An Ugly Beauty Contest: Voting With Mixed Feelings & Heavy Hearts

Mamos Media

Alagi Yorrro Jallow
Fatoumatta: We are in 2021, and the prime focus must hinge on solving the problems of the present. Our country is already besieged with a myriad of problems, and Gambians voted for change in proffering effective solutions to them. It is about time that we realize that the unity and overall benefit and interest of the country prevail over any interest or aspiration of any individual, in power or out-of-power. Suppose all the game playing is about December 4, 2021. In that case, we must appreciate that December 4, 2021, is still 5-years away. We should not allow any individual aspiration hedged on the future to continue tainting and informing the decisions of the present.

Fatoumatta: “Sometimes there are no good options,” said The Economist, a respected, authoritative international magazine, in November 2016. That was how it started its analysis of that year’s presidential election in the Gambia. First, it looked at the choice between then-incumbent President Yahya Jammeh and the Independent coalition candidate Adama Barrow. It said the contest was between an “untested real estate agent” and an evil-minded dictator “with blood on his hands.” Warts and all, The writer in the Economist saw Adama Barrow’s candidature as “the least awful” of the choices available that time while it concluded rather ominously that “with a heavy heart,” it was voting Adama Barrow. Gambians voted 43.3 percent of the votes for a coalition candidate voted for Adama Barrow. Then, the same writer came again with an oxymoron for the Gambia. It called the December 4, 2021, presidential contest an “ugly beauty contest.” Finally, it looked at the options before us as we jogged towards the December 4, 2021, presidential elections and shook its head again for the country. Nothing has changed — except that things have deteriorated beyond the awfulness of 2016. The Gambia is itself a corporate oxymoron — a paragon of paradoxes. It chooses and eats what nauseates it — and does so calmly without throwing up.

Fatoumatta: The presidential candidates are the elite’s options in our December 4, 2021 election plate to choose and chew. “Some of the candidates are boringly familiar to voters. Mr. Abubacarr Ousainou Darboe has been in every election since 1996 as a presidential candidate. This is Mr. Mama Kandeh’s second time vying for the presidency. Oddly for a country where half the population is younger than 18, presidential candidates are quinquagenarian. Both face the challenge of energizing an electorate growing disenchanted by extravagant promises that bring little change.
That was the voice of The Economist. A contest between two challenged candidates is what the Gambia has on December 4, 2021. Some commentators wish this presidential contest could suffer the fate of the 2017 Mr. Model Tabasco pageant — an annual male beauty contest held in Tabasco, Mexico — canceled when pageant organizers deemed all contestants were not “beautiful” enough to hold the title. However, some contests are attractive simply because they must hold. Gambians must choose on December 4, 2021 — the election will hold, and a winner will emerge between these two, however ugly. That is why we must wake up and put on our caps of reason.

Fatoumatta: The Economist was right. Some of our presidential candidates are stale dishes on our plate of hope. However, in the hierarchy of rancidness, some fruits taste better than others. An old warhorse told a colleague in the Greater Banjul area — after the presidential nominations —and heading towards the presidential elections that he would choose life (even if corrupted) over death at the hands of unrestrained herdsmen. Furthermore, that fact is the tragedy of political leadership (or lack of leadership). Every voice that asked this President to be decisive on the Greater Banjul area security quagmire was called names. Now, the tragedy of that zone plus the litany of unfulfilled ‘extravagant promises’ will forever define the Adama Barrow five years. I do not know how he intends to rule beyond 2021 because when the Gambia was determined to sack a leader, it did not stop until he was gone. Ask former president Yahya Jammeh.

I met some beautiful Ugandan ladies at a UNESCO conference in Paris, France, in 2018 and asked them about their perennial President, Yoweri Museveni. They did not find my choice of adjective funny, but they had envious words for Gambians for always finding a way to sack their own Idi Amin. However, unfortunately, the Gambia always moves on, and it appears it will move on next month. A husband that is not a husband is not worth a woman’s stay.

Fatoumatta: This election approximates the spirit of a 1982 American drama, ‘Sophie’s Choice.’ The Nazis forced Sophie to choose which of her two kids should be killed (gassed) by them. She made her painful choice: one child lived; the other she sent to her death. American theologian and author Tryon Edwards advised us to choose neither between two evils. However, this is impossible in a democracy of Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Reconstruction, the National People’s Party grand alliance( APRC/NPP), and the United Democratic Party (UDP). If we listen to Ibrahima, Gambians will vote for other Sosalasso candidates who know they will not win. Candidates of weak parties waste time and votes and help to get unintended electoral results. So we are stuck with either President Adama Barrow or Abubacarr Ousainou Darboe. An irony of our multiparty democracy is that every vote against both ‘awful’ candidates is a vote for “the greater of the two evils” to win, sit tight in power and wreak greater havoc for the future of the Gambia. Late American actress, Mae West, confronted with such two unpleasant options, said she would always go for the one she had “never tried before.”
Fatoumatta: The two options we have, we have tried before. We have been trying President Barrow as a pilot; we have been trying Abubacarr Ousainou Darboe as an assistant pilot to Barrow’s ( Adama Barrow’s Foreign Minister and Vice President). The verdict has been awful — but didn’t The Economist writer goad us to choose “the least awful” in 2017-2029? If it was right then, should it not be appropriate now that the choice of the 2021 presidential election has proven awful? Furthermore, is being a driver the same as being a conductor? We have to answer those questions and decide. However, we will not forget that the pilot we chose “with a heavy heart” in 2016 and his Godfather has flown hundreds of thousands into clouds of job loss, grinding poverty, and into the turbulence of bloody, deadly divisions. However, then, he was chosen “with a heavy heart”! Fatoumatta: When you marry a woman “with a heavy heart,” you can be sure that she will beget offspring that will give a lifetime “of heavy hearts.”

The Spartans had the same logic. Their king, Archidamus, married a petite woman -petite by today’s standard of description — and they felt horrified. As their queen, the Spartans said, a little woman would degenerate their royal breed by producing mere “kinglets.” Moreover, kinglets are no kings in carriage, conduct, and comportment. Fortunately, what we have here is no Spartan monarchy that lasts a lifetime. We are in a democracy (so-called) where mandates are renewed every five years. The next President must be Adama Barrow since this election is a binary choice.

We are like Esi in Ama Ata Aidoo’s ‘Change: A Story of Love.’ We leave a husband who will not dream our dreams. We marry another (a married man) who promises to be there for our rain and sunshine. He comes into our lives with a bang and then soon evaporates into conjugal failure. His ability moves progressively from 4G to 3G to EDGE — and still, he says he is solid and reliable. We think of moving and not moving away from this life of serial failure and disappointment; we dither and wither as no-nonsense grandma looks us in the eyes and shouts: “Leave one man, marry another. What is the difference?” Really what is the difference? All men are like all politicians the same. However, it is worth the while to move away from unrepentant failure or get it out of our lives.

Fatoumatta: ‘Why should a sterile man insist on holding on to a woman who desires children? The Gambia deserves life. A failed government is a desert. Deserts turn lifeless whatever they touch. The solution to a failed system, no matter how vociferous and self-consciously pompous, is to wipe it off the board — like the last lesson.

Furthermore, it has been a lesson these five years. Moreover, you do not have to wait till a snake bites before it is killed. The problem is that we give the devil much room to breathe before we wake up to confront the serpent. When a millipede behaves like a snake, you kill it before it turns into a snake. Indeed, whatever looks like a snake in the dark should be treated as a snake. A bad leadership anywhere is a snake. It kills. You do not prolong life with excuses; its terminal illness cannot be cured with propitious accommodation. It is a spirit of badness that should be exorcised before the land can have hope. So we did with Yahya Jammeh, and heaven did not fall, we can do it again — unless we are satisfied with the current reign of pretentious abuse.

A few years ago, American country music icon Willie Nelson released a political anthem, a rallying cry against bumbling politicians who will not leave us alone. Nelson asks us to get all of us to rescue ourselves from clowns who (mis) rule us: He sings, unknowingly, for us — Gambians — and for all who suffer what we suffer: “If you don’t like who’s in there, vote ’em out/That’s what Election Day is all about/And the biggest gun we’ve got is called the ballot box….”

Fatoumatta: Should we have any problem sacking a government after five years of “extravagant promises that bring little change”? Furthermore, is a term of five years not enough to do great things? How long does it take for a real man to give his wife belle? No regime should, really, subsequently, have more than a term until we strike gold in our search for quality leadership. The Adama Barrow coalition government’s behavior keeps reminding us of the locust years of the PPP and why we should not go back there. Nobody likes what ruins, which is why the experience must continue to guide the present. Would we have ever known of former president Yahya Jammeh’s stolen billions if we had not voted out the government? Therefore, will it not serve us better if we apply the same sense and vote for a good leader for a timely, quick assessment of how truly honest our leader has been managing our affairs? We need to find out, and we can’t while it sits on the common chest. However, the choice is almost like what we had in 2016.

Fatoumatta: I am echoing Ibrahima, who insists he would vote for the sanctity of human life and reject mouthed integrity that anoints a super race in a federation of equals. However, I add that the new man should not have a second term no matter how he behaves. Every five years, we eject them like arrogant defaulting tenants, lest they change the title documents in their favor. When we ‘change the change’ repeatedly, we will get it right and have a country of undegradable values one day. “Election Day is coming ’round again” on December 4, 2021. As it comes, we sing the ‘Vote them out’ anthem along with Willie Nelson. It is a sacred duty to vote out the “bunch of clowns” – in The Gambia– and in all constituencies that suffer lousy representation. When we change them repeatedly and serially, politicians will appreciate the impermanence of power. They will learn to do good and give justice to all races of people without fear, favor, or ill-will. They will not bar cow thieves from traveling and fete cow robbers in the Villa. They will put the long-suffering nation on an even keel.

“And when they have gone, we will sing and dance and shout
And we will bring some new ones in, and they will start the show again
And if you do not like who is in there, vote ’em out.
And if it is a bunch of clowns you voted in, Election Day is coming ’round again And if you do not like now, you can change it anyhow
And if you do not like who is in there, vote ’em out! We will start the show again and bring some new ones in – Vote them out!

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