PDOIS’ ADMINISTRATIVE SECRETARY TAKES LAFIA TO TASK
You are very important and you cannot be ignored. It is surprising that you would think that you do not deserve my attention. PDOIS has always maintained that the sovereignty of the Gambia resides in every Gambian. Hence all Gambians are equal in sovereignty and each deserves respect and attention.
Some people feel that I should not have engaged you in the first place but that is precisely my role as administrative Secretary. The new approach adopted by PDOIS to even engage faceless and nameless critics in order to show its commitment to the principles of transparency and accountability gives me the obligation to monitor debates, intervene when necessary to clarify issues, give additional information and give advice to the PDOIS leadership, where necessary, on how to handle any matter of political significance.
I decided to engage you when you kept on repeating ad infinitum that Halifa’s wife was a Permanent Secretary which was incorrect. Your motive was immaterial at the time and we did not want to impute any motive for the sake of fairness. We thought that your error was due to mistaken identity. I tried to assist you to directly get the facts from Halifa as a good will public relation exercise to avoid publishing wrong information about a person but you declined the offer. Since you continued to propagate that Halifa is a collaborator of Jammeh because his wife was a Permanent Secretary while the wives of other political leaders had been removed from the service, I decided to tell you that Halifa’s wife was neither a Permanent Secretary and was no longer in the country and then proceeded to inform you of our policy on public service employment. I thought that you would acknowledge that all Gambians have a right to benefit from public service and to work as public servants based on merit. In short, nobody should get a bad name for working as a teacher, nurse, doctor, educationist, etc., as long as one is employed on the basis of merit and paid according to the quantity and quality of one’s work. We could not understand why you would want Halifa Sallah’s wife to be victimised before Halifa could be seen as a genuine opposition. Since we had written to the UDP to give an undertaking to form a United Front to combat all unconstitutional actions against parties and their members we thought that you would expose all those who have been unlawfully removed from the public service and challenge us to take up their cause or be exposed for being insensitive to the plight of the citizenry. Everybody recognises PDOIS’ role as a human right defender in the Gambia. This stance is second to none and makes your allegation of collaboration so ridiculous that some do not feel it deserves a response. We know that it deserves a response to help those who do not know PDOIS and the quality of its leadership to become well informed.
Instead, you still maintained that she rose to the rank of Permanent Secretary and even added that a job she got on merit is state managed to bribe her husband.
Some people questioned whether other political leaders you support could have been labeled collaborators of the Jammeh administration when their wives and friends were working in the service to follow your logic but you ignored their concerns.
You were also informed that the person whose employment in the public service was being used by you to allege collaboration was no longer in the country. Instead of dropping your allegation you continued to fabricate uncorroborated circumstantial evidence to pass judgment on political leaders you do not support in the first place.
Since, you could no longer be influenced by facts or logic some PDOIS supporters wrote to me to claim that they know who you are and your motive. They said that PDOIS’ focus on policies has given it clout and that you were engaged in a disinformation campaign to distract the people from focusing on PDOIS policies and attribute PDOIS’ capacity to function in the Gambia against all odds to complicity with the Jammeh administration. To use their own words, they claim that Jammeh is comfortable with certain opposition leaders but is made vulnerable by the capacity of PDOIS and members of its leadership like Halifa to put integrity into political processes and Jammeh is kept in power to the elation of people like you by putting spanner in the wheel of such credible processes. They proposed to send me information and questions for onward transmission to you so that they would engage you by employing counter disinformation strategy.
The information they sent would amount to employing the same unethical methods you have employed. For example, one said you should be questioned why three leaders of the NADD leadership were arrested but others were not and alleged that they could also say that there was something between Jmmmeh and the leaders who were not arrested. Many conspiracy theories leading to the demise of NADD were alleged. Do you see how dangerous it is to manufacture evidence as one pleases from circumstances and pass judgment on personal prejudices?
Since I do not have the mandate to preside over a media war among parties but to clarify and promote PDOIS policies, I had to do more consultation with the PDOIS leadership on how to prevent a little matter from being blown out of proportion.
Let me just point out some of the postings. One alleged that a particular person whose wife’s termination you spoke about was a prominent member of the executive Committee of an opposition party and has an Auditing Firm which used to audit the accounts of a public corporation and used to appear with them at the National Assembly to submit annual reports. They also mentioned that one of the victims you mentioned has been a prominent member of the executive committee of a particular opposition party while working for a state institution for almost a decade without you accusing the leader of the party of collaboration and after he left he had consultancies with UNDP without being blocked by Government. It was observed that his wife worked for Family Planning without any interference and moved to the UN system in the Gambia which required her to interact with the government on a periodic basis even though her husband continued to be an executive member of an opposition party.
A third person was mentioned whose wife left the country because of the deformity of her child.
The name of women party members of opposition parties were mentioned who marched with the Women Federation to complement the Jammeh administration and received loans from the Federation. PDOIS Women did not join the March and did not receive any benefits.
The Gambia is a small country. Names of people were given who are executive members of other parties who were linked to NGOs which did consultancies for government. Other names of people were given who are in the security and law enforcement apparatus, public service or have been scholarship holders, whose relatives and friends belong to the leadership of other opposition parties. If such names were published many would be made vulnerable.
When it became apparent that PDOIS supporters could be incited to go into the offensive we saw the need to take Fresh look at what appears trivial and engage you in a more constructive manner to give substance to overshadow a trivial matter which could encourage bickering among opposition members and supporters and undermine the integrity of genuine opposition leaders.
First and foremost, we would want PDOIS members to take note and avoid using two disinformation tactics: The first tactic was perfected by Hitler.
Such people conduct their campaign by developing a mastery of the art of disinformation which is based on the notion that if “half-truths” and “untruths “are unremittingly repeated without any clarification, sooner or later, truth would appear as falsehood and falsehood would appear as truth. Since clarification is the only way to foil such schemes they deter such clarification by accusing those who make them of being oversensitive, robots, hair splitting, petty, etc. In this way they draw their opponents into battle of insults instead of battle of issues. This is the first tactic.
The second tactic is perfected by Al Qaeda or Boka Haram. The tactic employed by Al Qaeda in Iraq in order to get Sunni recruits is to bomb Shiite shrines who in turn also bombed Sunni Mosques. This provoked a civil war which is still raging.
In the same vein, Boka Haram started by bombing churches hoping that the church militants would also bomb mosques thus leading to a civil war which would split Nigeria.
Some who do not support PDOIS are hoping that PDOIS supporters would also employ the same tactics of telling half-truths and untruths about other leaders and their parties.
What is important is for decent Gambians not to reciprocate. This is why we see the need to engage people like Lafia in a new way.
Sometime ago, apart from PDOIS many political parties received very bad publicity when wikileaks published the views of US envoys on the political situation in the Gambia. This is why PDOIS consider it necessary to engage the Diaspora so as to raise the quality of debate and put an end to the bickering and mudslinging exercise and promote the politics of principles, policies, plans and political conduct.
Now that Lafia’s intervention has moved from the level of a debate to the level of propagating a political platform based on caricature, slander and character assassination, all honest and open minded readers should recognize and accept his platform for the 2016- 2018 electoral cycle.
Those who are convinced that Halifa Sallah is a genuine opposition leader and that PDOIS is a genuine opposition party should also maintain their platform by propagating PDOIS Principles, policies, plans, programmes, strategies, tactics and political conduct.
Those who support PDOIS should be ready to determine whether the platform being propagated by Lafia would harm PDOIS chances in the next electoral cycle elections. If so they should be worried and should note that Halifa Sallah may not be the best PDOIS or an Alliance Candidate for the Presidency in 2016. If not they should shrug their soldiers and move on.
The Following is the platform Lafia wishes to rely on to prove that Halifa Sallah is not a genuine opposition leader:
Charge No. 1
Halifa Sallah has kept the education of the youth in the Gambia at the level of PDOIS and Foroyaa while he gave full support to his wife to get a BA in Economics, Master’s Degree in Comparative Literature and PHd in Sociology with the highest honours that could be given by a French University, that is Mention tres Honorable that is Summa Sum Laude
Charge No. 2
While the wives of other genuine opposition leaders were relegated to be housewives because of political repression Halifa Sallah aided and abetted for his wife to become a career educationist who did not stop at teaching at the Upper Basic, Senior Secondary and University levels but also rose to the rank of Principal Education Officer (grade 10) responsible for monitoring how teaching and learning are conducted in all schools throughout the country. While the wives and relatives of other opposition leaders were weeded out of the public service his wife was given responsibility to train school monitors and supervise the conduct of their work. As if such responsibilities were not grand enough she was assigned the responsibility of being a coordinator of the programme designed to introduce French as a core subject in Gambian schools. How could she have led a team to create the structures and produce the books necessary to promote the teaching and learning of French in Gambian schools if her husband was real opposition?
To add insult to injury while the PhDs of the wives of opposition leaders were trampled underfoot, their books transformed into kite for child’s play, Halifa’s wife was allowed to launch two books on Friday 28 December 2012 entitled: “Quality Assurance: Pedagogic Guide For Effective Teaching and Learning” and “Monitoring schools: Quantitative Data Collection Analysis and Reporting” and Educationists from the Department and outside were invited to review the two books and give their expert views on the content. How could the massive publicity received which is still in the archives of All Africa .com escape the gaze of the Gambian state and why did they turn a blind eye to it until Halifa’s wife finally escaped the sack by becoming the Chief executive of an institution specialised on education covering 17 countries?
Jury: Lafia and Co
Sentence: Political Isolation
On a More serious Note
We decided to take Lafia’s claims one by one in order to give the reader a more enlightened view of Gambian politics by setting aside its trivialities.
ON TRIBALISM OR ETHNOLINGUISTIC PREJUDICES
What eventually brought Halifa Sallah’s wife in the limelight is Lafia’s claim that Halifa Sallah, her husband is a collaborator and is being rewarded by Jammeh through the wife. Some people think that Lafia is a tribalist who just hates Halifa Sallah and wants the Presidency for a member of his tribe. He also insinuates that a prominent PPP women leader had confirmed that Halifa Sallah is a tribalist who has expressed preference for Jammeh against Ousainou Darboe. It is not said when this preference was expressed by Halifa Sallah. The facts however reveal that Halifa Sallah could not have opposed Ousainou Darboe on the basis of tribe of ethno-linguistic origin and still supported Sidia Jatta’s candidature to the Presidency in 1996 and 2001 presidential elections. Everybody knows that Sidia has the same ethno- linguistic origin as Ousainou Darboe.
Could it be that Halifa expressed opposition to Darboe because of ideology? If ideology were to matter would Halifa support the candidate of the United Front in the 2011 Presidential Elections?
The simple truth, that is as clear as noon day to every person who could recognise truth when it is evident to the naked eye, is that a presidential candidate may be given a mandate to be president through the single initiative of a party by endearing its policies, programmes, plans and political conduct to the masses. In that case, one does not need to consult anyone on how and how long to govern as long as one adheres to the constitution.
On the other hand, a presidential candidate may be given a mandate to be president through the collective initiative of many parties by endearing their collective platform to the electorate. In that case the President elect must be bound by a pact which is well defined and sold to the electorate which he or she must adhere to.
Since 1996 there have been four presidential elections. In 1996 and 2001 Halifa Sallah supported a candidate of the same ethno-linguistic group as Ousainou Darboe, who sought to get a single party mandate based on the PDOIS policies because no one made genuine effort to involve PDOIS in working out a pact for a collective mandate. In 2006 and 2011 Halifa Sallah supported the candidature arising from the collective initiative of parties. Hence if Halifa Sallah and Ousainou Darboe find themselves on different camps it could not be because of tribe or ideology but because of choice of party on one hand and alliances on the other. This is the irrefutable truth.
Hence it should now be clear to all that there are no tribalists in the Gambia. There are just attempts to use ethno-linguistic origin as an instrument to promote personal interests whenever it suits a person. Many people who adopted such line of reasoning as members of the opposition did not hesitate to join the Jammeh administration and repent for personal gains. Lafia is not opposed to Halifa Sallah because of tribe. He is opposed to him because he currently believes that Halifa cannot serve his interest.
ON OPPOSITION DIALOGUE AND COOPERATION
Lafia claims to be UDP. During the 18th anniversary of the UDP PDOIS wrote a solidarity message committing itself to work in harmony with the UDP to promote electoral reform and to work in unison to prevent any violation of its rights to freedom of Assembly and freedom to move freely throughout the country to propagate its policies. The UDP leadership read the message at their rally and it was endorsed by those present as a commendable gesture.
On the other hand, during the 20th Anniversary of the Coup PDOIS issued a statement showing why it should not be commemorated. Hence any genuine UDP member would have embraced the good gesture in promoting cooperation among opposition forces. Lafia however did not recognise the posture of the UDP leadership and described the PDOIS initiative as a ploy to ward off criticism from UDP supporters. Who then is putting the spanner in the wheel of cooperation among opposition parties?
PDOIS has also emphasised that since each party is formed to seek a mandate from the people and collective mandate must come from a pact among parties, Gambians should support the parties of their choice and insist that they work with the people to build their support base and consider a pact in 2015 based on the political realities of the country. Only strong parties on the ground could form a strong compact. Lafia however, is already campaigning against PDOIS. Who is keeping Jammeh in power? Is it PDOIS which is calling for the strengthening of opposition parties on the ground and an end to all squabbles among the opposition or Lafia and his likes who are inventing historic animosities which to him could never be bridged? The truth should be evident to all. Deception is no longer possible.
POLITICS BASED ON NATIONAL INTEREST OR POLITICS BASED ON PERSONAL INTEREST
To understand Lafia ‘s attempt to influence the readership of Kairo online newspaper to believe that Halifa Sallah is a collaborator of Jammeh one must understand the two levels of politics in the Gambia which many Gambian Academics, Political leaders and people at large fail to alert their minds to. Consequently, they always give the impression that opposition members are at each other’s throat and that the masses hold them in contempt.
The reality is that there is politics focused on national interest and politics focused on personal interest.
Gambians in particular and other nationals who have the national interest at heart consider National politics from the angle of the principles, policies, plans, programmes and political conduct of the political parties. Hence they could gauge the political weight and significance of political parties at each given stage and measure their progress.
On the other hand, those who view politics from the angle of personal interest are not concerned with principles, policies, plans, programmes and political conduct of parties. They consider such issues as irrelevant and are intolerant of people who dwell on them. They know the leader who could enable them to benefit and thus take sword and put on armour to defend that personality at all cost and cut to size all other personalities on the opposing side.
Hence those who analyse the conduct of the opposition from the angle of national interest would be able to identify parties which are driven by policies and those driven by personalities. The wiki-leaks revelations did show how embassies classify political parties.
Gambians who support political parties should bear in mind that what they say is being noted by analysts. This is what is used to analyse whether their parties are driven by national interest or personal interest. Those who promote ethno-linguistic remarks in the name of a political party are doing great injustice to such parties. Those who deliver hate messages against other opposition political leaders only do so at their own peril. Truth is like a cork under water. You may suppress it for a while but once released it must find its way to the top.
There is a battle between those who are committed to personal interest and those committed to national interest in the politics of the Gambia. The danger is if one allows those who dwell on the politics of personalities to be more vociferous and ferocious, many Gambian observers would see the opposition in the Gambia as fragile and unprepared for the task.
However, if those committed to the national Interest become more vociferous and refined in explaining the principles, policies, plans, programmes and political conduct of opposition parties the quality of opposition parties in the Gambia would be known and the opposition would earn greater respect from the rest of the world thus paving the way for greater opportunity to mobilise the international community for electoral reform in the Gambia. Academics should therefore move away from painting the Gambian opposition with one brush for political convenience. To give the impression that unless there is a unified opposition there is no credible opposition in the Gambia is at best misleading and at worst fatalist and counterproductive.
The Conservative party and the Liberal Party in the UK have their differences but formed a government when circumstances dictate. Young Gambians should move away from the degrading and inarticulate politics of insults and character assassination and embrace the articulate politics of principles, policies, plans and programmes which they should be able to explain to carry the nation and the world with them.
ON ALLEGATION OF COLLABORATION WITH JAMMEH
Even though Halifa Sallah rejected the offer of Ministerial posts during the first days of the coup and was later arrested and tried for challenging the ban on political association and expression Lafia still accuses Halifa Sallah of collaboration with Jammeh.
As leader of the opposition in the National Assembly from 2002 to 2007, Halifa like all parliamentarians was entitled to State Land but rejected the offer.
As opposition leader he did not use an official vehicle and did not utilize the petrol vouchers given to him. In a letter addressed to and acknowledged by the Clerk of the House, he forwarded all the unused petrol vouchers and a diplomatic Passport given to him as a member of the Pan African Parliament so that nothing ties him to officialdom yet Lafia claims the contrary.
To avoid any material gain from occupying the post of Opposition leader in Parliament Halifa launched the Constituency Development Initiative fund into which was paid part of his salary and per diems which was utilized to Pay fees for some children, provide refrigerator ,sewing machines and seed money for petty trading for many poor persons.
Wheelbarrows, spades and cutlasses were given to communities to help in community work, projects were initiated to make certain roads accessible to pedestrians and transports. In fact, the Sandika area became a priority project for the government when Halifa Sallah stood in parliament offered 60,000 dalasis as counterpart fund to pave the road which Minister Bala Jahumpa rejected and promised that they would pave the road with Government funds. Adult literacy programmes were launched in Serrekunda, Brufut and Sanyang to promote civic education and the capacity to read and write among adults.
After the UDP boycott in 2002 and before NADD was formed, a By Election took place in Jarra. Halifa led the delegation accompanied by Sanneh. Eventhough, a youngman whose nomination papers were signed by 1000 people wanted to stand he was convinced by Halifa to give Kemeseng a chance. Halifa with Faye Suso utilized his constituency office to coordinate the transportation of 1000 registered voters to vote for Kemeseng and further utilized the Constituency fund to finance those who accompanied him after his victory as a UDP candidate. Lafia still sees Halifa as an enemy.
A social clinic was established where people came to lodge their complaints of violation of rights and hardship of all sorts for remedial action. Despite all these developments Lafia claims that Halifa is not genuine.
When witch hunters, menacingly moved about in the Gambia and sparked fear in every home Halifa accepted to be the sacrificial lamb to stop it but Lafia claims he is not a genuine opposition leader. As Secretary General of PDOIS he is mandated to respond to every major incident to articulate an alternative policy to that of the government which he has never hesitated to do yet Lafia says he is not a genuine opposition leader.
Well to say this in secret is one thing but to stand on a political platform to convince people is another matter. Anybody who attempts to do so, at this junction when PDOIS offers hope to all those who want their fundamental rights to be protected, is likely to be the laughing stock of history. No one could cheat destiny. The future will tell.