In barely less than two weeks, Gambians will elect a new President. Presidential contenders are currently busy crisscrossing the length and breadth of the country, canvassing for votes. December, 1st is the scheduled date for the elections.
Gambia’s longtime iron fist dictator Yahya Jammeh, is seeking for a fifth term mandate. He came to power through a coup in July, of 1994. Jammeh has since ruled the impoverished African nation with a firm grip. He tells his supporters at the commencement of his campaign that “no election, no coup, and no foreign power” can remove him from office. He even brags of not needing the votes of The Gambian electorate. He claims that God will elect him into office and not Gambians.
Arguably, there are two other candidates vying for the Presidency, who are both new in the political race. None of the candidates have ever contested for the Presidency.
Adama Barrow, a Real Estate Developer, is running under the ticket of eight opposition parties, while his co contender Mama Kandeh, a former Ruling APRC MP, is representing the newly formed opposition party, The Gambia Democratic Congress Party (GDC).
The first week of dictator Jammeh’s campaign trail, has been marred by massive purging of local government leaders and government officials. Jammeh is seemingly dissatisfied with the political groundwork operated by his surrogates on the ground.
Jammeh’s campaign team is out of touch with the masses. Hence, his meetings are poorly attended by communities. And this is not going down well with Mr. Jammeh. He resorted to scolding members of his entourage, campaign team, local government leaders, and anyone he could heap the blame on.
Like in any country, crowds to some degree define the prospects of a given candidate’s chances of winning an election. This was evident in the just ended US Presidential elections, in which President elect Donald J Trump’s crowds far outweighed his opponents’ crowds Hilary Clinton.
With dictator Jammeh, he is witnessing the most boring and lonely days of his rule. Call it a national snub if you want. Gambians are no longer keen at meeting or listening to Jammeh. His own supporters have jumped ship by defecting to Mama Kandeh’s GDC party.
Jammeh’s policies of international isolation will adversely hurt him in the coming polls. The Gambia cannot survive as a nation in the absence of foreign aid and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Hence, this has led to the total collapse of the economy and the country’s infrastructure.
His past unfulfilled Presidential campaign promises are being repeated in the campaign trail by Jammeh. It has reached a point that Gambians no longer have faith and trust in Jammeh. This is a desperate nation looking for a savior to replace the status quo.
On the human rights and governance front, Jammeh has the lowest score card globally. He is presiding over a repressive regime, which survives on terror to cow its citizens.
Mr. Jammeh’s prospects of reelection is next to nil. His own campaign surrogates are pessimistic at this hour. They are not convinced that victory for Jammeh is assured this time around.
While Gambians have turned their back against a dictator, who was nationally embraced in the early days of his coup in July, of 1994, which saw the government of President Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, packing, today Mr. Jammeh can hardly pull crowds of grownups qualified to vote. He is often accompanied by rented crowds of government workers and officials.
Winning an election under a dictatorship is a hard-fought battle. It is virtually impossible in fact. It requires a committed and determined nation to effect a meaningful change. A dictator like Jammeh will never conform to the democratic norms of safe transition of power as being currently observed in the United States under President Obama’s dynamic leadership.
As we file this editorial, Jammeh is running around Gambian communities telling the electorate that even if they don’t vote for him, God will vote for him. Delusional, right? This clearly means that Jammeh is thirsty for power and will do everything humanly possible to subvert the wishes and aspirations of the Gambian people.
Now let us discuss the candidature of Adama Barrow. Mr. Barrow has never held a public office in his lifetime. He has no experience in running a government. But he is the chosen candidate to represent the eight political parties, who sponsored his candidature.
Mr. Barrow’s lack of government experience will not determine his electability. His path to the Presidency is very bright—given the momentum he is recording on the campaign trail. Mr. Barrow stands better chance of winning the Presidency than Yahya Jammeh, if the polls are not rigged. This is evident on the crowds accompanying him.
Mr. Barrow’s party leader Ousainou Darboe and co, have been falsely jailed for three years by the dictatorship. His party’s supporters will vote in record numbers just to see to it that their leader and his followers regain their freedom. There wouldn’t be any voter apathy from the UDP camp. The supporters of the other alliance leaders will also vote for Mr. Barrow. There are swing voters, who will no doubt sympathize with the UDP by voting for the alliance.
The other dilemma facing Yahya Jammeh, is the unpredictability of the government workers, including members of the security forces. Reports have it that government workers might vote for Adama Barrow of the UDP, especially workers, who come from the Mandinka ethic group. A protest Mandinka vote will send Jammeh packing. Mandinkas forms the grater percentage of Gambia’s population.
Jammeh’s recent attack against the Mandinkas is still fresh on the minds of the Mandinka voters. That’s why Mr. Jammeh, who comes from the Jolla minority tribe, launched an appeal during his tour to the electorate not to vote based on tribal or ethnic line in the coming elections. He is aware of the political ramifications associated with his hate speech against the Mandinka brothers and sisters.
With candidate Mama Kandeh, he has no doubt rendered Jammeh’s APRC party into disarray. Mr. Kandeh is a former lawmaker. This is the APRC candidate, turned “rebel” against the establishment. He is one of the first Gambians to oppose his former party leader Yahya Jammeh.
It is imperative to note that Mama was treated as a political underdog in the early days of the formation of his party. But today, Mama is not an underdog. He is a serious candidate, who can cause a dent on the APRC, and the status quo. If Jammeh loses the upcoming elections, it is because of Mama Kandeh’s Presidential bid. Mr. Kandeh has pulled the greater chunk of Jammeh’s supporters to the GDC.
As the race is on, Gambians are hopeful that one of the two Presidential candidate rookies might make an upsetting political victory come December, 1st. Time will tell. We rest our case.
Written By Pa Nderry M’Bai