By Sana Sarr
By now, even the most ardent deniers have accepted that all is not well between President Barrow and his self-proclaimed “political father” and mentor, Ousainu Darboe. While merciless criticism and insults between supporters of the two leaders on social media may be dismissed as fan hate, we can no longer continue to ignore the downright hostility between the two leaders. These are manifested in both actions and words. This week, President Barrow effectively fired a nominated member of the National Assembly after she recently appeared at a UDP rally. A day later, he appointed a new Minister of Women’s Affairs, snatching the portfolio away from Vice President Darboe.
Seeing all these developments, I hereby call on Ousainu Darboe to resign from the vice presidency with immediate effect. Darboe’s resignation would be in the best interest of The Gambia, but also in the best of Mr Darboe himself.
How we got here
‘Ku yarr sa mbeur, balaa daan kenn fayti la’ – Olof Njie
Ousainu Darboe is the founder and leader of the majority party in the Gambian parliament, the UDP. The UDP was founded in 1996 to challenge the authoritarian regime of Jammeh and the APRC. After several failed attempts to defeat the APRC, and while their leadership, including Darboe, was jailed, the party joined a coalition to contest the 2016 elections. In the absence of the leadership, Adama Barrow of the UDP was selected to head the coalition ticket. The coalition won the elections. The authoritarian Jammeh was exiled, and Darboe and the rest of the UDP leadership were released from prison. Barrow hailed Darboe and called him his “political father.” Darboe in turn dubbed Barrow The Moses who saved Gambians from the clutches of the dictator. With support from Darboe, Barrow broke away from the coalition and the platform he campaigned on, fired some of its members from his cabinet and appointed Darboe as his vice president and minister of women’s affairs. The honeymoon of this marriage of convenience would be short-lived. By all indication, Darboe expected his mentee to continue being his obedient surrogate, including respecting the unspoken understanding to eventually make way for the rightful occupant (Darboe) to eventually assume the highest office. Unfortunately, the “innocent” Barrow had gotten drunk from the sweet taste of power. He had found a new mentor in the president of neighbouring Senegal, Macky Sall, and now considered himself a “political animal” who “defeated the dictator all by himself.” Of course he no longer needed Darboe, and, like the stereotypical African leader, had developed his own ambitions of tightening his own grip on power.
Why Darboe should resign
1. Disservice to the nation: Love him or hate him, Barrow is president of The Gambia. For as long as he holds that office, his success as president is something we should all work and pray for. One cannot disagree with his agenda and remain working closely with him. You either get on board or get out! It’s a disservice to the Gambian people for the vice president to remain in office without giving his blood, sweat and tears to help steer the president in the right direction. That office deserves someone who is fully committed to the president’s agenda, not one who will hold back or sabotage it. Darboe knows that any success Barrow registers as president will strengthen his chances when (not if) he runs in the next elections. It is therefore common sense that he won’t be inclined, as vice president, to see Barrow register any successes. Even if Darboe is honourable enough to not sabotage Barrow, doff rekai geum neh he’s giving Barrow his best advice and assistance. And, doff bunj penturr rekai believe that Barrow will take guidance from a vice president who takes shots at him during political rallies. In the end, we have a pilot and co-pilot steering in different directions…and The Gambia is left in limbo.
2. Service to the nation: A strong opposition is an essential component of a functional democracy. By resigning from this position of a lame duck vice president, Ousainu Darboe can serve in a role that The Gambia desperately needs right now. Backed by the overwhelming majority his party enjoys in parliament, Mr Darboe can be that strong opposition voice to challenge President Barrow’s transgressions and missteps. This will add to his political capital in readiness for the next elections, keep Barrow on his toes, and it will serve a nation yearning for such leadership.
When Barrow was forming his government, some of us argued that rather than take cabinet positions, Darboe and the other coalition leaders should have stayed out as advisors. Sadly, only PDOIS had that foresight, while the rest of us were dubbed “haters” for daring to suggest such “nonsense.”
3. Dignity and legacy: Even those who disagree with him must give Darboe some credit for his decades of service, both as a respected lawyer and as an opposition leader, during the most challenging times of dealing with a brutal dictator. By speaking out against the dictatorship, he risked and paid a lot, for himself and his family, when he was threatened, arrested or jailed. It is therefore tragic that his legacy will now forever include his loyal service to the disappointing regime of Adama Barrow and all its excesses. Recently, Darboe’s supporters have become the harshest critics of President Barrow. The same Darboe supporters are also critics of people who served in Jammeh’s administration. If former Vice President Isatou Njie-Saidy is guilty of being an enabler, accomplice or apologist to Jammeh’s transgressions and misrule, then there is no way Darboe is any less culpable for any and all transgressions committed by Adama Barrow. Darboe can do his supporters, and himself, a favour by resigning from Barrow’s government. It’s painful watching them twist themselves into pretzels trying to criticise Barrow while defending Darboe at the same time.
4. The pettiness: It’s highly unbecoming, disrespectful to the offices they hold, and a shame, for Gambians to have to listen to this downright pettiness of trading political threats and insults between our president and vice president…oh, and arranging their seats “miles apart” at public functions when have to appear together…that’s just sad! It reminds me of Primary 3…when you had a quarrel with your friend…and you both say “a taab you”…and when you mistakenly touch them, you blow on your hand and brush the part of your body that touched them!!! Gaaruwaaleh ak taabanteh should be beneath both offices, even if the two grandpas refuse to grow past it.
The Gambia is at a crucial stage of rebuilding our democracy. We need strong leaders with honour, integrity and maturity. We’ve all seen that the relationship between our president and his vice president is no longer tenable. If President Adama Barrow is too cowardly to fire a vice president he clearly no longer likes, then Vice President Ousainu Darboe should do himself and all of us a favour and excuse himself from serving a president he now clearly despises. Resign, Mr Darboe, it’s not too late.
Sana Sarr is a Gambian who lives and works in the United States