When President Yahya Abdul-Aziz Jemus Junkung Jammeh conceded defeat in the recently concluded democratic elections in The Gambia, the world breathed a collective sigh of relief. But it was not the “jovial” and satirical manner in which he declared his acceptance of the result, in a widely publicised telephone conversation with President elect Adama Barrow that shocked the world. It was the mere fact of the unthinkable; that he actually accepted the will of the people, left the political world in shock and awe. Many people, especially Gambians, saw that telephone conversation as the end of an era and the dawning of a new path .But some cynics and sceptics who profess to know him better, were very reluctant to pop the champagne. And so it came to pass, that against the backdrop of hope against hope, Jammeh reverted to type and decided not to disappoint the sceptics.
Even before the drums of jubilation fell silent in The Gambia, Jammeh declared that “after a thorough investigation, I have decided to reject the outcome of the recent election. I lament serious and unacceptable abnormalities which have reportedly transpired during the electoral process,” “I recommend fresh and transparent elections which will be officiated by a God-fearing and independent electoral commission,” In English, it means that the elections were officiated by a kaffir. Let us assume for the sake of discussion that his allegations are true. But is it the role of Jammeh to call for fresh elections? Should he not be registering his concerns with the electoral body for adjudication? Should he be the judge and jury in this case? Talk about political chameleons. We are now faced with a complete turnaround from TV concession to court drama. It is therefore, not surprising that those who were shouting “hosanna” are now chanting “crucify him”. Jesus had that as well, remember? Some season of good will.
Many political merchants have been trying to unravel the reason or reasons for Jammeh’s about turn in such a short space of time. There are those who believe that either as a lack of political maturity or expediency, the President-elect Adama Barrow played his hands too quickly. Many blame him for making Jammeh change his mind. Some reports allege that his interview with a Dutch TV station, during which he mentioned or insinuated that Jammeh and his cohorts will be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC), was a major catalyst for the change of heart. Jammeh’s detractors and many on the opposite side of the aisle believe that with his record on human rights abuses, he qualifies as a Patron Saint at The Hague. If the allegations against Barrow are true, it may appear that he danced himself lame, when the main dance was yet to come. There are those who will equally side with Jammeh; that to all intents and purposes, it was understandable for him to consider the first rule of the society for self-preservation. You be the judge.
The United Nations, which masquerades as God’s Deputy on earth was quick to put its fingers in the cookie jar; by calling for all forms of redress for Jammeh. Some saw this as another reason why Jammeh felt spooked. Considering that this is an “African” problem, it was another breath of fresh air to see Mr Buhari, Sirleaf Johnson and our very own Ernest Bai Koroma paying a visit to Jammeh; with a view to avert a political impasse. Babatunde Olugboji, deputy programme director at New York-based Human Rights Watch said that “The international community, notably Ecowas [the Economic Community of West African States] and the African Union, should loudly protest against any unlawful attempt to subvert the will of the Gambian people.” Of course, this is not the first time that such an endeavour has been undertaken by regional heads of states. We can all recall the situation in Cote D’Ivoire when Laurent Gbagbo defied his colleagues in 2011. He remained incalcitrant, leading to the loss of about 3,000 lives in his country. Our president featured very prominently during that process, prompting his admirers to see him as a “champion” of the rebirth of African democracy. Kudos.
But our president’s detractors would question his role in this matter. There are those who feel that Ernest has not been fully saintly, when it comes to issues of democracy. Some will point to the summary dismissal of his Vice President Sam Sumana, as a case in point. Others would like to point to other issues that they deem as examples of human rights violations in Sierra Leone; like the arrest of SLPP aspirant Ali kabba for bigamy, the ban on the right to assemble or protest, or the alleged efforts of the Communications Minister to “ban” the use of social media; as highlighted by the arrest of a student who reposted an item on Whatsapp. We know that journalists have been frogmarched to detention centres for alleged defamations, without due process in the past. Against such a backdrop, his critics would see his contribution to rein Jammeh in as rich. Sounds like picking a grain of sand from someone else’s eye when you have a stump in yours. Other sceptics have likened the show of support or strength by the regional leaders to that of asking “turkeys to vote for Christmas”, or “foxes to vote for the welfare of chickens”.
Notwithstanding your political DNA, you cannot help but agree that in the grand scheme of things, the efforts by Ernest and Co, even if seen as cosmetic, were laudable. Unfortunately, not much seem to have come out of that meeting with Jammeh; which gives credence to the notion that, “the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter”. There have been some noise about sanctions, all intended to force the hand of Jammeh into accepting the will of the people and change his mind, again. But as we know vividly, sanctions have never worked with our leaders. For starters, they never affect their personal lives. Sanctions have never stopped them from getting their fair share of champagnes, drive gas guzzling automobiles or live palatial lives. If anything, sanctions have only succeeded in restricting their travels and providing a strong support base for them.
The political situation in Sierra Leone is still shrouded in secrecy and uncertainty. Although there have been a lot of denials through certain official and unofficial channels, the political corridors are still paved with the uncertainty of whether Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma will contest a 3rd term or not. Our Constitution is not friendly with such an idea. Some people still remain unclear as to when the general elections would be held. With the last general elections held in 2012, many would expect that the next one should be held in 2017. As a result of the lack of clarity, rumour merchants have been stipulating the election dates ranging from 2017, 2018 to 2019. But who can blame them for peddling in rumours? Where there is a vacuum of communication, the truth is always the first casualty.
So now that our President has given a lecture on the colour of true democracy to Jammeh, is it time to go further by demonstrating some good political home economics? For starters, the timetable for the next political gymnastics could be revealed now. The president can put an end all the rumours about “3rd term”, “injury time”, “more time” or “Fergie time” by unequivocally telling the nation about his intentions. Politicians, aspiring candidates and all those political merchants can start pitching their tents, if they had an idea of when the next general elections will be held. We know that the political season has not been officially declared open, although some have started marking their territories. But we must acknowledge that this is no longer a game of chess. Having returned from his political sojourn, is it time to start the charity at home?
Before you leave the room, remember that the difference between a democracy and a dictatorship is that in a democracy, you vote first and take orders later; in a dictatorship you don’t have to waste your time voting. Sounds familiar?
It’s nice to “tell you nayba say you dae ya. But Na for look under you foot oh.
Still, don’t forget to turn the lights off when you leave the room.