As much as I’ve had my issues with the Freedom Newspaper and how Pa Nderry Mbai runs it, I have to give credit where credit is due regarding his recent coverage of the opposition parties in The Gambia and the attempt to (once again) unite them. I think it’s a good thing that the various opposition leaders have a platform to express themselves and thus people can make a more informed decision as to who to support (or not).
It’s just unfortunate that it took some people this long to realize that certain leaders can be very condescending (especially if they’re disagreed with) and that others aren’t “tribalist” bent on creating Mandinka hegemony in The Gambia. And yeah sarcasm intended.
Because when I tuned in (vicariously as I was in the room with someone else who was actually listening to the program) to the discussion between Banka Manneh, Dr. Abdoulie Saine and Halifa Sallah, I found Mr. Sallah to be really condescending and I’d venture to say outright rude to the other participants. He kept saying stuff about how Manneh and Saine were not on the ground and thus they were not getting the right information regarding the discussions taking place regarding the formation of a united alliance to contest the upcoming Presidential elections. However, it didn’t seem to me that Sallah made any attempt to correct the supposedly bad information that Saine and Manneh had gotten nor did he explain how or why the information they’d gotten was bad. All he did was sarcastically and condescendingly talking about how they didn’t know what they were talking about because they weren’t on the ground in The Gambia and how STGDP could have sent someone to The Gambia to witness the discussions instead of relying on a third party. And when Saine kept stating why Sallah’s idea of a convention would not work, Sallah kept talking about how Saine was merely engaged in an “academic exercise”, and he kept referring to Saine and Manneh as “these scholars” in a rather sarcastic and rude tone. and he simply wouldn’t budge on his grand idea of a convention, after a while he just sounded like a broken record to me.
I got the feeling that Sallah never gets challenged on his ideas too often, and if he does, as he did quite vehemently during this program, he sure doesn’t like it that much. Although having said all of this, I am not completely averse to having a convention or primary, or some other way of choosing a “neutral” or “independent” (but really I think what Sallah really means is let’s have a selection process and hope that Darboe/the UDP isn’t the one chosen to lead the opposition or better yet let’s hope I get chosen) to pick an opposition leader. However, the elections are November 24th, and there just isn’t the time to put such a convention or primary or whatever into place.
Mr. Mbai, during a subsequent radio program analyzing the discussion between Manneh, Saine, and Sallah, kept talking about how Sallah wasn’t being sincere, and that Sallah is not being forthcoming about what he really wants or what his actual goals are. I’d be interested to know what Mr. Mbai means by that. What does Pa Nderry think are Sallah’s actual goals/motives, etc.?
For my part, I’ve long maintained that Sallah isn’t necessarily this selfless person who doesn’t want any kinda power that his supporters make him out to be. I mean, he leads a political party for goodness sake who’s contested for the Presidency of The Gambia more than once. And that doesn’t make Sallah a bad person. But he’s not a saint, and he’s a politician just like all of the other politicians in The Gambia, no more and no less. But I think he’s gotten so used to how his supporters fawn over him, never disagree with him, and how they want to make him out to be some kinda saint who just happened to become a leader of a political party by mere happenstance, that I don’t think he can handle anyone criticizing him, which was evident in the aforementioned radio program.
At any rate, I just wanted to commend Freedom Newspaper as well as the other online Gambian news outlets for giving a platform for the various opposition politicians to come and speak to people and let everyone know where they stand. Because isn’t it nice to know that Darboe really isn’t a Mandinka tribalist, and Sallah is indeed a mere mortal like the rest of us. It’s just sad that we all didn’t learn this sooner. Perhaps things would have turned out differently but it’s too late to go back over that now.
I give Pa Nderry Mbai and the Freedom Newspaper as a whole credit for coming out and “admitting” as Pa Nderry put it, that they were wrong about Darboe, and I wonder how many other people were also wrong about the man? It can’t be an easy thing to have so viciferously attacked someone and then have to come back and admit that perhaps those attacks were not warranted. And I generally have a soft spot for people who can publicly own up to their mistakes and admit that they may have been wrong. This doesn’t mean I’ve let Freedom Newspaper completely off the hook *smile*, especially as regards their use of the phrase “fair and balanced” as it reminds me too much of Fox News, which for me is not a good thing, however, I always like to give credit where credit is due.
And that will Inshallah be my final comment on Gambian politics for a long while as I’ve decided to stay out of the fray this time around. Because I can also admit when I’m wrong and during the run-up to the last Presidential elections in The Gambia I was quite vocal, and looking back on it I really feel as though I made quite a fool of myself. I don’t wish to repeat the same mistakes I made again. I just want to observe that unlike the last go-round, there are a proliferation of online Gambian news sources where the opposition parties can get their message out, and those who are interested can interact with the opposition in ways that they could not back in 2006. And I think this is a good thing. It will be interesting to see how online Gambian media will affect events back in The Gambia, or if it will have any affect.