Alagi Yorro Jallow
Tima: Democracy is an excellent gift. It is a political system that requires a popular vote to elect the leader of a country and other officials. If practiced properly, this marvelous gift can promote change, foster equality, protect people’s interests, amongst so many other benefits for the citizens. It can be stunning. However, suppose this awesome gift is not utilized appropriately. In that case, if it is applied with recklessness and a state of impunity, it can instigate corruption, involve immoral practices during elections, and even allow the misuse of public funds, together with so many other disadvantages for a nation. In this instance, it can be uncredible. Therefore, the central tenet of this incredible gift is the conduct of credible elections.
The Gambia’s presidential and general elections always fascinate, confound, stir, and dissuades most right-thinking observers in a manner that no other country in Africa can do. An election must be incredible; our elections must be credible since democracy is a marvelous gift meant to provide an enabling environment for everyone to feel safe. It is supposed to be a tool where leaders are elected credibly. However, assume we allow our process to be uncredible. In that case, we will not enjoy its gift.
During the peak of each election cycle, the electorate is dazzled with buzzwords of change and associated fantasies, moralist speechifying at campaign rallies against the backdrop of forgotten national and individual histories, and true to their nature, politicians celebrate public ignorance, and amnesia like horses consume hay during the drought season.
Fifty-six years since the turn of the century, the Gambia’s politics is still wretchedly crippled by the vicious pains of tribalism, deplorable plunder and extensive wastage of public resources, favoritism in party primaries and nomination to the national assembly and municipal councils, reversed wisdom in campaign arguments, and guileful ploys to thwart accountability.
Fatoumatta: The December 4, 2021 election scarcely provides new options or new ideas. Instead, what is at play is a battle of craftiness between APRC/NPP Grand Coalition led by President Adama Barrow, PDOIS, UDP/GFF Alliance, and other peripheral Sosalasso political parties. They are using templates initially used in previous elections. The creepy pursuit of populism and diabolical twists and turns in fleeting accusations and counter-accusations in the political playfield among politicians and political parties, bereft of ideology that must have died soon after the struggle for the Gambia’s independence and third liberation struggle, is evident in the lack of requisite ideological drive instrumental for constructive politics.
Examining and analyzing all the manifestos presented to voters during the campaign depicts the political groups’ not-so-far-apart. No challenging interventions would create sharp differences to distinguish what each party would offer.No, I am not pouring cold water on the efforts made by technocrats who penned the manifestos. The trouble is that what the technocrats believe in is not exactly what the political class believes in.
Gambians are pained by the heightening levels of graft, cronyism, nepotism, flouting of procurement laws and guidelines, disregard for national values domiciled in the Constitution, and thirst for quick riches is the bane of our politics. However, the majority of rural populations have refused to interrogate critical issues by examining hard content with critical depth that would shame the spookiness of the political class. The electorate has no acute and sustained insistence to have Looked at political parties castigate any governor under their party umbrella for misappropriation and plunder of devolved funds. Look at how no political party emphasizes how local development will be exemplified by devolved government and how they would upscale the oversight roles of Local Government Councils to strengthen accountability and oversight at the Municipal level.
Look at how no one is immersed in discussing the need to strengthen social audits as a mechanism for enhancing public participation at the two levels of government. Likewise, no party is discussing the necessary boost of government and other stakeholders’ needs to strengthen direct foreign investment to counties and strengthen public-private partnerships for Local governments. Finally, see how no party discusses the possible and necessary improvements needed to make submissions the Intergovernmental Budget and Economic policies more functional, platforms that most Gambians know little about, and platforms that have left so much to be desired. The cost of healthcare continues to be unbearable, health and economic welfare insurance remains slippery, and a preserve of successful and sustainable development seems to be a good fairytale.
The politicians are obviously on top of their game, and the pliably oblivious electorate is cheering the politicians on and on.
Tima: The Gambia needs a new awakening. The prisoners of conscience and tolerance must take to the stage and upstage the grandstanding of the status quo and drive out the agents of political intolerance. In the December 4 presidential 2021 election cycle, the second cycle since the advent of regime change in 2016, the only evident difference is how politicians deploy technology to throw mud at opponents and lack clarity on specific commitments once elected into public office. However, again, it is the Gambians who stand to lose.
Disturbingly, the gushing wound of ethnic chauvinism, elitist hegemony, tribalism, and regionalism is what politicians, the self-appointed doctors, have purposefully refused to treat, and are ready to pop the Champaign bottles at the death of the patient, thanks to the wound.
There is no debate about the need for conscientious discussion. The only discussion is about why it is not debatable that we are divided as a nation.
Tima: The best description of the Gambian situation is captured by the Irish poet W. B. Yeats, in his timeless poem titled The Second Coming, and states;
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
An election is supposed to symbolize the light at the end of the tunnel. Sadly, in the Gambia, there is no tunnel and no light. No rock bottom beats having many political leaders with noticeable conceptual gaps in governance and development.
Political office holders are deemed to be public trustees whose task primarily is to oversee and manage whatever resources entrusted to them as apportioned by the Constitution and are charitably expected to be do-gooders incapable of pursuing the dusty path of seeking self-aggrandizement and personal wealth at the expense of public service.
New levels of political cynicism, idiocy, and class conspiracies continue to be mainstreamed in Gambin politics without foreseeable prospects of clean politics. Instead, the brutal tribalism, duplicitous intolerance, and crafty responses to public concerns seem to be the lasting fiber in our body politic.
Fatoumatta: The voters are admittedly comfortable choosing between degrees of evil. It is like jumping from one hole to the other of similar depth and imagining that you are kissing the sky. As we headed to the ballot on December 4, 2021, many of us were overwhelmed by the emptiness of many politicians. As we gasped for air, we were nearly asking for oxygen masks.
Alagi Yorro Jallow