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City of Banjul
Sunday, April 11, 2021

Joining a political party and leaving

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By Alagie Saidy-Barrow

Have you seen how people all of a sudden become a “nobody” when they leave one political party for another? You hear things like: Njundu is a nobody! Njundu does not even have a voice in his imaginary household; how can he influence anyone? Njundu does not have the lemonade God gave him because he let Nfansu Ceesay borrow it; how can he share anything? He has nothing. And I think two of the “biggest” insults in our vocabulary is calling someone a “nobody” or calling them a “commoner”! And when you switch parties, these are some of the adjectives thrown your way.

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I guess you’re only useful to the party while you’re a member. The day you leave, you’ve become as useless as a cassette tape is to bi jamani dingdingno lu. They will start saying that you are in fact a nobody or that you were actually only a nominal member and that you brought nothing to the party. God help you if they know something personal or embarrassing about you, they’ll call you know who and start spreading calumnies about you in a Baddibu minute.

I don’t know why people get all pissed when someone leaves their party for another. Our politics is oftentimes about what we can get from the promise of the national cake as Hamat and Seedy call it. Some of us can pretend all we want that our politics is based on values but even Seedy Njie will not make that claim. Credit to him! People go where they think they’re likely to access the cake. That’s what politics of patronage encourages!

You’ll never see a Kemeseng Jammeh or a Sidia Jatta walking away from their parties for some cake somewhere! A Femi Peters (RIP) never ran after a cake. An Omar Touray (RIP) never ran after some cake. Ditto Shyngle Nyassi (RIP). Their political party membership was not based on calculations of return on investment in the national cake; rather, theirs is/was anchored on values that underpin their membership in their respective parties. But with these “I was with Yahya yesterday” and “today with XYZ or Barrow” or “I was with APRC and supported evil because I was getting paid and now I am with XYZ”, should anyone be shocked when they hop on the train with the Cake?

If you entice people with individual agendas to your party because you claim “politics is all about numbers”, then it should be understandable when someone else entices them to their party with the promise of a bite at the cake. And as elections get closer and the stakes get higher, you will see even more high profile departures. Again, it is the way our politics is done and has been done since the days of Jawara (RIP). Until these foundations are dismantled, a lot of Waka-jumping, cross-carpeting, defecting or whatever we call it, will continue to be based on “what do I stand to gain” as opposed to the values and programs of the political parties.

I’m sure there are thousands more people who are in political parties because they believe in the values their party espouses. That’s what everyone I know will claim of course! But so long as we continue to politic based on what benefit an individual stands to gain and not based on shared values, I for one will not blame the political opportunists. They too just want a sip of the national lemonade and a bite of the national cake! They may be shameless opportunists but many of us also embrace our opportunists in our midst even if we pretend otherwise. Ours are no better than the Seedy Njies and Hamat Bahs and Henry Gomez’. It’s politics of patronage.

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