For Pata PJ, “many observed” that “for far too long…political pundits, commentators and those with voices and platforms have been exceedingly kind to People’s Democratic Organization for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS) whilst holding others by the collar.” And for him, he’s got his sleeve up to put a stop to it. For Pata, PDOIS is being spared by pundits, commentators and those with voices and he does not like it. PDOIS have never shied away from engaging in The Gambia’s political discourse and the long series of happenings in and about the country that PDOIS has taken a stand on, did not do anything to gain Pata’s ire. Not surprising however, to the close observant of The Gambia’s political happenings both within and outside of the country, is that Mr. PJ had long embarked on his mission. It appears he was just lying in waiting for an opportunity to pounce on PDOIS and now he thinks he’s got his mojo.
In July last year, following an interview of PDOIS’ Sidia Jatta by Fatou Camfollobears, even though he admitted when he phoned in, to having tuned to the program late, was quick to haranguing the host for “being too soft” with Sidia. The host and her partner appropriately responded that they were not debating Sidia, but only interviewing him. When he went off the phone he didn’t seem to have been satisfied. Now, it appears as if Pata must have been nursing the urge to have his day when he would show how not to be “too soft” on PDOIS. An opportunity to pounce seems the only obstruct. The long held desire to have a go at PDOIS is then apparent.
What Pata PJ may not know is that since the emergence of the (PDOIS) on The Gambia’s political scene, tackling the party has been one of a major desire and preoccupation of some Gambians. It wasn’t uncommon to see people under the cover of many a pseudonym since in those days, trying hard to show that they are up to task with the new political phenomenon – PDOIS. The fact that PDOIS did not follow the old style political rhetoric of mudslinging and the spreading of innuendoes, set them apart, hence sizing up to PDOIS was the thing. The pages of the newspapers of those days are there for the young to inform themselves. This trend haven’t gone away, it is still present. Only that since the advent of the internet and social media, which ushered in the age of the free for all media, that it has taken a different scope and dimension.
However, contrary to the democratic principles of divergent views for the inculcation of the spirit of debate and the contestation of ideas for the betterment of a society; the zeal with which the urge to tackle PDOIS has been expended, is one of posturing and grandstanding to the cheer of boardroom buddies, and Facebook likes, and twitter follows. Their desires to engage in polemics could be everything else except for the building of a society based on empirical truths. This zeal, unfortunately, was and still continues to be not for the want of a healthy debate and exchange of ideas for the betterment of our society. This is why one often hears grumblings such as “they think they know more than everyone else” and “now all of us are educated like them.” From this perspective, it is not difficult to locate the foundation of the “cut a slack” thesis.
But this is old turf to PDOIS. That phase in the party’s evolution, have been exhausted and PDOIS came out unscathed. That the party cannot be ignored nor sidelined is a testament to this fact. The result is due to the party’s unwavering stance and clarity of vision and mission to serve the national interest, guided by its programs, principles and policies. This is what defines PDOIs’ every step and action. And as long as it remains faithful to this mission, it will continue to be relevant in the construct of The Gambia’s political future.
Also, Pata’s choice of imagery to accompany his thesis is another indication of his intent and desire. One does not require initiation into semiotic language in order to be able to denote its meaning. A photo taken at the National Assembly sometime in 2002, 2003 or 2004, during a “state opening” of the national assembly; where the president goes round and shake the hand of every single member of the assembly, is often used by those with the objective of signifying the justification of their stale and unfounded argument that PDOIS is in cohort with Jammeh and his government. They would not even mention that Hamat Bah was somewhere next to Halifa and Sidia, but was only not captured in the picture and that the late Sheriff Dibba, who is captured in the image, was the speaker of the house at the time. These same false prophets would not provide pictures of similar gatherings where members of the other parties that had held seats in the assembly appear with Jammeh or other APRC members. This same underhand tactic is what is employed when another photo taken in February 2006 where Jammeh and Halifa were pictured embracing during a ceremony to sign an MOU between the opposition and the APRC, is utilized for same purposes. They would want to hide the truth that Jammeh had always tried to court PDOIS members who in turn have kept him at arm’s length, refusing to have anything to do with him and his government. His overtures to Sam Sarr (a former school teacher of his, at Gambia High School), during that gathering is just one example of such.
But this is beside the point. What is essential is whether we are dealing with the fundamental issues of establishing democracy and the rule of law in our country, not of venting spleen on others that one disagrees with. To cut a slack or not, what is of significance, is to squarely face the issues being raised and scientifically interrogating them in order to pave a way for the betterment of our society. It is only when these issues are tackled head-on, would the discourse, become fruitful and better food for thought for progress and development.
What then are the issues? Pata catalogued a number of queries that he feel validates PDOIS as being the “fishbone” or obstacle to his (their) desire to “pounce on Jammeh” or have the opposition parties drag “their supporters to the streets”. According to Pata, since the Group of 6 opposition parties demand to the IEC on electoral matters, PDOIS had been absent on issues involving the other opposition parties – Raleigh conference, “G6 press conference… to condemn” Jammeh’s anti-Mandinka rhetoric, “GUC rallies in Buffer Zone and Brikama”, and CORDEG invitation for parties to discuss.
What is interesting in Pata’s chronicle of the above events to validate his claims of PDOIS’ supposed intransigent to his (their) desire to pounce on Jammeh, is its lack of clarity and reliance on half-truths to advance his argument. In my view, it is duty bound for the young like Pata, in order for our generation to live up to its mission as Fanon legendarily called for, we must be willing and able to engage the issues thoroughly and objectively in order to arrive at an informed decision. It is only in this way that we would be in the position to constructively engage in the important mission of building a democratic, free, and prosperous Gambia. There is no short cut to attaining these objectives, only if we are to betray and fail our mission.
What is my point? Pata’s chronicle of events is shallow and deceptive, aimed solely to justify his argument. For anyone who cares to know, events involving the opposition parties that resulted to their demands laid before the IEC bear no connection to PDOIS’ failure to participate in the Raleigh conference. PDOIS’ position regarding the Raleigh meeting was for the organizers and members of the diaspora and civil society to have met first and agree on resolutions and present them to the parties; who would have also individually, considered them before collectively deciding on their positions. The objective was to engage in a process that would have produced informed, objective decisions. But not the mere gathering for the fanfare and the pronouncement of declarations that could be easily thrown out of the window with the flimsiest of excuse. Events that have emerged since Raleigh and the relation between the parties that gathered there, is enough lesson that what PDOIS had proposed was a better option.
What I had issues with PDOIS’ absence in Raleigh was not as a result of its proposals on the rules of engagement, but its decision to stay out of the conference when it knew its absence was going to be misinterpreted and its position distorted. In my view, PDOIS could have gone to the conference and restate its position which could have helped shape the process and outcome of the conference. Some of the chaos that ensued during the conference is enough to substantiate this assertion. Leadership was missing and PDOIS could have adequately provided that.
Secondly, and most importantly, four of the opposition parties that participated in the Raleigh conference came out of that gathering with what they called GUC (Gambians United for Change). This was what contributed to the derailment and the abandonment of the G6 agenda. Hoping that a new platform had been found to promote their agenda, a detailed and comprehensive program was pushed to the sidelines and fanfare embraced. The desire to project a unified opposition platform in the absence of concrete agreements and programs was rushed.
This amounts to deception and PDOIS will never be involved in such schemes that aspire to assume power for its own sake. This is why it becomes frivolous for a party that has always condemned and exposed the government’s shortcomings, to participate in a gathering for the mere purpose of making its stance against an irresponsible statement known to the public. The party has always done that without having to coalesce with others. Also, the party is duty bound to be mindful of sending wrong signals to the people that the parties are united whilst the truth is to the contrary. This is the problem that people are not talking about, and it is hypocritical for those that had even promoted the GUC agenda to now want PDOIS, that was abandoned with the electoral reform program, to halt its mobilization and rebuilding process for some brainstorming exercise.
This is why it is important for those interested in building a coherent alliance of the opposition parties and all Gambians interested in change, to inform themselves on events before rushing to conclusions.
Hence PDOIS’ absence at that press conference to condemn Jammeh’s anti-Mandinka rhetoric’s and those “unity” rallies was done in what was considered to be in the best interest of the party. Political parties that are worth the name are supposed to operate on clearly stated terms and agendas and not be stuck with the traditional bantaba and vous style of doing business or worst, that of pichu-mbollo.
This is also where CORDEG’s latest press stunt falls. It is well established that the organization is dogged with organizational and credibility issues. And instead of honestly and openly resolving the issues within and around its demographic area, it rushes to blush its image by playing to the gallery of what is seen as a crucial matter in Gambian political discourse.
It is important to remind the Gambian people that the discourse in the construct of opposition alliances has long passed the stage of “brainstorming”. The process that led to NADD starting in 2003 to 2006, had exhausted any process of brainstorming. A clear and programmatic document outlining the process and method of engagement was produced before its success was thwarted. Follow up talks in 2011, completed that process by outlining the new paradigms.
The members of CORDEG are expected to know better owing to the number of years of involvement and association with issues of this nature since at least 2001. If they have anything new to propose they can table it before the parties. PDOIS has already tabled its proposals and it is for the rest to do so and not to call for closed door talks and posturing in the media. This only breeds false hope which is quickly shattered once disagreements filter out to the public. It is these type of things that have contributed to voter apathy, leaving the people in the dark. We have had enough of the endless talks.
I hope that younger generation of Gambians will courageously seek to objectively, and constructively engage the bitter truths of our problems with the view to addressing them for the betterment of a democratic Gambia. There is no need to or not to, cut a slack for anyone. Tackling the vexing issues has continually blighted our attempt to get hold of the affairs of our country, and direct them in the direction that will lead to our collective liberty, dignity and prosperity, requires sober engagement and not of exhibits of who can better harangue the other.