By Amadou Camara
Politics is the art of the possible, to make the desirable workable and to turn the ambitions of people served into the achievable. The red blood that breathes life into the pact of politics between the electorate and would-be elected aspiring to govern is trust, confidence and the highest standard of integrity. Drained the blood out of the body politics, the human face of politics becomes dead as duck, laying wastefully with no regard whatsoever from keepers and cares who should tender to it. Talk of why politics has lost its allure to the ordinary folk from America to Zimbabwe, the answer is that politicians are tricksters, self-centered careerists in it for themselves, who will say whatever it takes to win power.
Our proud country, The Gambia, is lurching into the cesspit of political lies and a displacement political activity, which is frankly dishonest, dishonorable and devious for the progress and prosperity we need to map out a fantastic future. Take the latest flaming row stocking – contrived or conviction driven, perhaps the former – over whether President Adama Barrow should serve a complete full five-year term in office, or three, as agreed in the codicil of the coalition rules-of-engagement book, the memorandum of understanding.
The last presidential election happened in 2016. It is beggars belief that such debate is raging right now. Because, if the coalition partners, all the leading political party leaders who signed up to the coalition agreement, were absolutely serious with sticking to upholding the three-year agreement for their representative as leader and president, they should, and could, have moved fast and furious into enacting it into legislation immediately after the parliamentary election of 2017. The coalition parties have sufficient National Assembly Members to pass the legislation through. Not with a vote if they wanted to, but with a nod. That is how dominant their members were, are, brooding the benches of our parliament. That way, the laws governing presidential cycles would be changed – if for a one-off only – through legal means, not through a coalition or presidential fiat.
But, as things stand, and rightly so, the constitution supersedes any coalition agreement cobbled together on the back of Kairaba Beach Hotel lunch menu card. The opportunity was there for legislation to be brought forward, but no one pursued it. Now, more than three years after President Barrow is in office, there is chatter about his stepping down long after the coalition agreement has recoiled into the dustbin of the archives. It is utterly and completely baffling. The sheer stupidity of it – a stupidity built on stilt – is breathtaking.
To press for a president elected by Gambians to give way like this is pure constitutional vandalism. And politicians demanding it better get a grip of what matters, what they should be doing to better the lots of Gambians and spell it out in detail. Some were in government in the early days of Barrow’s rule, but sat tight-lipped, without saying nothing over the matter. Others, who have, came out in favor of a five-year term on constitutional grounds. What do they take Gambians for? What do they take themselves for? They are making a mockery of themselves as infantile incompetents, who don’t have a clue how politics work, without a plan on how to lift The Gambia from the low it was sunk into by the previous President.
I am not a supporter of President Barrow. Neither am I a member of a political party. I have no motive whatsoever giving a rhetorical bloody noose to the politicians who are trading in the currency of dishonesty and lies other than what is best for Gambia. Gambians have the right, after choosing a president, to allow him the time and space needed for him to be tested on meeting the challenges of the country, their hopes, aspiration and dreams for the future. We all agreed that five years, until and unless it is change by our chosen representatives in parliament, is the best cut-off year for determining whether to renew the mandate of the president, or terminate his contract.
History will not forgive whoever try to usurp the constitution. It is electoral cheat, daylight robbery, with a dead political hand, designed to rob electors of their votes, voices and power. A shrewd political strategist working for Barrow can seize on this camping as a boon for him: in all of his political rallies moving on, his campaign speeches can be peppered with something all the lines of caricaturing proponents of the three-year campaign as “enemies of democracy”, “ enemies of you democratic-driven Gambians hellbent on turning down your votes, voice and your sovereign government.” A call to political arms to fire the faithful as he pines for a second term in office – no doubt. All because of opposition party politicians who don’t know how to oppose, see politics as a zero-sum game and are as confused as a conga.
Our politics and politicians need a Turkey bath, hot in water, sweaty, rinse from repellently off-putting odor. From the new fragrance should emerge a serious, respectable and credible politics where the debates that should happen are: how to build a strong economy, create jobs, dealing with a sense of despair among young people leading to the “Back-way”, supply uninterrupted electricity, build health centers within every respectable distance and fund it properly, come up with education policies that would maximize the talents of every Gambian, devolve more powers to regional governments to fast-track development and build bridges with countries around the world to make The Gambia a premier investment destination. That should be the focus. Not a lunatic lamination over a presidential tenure that is useless.
It is politicians like ours that the great political philosopher, Reinhold Niebuhr, had in mind when he famously warned that “man’s capacity for evil makes democracy necessary. And man’s capacity for good makes democracy possible.” Arise our politicians to the challenge. Pump the body politic with the blood of purity, perfection and pragmatism.
Amadou Camara studied political science at University of The Gambia, currently based in the United States.