If you are not alive to the fact, well, smell the coffee and wake up because electioneering in The Gambia has begun in earnest. We do not for a minute believe that President Adama Barrow will heed the advice of his political henchman, National Assembly Member Majanko Samusa, and call an early vote in June. The first presidential election in the post-Jammeh Gambia will be held in December 2021, a full fourteen-and-a-half months, about 440 days away. So, this will be one memorable campaign and it will be a marathon not a sprint.
Over the weekend the Yellow Brigade has hit Kiang. Kiang has traditionally been a loyal base for Ousainu Darboe and his United Democratic Party. But the emergence of the Gambia For All party led by the most politically distinguished Kiangka, the First Republic vice president Bakary Dabo, and the electrification for the first time ever of the area by President Barrow, could rattle the UDP’s ironclad grip in the region. So, it made sense for the Yellow train to make its first whistle stop rally in the Kiang heartland of Kwinella.
With just 22 days to the keenly watched National Assembly by-election in Niamina West, the National Peoples Party of President Barrow is squaring off in what will essentially be a two-horse race with Mamma Kandeh’s Gambia Democratic Congress. This election will be a litmus test, more like a baptism of fire, for the newly-formed NPP. It will be an extension of the Barrow-Kandeh turf-war which started in Jimara many years ago. But what political observers will be interrogating with ardour will be the political horse-trading and the alliances that will be formed and their wider ramifications for the December 2021 presidential election.
While the political heat map was glowing in Kiang and Niamina, the traditional serenity and inaction of the weekend State House was punctured by heated political rhetoric of another kind. A cross-section of the NPP’s “foot soldiers” was having an audience with President Barrow and his team. Among the attendees were a sizable number of Fulas, the second biggest tribe in the country and to which belonged the president’s mother, two wives, as well as the Tourism minister whose National Reconciliation Party is closely allied to the NPP.
We all know Hamat Bah is a good politician but easily excitable and prone to making political gaffes by making impolitic statements. He did not only call Barrow’s political opponents “rats”, he specifically appealed to his Fulani tribesmen and women not to vote for others because they would continue to discriminate against Fulas in the country. This statement has been roundly rebuked both online and offline as it was regarded as stoking the flames of tribal and ethnic discord among Gambians.
However you essay Minister Bah’s statement, it was execrable, distasteful and deserved the condemnation that it got. Such appeals to divisible and tribal tendencies should have no place in the new Gambia of post-Jammeh. They should be left where they belong, that is, in the past! Politicians should be wary of operating on the principle that the end justifies the means and try to get votes by saying and doing anything, unfiltered. It is said that all’s fair in love and in war and that politics is war. But John Lyly said this in 1457. This is the year 2020. New Gambia will not allow that. If anyone tries to operate that machismo, take-no-prisoner realpolitik, you will be hauled over the coal and grilled.
Let us preach the gospel of unity: One Gambia, one people, one tribe, indivisible in the eyes of man and of God.