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The Debate – Madi and Halifa: Halifa Sallah’s observations

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A commentary without a commentator is a clandestine approach to information dissemination. Here in lies the incurable unprofessionalism of the editor of the above captioned commentary, published at page 12 of the 7th March edition of The Standard newspaper.

Secondly, the author explicitly gave the reader a context in the caption of a debate between Madi and Halifa. Hence, that should be manifested in the content of the commentary.

Sadly enough, the whole chapter and verse of the commentary did not contain any point or counterpoint emanating from the two persons mentioned. Content has not backed caption thus exposing the commentator to a charge of willful deception. This aberration constitutes gross misconduct in the media community that editors are required to have the eagle eye to detect before publishing a commentary under a given heading, and in this case, even appears to conspire with the suspect by adding photographs that have no bearing to a story.

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Thirdly, the commentator gave the impression that he was going to publish the two sides of the debate that ensued between Madi and Halifa. However, he opened his commentary as follows: “There are three types of politicians, the practical, the rhetorical and the reactionary. This commentary is focused on the rhetorical type – the other two will be taken separately.

The rhetorical type tends to talk too much and does very little, if anything at all.”

It is very clear from the opening remarks that the commentator was not interested in publishing the points and counterpoints of a debate between Madi and Halifa but to use their names and the caption as a springboard to make disparaging remarks against his imaginary politicians, without mentioning their names and was further aided and abetted to use photographs to situate his remarks.

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Interestingly enough, Madi does not claim to be a politician. Why should his picture feature in a commentary aimed at explaining three types of politicians without quoting what he said to merit a debate with Halifa. The point Madi raised, which was the matter at issue in the debate hosted by West Coast Radio was never focused on by the commentator.

The commentator proceeded to quote paragraph after paragraph without mentioning the source where the quotations were extracted from or the name of the person who articulated them in what could be termed a classic gossip type approach to a commentary.  Suffice it to say, the quotations were interspersed with interjections, subterfuges, tirades and conjectures, questioning the reasoning in the quotations without contextualising the content of those very quotations.

In this regard, he robbed his commentary of any substance to comment on by showing a lack of comprehension of what even a simpleton would grasp at first notice regarding coalition agreements and constitutions.

Who on earth would fail to understand that both a coalition agreement and a constitution of a republic have their peculiarities and specificities which do not require high-grade intelligence to apprehend?

A coalition agreement could have mandatory provisions which assert that one could not become a coalition flag-bearer unless one resigns from one’s party and prepare to stand as an Independent candidate. Of course, this is not a constitutional requirement for coalitions but was a conditionality specific to coalition 2016 and which the members had power to enforce by the simple threat of rejection of the candidate for non-compliance with any of the conditionalities crafted by the coalition. This is why all those who were interested in becoming the flagbearer of the coalition had to comply with the conditionalities when the coalition had the absolute power to implement its dictate.

In the same vein, a constitution has provisions that are mandatory and others that are prerogatives. It is mandatory for a president to leave office at the end of his or her five-year term. That is what I relied on, as spokesperson of the coalition and the president elect, to tell the people to allow Jammeh to serve the rest of his term and then emphasised with all the energy at my command that he would be a rebel if he insisted on staying in office after the end of his term. Now, may I ask:  Did Jammeh claim that he was president of The Gambia after Barrow was sworn in on 19 January 2017? That is the type of pronouncements that practical and honest political leaders make during extraordinary times. What is mandatory has to be upheld and enforced without responding to any prevarication.

On the other hand, it is a prerogative under the 1997 Constitution for a president to resign from office before the end of his or her term.

Hence, if a coalition agreement aimed at reducing a term to three years is anchored on a prerogative of voluntary resignation of a president, its implementation would certainly depend on the good faith of the president who appended his signature to the agreement, prior to being elected. This is elementary truth.

It is of interest to mention in passing that the other opportunity that the coalition had to put the presidency under scrutiny was a coalition National Assembly. This agenda was also unachievable when many coalition partners insisted on going on their own to compete for majority of seats for their parties.

Furthermore, if the majority of the members of the coalition in and out of cabinet gave support for the president to serve a five-year term, what could the minority do to ensure the implementation of a coalition agreement?

Since the commentator is blinded in mind by crudities in reasoning and prejudice, he would have the penchant to cast aspersions without any backing of facts and commonsense. Consequently, he conjured in his mind what he called the ‘rhetorical type of politician’ as a figment of his imagination and thus idly employ himself in fiction writing rather than a commentary.

Again, in conclusion, allow me to call on Gambians to recall the grave political tensions the country endured before the 2016 elections. Each should transpose himself or herself to where one was standing on the political topography of the time that is by 30 October 2016 when the coalition selected a flagbearer. What better agreement could have brought the coalition partners together just two months before a presidential election to wrest The Gambia from the hands of Jammeh? What could be more practical than changing a government when the country needed change the most?

We know where we came from. We know where we are. We know how we got here. Where do we go from here? That is the question for all of us to address rather than making attempts to rewrite the history of the impasse to try to transform the valiant into villains, the practical into the rhetorical politicians. History will never accept such apostasy. Those who signed the coalition agreement in good faith and have been consistent in defending the objective of putting an end to self-perpetuating rule by democratic means, in order to attain democratic ends, are aware that the struggle is a protracted one because not all the stakeholders of an agreement are always homogenous in defending its letter and spirit. Hence, we are ready to settle for what is achievable under the times and circumstances and then move on to develop new tactics and strategies to achieve what is unaccomplished. Those fellow travelers who wait until history is made in order for them to rely on their crooked minds and crooked pens and stand on their head instead of their feet to rewrite history would always mistake the ground for the sky and write empty chatter. History will indict all those who refuse to acknowledge the work done to change the Jammeh regime at short notice and the maturity displayed in facilitating the peaceful transfer of power.

Any newspaper that becomes a collaborator of such a conspiracy against truth, facts and common sense would ultimately earn the label of a gutter press.

If there is any Gambian who does not see the work of coalition building, the change by the ballot and the peaceful transfer of power as the first fledgling steps towards building the democracy we crave for The Gambia we want and is fit for us to live in, then such a person is better advised to look for a clinic where intellectual dishonesty could be treated and cured. Otherwise, they will always achieve the very opposite that they intend and forever consign themselves into the abyss of eternal disgrace as the reactionary sons and daughters of our homeland. This is the verdict of truth and commonsense and it is incontrovertible.

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