Dr. M.L.S.Jobe's proposal to have the leader of the United Democratic Party, Ousainou Darboe, lead a unified opposition by virtue of being the biggest vote getter in previous presidential elections of any of Gambian's opposition parties, will undoubtedly obscure the underlying, and most important message embedded in his proposal. But before I get into that, allow me to say this - the proposal, as Sedat Jobe painstakingly reminded listeners at every opportunity, is just that, a proposal. If there are any more proposals out there, he'd like to have it brought forward. It is, therefore, not sufficient to simply oppose the idea. You are encouraged to suggest an alternative candidate. Under his plan, Ousainou Darboe can also opt out in favor of another candidate but an alternative candidate must enjoy his support. In this scenario, the veto rests with Ousainou Darboe and his United Democratic Party.
Even with the caveat provided by Sedat Jobe, the focus will probably be on the candidate and associated personalities, and not what I consider to be the underlying and more important message of his online radio interview. While describing Raleigh as a brilliant idea, he concurrently lamented that the leaders who attended the meeting, including himself, missed the opportunity to use the occasion to elect a leader of a unified opposition. Instead, they opted to mandate the organizers of Raleigh to create a super Steering Committee to pursue a very broad agenda for democratic change in The Gambia, including but not limited to "the crafting and representation of the Agenda for change," serve as link between the various groups, organizations and international agencies engaged in the promotion of good governance, and to mobilize resources. In retrospect, he believes the Steering Committee's approach is the wrong way to go although it was not quite clear to me the reason or reasons for saying so.
The selection of a unified leader of the opposition is imperative, and a development that will be welcomed by Senegal and many international and regional organizations. The reasoning is that it is easier to deal with a single leader with a mandate of all the opposition parties and their respective supporters than to deal with a proliferation of parties, individuates and organizations all claiming legitimacy.
This blog is not an attempt at expressing a point of view that supports or opposes the proposal. It is, however, an attempt an understanding the proposal by examining it in its totality, including its component parts. The fact that the proposal was outlined in a radio interview, its verbal nature is a limiting factor in writing this piece. The topic is important enough to risk misrepresentation or omission of important facts. In either case, I will take full responsibility. So here we go:
What we know is that the selection of Ousainou Darboe as leader of a unified opposition as proposed by Dr. Sedat Jobe renders the Steering Committee redundant. Other than that, nothing else seems clear to me. For instance, does the leader of the unified opposition mean that he becomes the candidate of all the opposition parties who sign up for Dr. Jobe's proposal regardless of whether Jammeh runs in 2016 or not? If he runs and wins will he serve only a term as transitional leader or can he run to succeed himself for a second term? What happens if Jammeh's current term is truncated , for whatever reason, what happens then? These are just few of the questions that need to be responded to.
I say all this to say what - to say that a written proposal is necessary at this point. A very short document that clearly and concisely articulates the main features of the proposal, including the various scenarios taking into account all the eventualities expected in a society in transition. An issue of such magnitude and importance demands that a written proposal be submitted to all parties concerned, assuming that this is the way the rest of the political leaders at Raleigh want adopt, or at least consider. The radio announcement, though useful and informative, is only a necessary first step in a long process of consultations. Dr. Jobe should be commended for the initiative which, I hope, is seen in the same spirit as it was proposed - a spirit of optimism and oneness in the midst of a turbulent period in Gambia's history.