Democracy thrives on norms and one of those norms is a concession by the losing candidates?—?accepting the will of the majority. Thus, in 2016, a myriad of Gambians including many ardent UDP supporters were aghast when Yahya Jammeh reneged on his promise to accept the election results. In essence, Jammeh was, as Natta Mass noted in his opus, Usurp?—?Stealing a Country, ?trying to usurp the will of the people.
Fast forward to 2021, many of these UDP folks have not conceded defeat, nor have they come out to denounce the self-serving and irresponsible actions of their party leader and his two stooges?—?Essa Faal and Mamma Kandeh. Mind you, Jammeh lost by 18,000 votes; Darboe, on the other hand, lost by over 200,000 votes. This election wasn’t even close?—?it was a landslide. It’s hard to accept defeat, especially when those around you and your supporters place you on the perch of hagiography. However, in politics, sometimes the people beyond your bubble are just not into you.
Our heroes are flawed beings. It’s hard to defy or tell them the truth but in some instances, we have to. We should not strip them of their humanity, in that, we should be willing to call them out when they are in the wrong; specifically, when their actions could jeopardise the wellbeing of the country. We are faced with a choice, my friends: to compromise our principles, defend our heroes to the hilt; or bring them down to our level?—?reality.
UDP and devotees of Ousainu Darboe should accord and extend humanity to their hero and leader. The hero, Darboe, lost the elections by a long mile, but he’s trying to pull a Jammeh on us?—?a sore loser?—?by trying to usurp the will of the majority?—?chasing a lost cause.
Darboe has every right to deny reality?—?that he lost?—?the same way he could deny the existence of the sun, but that doesn’t mean that the sun doesn’t exist. Chasing a lost cause is an exercise in futility. Darboe knows this, his devotees know this. The only reason his devotees stormed Kairaba Avenue was because he made them believe that the elections were stolen from them. This led to a small but unfortunate post-election violence. By the time he came out?—?preaching for peace and whatnot, the paste was already out of the tube. He unleashed the mob and couldn’t control it. The self-serving actions of Darboe and his stooges should be condemned by all, including his devotees. No one politician is bigger than the country, hero or not.
The problem of heroes in the political arena can be quite complicated. For example, in the political arena, the citizenry does not owe anyone a vote, not even their heroes. In addition, a good many of the citizenry?—?outside the bubble of the hero?—?might not cut the hero any slack. Also, it is obvious that being a victim of the state is not enough to convince the masses that you are capable of running a country. It’s also obvious that running on the hero and victim message did not resonate with the masses. And, whenever a hero enters politics, they are going to be challenged and, therefore, interrogated by their opponents.
It is also evident that even our heroes are not immune to the old adage that winning is the most important thing in politics, even if that means to find a technicality to usurp the will of the majority or to enter into a post-election alliance with the likes of Kandeh and, by extension, Jammeh. The picture of the “unholy alliance” of Darboe, a victim of Jammeh and the lead counsel who spearheaded the effort to bring Darboe’s oppressors to book, sitting side-by-side with Jammeh’s anointed candidate, Kandeh?, was arresting and cutting.
Finally, selfless politicians are usually gracious in victory and in defeat. Barrow has taken the high road, gracious and measured in victory, while Darboe and his “unholy alliance”, are trying to usurp the will of the majority. This is a sad end to the political career of one of the most towering figures in Gambian politics. In the end, the judgment of history depends on who writes; however, Darboe’s hubris and reckless actions in rejecting the will of the people would forever live in infamy. He should do the honourable and selfless thing: GRACIOUSLY CONCEDE! A better, selfless, inclusive, and progressive Gambia is ours for the asking?.
Sulayman Njie, PhD lives in Dallas, Texas, USA