By Madi Jobarteh
I have no congratulatory message for either Halifa Sallah or Ismaila Ceesay. Just to take part in a political debate does not deserve any commendation in a democratic republic. Rather they fulfilled their duty as politicians to speak to issues that concern our society. They have an obligation to tell me, as a citizen their political agenda in order to obtain my vote.
The fact that they took part in the debate serves their interest, first and foremost. For those politicians that may fail to debate can only harm their own political interests since I will not vote for a politician who fails to sell his or her agenda to me.
A political debate is significant but it is only one of many democratic avenues that politicians have to canvass for votes. We hope there will be more political debates which are usually organized by media, academia and civil society entities. Politicians who know better and have something to offer do participate to achieve their objectives. So there’s no need for congratulations.
In this debate, the topic was unfortunately sidestepped for which Halifa Sallah, Ismaila Ceesay, Harona Drammeh and the journalists present must be blamed. The whole purpose of the debate was to address the claim that Coalition 2016 was a failure by its leaders. Hence I expected to hear from Halifa how this was not the case and to hear from Ismaila how this failure was the case.
Unfortunately, Halifa did not respond to that issue but picks the story from the long distant GOFER issue in 2015 and electoral reforms. He went further to pontificate about the strategy and bravery of Coalition 2016 to the removal of the Tinpot Dictator. He made a clearcut distinction between the winning of the election and the reforms that were to be made as per the Coalition MoU and Manifesto. He either avoided or downplayed that aspect which is in fact the very subject of the debate.
The truth of the matter is that Coalition 2016 was about system change. Regime change was the first step which was to give birth to system change. Read the MoU and Manifesto of the Coalition and Candidate Barrow to see how clear and smart deliverables were listed to bring about system change. But as soon as they assumed power in which Coalition parties and politicians became the holders of key positions in both the Executive and Legislature, they failed to bring about system change until today! They abandoned the agenda.
Therefore Ismaila, who raised the allegations in the first place, also failed to go far enough to expose how Halifa and the Coalition leaders failed in bringing about system change.
For example, I expected Ismaila to raise several questions to Halifa such as why was the MoU not signed as alleged by Ousainou Darboe but countered by PDOIS leaders. I expected Ismaila to point to the drifting away from the MoU in terms of the formation of the Cabinet. Why was the Coalition Executive Committee not set up or become functional, not to mention the various Coalition committees that more or less also dissolved into thin air as soon as the election was won.
Furthermore, I expected Ismaila to challenge Halifa as to what did he do to ensure that these Coalition structures and processes were set up and adhered to. In other words, how did PDOIS and Halifa actively defend the Coalition from disintegration which was actively perpetrated by UDP and Ousainou Darboe and all other Coalition parties and leaders, especially Fatoumata Tambajang, Isatou Touray, OJ, Hamat Bah, Ahmad Mai Fatty and the rest.
This means I expected Halifa to be direct and open by stating what he did to ensure that the Coalition and Pres. Barrow stayed on track. In that case, I expected him to also name names as to which Coalition parties and politicians played what part to enhance or prevent the Coalition from succeeding and who defended or failed to defend the Coalition and how?
Even when he shunned a Cabinet position and went to the National Assembly, what did he and other NAMs from other Coalition parties do to bring about system change through constitutional and legal reforms? Apart from that, how did they ensure that the Executive is law abiding, transparent and accountable? What is apparent is that this National Assembly has been ineffective in disciplining the Executive, rather they have continuously overlooked the notoriety of the Executive in flouting the Constitution. The latest evidence is the SAB they passed last week.
To me, this debate is a platform for transparency and accountability to render account to citizens. As the chief convener of the Coalition, Halifa owes it to citizens to tell us who and what was responsible for the successes and failures, if there are. Thus I am disappointed that he refused to name names but rather sending innuendos and insinuations.
Then the moderator, Harona also failed to play the role of the true captain by ensuring that the debate did not drift into something else. Harona and the journalists should have focused on the Coalition MoU and Manifesto and take note of their performance since 2017 to date so that the right questions are asked.
At the end of the debate, there was no serious interrogation of the Coalition successes and failures beyond the election. That should have been the issue, in the first place. Surely Ismaila Ceesay knows that the Coalition won the presidential election, hence when he talked about the failure of the Coalition it was not about voting day. Rather it was about the implementation of the MoU and the Manifesto whose objectives were to bring about system change. The fact that the MoU calls for the presidential candidate to be an independent and serve 3 years indicates that the goal was system change which was explicitly outlined in both the MoU and the Manifesto.
Thus the moderator and the journalists present should not have allowed the debate to drift away into PDOIS and CA party programs especially about the economy. That was not the topic. That’s for another debate.
The moderator and the journalists should have pinned Ismaila down to express how and why the Coalition failed and also pin down Halifa to state how and why the Coalition was not a failure, but if so, what and who was responsible including the role PDOIS and Halifa played to ensure success and to defend the Coalition.
At the end of the day we are still in square one as to the successes and failures of the Coalition as far as the political leaders are concerned. To me, the Coalition is a classic failure and only its constituent parties and politicians reaped the benefits to the total detriment of the masses.
I am also ready to debate anyone on earth about that!
For The Gambia Our Homeland