Look at television broadcasts of the ongoing campaigns, and you see that the five other presidential candidates are not running only against Candidate Barrow.
They are up against his Cabinet ministers and senior civil servants; in fact, his whole govt which has access to state resources and institutions, and is not shying away or averse to capitalizing on the advantages of incumbency.
Or is it a case of engaging in blatant abuse of incumbency ala Yahya Jammeh?
Which ever is happening, it definitely puts the other contestants at a great disadvantage!
And, this is something election observers, local and international, should take note of.
They may want to examine the “Adama Barrow The Journey” promotional video aired on QTV on Tuesday night (30 November) between 9 pm and 10 pm.
This video shows govt ministers and senior civil servants sharing government information and data; all geared toward selling Candidate Barrow!
One wonders whether by being used in the electioneering video to engage in a PR activity and spinning, the civil servants involved were not acting contrary to the code of conduct of Gambia Civil Service.
In the video we see, among others, the head of the civil service and the permanent secretary PMO extolling the achievements of the incumbent.
What about the NPP-sponsored adverts, which Barrow’s party has place and is paying for in virtually all the media outlets, print and electronic.
Are the adverts the creations of public institutions which did so with public funds?
And, if that is the case, is the NPP’s candidate benefitting from those state-funded productions now being converted by the NPP to purely partisan purposes!
Is all this contrary to the election codes of conduct in existence? Indeed, we ask how consistent is all this with the codes of conduct adopted to police the behavior of candidates and their political parties?
The codes include the IEC elections code of conduct as captured in the Elections Act, the code of conduct signed by all six presidential candidates, and the Janjanbureh Peace Accord under the auspices of the Inter-Party Committee.
Again, is this what you call abuse of incumbency, which of course some may characterize as reaping the advantages of incumbency.
Whatever the case, one cannot help recalling the fact that the last time candidate Adama Barrow campaigned for the presidency, he did so under the Coalition Agreement.
That agreement was geared to prevent this sort of abuse of incumbency, and to prevent the post holder seeking to unduly benefit from his incumbency.
“ ‘I am committed and loyal to the Coalition Agreement’, Coalition flag-bearer says” is the headline of the lead story in The Point newspaper edition of Tuesday November 1, 2016.
In that report, Barrow declared: “I am committed and loyal to the Coalition and any other agreement that we all appended our signatures on”.
The Point newspaper report went on: “Mr Barrow said come 1 December 2016, if he is elected president of The Gambia, he ‘shall’ implement programmes and policies in line with the spirit and letter of the agreement signed by all the seven political parties in the coalition…
“Details of the Agreement of the Coalition have not been made public, but The Point newspaper understood that one of the terms is that the coalition president shall serve for a transition period of three years, and take the country to an election in which the coalition leader would not contest as a presidential candidate”!
For example, at the Bakau and Serrekunda political campaign rallies held this week, the alkalos were among the speakers who took the podium.
Yet one of the measures under the Coalition Agreement was to keep chiefs and alkalos out of such politicking. But we have since heard the govt asserting that these district and village leaders work for the govt.
And, they now talk of giving them a monthly salary (already put in the national budget) beginning from January 2022 – a most timely inducement, indeed, considering that it’s only offered now on the eve of the elections season in The Gambia.
Of course, in neighboring Senegal the govt of Macky Sall had also proposed a similar inducement for the village heads, on the eve of local govt elections to held there in January 2022!
Food for thought, eh? What is clear though is that if Barrow had honored the Coalition Agreement, we would not be witnessing what we are seeing today in Gambia in the political arena.