By Momodou Olly Mboge, Norway (curled from GambiaL)
Where can I start? Well, I acknowledged PDOIS as the kind of political organisation I would have joined if I were to commit myself to any political party structure at the very moment it appeared on the Gambian political terrain. I have been attracted to the ‘discourse’ pioneered by PDOIS’s Sam Sarr and Halifa Sallah the first time I was given a publication by a Koto who was an early member of the party. The publication dealt with the now defunct ‘Senegambia Confederation’. This was in 1985 during or after the Zone 2 football tournament. Prior, I was lucky enough to have been among the Maths (I was among the dullest)students taught by Sam Sarr at GHS who was always busy in trying to augment the welfare of the underprivileged students whilst making sure every student regardless of status equally got the best education they deserved.
I was as well a keen follower of Halifa Sallah’s radio programmes with broadcaster Alhaji Assan Njie of the then Radio Gambia. The programme was very popular. The kind of rapport between Alaji Assan Njie and Halifa mesmerized all listeners whilst at the same time educating us about our society’s sociology. When Sedia Jatta published his resignation letter and join the PDOIS party, I thought ‘woow’ now Gambia has a real political alternative to Jawara’s PPP. Sedia’s letter was a masterpiece. I became an avid reader of Foroyaa, which I use to get from my Koto, and when I was able to afford one, I would of course purchase a copy from vendors. I use to buy the paper from MR Jones who use to stand by the Education Department near McCarthy Square in Banjul. I was very disappointed when I heard Jones ‘jumped’ ship and joined the APRC. Now he is history.
Anyway, PDOIS at the time became the party all the youth wanted listen to. The Jawara regime did all it could to destroy the party. The PPP supporters of SereKunda East ferociously attacked Halifa Sallahwhere he stood against their candidate. They did it in the nastiest and most derogatory manner one can imagine. In addition, I remember that captivating moment when Sam Sarr challenged President Jawara on Radio Gambia and if I am not mistaken it was something about the Senegambia Confederation. All those who were listening to Radio Gambia knew Jawara was not happy with Sam Sarr’s line of questioning. Following this confrontation with the then president Foroyaa was excluded from all news conferences that were held at the State House.
During the 1987 elections, PDOIS was able to present only five candidates. At LatriKunda German, Adama Bah the Hotelier was the candidate if I remember well. I voted for the PDOIS for parliament and NCP for the Presidency since the PDOIS had no presidential candidate. Some of us who had voting cards were illegally (21 years was the legal age to vote) registered by the ruling regime’s members in the hope of getting our votes. THE PARTY’S PROGRAMME AND its PRACTICAL DEVELOPMENTAL INITIATIVES WERE the main attractions to me. It is, as it was unusual for a political party in the Gambia to have a newspaper to spread its message and to open schools to educate the poor as well as virtually running a social clinic where people come for help. It is also through reading PDOIS writings I started to understand the functions of state institutions and what the purpose of a nation state’s constitution was. I was as I am still attracted to PDOIS because they use dialogue and conversation to communicate their position.
They have stated since their inception that they will only be part of a government that is in the real sense the choice of the people. It is only through peaceful democratic changes that PDOIS will ever be in power. THUS AS FAR AS I AM CONCERN PDOIS HAS BEEN VERY CLEAR WITH THEIR POSITION AND I DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHY PEOPLE EXPECT PDOIS TO DO THEIR BIDDING. I MUST ADD THAT ACTIONS SUCH AS THAT OF DUGA MUST NOT BE CONDEMNED BY PDOIS or anyone else. I UNDERSTAND, IT WAS BECA– USE OF MANY YEARS of a RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN A DUGA MEMBER AND THE PDOIS FOLK THAT PROMPTED an opinion from the senior member of PDOIS. I still think the criticism could have been made differently.
In countries where people take to the streets and confront a government, that is abusing its power such as was the case of WADE’s Senegal or the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ countries, political parties never lead in the way, they always pursue the political solution. For example in Senegal, the youths said enough is enough and took the initiative to take on the Wade government head-on. Some set fire to themselves in the streets and died whilst many fought running battles with the police and other security structures for change to happen. Human Rights organisations were vocal in condemning the excesses of the regime and some rights activists such as Alioune Tine were beaten seriously but stayed on to finish the fight.
Youths and other groups in the SENEGALESE DIASPORA WORKED WITH GROUPS OF THEIR CHOICE TO EFFECT CHANGE. SOME in the DIASPORA WHO WERE COMMITTED AND WERE READY TO BE MAIMED, IMPRISONED OR DIE FOR THEIR COUNTRY WENT BACK HOME AND JOINED THE FRONTLINE IN the FIGHT FOR WADE to go. They did not spend their time condemning politicians and others for not doing what they would not do. ORDINARY PEOPLE TOOK THE LEAD AND THE POLITICIANS HAD NO CHOICE BUT TO GIVE THEM SUPPORT. A political solution came into being when the whole Senegalese nation including religious leaders and other stakeholders realize that the country was going down if WADE DIDN’T GO. The opposition joined forces during the second round of voting in April 2012 and the rest is history. It is the ordinary PEOPLE WHO WOULD SPONTANEOUSLY PUT THEIR LIVES ON THE LINE WHEN THE CRITICAL MOMENT COMES and POLITICIANS will not PROMPT them.
I have been hearing people talking about the South Africa experience in comparison with Gambia. The comparison is wrong in my view. The ANC and some of the major groups in SA in the late eighties and nineties were less confrontational. Actually, one can safely say that it was the youths following the 1976 SOWETO UPRISING and influenced by BIKO’s militant BLACK CONSCIOUSNESS message that made South Africa ungovernable in the eighties onwards. A political solution eventually had be found. One must understand the ANC philosophy, which obtained during the time it took power in 1994 was non-confrontational and it is this that justified its elite to shamefully attempt to makeWinnie MANDELA the villain because she was with the youth. Anyway, I have digressed. Like any of us, the PDOIS people are human beings and sometimes they make mistakes in communicating their message. The PDOIS party must be persistently challenged and be able to endure such in good faith. I have no doubt they are up to the task.
That said the PDOIS critics must criticise in good faith. Given the recent flood of insults in the name of criticism one is inclined to believe this would not be the case. I wonder how in the name of disagreeing with a party’s position, one will outlandishly call its members and leaders names. I am still trying to understand why the persistent lies and innuendoes. Furthermore, I am still unable to comprehend the wretched excuses put forward when the critics’ accusations and insinuations are given attention by the slandered. IT IS EVEN RATHER MORE SHAMEFUL TO SEE disgraced HUSTLERS AND FORMER ENABLERS WHO HELPED JAMMEH CONSOLIDATE HIS GRIP BEING APPLAUDED for their pretentious heroism and the trashy CARICATURING of opposition leaders on the ground.
If the critics OF THE OPPOSITION PARTIES LIVING IN THE DIASPORA who themselves were abused by the regime in The Gambia are honest given the soundings of their rhetoric, why are they not on the ground leading by example. Are these so-called very angry Gambia loving self-stroking heroes and heroines ready to walk the walk and go to the Gambia where it really matters to be maimed, imprisoned and murdered in the hope of hastening the exit of the CRIMINAL JAMMEH. Are our female diaspora critics ready to be Gambia’s Aline Sitoe Diatta who fought oppression and HAD TO BE imprisoned outside of Senegal by the French? Will our Gambian Steve Biko’s or Chris Hani’s (gallant men who died because they refused to abdicate their responsibilities to others) stand-up and be willing to die so that their people could be free? UNLESS AND UNTIL WE ARE REAL TO OURSELVES, NO AMOUNT of self-stroking delusional heroism and gloating over some ill-perceived timidity or selfishness of the opposition leaders on the ground in the Gambia will bring about Jammeh’s immediate exit. In the interim, I salute the great men and women of the opposition against Jammeh both at home and abroad who are doing what they could without disparaging other peoples genuine efforts to bring real democracy to Gambia.