We’ve all been there, get all hyped about a product, then buy it (usually on impulse) and shortly after decide you don’t want it. You can’t return it, the shop will only exchange it if you have a very compelling reason. “I changed my mind” is usually not one of those reasons.
For a lot of us, especially provincial natives, Jammeh brought a lot of hope when he stormed the national stage albeit with force. The remains of the December 30, 2014 heroes were just formally laid to rest, how we feel about their sacrifice is necessitated by the deplorable state of our affairs. So too was the case in 1994. The same people that gave their all to see the country delivered from colonizers and institute natives to manage their affairs grew disillusioned after several years of unmet promises while public servants grew wealthy at the neglect of the citizens. The support for Jammeh was further strengthened by the promises of presiding over a transition after which democracy will be restored. That did not happen and the rest is history as the saying goes.
As with the first republic, Jammeh had clingers on to the very end, and even today command admiration amidst the revelations surrounding his maladministration and inhumane reign. December 30, 2014 and many other attempts to oust the regime of Jammeh were testament to the level of discontent in the country. Every fiber in our collective being said he must go, and by any means necessary. That feeling, openly expressed by some and silently nodded to by others was the impulse that drove the decision of December 2, 2016; The Gambia voted AGAINST Yaya Jammeh rather than for any specific agenda. Yes, the politicians uniting on a common platform had the combined effect of averting serious voter apathy and giving renewed hope to the voters. An overwhelming majority of voters did not care about the terms of their agreement, the situation demanded that they unite their efforts and they did. And this is by no means trying to diminish the terms of the MoU, what is being highlighted is that whatever the agreement was, the symbolism in their unity superseded those terms. Hon. Halifa stated on several occasions that what the Gambians wanted was regime change; “we delivered.” He would remind us that it was The Gambians who used to say (which is true by the way) that even if they (the politicians) chose a dog, the people gave their word that they would vote for it than endure another day of Jammeh.
When now President Barrow first emerged as candidate Barrow for the United Democratic Party, there was a lot of misgivings about his persona and capacity. When he won the nomination for flag bearer of the coalition, those cynical about him had to hold their tongue lest they incur collective anger for tipping the odds in favor of Jammeh by bad mouthing the coalition candidate; the people’s best hope of ousting Jammeh through the ballot. Immediately after the unexpected and highly surprising defeat of Jammeh, even before his swearing in, the cynics mounted the podium now that the threat of Jammeh lingers no more. It was not a case of buyer’s remorse for them, they were just forced by circumstances to not object openly. Like the devil’s advocate, their cynicism triggered the buyer’s remorse syndrome in an otherwise hopeful section. It took some a few months, a year for others and a year and few months for others, some yet still are hanging on.
It is noteworthy to highlight that the cynicism was not borne out of any objective assessment of candidate Barrow but a case of preferential favor towards others vying for the position of leadership; it was borne out of disappointment first and foremost.
After the die was cast, the first batch of remorseful buyers comforted themselves with “it’s only 3 years.” It became a sing song that gave them some reassurance. They never missed an opportunity to speak of Barrow’s “incompetence” in hopes to hasten the end of Barrow’s reign by enticing more sympathizers to their side. Then their 3 year bubble burst when Darboe, leader of the largest constituency of Barrow’s backers said the MoU is legally unenforceable, which in fact is true as well.
Emotions kicked in, enemy identified. Not so deep down they know he is right, but how to push back? “Darboe said Barrow cannot resign after 3 years; the MoU is irrelevant; Darboe said if Barrow resigns he will sue.” Clever, only its not true. When the legal argument of forcing Barrow to resign became increasingly untenable, the moral line of argument was invoked.
True, a man needs to honor his word, but that’s entirely up to the man to decide, we can’t fault anyone else if he defaults for only his reputation is at stake. So honoring his word is not the issue, the issue again becomes enforcing some moral code. Morality and law are not always the same, governments are constituted and held to account based on law, not morality.
Back to square one, if Barrow wants to resign, he can. But based on current constitutional provisions, the vice president finishes his term. Fresh elections can only be mandated with a change in the constitution. So again, doesn’t that make it Barrow’s decision to either honor or not honor his word regardless of who says what? No one did the same for Jammeh in 1996, but closer to the end of his transition we saw people flocking to state house to “plead” with him to stay on and “continue his development.”
We genuinely gave the benefit of the doubt, hopeful that Jammeh’s reign taught us all valuable life lessons and that no leader henceforth will repeat his mistakes, especially not so soon after his departure. No one harped on that more than President Barrow. When he was attacked as incompetent and uneducated by those who never saw any good in him from the get go, his supporters sold him on his humility. “He has a good team around him and after Jammeh frankly, we need a leader who is humble and willing to listen.” With that though, they never lost sight of the expectations of the new administration. The President who never had any presidential ambitions suddenly started making political moves and is increasingly distracted from his most sacred task. Now the most hopeful of his supporters are also growing more restless and increasingly disappointed at his insistence on pursuing that perilous path at the expense of the nation. The buyer’s remorse is gradually setting in for them based entirely on the fact that the expectations for which they made their investment is increasingly showing signs of being unmet. The product has been tried and tested but it simply is not functioning. If we decide to return it to the seller, there is compelling enough reason to have a trade if not a full refund.
That seller is the voter, and like any seller they are familiar with the common malfunctions for which this particular product finds its way back to the store; “yeah that’s a common problem, we will gladly exchange it for you.” That is what awaits Barrow if he presents himself to the voters come next election