Halifa Sallah’s perfect opportunity for grandstanding

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By Zakaria Kemo Konteh

When our National Assembly Members voted they defeating Barrow’s allies.

To have the President or his Vice President appear before them to answer questions relating to the President’s State of the Nation Address (SONA), it ignited genuine excitement and hope among many Gambians.

We were looking forward to the President’s interaction with our lawmakers and how he would defend his own remarks about our country.

When the President eventually bailed out and delegated his Vice President instead, we were not surprised; we knew the President has glaring limitations to withstand the robust questioning of some of our parliamentarians and thus to avoid the obvious public embarrassment, Vice President Touray had to step in.

In addition to having the President of the republic or his proxy appear before the National Assembly members, it turned out, Hon Sallah had something else in mind and he did not hold back when the opportunity arose.

Taking advantage of the Prime Time public interests in what was arguably the first of its kind, Hon Sallah went all out with extraordinary finesse and showmanship, taking swipes at others for taking credit for the change he said they never believed in.

To Hon Sallah, no one was more deserving of credit than him and if anyone should be beating their chest today, it is him and those he considered to have played a pivotal role in the Coalition formation.

According to him, 99.99% of Gambians did not believe that change was possible and that the country was headed to war, citing the burning down of the then ruling APRC political bureau and the incarceration of the opposition UDP Executive.

Well, we don’t know where Hon Sallah got his numbers from and what intelligence data/analysis he was relying on but in the absence of concrete and verifiable evidence, his assertions/claims appear to be somewhat emotionally farfetched and highly exaggerated.

For starters, APRC never retaliated against any opposition figures or entities for the burning of its bureau.

Similarly, UDP supporters and members maintained calm and remained law-abiding throughout the sham trial and sentencing of their executive members.

There was no sign that the nation was heading to war as Hon Sallah suggested. If anything, UDP felt that the surest way its leadership could escape death at Mile II Prisons was to defeat the man who put them there and that was through the Ballot box culminating in the party’s selection of little Known Adama Barrow as its flag bearer to take on Yahya Jammeh.

This partly explains why UDP was willingly submissive to Hon Sallah’s extraordinary Coalition arrangement as the best option to get everyone on board.

UDP had to dance to Hon Sallah’s tune and dictates or risk going solo because Hon Sallah would naturally never have changed his position under any circumstance.

Nothing was suggestive of simmering war or even civil disturbance in spite of Yahya Jammeh’s provocative behavior and remarks.

The absence of communal fights or running battles between neighbors in our streets after Jammeh was defeated and exiled is indicative of the fact that Gambians had collectively recognized Yahya Jammeh as the national threat and once he was defeated, there would be reconciliation.

In essence, what we heard from Sallah in the National Assembly was generally nothing new bar a few details.

It was the regurgitation of almost the same talking points he has been pushing in interviews and in press conferences (his favorite actually), except that the National Assembly platform and the limelight surrounding the VP’s presence accorded him wider audience and coverage to put on a political show and sell his brand!
We would therefore like to remind Hon Sallah and others that the National Assembly, especially when critical issues of national priorities are being discussed, should not be used for storytelling in regards to how he or anyone have killed the lion and brought about this change.

There is abundant ‘literature’ that tells us who is who and who did what in the enduring struggle against dictatorship in our country. While we commend, appreciate and honor their contributions and sacrifice, we want our NAMs to focus on helping stamp out corruption in our institutions, rein in the fiscal irresponsibility permeating the government, curtail our ballooning internal & external debts, provide strong oversight on the Executive and guide the Barrow administration to prioritize Health and Agriculture sectors, tackle skyrocketing consumer prices and speed up reform programs for the benefis of our fellow citizens.

As members of the National Assembly, we will evaluate their tenures and accomplishments and how they advance or derail the development of our motherland.