While there is no denying the fact that President Adama Barrow has the constitutional mandate to undertake his mandatory annual ‘Meet the People Tour’, but everyone expects him to do it at the most appropriate time and occasion.
We have seen a press release trending on social media announcing President Barrow’s impending departure for his annual ‘Meet the People Tour’ from the 19th March to 6th April. We have also seen a letter “ordering” government institutions and agencies to provide vehicles and drivers for the tour. We all know that 90 percent of the people using those vehicles would be militants and supporters of the National People’s Party (NPP).
The question that all reasonable Gambians seem to ask is whether this is the most appropriate time for him to undertake the tour. The Independent Electoral commission (IEC) has already fixed the official campaign period for the National Assembly elections from 17th March to 7th April when all parties and candidates are supposed to be out in the country to campaign for the elections. It is therefore quite obvious that this so-called ‘Meet the People Tour’ is purely a disguise for campaigning for the NPP candidates, using state resources and vehicles.
We are all aware that virtually all of President Barrow’s such outings are more political in nature and reality than discussing issues affecting the farming community. It is therefore quite unfair for him to use state resources and vehicles to campaign for his candidates while the other parties and candidates use their own resources. Everyone is therefore anxiously waiting to see what the IEC is going to say or do about such blatant abuse of incumbency and the electoral process.
It would also be interesting to see how the commission is going to handle the situation and harmonise it with their campaign schedule. Of course they would not dare consider the tour as part of the campaign and still ignore the use of government resources and vehicles, and yet we all know that is exactly what it is. In fact it is very likely that because of the official tag attached to the tour, his entourage would be given unlimited airtime on GRTS and the public media, thus defeating the very purpose of the IEC media schedule which is meant to give equal access to the media of all candidates.