Why Collective Leadership Makes Sense
By Mathew K Jallow
‘It seems Dr Saine’s repetition of tribe, caste, gender and other narrow-minded categorizations, as impediments to unity, serves to justify his theory of the challenges of unity, and absolves CORDEG’s leadership of failure in its primary task of unity under a single banner.’ MKJ
This is not a counter-punch to Dr Abdoulaye Saine’s representation of the challenges of unifying Gambians around an issue of life and death significance, but it is not to say that the glaring pessimism of his dramatic cut and paste narrative is not downright crushing to the hopes of a sliver of Gambian society strongly in support of the idea of unity. Even without the force of public opinion, the objective of coalescing around a single leadership makes indisputable sense. To begin with, the various civil society and political organizations will not compete for limited financial support; especially from among fora’s diaspora. Secondly, the fact that the various organizations are likely to solicit the same international donor base, by itself, underscores the need for unity, and voids the certitude of acrimony over conflicting interests. Finally, the disunity position is not supported by Gambia’s increased homogenization, despite Yahya Jammeh’s futile effort to disintegrate Gambia society along narrow tribal lines.
It seems Dr Saine’s repetition of tribe, caste, gender and other narrow-minded categorizations, as impediments to unity, serve to justify his theory of the challenges of unity, and absolves CORDEG’s leadership of failure in its primary task of unity under a single banner.
Even though serious challenges persist elsewhere in pockets of African society, in Gambia, the population spoke in one voice in its blanket condemnation of Yahya Jammeh’s dangerous tribal divisions. For the most part, the challenges of Africa’s unity as characterized by Dr Saine, derive from a colonized mindset unyielding and not ready to concede to the reality of Africa’s shifting social and political paradigms.
These changes are a manifestation of the political consciousness among Africa’s young and supersede our text-book understanding of African societies as victims of their own failures. But what this illustrates also is the fact that the old colonial biases have not kept pace with the cross-cultural and cross-tribal integration that is slowly reshaping African politics, and completely de-constructing the perceived dystopia in African societies as is characterized by the dominant colonial culture. Clearly, there is a direct correlation between Africa’s growing social and cultural tolerance and its generational changes, and tarring contemporary African society with the biases and shortcomings of previous generations, challenges the rigidity of the dominant colonial perception of Africa, and Dr Saine’s thin justification for disunity.
The organic clamour for unity by Gambians is grounded in the assumption that working together; there is a greater likelihood of success in liberating Gambia. But while the diaspora and political establishment are wrapped up in trivialities, an existential threat is slowly emerging as the opposition’s toxic relationship with the regime slowly transmutes into a Stockholm syndrome. It means that the opposition is developing a high level of comfort with the regime, and appears to be sadly descending into acceptance and indifference to the regime’s crimes. Mindful that very little or nothing can be achieved without merging diaspora interests with that of the combined political opposition, the opposition has to be nudged away from its borderline treasonous acceptance of the regimes crimes. It is imperative that the opposition maintains the adversarial nature of its relationship with the regime in order to avoid the likelihood of compromising the integrity of the democratic agenda it seeks to foster in Gambia; but even more importantly, to fulfil the promise we made to Yahya Jammeh’s victims; the dead, the living and the living dead. And at this juncture of the struggle, discussions of the issue of leadership of the combined dissident movement are pertinent to the political debate.
Clearly, the question of a single leader for the struggle has been overtaken by events in which the passage of time and developments in bastardizing the regime by the media and civil society, at home and abroad, has made the issue of a unitary head for the struggle as primitive as Cro-Magnon. What seems more plausible now is the not-new-concept of group leadership, which focuses on a select number of selected or elected, with the participation of each of the six established political parties and fifteen new and existing civil society organizations. Before the proliferation of civil society organizations, a single leader for the liberation effort made sense, and efforts were made then to recruit former VP, B B Dabo, Dr Isatou Touray, Dr Sedat Jobe and Dr Amadou Janneh, for this challenge of a lifetime. But, times have since changed, and at this juncture, only collective leadership will likely be acceptable to Gambians. The GCC position calls for the existing political parties, and fifteen civil society organizations to nominate a predetermined number of delegates to a National Transitional Council (NTC) of up to fifty, who would in turn elect a Transitional Government in-waiting (TG) of up to fifteen, to guide the ship of state leading to free elections.
Both the National Transitional Council and Transitional Government in-waiting, when duly constituted, would study and select from one of the six options available for the removal of Yahya Jammeh; presidential elections, military coup, joint civilian-military coup, negotiations with the regime, outright elimination of Yahya Jammeh, or our own Arab Spring Uprising. These options presuppose that Yahya Jammeh will not willingly relinquish power after two decades of misrule. It is clear that the GCC position makes sense as it pre-empts competition among the various groups, and will, at the same time, harmonize the objectives and strategies of the various organizations and present a more legitimate face of the struggle to an international community in need of convincing that Gambians can put our acts together, and restore the trust of Gambians hoping to end to their nightmare.
Along the way, there have been many false starts and exercises of poor judgement, but the need for political change has not diminished; if anything, it has become even more acute. And this is where there is a convergence of ideas between Dr Saine and Salieu Njie, who both raised the spectre of organization leaders finally meeting to help move the struggle out of stalemate and into a renewed promise for change. Gambians have waited way too long.
Mathew K Jallow