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Some Pertinent Lessons From The LG Elections

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Demba Ali Jawo, Former Minister Of Communications and Information Technology.

By Demba Ali Jawo

The most hotly contested chairperson/mayoral elections this country has ever witnessed has been concluded in quite a similar pattern to the councilor elections held in mid-April. The results have once again consigned the ruling National People’s Party (NPP) to the provinces, with the United Democratic Party (UDP) demonstrating its dominance in the most sophisticated and urbanised part of the country.

There is absolutely no doubt that President Adama Barrow and his NPP barons are quite disappointed with the results, after embarking on the most vigorous and expensive campaign ever seen in this country. We all saw how he and virtually all members his cabinet and other political appointees, including Gambian diplomats serving abroad joining him to traverse the length and breadth of the three administrative areas of West Coast, Kanifing Municipality and Banjul, on some occasions using state resources on the pretext of laying foundations stones for road projects. In the process, the NPP no doubt spent millions of Dalasi in trying to woo the voters, especially in those three municipalities.

Therefore, one would wonder what went wrong for the NPP, despite all the money and resources they had spent and the numerous promises President Barrow had been making in trying to woo the voters. Why has a majority of the voters in those three municipalities apparently rejected all the sweet words and promises made to them by him? Is this a manifestation of the people’s disillusionment with the Barrow administration or is it something much deeper than that?
Whatever the reason however, now that the results have generally gone against the NPP in the three most important municipalities despite all the confidence their supporters had during the campaign, the party needs to go back to the drawing board and analyze what led to their dismal failure in those areas.

While the jury is still out as to why President Barrow and his party failed in their objective to capture those three municipalities from the UDP regardless of him throwing his whole weight behind the three NPP candidates, but some people, including some NPP militants have blamed his own comportment and utterances during the campaign, some of which they said had the tendency to infuriate some of the voters into voting against his candidates. “As an NPP supporter, sometimes I feel embarrassed by some of the comportment and utterances of the President. As a head of state, President Barrow is not just any ordinary Gambian and as such, whatever he does or says could have some negative consequences for his government’s trajectory,” said an NPP militant on condition of anonymity.

Why would the NPP lose in virtually all the municipalities that President Barrow campaigned, despite the party no doubt spending so much money and resources? For instance, we were all witnesses to the blatant use of state resources during the campaign in the pretext of laying foundation stones for road projects, in addition to the setting up of the local government commission of inquiry, with the objective no doubt to discredit the UDP-controlled municipalities in the eyes of the voters.
Even though both the NPP and the UDP won four municipalities each, but a close look at the total number of votes cast for the two parties shows that the UDP had more votes than the NPP. The UDP had 209,465 while the NPP had 194,247, a difference of more than 15,000 votes. Does it mean therefore that if there was a presidential election today, the UDP would have won? Some NPP supporters are even now beginning to question whether their continuous alliance with such parties like the depleted APRC is not a curse rather than a blessing for them.

There is no doubt that many people were not quite amused by some of the utterances made by President Barrow and some members of his campaign entourage, particularly directed at his political opponents. Rather than focus on the issues at stake, most of the NPP campaign messages were not complementary to their opponents, together with the blatant use of state resources including the public media at the expense of the opposition. Therefore, to many people, there is hardly much difference between President Barrow’s campaign tactics from those of former dictator Yahya Jammeh; such as the use of state resources and the public media to castigate his opponents while denying them access to such facilities. This is exactly one of the reasons why Gambians fought hard to get rid of the Jammeh regime and this is no doubt the message they seem to be sending to the Barrow administration; that they are not ready to allow such dictatorial tendencies to resurface in this country again.

Another loud and clear message from the voters in those areas was for the government and the councils to work together for the development of the country rather than continue with their belligerent attitudes. However, it is believed that one of the apparent reasons why the people voted back the mayors of Banjul and Kanifing is because they see them as the victims of central government heavy-handedness and political persecution. Rather than empower the municipalities to carry out their mandate, there is a clear attempt by the central government to impede their work, which is certainly not in the interest of anyone. Let us therefore hope that with the results of the elections, it has now dawned on the central government and all other stakeholders that there is a need for the two arms of government to work together in harmony in order to achieve their development aspirations.
It is therefore time that President Barrow and his administration stopped their open belligerence towards the mayors of Banjul and KM and accept that they are the choice of a majority of the people of those two municipalities. As such therefore, no one should try to place any obstacles on their way to carry out their mandate to the people of their municipalities.

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