THE PROSPECTIVE ALLIANCE- THE START OF THE END OR A BEACON OF HOPE
Over the years, I have come to admire the APRC Party in a way that I have been unable to adequately caption expressively through words. For nearly Five years, this party has undergone the greatest existential threat ever to have befallen any political party in The Gambia’s history. Yet, for some unexplained reasons, the party has managed to surf the nefarious and perilous political waters obstinately and admirably so. Their resilience and fortitude has been unmatched and they, by all accounts, have set the tone to what tolerance, allegiance and patience in politics is all about.
What transpires within the camps of the APRC is nothing peculiar to every other political party I have seen in The Gambia; a dogmatic, unshakable and mostly blind allegiance and seemingly eternal loyalty to their party leadership. Thus, when I hear opponents of the APRC requesting for them to “curse their leader and die”, I mostly giggle, because there is mostly a larger piece of plank in their political eyes than the speck of wood they seeking to pull out of their opponents(APRC) eye.
Udpians swear by Hon. Darboe, NPP believes President Barrow is God’s own special gift to Gambians. PDOIS believes that Hon. Sallah is the last prophet that will lead our Gambia to the promised Land. Citizen Alliance believes the only Y2K complaint political leader that can catapult The Gambia to astronomical stardom and socioeconomic prosperity is Dr. Ceesay. GDC believes that Hon. Mama kandeh is Gandhireincarnated and so on it goes for every other group of political nature. The truth is, Gambians by nature, only follow that which is their interest or that which they believe to be their interest. It is how we have lived as a society for a very long time that it is now within our subconscious existence.
What has kept the APRC together is not the bravado of their executive officials. What has made the party survive all these years is not because of some phenomenal negotiation that the executive has embarked upon( they have been unable to negotiate anything for the past 5 years under Barrow). What has kept the APRC on life support all these years, is the phenomenal, unparalleled, astounding and unshakable allegiance and belief of its membership and supporters and nothing else. The belief on the foundational tenets of the APRC is imbibed in its party militants and as such, no amount of humiliation, character assassination, suppression and genocidal innuendos were able to destroy the very fabric and political base of the APRC. This to many of us, demonstrates the undisputable fact, that the APRC is bigger than any one individual. It has proven that the APRC is bigger than Former President Jammeh and therfore it must follow that the current executive of the party must be cognizant of this fact that, indeed the APRC is bigger that any individual or a group of elected persons.
In any negotiation exercise, there are fundamental laid down rules of engagement both procedurally and substantively. I will list a few of the globally accepted norms for the benefit of expounding on the theme of my write up.
1.Remember, everything is negotiable.
2.Crystallize your vision of the outcome.
3.Never accept the first offer.
4.Use the power of competition.
5.Display strength and authority.
6.Use the power of comparative advantage.
7.Think like a dolphin- “The dolphin is the only mammal who can swim in a sea of sharks or in a sea of carp. Dolphins are able to adapt their strategies and behaviors to their counterparts. Remember, even when negotiating with a shark, you have an option–you can walk away!”
As far as I am concerned, the decision to enter into any form of coalition with any political party should foremost serve the interest of the survival of that party. I have already established that the survival of the party was due mostly on the unflinching loyalty of its militants. Thus, the interest to survive must not only be that of the executive, but that which benefits every single individual of the party. Collective interest should supersede every form of individual interest and this does not exclude executive interest.
Every negotiator enters into a negotiation exercise armed with an end result in mind. The terms of engagement procedurally are a playing field of laying out the substantive interest of both sides on the negotiation table. Thus, it will be mostly premature and self inflicted damage, to accept the other party’s interest before laying out the strategic negotiating bullets in order to render the opposing side weak. Whereas weakness is not achievable, the least desirable outcome will be to ensure that your opponents conditional offers are incapable of pronouncing a lethal blow to your interest.
The public pronouncements of Mr. Dodou Jah, in my own opinion, are premature, deadly, self- centered and lethal to the negotiation exercise of the APRC side. A decision of such magnitude, should never have taken place before the National Executive has laid down and table the outcome and basis of their negotiations to its stalwarts. The rules of engagement of any negotiation frowns on the actions of Mr. Jah and because he makes part of the executive, who are championing the negotiation, he cannot them begin to divorce his personal pronouncements and that of his executive. I know Mr. Jah quickly tried to salvage his suicidal ballistic missile already fired, the harm has already been established and I firmly believe will someday soon come to hunt the APRC party of the executive does not do all in its power to salvage the already volatile political disagreement within its camp. I must be quick to add, that it is ironical therefore, that a party that was able to withstand all forms of outside force, will eventually render it self redundant and extinct by the very actions that emanated from within.
The argument that Mr. Jah spoke in his individual capacity is one of fluidity and can be likened to when Hon. Darboe spoke on the tenure of President Barrow and a subsequent pledge to challenge anyone that seeks to enforce a three year coalition mandate. Just as that statement cannot be separated from the UDP and has faithfully followed Mr. Darboe and the UDP, so will the pronouncement of Mr. Jah follow the APRC and its executive and regardless of the tactic employed, can never be separated from an individual versus a party decision.
The greatest illusion being bandied around The Gambia’s political space is the notion that the survival of APRC is dependent on it’s alliance with the mighty NPP. This is nothing but a misconception of the tallest order. I agree that for APRC to remain relevant, it must form and alliance politically in the next national elections in December. However, what the APRC should be made aware of, and which no one is talking about, is the fact that the NPP can never win an election without the support and alliance of the APRC in The Gambia.
Furthermore what is absolutely evident is the not so fashionable fact that just as the APRC executive is claiming that an alliance with NPP is a must for the survival of the party, the NPP is faced with an existential threat if APRC joins alliance with the UDP or even CA or PDOIS. This is the fact! A very bitter and hard pill to swallow. Thus negotiations between NPP and APRC must be approached with the singular view in mind that NPP will be absolutely nothing without an alliance with the APRC and this should be the bargaining chip of the APRC. Infact statistically, the NPP stands the fear of extinction beyond that of APRC. It lacks the widespread political base, it lacks the numbers, it’s veracity has not yet been tested, it cannot factually boast of the kind of loyalty that has taken 22 years to cement in that of APRC followers. The only substantively glaring bargaining chip that NPP can leverage on is that of the power of incumbency.
Another great political mistake that the UDP is making is one of calculated error. The constant rhetoric that UDP does not need APRC votes is one of fallacy and holds now water. There is no political party in The Gambia at present that stands the chance to win an election without support from the APRC. There are many calculated assertions being thrown around but in due course, it may be what stops the UDP from forming the next government. For UDP to win an election outright, they must take a cue from Nelson Mandela of South Africa. The enemies of a few cannot be made the enemies of an entire party. At some point, the UDP must realize that the public good which will ensure the continued peace and stability of The Gambia, is far greater than personal or selective interest of a certain few. UDP must be ready, willing and able to forget bitterness, hate, and the pain of the past 22 years and break free of the shackles of unforgiveness; for in politics, the mantra of no permanent enemies is indeed true.
If Mandela can forgive his captors of 22 years, Rwanda can look past genocide, Ghana can look past the youthful exuberance of Rawlings, who are we to hold on to perpetual bitterness and hate? I am not asking any victim to suck it up. Far from it. But what I am indeed saying is that healing, for the greater benefit of humankind must take place and only then can we realize a free and emancipated Gambia that will allow and enable all of us to thrive and maximize the best of our profitable potentials.
A great mistake that Gambians made in 2016 was to utter the words “anything but Jammeh”. Anything but Jammeh has demonstrated far reaching consequences, some of which The Gambia will never recover from because it’s footprints have been indelibly etched in the very fabric of our nation and it’s people. Sad to say, but 5 years down the line, Gambians are yet saying “anything but Darboe” and “anything but Barrow”. The only growth that has manifested itself over the years is the fact that the “ anything but” slogan has now been divided into two. The Unified force that was seen in the early days of 2016 and run up to the Presidential elections is obviously absent in the run up to the 2021 elections.
How can we forget so soon is what has kept me awake for many a nights. I would have thought that we would have matured and grown as a nation and never repeating the mistakes of the past. But it is evident that we are a people singularly guided by our interests and affiliations. Those that were prepared to die for Barrow are now his sworn enemies. Those that Barrow favored over everyone else are now his greatest rivals. In the final analysis, the individuals that have benefited the most, are those that have mastered the art of survival. They are the in-between. They study the moments, take words from one camp to another. They are fed from both sides. The once lean and misery faces are now glowing under the Gambian sun. Those that had no livelihoods and were struggling and living from hand to mouth are now cruising in glorious altitudes, waving at the various militants as they pass by in their luxurious air conditioned vehicles. Yes! Indeed they are the winners and have emerged victorious. Are we ever going to learn anything as a people?
The time has come Gambia where it shouldn’t be about President Barrow or Mr. Darboe. It should not be about how eloquent Hon. Sallah is or how articulate Dr. Ceesay is when he speaks. It cannot be about how good looking and poised Mr. Mama Kandeh is nor should it be about the grandiose promises that Mr. Batichilly makes. No Gambia. We are way past that. It’s about time to measure each and every candidate by the content of their character, their ability to deliver and their achievements and contributions to nation building. Not every presidential aspirant has the privilege of having on the job experience on how to be a head of state. However, let them show and demonstrate what they have been able to achieve with little things and how their contributions, in however small a role, has added to the value and progress of ordinary Gambians. Enough of the promises brethren. Do not buy into the illusions. Choose your candidate wisely and whilst doing so, think of your children’s tomorrow and what sort of Gambia you envisage for this growth, wellbeing and progressive development.
Enter into a coalition if you must. Form alliances if that is what it takes. Agree to share and have a unity government if that is what is required. However, always remember that The Gambia is key. The agenda and focus must always be Gambia. For when all is said and done, it is The Gambia that shall remain.
Whilst you carry on with your negotiations, never forget the cardinal rules of engagement. Remember you are negotiating on behalf of the masses. They who will not benefit from the immediate fruits of the coalition excitement. The women in rural Gambia. The men ploughing the fields. The children walking miles to school and having to sit under a leaking roof to receive instructions of learning. As you negotiate, remember them in your engagement.
Finally my brethren, let us all remember, that every alliance must be based on integrity and trust. Look around you, the signs are all there. The lessons to be learnt surround you. The mistakes of the past still have lasting effects and the consequences are everywhere. Think hard. Bargain hard. The mistake will be detrimental and not even your ashes will find rest.
M. ROBERTSON ROBERTS ESQ