Alagi Yorro Jallow
Fatoumatta: We believe that voting for a candidate the first time is a vote in HOPE. At the same time, the re-election of a candidate is a vote on FACTS. The voters are inexcusably responsible for influencing the outcome of an election and governance. Sometimes there are no good options. The choices amongst the aspirants on December 4 Presidential contest will be narrowed between a reluctant president taken hostage by a state captor of the elite intelligentsia, the most influential businessmen, politicians influencing politics colliding with public officials in their favor, and an aspiring autocrat with ethnic chauvinism also bearing traits of political opportunism.
However, warts and all, President Adama Barrow and the other candidatures are the least awful of the choices available at this time while rather ominously that it is voting for a lesser evil with a heavy heart. Forty-five percent of Gambians did vote, too — they voted Adama Barrow in 2016 with an oxymoron for the Gambia. December 4, 2021, a Presidential contest can best be described as an ugly beauty contest.We looked at the options before us as we jog towards the December 4 elections and once again shook our head for the country. Nothing will be changed — except that things had deteriorated beyond the awfulness of the historic 2016 election when Gambians decided for a change of a diaper and when the country repudiated decades of despotism. 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: We expect more than ten presidential candidate options the elite put in our December 4 plate to choose and chew. Most of the “Tangal Cheeb” candidates are boringly familiar to voters. Ousainou Darboe of the United Democratic Party (UDP) has been in every election since 1994. Oddly for a country where half the population is younger than 18, while the leading opposition candidate is one geriatrician and health might matter of being a president. Nevertheless, all candidates face the challenge of energizing an electorate growing disenchanted by extravagant promises that bring little change.
A contest of challenged candidates is what the Gambia has on December 4 election since some voters wish this contest could suffer the fate of the 2017 Mr. Model Tabasco pageant — an annual male beauty contest held in Tabasco, Mexico — which was canceled when pageant organizers deemed all contestants were not “beautiful” enough to hold the title. Nevertheless, some contests are attractive simply because they must keep. Therefore, Gambians must choose on December 4 — the election will hold, and a winner will emerge between these contestants, however ugly. That is why we must wake up and put on our caps of reason.
These “Tangal Cheeb politicians” are stale dishes on our plate of hope; in the hierarchy of rancidness, some fruits taste better than others. An old political warhorse told a friend in the Diaspora that he would choose life (even if corrupted) over death at the hands of unrestrained tribalists in the coming elections. Furthermore, that fact is the tragedy of the Adama Barrow leadership (or lack of administration). Every voice that asked President Barrow to be decisive on the Gambian security quagmire was called names. Now, the tragedy of that zone plus the litany of unfulfilled ‘extravagant promises’ will forever define the Barrow five years. I do not know how he intends to rule beyond next year because when the Gambian people are determined to sack a leader, it does not stop until he is gone. Let them ask President Yahya Jammeh and the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) government.
I met some Ugandan ladies at a conference in Washington DC in 2019. I asked them about their perennial president, Yoweri Museveni. They did not find my choice of adjective funny. However, they had envious words for Gambians for always finding a way to sack their own dictator Idi Amin. Unfortunately, the Gambia always moves on, and it appears it will move on December 4. A husband that is not a husband is not worth a woman’s stay.Fatoumatta: This December 4 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 not possible in a democracy of Tangal Cheeb politicians and Sosalasso political parties. If we listen to Edwards, we will vote for other 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 Adama Barrow or 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. Late American actress, Mae West, confronted with such two unpleasant options, said she would always go for the one she had “never tried before.”The two options we have, we have tried before. We have been tried President Adama Barrow as a pilot; we have attempted to Vice President Ousainou Darboe as an assistant pilot to President Adama Barrow’s boss.
The verdict has been awful — but didn’t common sense goad us to choose the least terrible in 2016? If it was right then, should it not be appropriate now that the choice of 2016 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 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! 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.” Furthermore, 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 new and better than what we have or retain what we have.Fatoumatta: We are like Esi in the Ghanian author Ama Ata Aidoo’s novel ‘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- same of same.
However, it is worthwhile 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. No matter how vociferous and self-consciously pompous, the solution to a failed system is to wipe it off the board — like the last lesson. Furthermore, it has been a lesson these past three and a half years. And you do not have to wait till a snake bites before it is killed.
The problem with us 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 lousy government anywhere is a snake. It kills. You do not prolong its life with excuses; its illness is terminal, it 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 President Yahya Jammeh, and heaven did not fall; we can do it again — unless we are satisfied with the current reign of pretentious abuse.Some days 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….”Should we really have any problem sacking a government after five years of extravagant promises that bring little change”? Furthermore, is a term of five years really not enough to do great things? How long does it take for a real man to give his wife belle? No regime should, really, henceforth, have more than a term until we strike gold in our search for quality leadership. The Adama Barrow 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 the Yahya Jammeh economic and human atrocities if we had not voted out the APRC government? Will, it not, therefore, serve us better if we apply the same sense and vote out APRC’s successor for a timely, quick assessment of how truly honest the coalition government has been doing in managing our affairs? We need to find out, and we can’t while it sits on the standard chest. However, the choice is almost like what we had in 2016.Fatoumatta: We echo the voter who insists he would vote for the sanctity of human life and reject mouthed integrity that anoints a super race of equals. However, We add that the new man should not have a second term no matter how he behaves. Every five years, we can 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 one day and have a country of undegradable values. “Election Day is coming ’round again” on December 4. 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 Banjul – 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 shoutAnd we will bring some new ones in, and they will start the show againAnd if you do not like who is in there, vote ’em outAnd if it is a bunch of clowns you voted in, Election Day is coming ’round againAnd if you do not like now, you can change it anyhowAnd 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!”