By Kebba Jeffang
Immediately following the declaration of the results of the National Convention of the seven opposition parties attended by delegates from all the 7 administrative regions of the country which elected Adama Barrow as the independent flagbearer of the coalition, the opposition leaders took turns to react to the outcome of the event held on Sunday, 30th October, 2016, at the Kairaba Beach Hotel.
The presiding officer Fatoumatta Jallow Tambajang, who also doubles as the co-chairperson of the convention committee, in announcing the results, said out of 490 registered delegates, 487 have voted with 308 for Mr. Adama Barrow, 65 for Halifa Sallah, 72 for Hamat Bah and 40 for Dr. Lamin Bojang. She therefore declared Mr. Barrow as the aspirant elected to lead the alliance.
Below are the verbatim remarks made by the respective leaders namely Mr. Hamat Bah, Dr. Lamin Bolongding Bojang, Mr. Halifa Sallah, Mr. Omar Jallow and the newly elected opposition (flag bearer’s) Mr. Adama Barrow following the announcement of the results.
Mr. Hamat Bah, the leader of the National Reconciliation Party (NRP) assured full cooperation to the choice of the people “we will go across the country to deliver the message,” he said.
“We need not only to select a candidate but we must select a candidate who can deliver the result and that is what you have done, the job has just started. It is very easy to stand and clap to say we have selected somebody; the clapping we need is 1st of December. That day is not going to be an easy task because it will be a very hard task. So when we all go home today we start it today towards that day. We have accepted the process, the result and we did all that for the sake of unity. We accepted that our parties and personalities are not the same in size yet still we accepted that we have equal vote and that was all done in the interest of coming together. Now those who made this happen must have an added value to the process because without having that you are having the purpose. The added value is every party and everybody here must work towards December 1st and that is the only way we can prove to the Gambian people that we are serious in what we are doing and we must also work to convince others to come and join them but don’t castigate them. They are not here and it is our task to set up an elder committee to work on the possibility of bringing other aspiring candidates to join the alliance and it is our task all of us together. And all your comments that you make anywhere should not be negative because the process of bringing people back is the task of all of us and that is the only way we can guarantee 100% victory come 1st of December because we need the 800, 000 votes lying there to come to us not the vote we already have in our pocket. In doing that the way we speak, the way we comport ourselves, behave, utterances must reflect reconciliation and I hope we keep that spirit. And I will tell you that we will go across this country from Kartong to Koina to make sure that we deliver the victory come 1st of December. Today Adama Barrow has been elected and we will make sure we work together to deliver the result.”
Dr. Lamin Bolonding Bojang, Presidential Candidate for the National Convention Party (NCP) described the moment ‘historic’
“What I will tell you is that the country’s power is in your hands (the electorate). This opposition coalition is a historic in the Gambia because many different parties have less important. Since there is a ruling party all the oppositions should come together and today we became a reformed party. The division of the opposition parties up to seven is not good for us as a country. Leadership is prescribed by God and gives it to whom he decides. Now that you have shown your intention and played your responsibility as a citizen by establishing the ruling party and the opposition coalition in the country, we do not have any more NCP, UDP, NRP, PDOIS, etc. but only the opposition party. So this an idea formed today in the Gambia with the objective of continuing because with two parties change can be done easily and this made this meeting a historic one. You have demonstrated your positive role as a citizen by voting democratically without any form of cheating.”
Mr. Halifa Sallah, PDOIS presidential candidate emphasised the need for “discipline in actions and in words” during the campaign period and for supporters to guard their language.
“This is the beginning of another beginning. What is happening today has never happened and it shows that the Gambia will never be the same again. We have decided to come together because of a law that makes it impossible to have a second round of voting which is a disadvantage to the opposition. That is precisely why we decided to come together. It is not to put an end to multiparty system. A multi-party system is part and parcel of a democratic order and we are coming together to strengthen the multi-party system and this is why we have said a person who stands will stand as an independent candidate and not for any single party. The parties will remain but that the individual will serve all of us. That is what we have agreed, so this individual who has been selected by you is now our instrument in order to end self-perpetuating rule and impunity in this country. That person will make a promise to serve only 3 years and that cabinet will be dissolved and we go back to election where there will be second round of voting and all the parties will seek the mandate of the people. This is the agreement and my conclusion is we are trying to win 886, 000 voters and we are not dealing with only opposition voters but the Gambian voters. So as a result those who take this podium should speak a language and engage in action where we will not lose a single voter because of arrest or a certain behavior. We want every young person to become discipline and mature. Guard your language, educate, and mobilize in a manner that will earn you the respect of every Gambian. We don’t want people to use language that will frighten or threaten or drive away other people. We want a language that will make others to come and join us because they will know that this is a coalition of hope; a coalition of national unity, democracy and of justice. This is what we are looking for and not any leader to use it for an individual interest. The national interest must now be supreme and if we do that, we will start changing the Gambia and then everybody in this country who has the capacity to deliver will always have the chance to be able to serve. Collectively, we are together; collectively we can use our intelligence, energy to build a new Gambia where everybody will be proud to take the ownership of. We have started the process of making history, but we have yet to make history. We can only make history if we continue to act together and change the country and bring a system that will earn the respect of our children and children’s children.”
Mr. Adama Barrow, the elected standard bearer promised to live up to appended agreement of the commission
“The history has been made which could determine the future of this country. It is about strengthening our democracy and values and about taking our country back from the merciless oppressor. It is about preventing our country from being a failed state and more importantly it is about building confidence among diverse people to work for the common goods of the Gambia. It is also about rebuilding trust in the international community. Therefore, how we narrate the history to our people will be crucial in bringing us closer as a nation in our bid to remove the government once and for all. I want to say that I am deeply honored and overwhelmed by your confidence in me. When I was coming the event, I came with a very of open mind that no matter the outcome the UDP will put its weight behind any chosen candidate at this convention because as a party we know any alternative to what had happened here today will always strengthen the Gambia. I am committed and loyal to the coalition and any other agreement that we all append our signatures to. I have also abundantly made it clear that we shall always implement our programmes and policies to speak terms and the letter of the Memorandum of Understanding signed by all the political parties. I stand here once again to show my commitment to what we have agreed together to salvage our country from the destruction we have found ourselves in the Gambia and this we have to do it together. At this stage, I would like to particularly thank Mr Halifa Sallah for his foresight and tireless effort putting together the mechanism that gave birth to this coalition. So thank you for all you have done for the Gambia. Let me also take the opportunity to thank our aunty, Mrs Fatoumatta Jallow Tambajang, for criss –crossing the offices of the various opposition parties and indeed you shall be remembered. To my other comrades, Uncles Omar Jallow, Hamat Bah, Henry Gomez, Mai Ahmat Fatty and Dr Lamin Bojang and all other committed comrades whose names are not mentioned here but have played a big role in the success of this convention. I thank you all for your confidence in me and I assure you that I will work with you within the border set by the commission. I thank all the delegates present here today for your time and I will always count on you for your confidence and support. I eagerly look forward to working with you in the next couple of weeks to see that we finish the job of taking back our country once again. Our work begins today and the tasks ahead cannot be over emphasized but I have no doubt that with the strength, the will and determination we have shown in this convention we will overcome all obstacles that prevail. From today, the MOU enjoined us together and we have all put our differences aside and brought our different political parties together to work for the common course and from today we will be each other’s brother’s keepers, to coach each other and make good use of each other’s strengths and experience to put all hands on deck to save our country.”
Omar Jallow alias OJ, leader of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) thanking message to stakeholders in the convention “No winner, No loser, Gambia Wins” he said….
“I was very much elated when I see all of you without fear of despot that is in the Gambia come here to queue and to register yourselves to make history and make sure the Gambia become part of a good history of this world. Therefore, I would like to first and foremost thank our chairwoman Madame Fatoumatta Jallow Tambajang and her co-chairman Hon Dembo Bojang for their responsible mature leadership in which they steer the affairs of our coalition committee to this stage. I would like to thank all those who are part of this process, those in the committee and those who were appointed chairmen of the sub-committees. This year has proven that Gambians can make it and today we are making history and we will be on the right side of history forever. I thank the party leaders all present here particularly those who are aspiring to become leaders of a coalition. The responsible leadership that you have demonstrated today has shown all Gambians particularly the young people there is a bright future for all of you tomorrow. Hon. Halifa Sallah, Dr. Bojang and Hon. Hamat Bah stood here to accept the verdict of you Gambians forgetting their personal and party interests and seeing Gambia as our country and most important thing that we can die for and we can stand for. Therefore, you are the people who make history because you are the people who bury all your interests and egos to make sure you show the Gambian people that what you have been saying for the last 6 months is true to you people and you will be committed to Gambia and to the alliance and to save the Gambia from the despotic regime that we have found ourselves for 22 years. To Adama Barrow, congratulations! I know you, your honesty, your commitment and I will never ever just like all of you question your integrity that he will live to the letter and spirit of the agreement of the alliance. That you will make sure what is written in the alliance is executed to the letter that we are going to be a team together and today there is no winner and no loser here and the Gambia has won. I congratulate him and in addition I congratulate my brother and friend Ousainou Darboe and all those people in Mile 2 they are not here but their spirits are here; they are with us all the way and I will assure them that the days are numbered, we have taken the first step towards that liberty, dignity, freedom and respect for the Gambian people. I thank the press (the first estate). You have been under the most hostile environment like the opposition parties. You refuse to give up and your profession demands sacrifice. You have been killed, tortured, detained and some of you have to leave this country if not they will lose their lives. And today I will tell you that you are part of the history that is being made because I believe as an American president said ‘I will prefer an America without a president to America without a free press.’ The press is important in the new dispensation of the 3rd republic and you will be given the due respect and independence that you deserve. Our sons and daughters in the Diaspora, we are sitting here today thanks to their efforts, organizations and sacrifice. They are our partners in this struggle and the resources we have used to make this convention happen most of it if not all of it come from them. We appreciate it. To the women and youths of this country here today, I am happy to see that 51% of the delegates are women. They are our mothers and sisters and make sure you go round your communities, constituencies and area and spread the gospel that today the Gambia has begun the change that every Gambian deserves and by 1st of December, that change will be a reality. To those delegates that came from Kartong to Koina, we know the economic problems that you have in your communities but because of the love for your country all of you are here. Thank you. To those who have come to observe and are not part of the delegates, these people have interest and they want to be part of the history that is being made today. Therefore, on behalf of everybody here, I thank you all and wish you a safe journey to your destinations around the country.”
The ceremony was moderated by Dembo Bojang and Fatoumatta Jallow Tambajang as the co-chairpersons of The National Convention of the coalition of opposition parties.