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Momodou Sabally – from Baba la Commando to Barrow la Generalo

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By D. A. Jawo

The defection of Momodou Sabally, the former Campaign Manager of the opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) to their bitterest rival, the ruling National People’s Party (NPP), no doubt came as a very big surprise to even the shrewdest political analysts, and it would certainly have some possible significant repercussions for this country’s political terrain .

By changing his political slogans from Baba la Commando to Barrow la Generalo, Sabally seems to have taken his riskiest political move since plunging into active politics. The move would either propel him to the centre stage of Gambian politics or spell the end of his political relevance in this country. Personally, I have always admired Sabally for his resilience and thick skin, ready to take all sorts of castigations and criticisms, always with a smile. However, I never thought that he was capable of playing such chameleon tactics. I hope the NPP would also take note of that, lest they become victims of such tactics from him.

We have all witnessed how Sabally ended up during the Jammeh regime; from grace to grass and he still managed to rise up after the change of regime and became a formidable political force. While a majority of his contemporaries during the Jammeh era went into hibernation after the advent of the new regime, he refused to be “caged” and took the center-stage in the political terrain.

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Initially, he cozied up to President Adama Barrow but he later abandoned the Barrow camp and joined the UDP, virtually becoming the right hand of UDP leader Lawyer Ousainou Darboe. Some people attributed that move to his anger against the Barrow government for issuing the white paper endorsing the recommendations of the Janneh Commission to ban him for life from holding any public office as a result of being accused of complicity in former President Yahya Jammeh’s financial mismanagement.

While at the UDP, Sabally became the fiercest critic of the Barrow administration, constantly heaping all sorts of criticisms against the government, accusing it of wanton corruption and mismanagement. He described the government as a “kereng kafoo” (a group of squirrels) that were constantly pilfering with public resources. Can we therefore assume that he is now one of the “kerengho” and he would not hesitate to join in doing what he had been accusing members of the government of being engaged in?

After abandoning the Barrow camp for the UDP, Sabally eventually rose through the ranks to the position of Campaign Manager, and he was no doubt quite effective in that position. UDP’s impressive performance in the last legislative, local government and mayoral elections in the Greater Banjul Area and the West Coast, in particular, was to a large extent attributed to his popularity amongst the grass root supporters of the party.

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There is absolutely no doubt that Sabally had quite a strong support base amongst the rank and file of the party, but whether he can also convince those people to move with him to the NPP, would be hard to predict. One thing is however certain, that is, the UDP has quite a solid support base who are quite hard to be convinced of abandoning the party for whatever reason, but whether he can succeed in taking them along, only time will tell.

Regardless of the brave face being up by some UDP bigwigs, there is absolutely no doubt that Sabally’s defection to the NPP came as a big blow to the party. Even the very fact that he was so close to the party leader and other members of the executive could be a cause for worry for some of them as he may have very useful information that he could pass on to the NPP, and which they would not hesitate to use against the UDP. The very fact that there is reported to be a lot of jubilation at the NPP camp since the announcement of his defection is an indication of their level of satisfaction with the quality of their catch.

However, while many African politicians are accused of lacking principles and morals, but it would be hard to see how Sabally can easily transform his colour and demeanor by changing his tone and talking good of the NPP while no doubt painting the UDP as bad as possible. Therefore to some political analysts, his very credibility as a trustworthy politician hinges on how he would comport himself within the NPP.

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