Sunday, July 17, 2016

Obasanjo's visit: Another missed opportunity?

Obasanjo at the Institute for Peace, Washington DC 
The Gambian opposition parties are so much in disarray that they've become as much a threat to the peace, political stability and security of the state for the lack of apparent lack of wherewithal to present a united opposition front.

To check the ever increasing power of the dictatorship, the opposition must unite, not only in words but in deed.

Unfortunately, the opposition parties have failed both tests and, in the process, are failing Gambia and Gambians in the discharge of their constitutional duty to serve as a countervailing force against tyranny.

To deny that the opposition is irreparably fractured is to deny the obvious. The acrimonious relationships between opposition parties - fueled primarily by party surrogates with political agendas of their own - is in full display, at least in social media that play an influential role in Gambian politics.  

The dysfunctionality of the opposition has been painfully exposed last week by two events, one of which was the subject of our most recent blog post i.e. the vicious and malicious attacks based on insinuations and not on facts on the newly formed Gambia Democratic Congress by certain elements within the opposition.  Instead the politically astute thing to do - expedient thing, to others - was to welcome the new kid on the block with open arm with the ultimate objective of getting them on board the fight for electoral reform and other opposition preoccupations.  It was an opportunity missed representing an unforced error expected of political novices and not opposition veterans.  The memory of Ebrima Solo Sandeng must be in the collective consciences of every opposition party member going forward.                          

The second event that occurred last week reminded us, yet again, of the dysfunctionality of the opposition was the one-day visit of former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo to Banjul. According to official reports, he met with Jammeh to discuss bilateral matters (between Nigeria and Gambia) which made very little sense because Buhari is the sitting head of state and not Obasanjo. Although bilateral issues may have been discussed, they were not central to the visit.

The main issues that brought Obasanjo to Banjul were the inter-party dialogue that must take place prior to elections and the freeing of Ousainou Darboe and all political prisoners and that includes Amadou Sanneh and all those arrested on April 14th and 16th of this year.   The main reason why the visit took place.  Because the opposition is too busy engaging it's meager resources (and that includes human/intellectual resources) in personal attacks and trivia that it paid no attention to the visit.

By contrast, Jammeh ensured that the visit was all about himself and his agenda - a political process he's dominated from the start without any serious challenge from an opposition that preoccupies itself with frivolity and petty squabbles.  Consequently, follow-ups on important matters such as the recent ECOWAS Communique insisting on political dialogue between the opposition and the regime of Jammeh and the preparation of a Road Map by the IEC seem to be of less priority.

It is unclear whether any of these urgent matters have been taken up at last Thursday's Inter-Party Committee meeting at the offices of the IEC.  If official and semi-official reports are anything to go by, the opposition did not meet with Obasanjo which is another missed opportunity, coming at a time when they could least afford it, so close to the scheduled December presidential elections.