything in this country because actually, everything is about time. Barrow didn’t think he would become president of The Gambia. I did not miss out. I am dissatisfied at how the UDP comported itself during election times. A very powerful organisation like the UDP should be sincere with its own policies. When these policies are broken, to better one person, to the detriment of another, this is unfair. This is why Mr Jarju left. I did not miss out on anything.
What is your response to critics who labeled your eleventh hour cross carpeting from the UDP to APRC as a political naivety?
I am betrayed. I have been betrayed. Nobody contributed more than me in the United Democratic Party, even the leader of the UDP can attest to my qualification. I am qualified for the position that I opted for in the United Democratic Party. Alongside that, he buttressed on the wisdom that I have and how I am exposed in the political platform of this country. It was betrayal, not naivety.
In July last year, the APRC wrote a letter expelling you for being a threat and tarnishing the image of the party. What went wrong after a little over a year?
You see, people get blamed with no basis. I think Fabakary Jatta [APRC leader] should have told the press threat that I posed. I have been a very honest politician, very sincere too. The problem is, Fabakary Tombong Jatta expelling me from the party… I did not cause any havoc or threat, I was telling a truth that they didn’t like.
What was that truth?
It was during the time the leadership was shifted from FTJ to MA Bah, after Yahya Jammeh called on him to step aside. Alongside MA Bah, I was made spokesperson. I was the person MA was banking on. I was responsible for a lot of things within the party. I was also reaching out to Fabakary to reconcile him with MA.If people are threatened by the presence of some people, they wouldn’t want that person to be around them. I was telling the truth. I was the one who talked to Jammeh and after he said he has now shifted the leadership back to Fabakary, again. The whole issue was, Yahya Jammeh called a conference call and said thank you to Fabakary, when everybody was seated in the APRC bureau, and added now, I want you to shift the leadership to MA Bah. Fabakary doesn’t want to leave the position for MA. There was confusion but it was all resolved by me. It was the relationship between Fabakary and MA Bah that I was trying to resolve when I heard that Bou Jarju has been expelled from the APRC.
Do you think Jammeh should be allowed to return?
I see no law in this world that can deprive him from coming back to The Gambia. If there is any deprivation, that is maybe the people on the ground here or the government doesn’t want him to come, but that is not a deprivation under my eyes because he has his rights to come back to his nation. I am with the belief, that one day, Yahya Jammeh will come back to his country and be a citizen, like Jawara had done.
You once said categorically that the UDP cannot be considered a Mandinka party. Do you still stand by that proclamation?
Yes, Mr Manneh, UDP cannot be a Mandika party. Bou Jarju has been in the UDP; Bou Jarju is Jola and Mandinka. Nobody can boast in my face about being more Mandinka than me. Alright? Then, you have Shyngle Nyassi, a hundred percent Jola who died in the struggle for UDP. No political party in The Gambia is one tribe. People perceived the UDP to be predominantly Mandinka, but you have other elements. UDP cannot be a Mandinka party.
Those who know you said you are a good man and have helped many youths in Brikama. What keeps you going?
I have always been that person who takes his things and gives it to others. I was lucky to get money at an early age, and have always supported the youth, not only in Brikama but its surroundings. That’s my life. It’s what’s given me all these experiences.
You know Ousainu Darboe, the UDP leader, personally, how far will he go to fight any obstacle or law preventing him from being made president in The Gambia?
I have no art to read the inner being of people. Ousainu Darboe is a leader. He has his own spectacles that he wears when he perceives the entire political stage of this country. If he finds it necessary to take that kind of process against The Gambia government, who is Bou Jarju to challenge that? If I want to speak on his behalf here, I might wrong him.
Do you think the time is now for the UDP leader to step aside for younger ones to take charge?
I have since told him to give chance to young people. That is something I stood for. That was before the 2016 election when I told him that. So that is nothing new.
3 or 5 years, which side do you belong?
For me, three or five years is not important. What is important is what brings stability here; peace and tranquility. Lets learn from the lessons of 2016. The Gambia cannot go into any situation detrimental to our social being, economy, human relations and rights. I think some major players in Gambian politics are selfish and are not being sincere to Gambian people. It is all about rhetoric. People feel that they can talk and they do talk and in a deceitful way, when people talk, there are a lot of people in the high caliber of Gambian politics who are deceitful.
Who are some of these “deceitful politicians”?
I won’t call names. It is for the Gambian people to see things for themselves. People who would say one thing today, then the next minute another thing. People who would want to show to the Gambian people that they mean everything for the Gambian people, just for them to give them that opportunity to be in the position and once they are there, they dump Gambians in the bins.
Are you talking about President Barrow, who first said 3 years, and now five?
I think I was the first person to tell that to Barrow; to honour his promise. Barrow must respect his words. Leadership is about credibility. It was this lack of credibility that I saw in him which first made me to advise him, from the onset. If you don’t want to respect the promise, go back to the Gambian people and explain yourself. Let leaders not see themselves as demi-gods. But you must blame Gambians too. People tend to love Mr Manneh, whether he is good or bad. That is what has to change.
The president is requesting for more advisers, do you think the current ones are not good enough?
Well, I wouldn’t say he has good advisers, because if I were in his shoes, I would have listened to people reminding me about the three years and how to go about it. I would not be too pompous, even though I am president. I would bring myself down to the level of the people. There will come a day when he will not be president, and people will remember these things. But it’s better late than never. He still has the opportunity. I thought this tour could have been the best opportunity for him. He should reason with people during this tour, maintain stability and silence the ‘3 Years Jotna’ activists.
Will the APRC form the next government?
APRC is one powerful party in the country. I measure the power of a party not necessarily by what people say about that particular party but how people are intertwined and able to understand each other and have respect for all and sundry. That is APRC.
Former presidential adviser Momodou Sabally said the APRC should expel Jammeh and reshape. Is he right?
That is his opinion. He is entitled to his opinion. I wouldn’t say that. I would say reconciliation for the Gambian people, let’s learn our lessons, forgive and forget and move on as one people. Let us go back to being the great Gambia we used to be.