By Yero Jallow
“You do not hold a snake by its tail; it will turn its head towards you and bite you. You hold a snake by its head, that way you save yourself from the bite by overpowering the deadly serpent.” –African Proverb.
Short, sweet, and direct; it is not so easy a talk, yet destiny is partly in your hands, as you get to choose who to elect, and that person will be mandated by your vote fairly or unfairly to preside over the state of affairs. When you walk into the bushes of Africa as a shepherd, all of a sudden, you start seeing dark clouds overhead, lightening, and loud destructive thunders; it is suspiciously that torrential rain again. I remember as a child, taking shelter in some of the big trees, at times holding on to the direction of the cows, and other times letting the thunderous roars atone me to their scary and fiddling music. At that point, the nightmare of shepherd-hood hits your nerves; you feel on your cheeks some dripping tears, a heart snubbed by luck, a future so bleak, and a breakage trickling down your spine. It is as if game over! Then anew your spirit lifts up again by the beauty of the grazing cows orderly and beautiful. It is that little niche of love, luck, and beauty that keeps you going. That is not politics 101; it is two different worlds. The latter is what we are looking at today – Politics, the messy old ugly beast of times, shame on her big time! Once upon a time, bra-frog was having a fight with bra-chameleon. Bra-chameleon thinks he is as old as the beginning of creation, says that is why he walks gently and changes colors mystically, way back when the earth was flat, gave his convincing evidence that he witnessed the big bang theory. Bra-frog thinks he is older, says the big bang theory is not true, a century’s old hoax, and that is why he hops because the earth was ever flat in some places and hilly in others. Wow, a tough one, good luck to that Judge!
Q: So where are we on this in terms of timeline?
A: Nominations for the Presidential candidates will be on November 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10 (2016). To paraphrase Gambia’s 1997 constitution Section 62 and Election Decree 1996 Decree No.78, a candidate will be nominated successfully if he/she meets alongside the stipulated education and/or experience, criminal records clearance, must have resided in the Gambia for five consecutive years at the time of nomination, must have at least 10,000 registered members with at least 1,000 members in each administrative area, make a deposit of D500, 000.00, produce 5,000 valid voters cards as his/her support, and an Assets declaration certificate signed by the Justice of Peace (JP). Once these requirements are met, the aspirant would have successfully fulfilled what is required to contest.
Q: Are you legible for the refundable deposit of D500, 000.00 back?
A: One is legible to withdraw his/her candidature, in which case, you will be legible to get your full deposit back, and this must be done about a week before the Election Day (December 1st 2016). One can also get his/her deposit by getting at least 40% of the marvels voted. Other than these two, you risk losing the deposit.
Q: How about opposition unity – is it still possible?
A: Yes, it is still possible, though the chances are getting slimmer by the hour. The miscarriage of NADD (2006), Efforts to reunite (2011), and GOFER (2016) gives us a clear picture, as history is more than likely to repeat itself, especially with the known development on progress thus far, and some of the political players both at home and in the Diaspora didn’t change much in terms of attitude, as such doing same thing over and over, you don’t expect a different result. The reason being that GOFER and GDC are actually in touch, based on information I gathered, though the situation that led to the miscarriage is not resolved yet. If now against the nomination day, unity doesn’t materialize, then we will expect to see a three-way race (i.e Jammeh, GOFER (Independent/Coalition) and GDC), provided that GOFER does make it to the finish line with no quitters, if so it could be even a four-way race. If GOFER makes it to the finish line, we will at that point, expect one of the candidates either the GOFER or GDC will consider a merger to come up with one unified force. That again requires a lot of work, almost safe to say impossible, though it will demonstrate the biggest love for country in my humble view. Hope the current touring by the key players, gauge of support, and call from concerned Gambians the world over will make things happen.
Q: What are the likelihoods here?
A: The likelihoods are very clear. You are contesting against a 22-year old incumbent, armed with the state machinery, the military, the home-based media, his dictatorship/criminality, and fetishes. This is also a simple majority contest, where a win by a single vote, is a win for the presidency. You are also going into this divided, which causes voter apathy. In short you have slim chances, good luck!
Q: What is voter apathy?
A: Voter apathy happens for many reasons; it is when qualified voters abstain from participating because none of the aspirants are their choice. It is also the case when voters are confused because of the push and pull involved in dirty politicking. The Gambia registered some voter apathy in past elections and it is a possibility in 2016, especially with the voters being offered with three choices to choose from, sandwiched in-between the latest two to join the wrestling contest.
Q: How is counting done?
A: According Gambia’s current election decree, counting will be done on the spot; and polling agents will know the results right away.
Q: Any possible voter fraud?
A: Yes, the elections can be rigged in many ways. Apart from buying voters’ cards, it is also possible to cheat on the weighing scales of the marvels, or the sieves being used. The Gambia being open borders with Senegal (Cassamance), it is even possible to have others from the neighborhood as voters. Some human beings are so crooked. That is just for your information. The system is very loose and some will be determined to rig the votes.
Q: When will the winner be known?
A: Due to the technicalities and difficulties involved, election results will start flowing in the election room for announcers to publish and or/announce to the general public from around early evening on December 1st 2016, and it will continue past mid-night GMT. It is expected by 4am GMT on December 2nd 2016; all the election results would have been known. It is advisable to take a complete day off from work and/or school, so you get to tame your emotions at home, especially with the fluid nature of this year’s elections. It will also control any tensions. In the case that the elections are too close, the opposition may mobilize their followers to take to the streets, since a dictatorship is a pain in the butt.
Q: How about international organizations/election monitors?
A: The ECOWAS, EU, AU, UN representatives, and a lot of other international and regional organizations will send monitors, thoughtfully independent observers, to weigh in on the process, whether conducted fairly or not. Election monitors will also engage the IEC, to ensure there is level playing field, equal access to the media, and peaceful politicking without any hostility geared towards other party supporters. In past elections, members of the opposition parties were subjected to intimidation and harassment by supporters of the ruling party, and Gambia’s main TV outlet (GRTS) is an enabling arm of the APRC; they are loyal to Jammeh and not country, and it is evident from their broadcast, engagement, and their hand-picked appointments; they are there serve Jammeh’s decaying egos and ugly aging dictatorship.
Q: How about the Diaspora?
A: Gambia’s Diaspora will not vote, as the IEC will always say that it is not within budget. The actual reason is not many Diaspora Gambians will support Jammeh and don’t look for any more reasons.
Q: How about the divisive nature and politics of hate?
A: Unfortunately, this is politics, “Too many chiefs and not many Indians.” Social media, online newspapers, radios, twitter, Face book, comfort groupings, and you name the rest, empowered many in no small way, era of censorship is gone. Credit must be given to those who exercise the much needed caution no matter what, and keeping on a genuine fight for liberation. Some of these channels engage in indoctrination and preparing bulldogs for their petty squabbles shamefully. It is almost breeding grounds for hate, and division. Those that agreed to be used as bulldogs to attack citizens viciously meet their shame so soon. In the past, the insults continued online, where some of the closest buddies locally called “Moo-kurung kafoo” will wreck, and they go after each other in the bitterest way.
Q: What about the IEC?
A: That is a whole topic by itself. It will be talked about in-depth in the next part. For warm up, the IEC is not independent, and it will not arbiter justly.
Next part coming soon…stay tuned.