By Pata Saidykhan (Political activist and Blogger)
For us to attain any gains in our pursuit of freeing The Gambia from the tentacles of a 20 year dictatorship, we must embrace the culture of impartiality, brevity and honesty in our actions as well as our political discourses.
For far too long, many observed that most of our political pundits, commentators and those with voices and platforms have been exceedingly kind to certain politicians whilst holding others by the collar. My observation is that PDOIS have been cut more slack than their counterparts, possibly out of respect or we do not see the need to address their shortcomings. I am not blaming anybody for that but it will be so unfair to hold these parties and their leadership to a different yardstick and expect to make any meaningful progress in this war.
As 2016 elections nears and talks of Party Coalition intensify to devise ways of halting the accelerating wheels of Jammeh’s tyrannical administration, a lot of people, myself included, are almost certain that Jammeh will never be defeated at the polls. There are a lot of factors that play against our favor but the one thing that gives us a remote hope of putting up a strong fight via elections is when we are able to have a United Front putting up one candidate against Jammeh. Personally, that will be the only time that I would support any elections in 2016, though I’m a nobody.
Many who are pessimistic of any sort of political union argued that the differences between the political party leaders are so deep that they could never put them aside to look at the greater good of the nation. And their position is premised on their experience of the past election cycles. Despite the absolute urgency of now, we have seen indications that indeed, a coalition is farfetched.
While the Group of Six (G6) Opposition Political Parties are adamant on their demands for electoral reforms for them to participate in elections, we have seen NRP and Hamat Bah contest 2 National Assembly elections going for the 3rd this month. Their party, they said, do not believe in election boycott. We came down hard on Hamat and accused of aiding and abetting a dictatorship. Then we have GMC and Mai Fatty put out two press releases that we considered to be endorsing Jammeh’s positions on homosexuality legislation and the recent verbal amnesty extended to diaspora Gambians. We even had an issue with him believing that Yaya is a ‘good Muslim leader’. He got accused of being opportunistic and wanting to kiss up to Jammeh.
When we feel frustrated that we are missing out on the timely opportunities to pounce on Jammeh, we point our daggers at UDP/Darboe and PPP/OJ for not dragging their supporters to the streets. But what do we expect of PDOIS and their leadership?
Personally, at the look of things, PDOIS are more likely to be the fishbone in our collective throats than NRP are, for the following reasons:
Although I respect PDOIS as an autonomous, sovereign Party, I am troubled by their reluctance if not refusal, to compromise their position even when we all know what’s at stake. That for us to rid Gambia of her predicament, each have to give up a position for us to reach a consensus. To me, because of the limited options available, a lot of variables would have to be forgone so all members at the negotiation table could be respected as equal stakeholders. That is what I called Compromise.
Since I am Not privy to any discussions taking place between these parties, I am going to argue on what we have all seen and known since the G6 demands were put forward:
a). In May 2013, PDOIS were the only Party not represented at the Raleigh Conference when an invitation was extended to them because they thought the diaspora needs go back to the drawing board to get our houses in order before they could partake in any National discourse.
b). In 2013 when Jammeh had his former Presidential Affairs minister read that unfortunate, inflammatory statement on TV that had the potential to stir ethnic tensions, the G6 members organized a press conference to condemn it. PDOIS was absent because they thought they needed to do thorough investigations before having an opinion about it.
c). From that, birthed the GUC rallies in Buffer Zone and Brikama, which they were absent too, since that was related to the same issue.
d). CORDEG invites all parties to ‘discussion’, PDOIS were absent because they were on a countrywide tour.
Now, let it be known that I am NOT a registered member of any local or diaspora Organization nor am I a member of CORDEG, so I am not holding brief for them. But as a private Gambian invested in our national affairs, I have been dehydrated and sickened by the 20 years of tyranny that poses an existential threat to our beloved nation. I have made it clear that I’ve subscribed to ‘any means necessary’ model of ousting the Jammeh dictatorship. Therefore, I do believe in the significant role the Political parties could play in making this happen. But we cannot idly sit by and watch the petty political and personal differences between these parties derail us, even when they are expected to recognize and respect the dire urgency of our situation. From the release PODIS had put out responding to the supposed CORDEG-Political Party meeting, indications are that history is about to repeat itself. They are ‘firm’ and would take a lot to have them shift positions.
With all their shortcomings, we are told that CORDEG in fact DID invite all Parties to a ‘discussion’ which PDOIS had acknowledged but claimed they were “engaged in a village to village tour to exchange opinion with the people in order to know what they want and what they think of PDOIS’ programme”. And their frustration that none of the party leaders at the meeting didn’t distance themselves from the meeting confirms that those parties actually did partake in the ‘brainstorming’ session. Therefore to claim that the CORDEG meeting was ‘News’ to them is not totally true. What I found a little disturbing in this was PDOIS’ inability or unwillingness to multitask significant issues. I am not expecting them to abandon their engagements but I am convinced that if interested, they could have delegated a party official. Reiterating that “Malick Kah had no mandate to represent PDOIS and did not represent PDOIS at the meeting” raises questions about the internal running of the party.
Lest we forget, when the DUGA ‘occupied’ the Gambian Embassy in DC, PDOIS were not pleased especially with the involvement of their Party member in Coach Pa-Samba. Though he was not representing his Party, Coach almost got reprimanded and reminded of the code of conduct of party members. We have seen the same, if not worse, in embarrassing their European Branch’s chief. It is obvious that the Party members are answerable to the Central Committee instead of the reverse.
Evident in this release was the rigid nature of PDOIS’ handling of matters with their colleagues in the letter written to them following the said meeting. As equal stakeholders, PDOIS could have been a little respectful to the rights of their ‘Colleagues’ to be sovereign and trust their ability to be engaging all participants in this fray without throwing a tantrum, which prompted Darbo’s tarse response via text. To request a postponement of a scheduled all-important meeting because of a meeting they were not part of is worrying. They could have gone ahead regardless of the CORDEG issue, with the meeting to do with the confidential pact they were to sign. But because they did not have it their way, they bounced. I am afraid but Banka & Coach’s fear that these leaders have deeper differences that they would never put aside are getting validated.
We cannot have the same sickness bedridden us again after 4 election cycles. All parties and their leaders must be held accountable to the same standard. When we choose to cherry pick, we’re setting ourselves on a political suicide mission because we’re handing Jammeh the silver platter to turn the Gambia into a monarch. And to prevent that, we have to speak the truth to our partners on the ground – PDOIS especially. Politics is about evolution and adaptation, and thus far the Gambia’s oldest political party is stuck in stale ways of politicking. These parties must be forced to respect and run after our votes as Gambians instead of wanting us to allow to be herded.
In my subsequent blogs, I’ll be writing to all parties and their Secretary Generals in a bid to start dialogue as a private citizen but also give my assessment of them and how I think they could do better where I think they fall short. I don’t know why I think my take would matter anyway. Until then, PDOIS and NRP are our pinpoints, based on what we see. And we have to address it.
Good Morning And Peace To The Planet!