The moment has arrived. Gambians are going to speak on Thursday. They’re going to vote for a new president. It’s going to be an election like no other. Things are finely poised for what will be a fierce contest.
Three men are going to butt heads. They are Yahya Jammeh, the incumbent, Adama Barrow of the seven-party-and-one-independent-candidate coalition and Mamma Kandeh of the opposition Gambia Democratic Congress.
All three contenders are making their last-minute campaign pushes in advance of the December 1st election.
The incumbent, Yahya Jammeh, knows how to win elections. He’s done it on four occasions in a row in the past and he’s looking forward to this one with supreme confidence. In case you didn’t know, Jammeh has always been a confident man.
But to tell you the truth, this election is different. It comes when Gambians are more appreciative of the value of democracy. The people especially the young ones are more politically savvy. They want to shape their own future and they’re going to decide this election.
Perhaps that’s why Jammeh is campaigning. He’s been vociferously hammering home key messages: the economic superpower status, the free education, the Kartong to Koina electricity project, and the new roads. He’s been insisting he’s still the people’s champion, the people’s Robin Hood.
“In 22 years, I have done something that the British colonialists and Jawara (Gambia’s first president) could not do in 430 years,” he would tell his cheering supporters.
But that he’s going to turn The Gambia, in two years, into an economic superpower where Europeans will be flocking to hoping to make a better living is his biggest promise yet in his re-election bid. If this will ever happen? No.
But that’s politics. Sometimes you play it in a certain way to bring voters to your side.
Jammeh also laid bare his abhorrence of those who are critical of or work against him. He’s taken long shots at them, calling them cockroaches and bugs. And it looks like he’s already drawn a line in the sand; you’re either with him or against him.
And if he wins Thursday’s poll, this is the Yahya Jammeh you should expect to see in future. If he loses, it will be the end of one heck of a presidency.
Meanwhile, Mamma Kandeh of the opposition GDC’s approach could probably be classed as defensive. He’s not really focused on the issues and I find this surprising. The ‘Waato Seeta’ GDC contender claims to be a victim of gladiatorial politics. He’s not taking allegation of him being a Yahya Jammeh proxy lightly. He’s also been making a meal out of talks over his level of education.
There is no ruling Mamma Kandeh out, however. The guy is a highflyer and has a lot of supporters. His supporters think he’s the right man for the job. They think he will improve living conditions of the average Gambian, revive the economy and put people to work. In him, they see a committed and energetic man who can take The Gambia on a better course. There’re set to cheer him on until the death.
And you have the coalition guy – Adama Barrow. His campaign is in fine shape. Seven parties and one independent candidate have thrown their weight behind him. It’s an amalgam of strange bed fellows. Some of them are the country’s finest politicians and he’s relying on them to take State House. They’ve tried united fronts before but failed. This time, they’ve succeed and they’ve one common objective; to unseat Incumbent President Yahya Jammeh.
Barrow is surely not an expert on policy issues. His generals are doing all the hard work for him. And the businessman-politician seems to have struck a chord with his focus on building the economy and reviving the agricultural sector. At the top of his to-do list, Barrow said he will take a stand against corruption, end arbitrary arrest, release political prisoners, uphold people’s inalienable rights and relax censorship.
The Gambia’s political environment has never been tougher. Not to mention, this election comes at the back of a long and arduous five years. The country has had its fair share of problems. The economy is in bad shape. Poverty has refused to go away, leaving many young people to flee to Europe. Other problems include human rights and corruption. These problems have managed to make this contest the country’s tightest.
So, sure, this will not be a walkover for any one contender. It’s going to be tough. It’s also going to be a difficult election. I’m finding it hard to predict the outcome. The good news is that something has got to give, somehow.
Written By Lamin Njie
Former Standard Newspaper editor