By Momodou Lamin Yaffa, Sukuta
In the just concluded presidential election in Zambia, the Zambian people have decisively shaped their destiny at least for the next four years. If any lesson is to be drawn from the outcome of the Zambian polls by African peoples, it is that the real change makers in African politics and by extension world politics are the peoples of the various countries of the continent and the world. The polls like many other polls on the continent have demonstrated that incumbency may be an advantage but not certainly a determining factor in the re-election of the incumbent. Furthermore, several polls in Africa have shown in recent years that, if everything stays equal and free and fair elections are guaranteed, the incumbent is not always the favourite.
Our dear homeland, The Gambia, is also bracing itself for a similar electoral exercise on 4 December 2021. Her people will decide the fate of the occupant of the State House, President Adama Barrow. The people have witnessed and lived through many developments that should enable them to make a judicious choice come December 2021. Facts, policies, statements, actions, achievements, under-achievements, poor judgement are galore for them to either retain the incumbent or boot him out if they reckon his performance as either poor, fair, fairly good, good, etc.
If I were to cast my ballot today, I definitely shall not cast it for President Adama Barrow. My recent recollection on memory lane leaves me with a distasteful feeling about his string of political legerdemains, which he believes are actions that would embellish his political score sheet.
He gathered few days ago at the State House a host of men and women claimed to be from the Serer community of The Gambia. Since when in Gambian politics have we been seeing Gambian citizens through the lens of ethnic affiliation? Such an unpalatable trend in Gambian politics is unprecedented! Is Adama doing this out of sheer desperation? It is extremely unhealthy for our social fabric because it is based on the “divide and rule” concept of governance. He first gathered the Fula community, followed by the Sarahule community and now the Serer community. Which community is next; the Jola, the Wollof, the Mandinka? Are we not all Gambians, period!
The least all patriotic Gambians were hoping for from their president, after the toxic divisive politics of Yahya Jammeh, was everything but measures and actions that are tribal-oriented. Such actions are a mere recipe for ethnic bigotry and parochialism. Adama must understand that it is his achievements that should be the only yardstick for his re-election and not the outpouring of ethno-linguistic sentiments to persuade voters.
Furthermore, President Adama Barrow has gradually transformed the State House into a Barrow Youth Movement and now an NPP political bureau, where state resources are utilized with abandon for his own political ends. This is certainly not the change of government Gambians had voted for in 2016. The Gambian voter had gone to the polls to deconstruct and reconstruct a backward political construct that permeated the country’s body politic for the twenty-two years of the Yahya Jammeh administration. Alas, the deconstruction exercise is yet to yield its anticipated dividend. This is political indecency creeping into our body politic which, if not arrested, would eventually lead to autocracy and impunity.
Yes indeed! President Adama Barrow warned that after the presidential election, he would instruct the Inspector General of Police not to issue permits for political rallies because hereckons that such a period must be devoted to work and not politicking. He went further to say that insults would also be banned on social media. Such utterances are reminiscent of the rhetoric of our erstwhile president, Yahya Jammeh, whom the Gambian people repudiated and unseated owing to his autocratic rule. Adama’s statement should be interpreted as a warning that if re-elected, the Gambian people would be mandating him to stifle the freedoms of expression, assembly, association, etc. Adama should be intellectually bold enough to face his opponents on the platform of portent ideas and arguments instead of resorting to sentiments and mood. Adama, you are advised to stay away from such a path because it would only precipitate your political doom. In fact, how sure are you of victory come 4 December 2021?
Another downside that makes Adama Barrow less presidential is his excessive focus on personal innuendoes and at times outright attacks directed at Hon. Ousainu Darboe. As president, instead of having a nightmarish fixation on his main political foe of his own making, he should rather concentrate on issues and policies so as to win the hearts and minds of Gambians. However, it seems he has a predilection to dwell on his own heroics either true or imaginary and to narrate cock and bull stories to the media and his audiences. This only sullies his pedigree in the eyes of Gambians and renders him less presidential.
President Adama Barrow is also fond of claiming that his achievements in terms of infrastructural development are unrivalled. He attributes to himself projects that were initiated by Jammeh but completed on his watch. However, none of such projects have been financed from funds generated from any productive source of our economy. All the projects are funded from loans contracted under stringent financial conditions and being paid by the impoverished Gambian taxpayers.
The developmental projects that a government could and should brag about and claim ownership of should be funded by taxpayers who are adequately employed in a thriving economy and enjoy a decent standard of living that enables them to pay for such projects either from the productive base of a booming economy or loans that the taxpayers could repay without any dent in their incomes and standard of living. This is the proper index of development. However, the type of development Adama lauds himself for is a smokescreen that is designed to hoodwink the average Gambian into voting for him.
President Adama Barrow should understand that there is no Gambian household that is not struggling and whining from an unending increase in all commodity prices. The cost of living is skyrocketing while the standard of living is steeply declining for all Gambians. If Adama Barrow believes he deserves re-election, he is either deluding himself or believes Gambians are gullible enough to entrust him with their destiny for the next five years. Since the advent of the coalition government, which rapidly became an entirely Adama Barrow government, job creation and youth employment have been conspicuously absent from its lexicon.
The Gambia is still a country that heavily counts on remittances from her valiant sons and daughters of the diaspora. This is why their disenfranchisement in the coming December polls constitutes blatant injustice that should further convince Gambians who would be going to the polls to show Adama that all he deserves is a red card and to give way to someone who could steer our ship to safer shores.
I heard him claiming in one of his Bantaba chats that the presidency does not require high academic qualifications and that any head of state should rely on his technocrats and experts. All that he needs is wisdom. If so, why do people spend years at universities acquiring knowledge? If one needs at least a university degree to be an engineer, accountant, medical doctor, computer expert, etc., should the presidency, the highest position of the land, not require similar or higher qualifications and experience? I think the Gambian is equipped with sufficient exhibits to help them make the right choice come December this year.