Here we are, biding 2021 farewell. By the strike of midnight tonight, we will usher in a new year. 2021 was certainly a tumultuous year for The Gambia and the 2.4 million citizens and the hundreds of thousands of foreigners who are eking out a living on the two banks of our river.
Life basically returned to normalcy and we learned to shake off the fear-induced paralysis that was brought about by the novel coronavirus pandemic. The country has adjusted well to the new normal of learning to live with the Covid-19 Disease. To a great extent, this was possible because of the sacrifices, tenacity and dedication to duty of the frontline health workers including emergency health personnel, doctors and nurses and Minister Dr Ahmdou Samateh and his team.
The past twelve months were a year of constant campaigns which culminated in the presidential election on 4th December 2022 where an unprecedented 90 per cent of the nearly one million Gambians with voter cards turned out. The incumbent, Adama Barrow, was declared winner with 53 per cent of the votes. The main opposition United Democratic Party challenged the results in the Supreme Court as it did in 2006 and lost as it did 15 years ago. So Adama Barrow’s victory stands.
Despite two pre-election poll results indicating that Barrow would win the election, many independent observers believed the margin of victory in the two-horse race, would be close. But after all the marble votes were counted, Barrow almost doubled the votes cast for his closest rival and led in all the seven administrative regions of the country. Almost all the local and international election observers hailed the campaign and election as generally free, fair, transparent and a reflection of the sovereign, independent will of the majority of Gambians.
The campaign, election and post-election processes underlined The Gambia’s status as a vibrant and flourishing democracy where the rule of law is adhered to. The credit for this goes to all Gambians regardless of which party one supports. Elections are a matter of choosing one among many and as such only one contestant can win. The people chose Barrow. As patriots and democrats, those who lost in the election should not despair, but provide a dedicated vanguard that will critique but also support the president and his new administration when and where necessary.
The people of The Gambia have reposed a lot of trust and good will in Adama Barrow. As the old adage says, to whom much is given, much is expected. Barrow has his work cut out. He must introduce structural and systemic changes to improve the lives of people in The Gambia. We want job opportunities especially for the youths, higher disposal income, affordable basic goods, affordable housing, security of life and property, observance of the rule of law, greater investment in agriculture, more and better schools, more and better equipped clinics and hospitals, better roads, reliable supply of electricity and water and greater decentralisation of amenities and services to decongest urban centres.
For his spectacular election victory and as means of encouraging him as he embarks on a new five-year mandate, The Standard newspaper has named President Adama Barrow as the deserving recipient of Gambian of The Year 2021 Award.