Re Freedom Editorial: Why Is Halifa Sallah Not Electable? Journalists should uphold the highest standards of achieving societal betterment through an informed citizenry.
I must thank Mr Pa Nderry Mbai for coming out openly to state his opinion on both PDOIS and its Presidential Candidate Halifa Sallah where others hide behind funny names like Maxs on Kairo News who propound exactly the same derailing tactics. He should not scratch his head too much that we are going to eat him up. However, it appears Mr Mbai has no qualms with PDOIS as a party which he praised but is critical of our Secretary General Mr.Halifa Sallah. It is his opinion that Halifa is not electable. May be he has done polls across the Gambia and come to that conclusion which results he should kindly display for public knowledge.
In my view if Mr. Mbai chastise one leader as ‘Not Electable, he must have someone in mind as a more electable candidate and therefore wants us to compare his candidate to that of Halifa but he has not brought that name forth for us to make our own comparisons. I think if you say Candidate A is not electable, you should also come up with Candidate B who is more electable in your opinion. This will make good comparisons instead.
As far as I am concerned, there is a criterion as to who is electable and who is not. First and foremost, the person must meet the requirements of law to stand as a candidate before him/she could be considered electable or not.
1) He/she should have the required knowledge to be able to run a government that would serve the diverse interests and aspirations of the Gambian people.
2) He/she should be committed to the suffering of the poor and marginalised sectors of our society who are in the majority.
3) He/she should be known by the electorates as someone who is steadfast and consistent to pursue what he/she believes is the answer to the realities of the people and who has ability to articulate his plans and programmes in a convincing manner to them.
For example, he/she should not just tell people ‘I will build your road, when I am elected’ but will also explain where his government would acquire the needed funds to build such a road. He/she should not just say ‘if I am elected, I will eradicate poverty’ but must be able to explain a convincing programme as to how he/she would end poverty. He/she should not just say ‘I will end tyranny and bring about democracy’ but will be able to explain how he/she would go about doing that. For me any such candidate who has the ability to convince me on the above will be considered electable since the electorate wants development and progress and not just empty rhetoric. So readers can judge for themselves whether Halifa has such qualities or not.
However, despite the fact that Halifa is selected as the Presidential candidate of PDOIS and the fact that he is confident of his electability among the Gambian electorates, he has also realised that the Gambia is a divided country, meaning there is no single individual or party that the people wholeheartedly support as has happened in South Africa after the fall of Apartheid. This is why the PDOIS is of the view that the country needs a TRANSITIONAL administration that would propel it from ‘Dictatorship to Democracy’. This is why they came out with a proposal that would help the opposition to know who is more electable under the current situation to usher us into a Third Republic.
What Mr. Mbai and his colleagues should do is to announce his electable candidate and further work to seek 5000 nominators for him/her so that the electorates will help us through a ‘Primary’ as to who is more electable for the 2016 presidential election. That would definitely be more rewarding for the democratic agenda than wasting ones precious time on slandering one candidate and one party because of one’s personal selfish interest.
Such rubbish defamatory arguments were rubbished by PDOIS militants in the kairo News forums and it is my opinion that they are simply exported to Freedom News as to divert the attention of the readers from the salient issues confronting those who belong to parties trapped by costly miscalculated attempts to apply political expediency. Mr Mbai like them has a problem as to why Halifa does not mention Yahya Jammeh by name but continues to address him by the President or authority which in his opinion amounts to poor messaging. Sad that his hero is Donald Trump, chei Yallah!
Well, Mr Mbai as he is the one appending signature on behalf of this collective mudslinging supporters of failed agendas are very much entitled to their opinion as to what is rich and poor messaging. The fact of the matter is, Halifa does not entirely see Jammeh as the only problem. Don’t get me wrong, Jammeh is a big problem but the biggest problems are the Pa Nderry Mbais who by virtue of their education, influence and ability do not utilise them to help the people to move in the right direction to bring the change that we deserve but continually indulge in pettiness and misguided media practice, and blatantly refusing to see the ultimate solution to our predicament but rather focusing on issues that could derail the gains of the struggle, not knowing that with enlightened citizenry Jammeh could not be in power even for a minute.
It is an irony that persons like Mr Mbai to all of a sudden be so unexpectedly concerned about the existence of PDOIS since the First Republic. This is precisely the problem of many of the educated people of the Gambia. They do not care to interrogate issues as to find out the causes and possible solutions. They do not care to know what steps are needed to solve issues of common concerns. All they care about is for people to notice that they exist.
Look, Mr Mbai and all those detractors in all the online fora should know that they are not indicting the PDOIS, but all the opposition parties and the whole Gambian people and their political leaders both the first and second republics.
In case you care to know, the Gambia has this paradox of wanting to build democracy while at the same time having an anti democratic political class. This is a very important issue to remind ourselves and is a key political problem where the political class of career politicians are deeply corrupt, not accountable to the people and not having any respect for democratic principles and the rule of law. The people of the Gambia can be committed to the struggle for democracy but our problem is that we also have leaders who are experts at subverting democracy. For example, a leader of a political party who knows about all the rules of the game that at age 65, he cannot contest as a candidate and did not do anything during the five years since 2011 but decided to take what may be termed as desperate measure of taking to the streets with a view to creating chaos only in five months to election.
This is why I said it could be true that we are unable to organise credible elections because the political class has consistently demonstrated its skills in disregarding the rules they all adhered to for more than 51 years.
I said you are indicting the Gambian state which has attained 51 years of self rule, meaning five (5) decades of struggle for democracy by progressive forces. But if we look at the five (5) decades, what it entails is a plethora of different groups all struggling for democracy in various ways with different agendas, with different understanding of what democracy is all about and this includes their strategic and tactical questions they had to grapple with.
The question is; has the link between democracy and development in view of the continuing failures of democracy in Gambia ‘yield any dividends’ in terms of social welfare? If the answer is No, then it behoves on us to double up our efforts instead of standing on our laurels.
The struggle for democracy were waged with demands that were over lapping and sometimes conflicting and this can only be confusing to those who are onlookers and not participants.
It is funny that there are Gambians who consider themselves as fellow travellers but are unappreciative of the rich and enduring struggle waged by PDOIS for quite three decades for democracy and against military dictatorship.
They refused to acknowledge that our challenge is how to struggle for credible democracy in a purportedly democratic environment since the attainment of independence. They forgot that it is the responsibility of all players in the democracy train rather than PDOIS alone.
Since 1999, the PDOIS has engaged in advocacy, mass mobilisation and legal activism, but the failures to reach a consensus as to how to wage the struggle within the new dispensation has been the stumbling block to progress.
In all countries that went through our type of experience, it is now recognized that in place of political education that used to be emphasised at an earlier point, civic and voter education now dominate conceptions of the required tools. The new political objective is supposedly to make citizens to know their rights and responsibilities and how best to exercise them.
It will be worth reminding that the UDP had 13 seats in the National Assembly but boycotted the Parliamentary elections in 2002 which was badly timed because others could not fill the void, thus we lost the gains since then and could not recover them up till now. One would have thought that they would learn the lesson but no. It is my opinion since the UDP has embroiled itself in what I will describe as badly planned activity, which has disorganised it from participating in elections without any electable candidate, its intelligent supporters think they can bandied about a failed ‘No Election Agenda’ as to drag PDOIS into their ‘No Progress Formula’, they are mistaken.
Look, we must now accept that there are two main agendas within the Gambian opposition.
1.Those who by virtue of their inability of one sort or another cannot participate in election for many obvious reasons have the agenda of trying to divert or subvert other parties from doing so especially the PDOIS. This ‘No Election Agenda’ will in no way provide them a platform to further narrate their case to the public and thereby naturally reeling them towards dysfunction.
- There are those who accepted the reality of a deformed democracy’ and believed that with advocacy and struggle for reform, the situation could be improved. After all, no democracy is perfect. This group should endeavour to form Alliance for Democracy AD or United Front, which would cash in on the mainstream supporters of all the disaffected citizens and all those who desire change and aim to win seats at both the National and the Local Government levels. With that strategy, the opposition would be better placed to wage their struggle for democracy and other freedoms.
That United Front would continue to make key demands such as a new Constitution, electoral reforms and a procedure for the registration of Political Parties and to even use their joint electoral strength in Parliament and all other forums and eventually to engage in a fight against endless Presidential terms for Presidents. And they will be listened to. Gauge these two agendas as a citizen of the republic of The Gambia and take your sovereign stand and move on.
Finally Mr. Mbai should not disregard the traditional role of the press that is committed in pursuing public enlightenment and to upholding standards of civic morality.
Written By Sulayman Bah, UK