By Kebba Jeffang
Mr. Hamat Bah, the leader of the National Reconciliation Party (NRP), while responding to the call being made by young people for the opposition parties in The Gambia to form an alliance to remove the APRC government at the 1st December 2016 presidential poll, said the NRP agrees for a coalition and will be submitting its proposal to the body constituted by the parties in the opposition on how to go about it.
“We are forwarding our proposal to this central body of opposition parties for an Alliance. We will write to them as to how we believe our candidate should be selected and that is why I told them that they need to contact the PDOIS because that has been PDOIS’s position. They have to put them in their Committee but they should write to them first for their view on how a candidate should be selected,” said the NRP leader.
Mr. Bah said his party, as always, is ready for an alliance and will make the necessary sacrifice for its realisation.
The NRP leader said this in an exclusive interview with this reporter on Tuesday, 9 August, 2016 at his party’s office on Kairaba Avenue.
Mr. Bah, however, insisted on the condition that the NRP will not support a candidate who is less popular than theirs.
“We will not submit ourselves to somebody that our candidate is more saleable, more experienced and more credible,” said the NRP leader.
He re-emphasised that NRP will not support someone who their candidate, in comparison, is more popular, experienced and credible, noting that this has been their swan song for the past two years.
“Our party’s position is absolutely very clear about the issue of alliance or coalition or tactical unity or whatever nomenclature you may use to describe the coming together of opposition political parties. Our party has always demonstrated the desire of people of coming together and we have acted on this in 2006 and 2011. We are willing and ready to make the necessary sacrifice to make it happen,” he said.
When asked to explain this necessary sacrifice they are ready to make, Mr. Bah said in 2006, the NRP had supported the United Democratic Party (UDP), being the majority party at the time, as they believed that Ousainou Darboe (UDP candidate) has more support than Hamat Bah (NRP leader) then. He said because of this they have asked him (Darboe) to lead and that they supported him. He said again in 2011, he resigned from his party (NRP) to make a supreme sacrifice of contesting as an Independent Candidate for the United Front Coalition comprising three opposition parties namely PDOIS, NRP and GPDP. He said they are therefore ready to make such a necessary sacrifice again.
“We have always made our position very clear and ensure there is no ambiguity in what we are saying. We are looking for a candidate who can win in the election and we will not restrict anyone. In every forum, NRP always makes its position very clear. I believe that there is a body constituted by opposition parties which is trying for them to come together and they are doing their job and we will listen to them. If they have asked each political party to submit the criteria as to how they expect a candidate can be selected, we are not afraid of that as we did in 2011. So let the parties submit their proposals on the procedure in which they think a candidate can be selected. Let nobody dictate us from the outside because we know the job that we are doing. We are ready for an alliance and we will give this body the chance if our party feels that we can fulfill their conditions even if it is to go through a free and fair election, we are ready to take part,” said Mr. Bah.
On the 2016 presidential election, the NRP leader noted that this round it will be different from the previous ones as there will be spot counting of votes at the polling stations and which, he said, they have always been calling for.
He said his party is ready to participate in the forthcoming election and will rather do it together with other opposition parties.
“So tell the young people who are calling for the opposition to come together, that I hope this time around they will not give Jammeh their votes. It is good news that young Gambians who have been deprived of their jobs with the closure of national lottery, premier games; those that have died on their way to find a better life through the perilous ‘backway’ journey, with some abandoning their families, and now the rest remaining at home are saying they need change, that is a great achievement, but a hard one. I am very hopeful that there will be an Alliance and there could be change this year,” he concluded.