By Amat Jeng
It was a rainy day and I was in the middle of a historical climate change protest in Stockholm, Sweden, conducting research on social movements and asking protesters questions about many issues, ranging from their political participation to their trust in our (Sweden’s) democracy, when I received a message from Banjul, saying “Your man, OD, has been fired.” The sender is a family friend and a civil engineer with whom I talk about politics or should I say I do talk to him about politics since I am the trained political scientist?
Darboe, I often argue, is a man not devoid of love for his country: He has been jailed; his character has been assassinated by people who have never met him or tried to understand what he stands for; and conversely, he is a man whose presence on the political scene has made Gambian politics both more edgy and exciting. And this comes at a great personal sacrifice.
Darboe has made plenty of sacrifices both for the UDP and Barrow. Despite what others have to say, I do not think that Darboe should be blamed for the current split in the UDP or for warping the moral sense of some of his supporters. After all, Darboe has never shouted profanities at Barrow or Sallah, and his position at the UDP came through the most democratic means. Arguably, to a large degree, Ousainu does not reflect the attitude of some of his supporters. He is not arrogant; he is not lacking in political credo, and his moral conviction and love for the country have helped him to run the gauntlet of hostile critics.
However, Ousainou’s failure is not as a result of the neanderthal politics which has governed Gambian politics for six decades, but the inability of the UDP as a whole to rein in some of its so-called supporters whose political intolerance is exposing the party to the risk of a split. It is time the UDP leadership crystallised the political direction of the party and make a virtue out of necessity from the sacking. It does not help the party’s supporters if they allow their colossal anger, bitterness, and frustrations over the sacking of Darboe to numb their ability to engage in consensual and constructive political debates.
Unlike what other analysts think, I do believe that the sacking of Ousainu as VP is a blessing for the UDP and for the country. He and the president have different agenda, and to work under such a climate would jeopardise the political future and developmental goal of the country. A few months ago, many analysts were grappling with the lack of knowledge about which direction the country is headed. Now, with this sacking, some supporters of the UDP have come to know where they stand, and Gambians now have clear ideas of what Barrow is aiming for (a candidacy for next election).
This sets the stage for a convulsive period of political jockeying in the country, gives other parties some sense of direction, and the UDP an opportunity to unite behind the ethos of ‘You are either with us or with Barrow’. I am aware that this would mean a split for the UDP; however, it is a split which would enable Darboe to distinguish between true UDP loyalists, political prostitutes, and careerists. That way, the future of the party will be decided by loyalists, not leprechauns or lumpen supporters who lack the vision and political tolerance to help the party.
Darboe is a humble man and he will be missed by many, but good riddance, good politics, and goodbye to political godfatherism.