He lit the spark

He lit the spark

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Some weeks ago I was writing about some of our leading politicians, and I mentioned Ousainu Darboe, the flag bearer of the UDP. I wrote that he is almost considered as a national saint, but after this year’s presidential election, the halo of our ”saint” has fallen. A man of his age, education, experience and dignity should know better than to make a statement that has led to suffering for too many.

Ousainu Darboe was so sure of himself, before the election, that he would become the next president of The Gambia that he couldn’t wrap his mind around the fact that his ”son” got re-elected.

What neither Darboe or Barrow will ever understand or accept is that the history has once again repeated itself. In 2016 people didn’t vote for Barrow, they voted against Jammeh and the APRC. This time people didn’t vote for Barrow, they voted against Darboe and the UDP. Tough to deal with, but these are the facts! Because of the pride and the prestige of Mr Darboe, a reported 100 people have been injured in the riots that broke out near Mr Darboe’s residence. Considering how long experience Mr Darboe has, he should have been able to weigh his words and to understand that if he clearly rejected the outcome of the presidential election it would lead to a negative reaction among his supporters.

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It didn’t help to speak to them afterwards, pleading with them to go home if they “loved” him. The damage was already done, and the blame lays heavily on Ousainu Darboe. He is a highly educated man who knows his people, he can’t come and put the blame on someone else but himself in an attempt to justify himself. A leader must be able to weigh his words and not speak his mind even if he is tempted. All of us know the lack of education, combined with the unemployment and desperation among the youth. When he stated that he rejected the results of the election, Mr Darboe lit a match on a pile of straw. He lit the spark and the reaction was a wildfire.

Mr Darboe didn’t wait until all the votes were counted, he jumped to conclusions and showed his disappointment in public. I understand that he was disappointed, but someone who was hoping to become a statesman ought to have been able to be a bit more diplomatic. There is a saying that you shouldn’t sell the fur before the bear is shot. For those of you who are not familiar with this saying it means that don’t make any plans for your profit until you have succeeded with your hunting. Mr Darboe and his party members were very confident that they would win this election. Perhaps Mr Darboe thought that he actually deserved to become the next president. He and his crew had already counted their profit, and suddenly they were forced to face the bitter truth: Barrow had beaten them!

‘Baba’ Darboe gathered some of the other defeated leaders to make a statement. The one who still, at this date, remains stubborn and refused to accept that Barrow is re-elected, is Mamma Kandeh of the GDC. Is anyone surprised? I’m not, anyway. Mamma Kandeh has also been sure that he would succeed, he was counting on Yahya Jammeh and vice versa. I would love to be a fly on the wall and hear the phone call between Mamma Kandeh and his idol Yahya Jammeh. None of them is satisfied with the election, and I wonder who blames who? Many of the citizens of The Gambia might not have a high education, but they have seen through the tribalism and not forgotten or forgiven the atrocities made by Yahya Jammeh and his accomplices.

It is about time that political leaders of The Gambia realise that the oldfashioned way of acting should be left behind us. Arrogant behaviour and lack of empathy are signs of insecurity and a complete disinterest in anything but oneself. People expect more of their leaders nowadays and refuse to put up with being bullied one way or another. A presidential candidate must understand that he is supposed to be a good leader for all the citizens of his country. He can’t cherry pick and invest all his interest in his own tribe. What about all the others? What is wrong with them? Just the thought of praising one’s own tribe before anyone else’s shows the immaturity in his behaviour.

Poor Mr Darboe, he is 73 years old. He is very old and tired. He has been waiting for so long to finally reach the top of his fame, and once again it was snatched by the one who should have shown his ‘Baba’ respect and left the scene for someone who deserved to finally be in the limelight. It is not easy to become old and be forced to accept that your best days are gone. It can make a person bitter and grumpy, but we can’t have someone like that as a president. This position is too heavy and the responsibilities are too many. I am not saying that Barrow is doing a great job, anyone who has been following me knows that I am not a huge fan of his.

What I am saying is that there comes a time when a person needs to realise that there is a time limit for everything. Holding the highest position in a country is a tough job, it requires a flexible mind and unfortunately old age doesn’t allow us to remain that flexible anymore. The personality cult most of our political parties in The Gambia are based on, is a hotbed for high thoughts of oneself. I know that many love and respect Ousainu Darboe, and rightfully so, but the sad fact is that he is too old for this political game. I feel sad for him, really. He should be allowed to enjoy his life and be able to focus on his role as the old Baba instead of forcing himself further and further.

There is nothing wrong in being old and tired, God willing, we will all become old one day, but we need to realise when it is time to step down and allow the younger generation to take over. When a political party is a personality cult, there is no one there to take over when the leader is gone. We have seen this before in The Gambia. Mr Darboe should swallow his pride and reach out to the president-elect and congratulate him. I know that we show a lot of respect for old people in The Gambia, but old age doesn’t automatically give you a sense of dignity. Dr Ismaila Ceesay, flag bearer for Citizens’ Alliance, was hit so much harder than Mr Darboe, but you have seen nothing but dignified behaviour from him. Yes, Dr Ceesay is young, just as his party, but this is what we need now in The Gambia. We need the new, modern and improved way of politics. The sparks this will lit, will aim to inspire, not to destroy.