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Monday, October 2, 2023

UDP needs to check itself

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Dear editor,

Despite all the talks of it being a party with the difference, the opposition United Democratic Party has demonstrated very little to put these words into action.

This is a party that has been at President Adama Barrow’s neck attacking all the social, fiscal, economic and political policies and programs of his government.

But you cannot blame and lash at Barrow when he does otherwise and then keep quiet when same issues are committed by your party members. This is callous and demonstrates that the party does not represent the interest of Gambians when it comes to issues that affect its members or seen to be threat to the party’s growth.

The UDP is the most consistent party that criticises insensitive spending on travels, vehicles, and other futile endeavours that have no bearing on the life of an average Gambian.

But we have seen how the party’s National Assembly Members such as Yaya Sanyang went on to defend the National Assembly vehicle issue on several public platforms with impunity and nothing comes out of it.

The UDP has 15 NAMs and 1 independent NAM in the National Assembly and each of these members took part in the vehicle scheme with each vehicle costing D2.5 million. This totals to almost D40 million.  Nobody is disputing the fact that lawmakers need mobility to do their job but spending D2.5 million on each of the 58 vehicles is not economically sensitive in the current realities of the Gambia when majority of the people you claim to represent are dying in abject poverty, daunting in the floods and rains and crawling daily to put food on the table.    

Until today, we have not heard the party leadership and its prominent supporters condemning this act.  When the NAMs vehicle saga propped up, some sources in the UDP claimed the party leader was in the provinces and when he returned the party was going to take a strong stance against it. That has not happened until now. And with the exception of its campaign manager Momodou Sabally, none of the party’s executive including Ousainu Darboe came out to speak against their NAMs driving D2.5 million vehicles.  I hope the party is not doing so because this affects its own NAMs and they fear that speaking against them could make them lose their base in the legislature. If this perception is true, then UDP is not here to represent the interest of the average citizen who has got no interest in politics and numbers.

I know for certain that if these vehicles were purchased by the government and President Barrow himself to the NAMs, UDP will reject it outright or at least disassociate themselves from those who want to take part in the scheme. But why the silence now? Can’t you do the same just like you did when Darboe emboldened Barrow to renege on his 3 years promise of stepping down only for the party to come out and distance themselves from it claiming that was Darboe’s personal view and did not represent the party’s view? That in itself does not hold water.

This act has given credence to the UDP’s critics who believe that you were in support of everything Barrow was doing even if it does not represent national interest until 2019 when Darboe, Sanneh, Dibba, Kemesseng and others were removed from government.   

The UDP really needs a re-check if they want to be considered an opposition with a difference and until that happens, they are nowhere near the likes of PASTEF in Senegal or even the Economic Freedom Fighters in South Africa. Speak the truth even if it is against yourselves! Until you fix this double standard, UDP and NPP are 6&9.

Alagie T Bojang

Mariama Kunda

Numbers do matter in politics but so should character!

Dear editor,

Often, when people say politics is all about numbers, they are referring to economic gains politicians like to take credit for. I’m not referring to those kinds of numbers because numbers confuse me and I don’t like things that confuse me. I’m referring to situations where political parties roll out the red carpet for any dubious character because they claim “politics is all about numbers”.

In the Gambian political equation, politics is a zero-sum game; nothing matters but winning. How you win is not relevant as long as you win. The argument is that the more people you get in your political party, the more likely your chances of winning. Politics is all about winning, they often claim. Most times, this simplistic argument is made when you question political parties about embracing people of questionable character. The political parties, if they even care at all, usually lead with a vacuous disclaimer that they don’t subscribe to what the person of questionable character stands for, but that they have no control over who chooses to join their party or who aligns themselves with their party. And sometimes I can sympathize with that sentiment. I understand. I can wake up today and call myself an APRC supporter; there’s nothing Tombong or Babili can do about it! However, what they have control over is not allowing me to get on any of their platforms, speak on their behalf, or elevate me to a position of influence.

In this colonial space, all the political parties, including the rape and murder apologists of the APRC, claim to stand for certain values and ideals that they encourage every member to abide by. On paper, these political parties expect those representing their political party to portray these values and ideals. Therefore, one would think that people that do not represent these ideals and values will not be elevated or given a platform to represent a political party. But as with most things, the values we have on paper are just there to be there. They mean little to nothing! Politics is all about numbers after all and the end goal is power. Values be damned.

A friend posited that in Africa and particularly in The Gambia, opposition politics simply means criticizing those in positions of power, while you angle for your turn to do exactly as they were doing. I am not sure too many of us can argue against his position given the historical evidence at hand. For us, “the more things change, the more they remain the same.”

Those at the forefront of political parties, including parliamentarians, should reflect their party’s values. Elevating opportunists and turncoats to positions of influence and claiming politics is all about numbers reeks of dishonesty. Essentially, what you’re saying is that we are willing to use people with questionable character and elevate them if they can get us a win. If that is the case, I can only imagine what questionable characters you will keep around you to maintain that win. I guess there is a reason election manipulation is en vogue.

Alagie Saidy-Barrow

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