By Mathew K Jallow
This article title, the opening lines of preeminent Irish poet, W B Yeats’s beautiful poem, ‘The Second Coming,’ pretty much sums up the Gambia’s tragic political quagmire. It would have been laughable if it were not such a gross misuse of fleeting political popularity, at the expense of the entire country. The congenital failure to rationalize the Gambia’s apocalyptic political crisis, as a moral aberration, demonstrates the opposition leaderships’ moral incompetence in recognizing the urgency and gravity of the political crisis. And as the talks of coalition building drag on, an unlikely phenomenon has seeped into the political discourse; the ostentation party leaders exude, in complete disregard for polite diplomatic humility as a necessary convention in a political consensus. The grandiosity, to which some political party leaders hold themselves, in a broken political system, is antithetical to the efforts of solving the vexing political indiscipline that has frustrated every previous attempt at coalescing common objectives around a single unifying vision. But, efforts at reaching consensus in these talks of coalition building are predicated on selfless commitment of individual party leaders to the broader national interest, but no one is under any illusion that it would be as easy as a walk in the park. On the contrary, significant historical evidence belie the Gambia’s chilling familiarity with failures in opposition political unity, all of which point to the schism and borderline contemptuousness that always saddle unity efforts, dating back to 1996. And realization that the mindsets of too many politically active Gambians are riddled with ignorant insensitivity to the political crisis in the country, spawned a more sobering appreciation of the urgency of the political nightmare in the Gambia, as a flash point ripe for political upheaval. And judging from the widespread resistance to the tribalization of Gambian politics, in the diaspora, as a clear departure from Yahya Jammeh’s devastating twenty-one years of tribal bigotry, most Gambians are compelled to push towards bridging the strategical divide among party leaders. But, more damaging than the differences in political strategy, the overbearing hubris that pervades in the Gambia’s political establishment leadership, is perhaps a much more tedious challenge to the logic and rationality of a necessary political coalition.
In the ongoing efforts at gluing together a political coalition, the languid proclivity displayed by some party leaders, often triggered by open diaspora hostility towards individual party leaders; in particular, Dr Isatou Touray and Mama Kandeh, is counter-productive to the cause, with the effect of thwarting meaningful political dialogue. As natural as the fear and resentment of competition are to the human instinct, some of the baseless and antagonistic innuendos of a vocal few slant towards the usual crippling tribal sectarianism. Frankly, lingering on the periphery of Gambia’s political discourse, is an unnerving narrow-mindedness that must be purged from the political consciousness, as it harms the process of homogenizing Gambian society across tribe and culture. There is startling dissonance from reality in what politicians perceive as the overarching social and political necessity in Gambia in these difficult times. This ambivalence has compelled three major opposition contenders, Dr Isatou Touray, Mama Kandeh and Amadou Barrow, and their political stalwarts, to preemptively declare the untested abilities to electorally defeat the regime. A common underpinning manifests in the comparative similarity of each of these political leaders to Yahya Jammeh’s insensitivity to the core political issues Gambia cares about. The contenders’ unsubstantiated confidence in winning the elections, challenges the pervasive national desire for coalition, and rather than try to convert a recalcitrant public to their confidence, it will, instead, plunge the hope of a people into distress, and more seriously, into severe political paroxysm. Despite political contenders placing importance on their pathetic competition for leadership, the Gambia is in unique position to bring about change; a reality conditioned on presidential contender’ appreciation that the suffering of the people supersedes their individual interest. Besides, any coalition leadership must be founded on a transitional basis; a government of not more than three years; ideally, two and half years. In a relatively functioning political system, not marred by open conflict, there is political necessity to ascertain that a transitional government is strictly time limited, and its job description restricted to preparing the country for multi-party elections.
In light of these political circumstances, elaborating a long-term plan ought to not be the mandate of a government of transition. The vested national interest and that of political parties, is to rapidly restore party rule and plug the vacuum created by lack of permanent party-led government. The national interest in restoring multi-party rule is more than just a theoretical exercise; it is the substantive interest in securing of a permanent party-led government, in two five year term limit. The impetus of selecting an independent candidate as a unifying coalition force, is based on the opposition’s inability to select a party leader as opposition leader; reechoing an earlier point, a coalition leader must be impermanent, short-lived, with limited duties. Ideally, the transition’s duty is limited to writing a new constitution and preparing parties for elections. Due to the short transition duration, party leaders are urged not to stand in the way of national interest in working towards finding a consensus. The overarching interest of parties is to install a transitional government, without putting their emphasis on leading a coalition. After decades of human rights abuses, Gambia has a lot of healing to, essentially meaning that citizens, politicians, civil society, with the international community must work together to take stock of the bloody past twenty-one years tyranny. Gambia is not ready to return to regular party rule yet and pretend that the last twenty-one years never happened. The national obligation is to review the past twenty-one years; come to terms with its sordid history, and vow never to repeat it. The challenges ahead are more complex than any presidential candidate has ability to imagine, but it is a process that must be navigated in order to normalize life in the country. In the contentious search for a unifying coalition leader, we are reminded that transition rule must be pegged at between two and three years partly to incentivize wary party leaders to agree on a unity coalition an candidate. Ghana, Nigeria and other African countries are benefitting from an explosions of development activities as diaspora citizens voluntarily return; some permanently, and others, not, but all driven by a patriotic desire to bring development back home. As for us in Gambia, we are hopelessly foreshadowed by the opening lines of great 19th century poem “turning and turning in a widening gyre, the falcon cannot hear the falconer, mere anarchy is loosed upon this “country.”