SaulBy Sulayman (Saul) Saidykhan

We have five opposition candidates lined up against Yaya Jammeh: Halifa Sallah, Hamat Bah, Mama Kandeh, Adama Barrow, and Dr. Isatou Touray. I’ve listened to and read many people with divergent views on them all. I find some of the views quite perplexing to say the least. That is because while it is true that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, no one is entitled to their own set of facts especially if those facts are conjured up or bereft of basic logic. My late maternal grandma used to say that “anytime someone says ‘everybody is equal’, he or she has insulted someone”. I believe this with all my heart because my grandma was concerned about the danger of what we now call “false equivalence” which is so prevalent in Gambian discourse. The five opposition candidates we have are not the same by any stretch of the imagination as some want us to believe. The records and background of the candidates speak for themselves. One of the annoying – and damaging things to our national ethos that we have picked up in this Yaya Jammeh era especially is the normalization of Public Lies! We meet publicly, and smile at each other, but when it comes to discussing important issues honestly, everybody scratches their head, and murmur to those in their Comfort Circles what they truly believe, then turn around and lie to everybody else!

Halifa Sallah who is a professionally trained sociologist came into our lives formally in 1986 with the launch of PDOIS and its flagship newspaper Foroyaa. In their early years, the party rented a two-room apartment across from the incomplete mosque in Bundung. I used to stop there with some neighborhood friends to read their paper on our way to or from our GCE studies at Nusrat High School in the evenings. I do not recognize either their party or the paper from the ones I knew back then anymore, but thirty years on, Mr. Sallah continues to co-manage the various branches of PDOIS. He has a solid resume’ that qualifies him to seek the Gambian presidency in my view.

Hamat Bah heads the National Reconciliation Party (NRP) and has for the past twenty years now. However, if truth be told, Hamat Bah is more remarkable for what we don’t know about him than what we do. Twenty years in the Gambian lime light and Hamat to a large extent still remains a mystery. There is a certain opaqueness about Hamat’s operation style that emits red signals to discerning minds. In Forensic Auditing, there is a rule: an individual cannot spend more than he or she legitimately earns. This is the basic starting point used by all US government agencies – D.O.J, FBI, SEC, etc. in their fraud investigations. But mention this to Africans, and immediately some people scream tribal persecution. Even when all the tell-tale signs are there! Just look at what’s going on in Nigeria. We Africans want to develop but we’re unwilling to follow the path others took to get there. We can only hope time will take care of that. Regardless, the little we know about Hamat Bah does not qualify him in any way to be president in this day and age: some GCE Ordinary Level passes in High School, then several years as an Entertainment Manager at a Hotel does not make a resume’ that prepares one for taking on the arduous task of changing the lives of some of the poorest people on the planet. Remember “learning on the job” hasn’t worked out so well for us with our current trainee after twenty-two years on the job.

As is for Hamat Bah, we now have an even more unqualified candidate in the person of Mama Kandeh of the Gambia Democratic Congress traversing the Gambia wanting to replace Yaya Jammeh. Whereas we are at least familiar with Hamat, Kandeh is an almost entirely unknown quantity with even more baggage than Bah: for ten years, Kandeh was part of the group that rubber-stamped and helped concentrate in Jammeh’s hands some of the most noxious and oppressive laws that Jammeh now uses to terrorize Gambians “legally.” So it’s rather convenient for Kandeh to suddenly develop a conscience only after Yaya Jammeh had kicked him out of his party. He reportedly traveled to Germany and after years there returned home with millions of Dalasi the source of which we do NOT know. And we’re being told not to ask any questions about this. Worse, the man does not even have a High School education. Seriously! Are we Gambians so stupid or desperate that we’ll let someone like this man be our president? Exactly what does he have to offer us? I have watched and listened to every video about Mama Kandeh on YouTube and I wish I had found something inspiring. Sadly, I have to say that Mama Kandeh is NOT a compliment to Gambian politics! People need to get over their blind ethnic nationalism or sentimentalism and look at the larger good of The Gambia. Mama Kandeh speaks well in vernacular, and looks good especially compared to Yaya Jammeh. But who doesn’t? Yaya Jammeh is a brutish half baboon for goodness sakes! Otherwise, Mama is a noise-maker, an empty barrel. Anyone with an eye for details can’t miss the clues:

In his 42 minutes’ video on YouTube posted in July, he said repeatedly at a rally that Jammeh only has three months left in office. Even my seven-year-old daughter knows how many months there are between July and December. So we know his arithmetic is terrible. However, his weakness goes beyond math. In the colorful flyer introducing him to Gambians as GDC leader there is a grammatical error. His supporters quickly jumped on those that pointed this out with insults because “English is not our language.” (see comments on Facebook.) That may be true, but it speaks volumes about Mama Kandeh’s level of education and judgment that he’ll print posters of himself without first editing the text or having someone with the competence to do so. At the very basic level, how hard is it to write a correct poster with less than a dozen words? But the deal-breaker for me is Mama Kandeh’s red herring touting of himself as the candidate who “doesn’t want to seek any revenge.” At first glance, this sounds innocuous and reconciliatory, but coming from someone like him, it really is patronizing and hypocritical. Here is the reality. If one looks at the present Gambian diaspora, one finds cold blooded murderers living among us – former bosom buddies of Yaya Jammeh, body guards, killers, mercenaries, concubines, sundry enablers, apologists and all manner of criminals that did horrible things to other Gambians for this brutal tyrant for selfish reasons. Yet they go about their business and mingle with Gambians unmolested. Any other people would have brought some of these shameless crooks to justice just like Obama did with his Al Qaeda enemies by now. My point is, Gambians are not into this revenge nonsense Mama Kandeh and his kind allude to. Instead, all Gambians want is to get our country back from the clutches of a crazy murderous tyrant! We don’t care for revenge. I’m so sick of this dog-whistling nonsense especially from people who until recently were bedmates with Jammeh! Mama is being clever by half. When your main selling point is that you are not interested in seeking revenge, by implication, you’re saying that someone else is or may be interested in seeking revenge. It’s bull crap dirty politics. It’s no coincidence that Mama Kandeh is being embraced by APRC members: There’s no philosophical or policy difference between Mama and them. Had Jammeh not kicked Kandeh out, he’d in all probability still be rubber-stamping laws that oppress Gambians further! Mama should be thankful that Gambians generally seem incapable of paying attention to details or remembering anything. Otherwise, he’d be a national joke by now. What he has communicated in his outing so far doesn’t pass the smell test. Does someone who fail such rudimentary test fit to be president? I think not!

Even as an ethnic candidate, how is this man a good representation of The Gambian Fulani given the choice of intellectuals in that community? I don’t get it. Are we so stupid and blind that we cannot see an impending disaster in broad daylight? By the way, like Hamat, everything we know about Kandeh is through second-hand sources because the man in all the propaganda material we see or hear about him – pamphlet or speeches hasn’t told us a thing about what qualifies him for the job he is seeking.

The UDP also unveiled Adama Barrow as their flagbearer close to two weeks ago. Thankfully, Mr. Barrow was kind enough to provide us what he brings to the table in terms of resume. Because we are a country of crazy people, someone actually called me to tout the man as a businessman. I tried to disabuse the fellow of the misconception but he thought I was just trying to give him a hard time. I do not know Mr. Barrow personally, and god knows I have nothing but utmost respect for the brother for the risk he has taken and is taking to help free Gambians. But I feel an obligation to help Gambians decipher some things because we Gambians are one utterly confused and misinformed people. In this day and age, there is a big difference between businessmen and merchants. Businessmen take loans, draw up plans to hire help, generate revenue, pay back their loan, and taxes, then devise and strategize ways of growing their business over years. Often, those Business Plans have to be approved by the lenders. Merchants on the other hand, buy from businesses to sell to small retailers or end users. From Mr. Barrow’s own testimony, he strikes me as a merchant without any real modern business credentials that could serve us valuably at the national level. Besides that, he had a High School diploma, but no formal employment history either. Overall, there’s hardly anything to write home about. The brother is clearly unqualified for the presidency. Not to recognize that is to confirm one’s marriage to sentimentalism.

The most refreshing aspect of Mr. Barrow’s investiture is his avowed commitment to joining forces with his colleagues to form a united front to present a single candidate against tyrant Yaya Jammeh. He should be true to his word by ensuring that he whips his troops to fall in line behind a unified opposition candidate.

If there is one thing we are absolutely certain about in Africa after sixty years of political independence, it is that not only do unqualified semi-literate persons not make good leaders, they also have a tendency to insist on clinging onto power till death! And they employ primordial sentiments to divide their countries in order to remain in office. We have countless cases all over our continent. So why are so many of us keeping quiet over this madness to promote clearly unqualified candidates? Moral cowardice? Afraid of being called tribalist? What a country! Please mark me as the number one tribalist if you will, but I’ll be darned if I’ll keep quiet and let another half-educated fool condemn me to die in exile! Anyone my age who doesn’t understand the importance of having an educated leader in our country is a darn idiot! I mean it.

For what it’s worth, if a genuine election is to hold, my vote will go to Dr. Touray for multiple reasons.

I prefer competence and record to ANY party tag or lack thereof.
She is unaffiliated with any of the existing parties and will therefore save us from the ridiculous “math problem” of the past 14 years that has ruined every attempt to form a coalition against the lunatic tyrant Yaya Jammeh. However, being unaffiliated doesn’t mean being aloof. Dr. Touray needs to reach out to all the parties and show deference especially for the sacrifices they’ve made over the years. She needs to woo the older opposition groups, not the other way around. The larger opposition parties that already have structures all over the country will prove invaluable in this endeavor. Finally, Dr. Touray needs to be wary of some of us in the diaspora. Enough said.

She is NOT a career politician and will only serve 5 years which will enable everyone to sit at the table as compatriots and hammer out a genuine constitution reflective of Gambians’ desire for a future to prevent a recurrence of the horror of the present and recent past.

This is not to question anybody’s patriotism or intention. However, the problem is, neither patriotism nor good intention in and of themselves build countries. Skills and knowledge do. If anything, true patriotism should spur ALL the opposition leaders to come together to rally around one candidate to save our country from the crazy tyrant tearing it at the seams. We can choose as a country to respect ourselves by dignifying the exalted office of president by refusing to endorse candidates who lack certain basic MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS or we can keep up the current path of desecrating the office. Regardless of the semantics one may read or hear, the simple truth is our tiny country is really messed up because we routinely let ourselves be consumed by primordial sentiments instead of being faithful to the truth or letting “justice guide our actions” as enshrined in our national anthem.



Disclaimer: Views expressed in this section are the author's own and do not represent the editorial policy of Kairo News. Kairo News will trash any comment that inflames tribal, racial or religious hatred.

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