By Matida Jallow in Belarus
The proceedings of TRRC cannot be recollected without remembering the Name Essa M Fall. In the heyday of TRRC sittings , Essa Fall became a household name across the country, as he was widely known for his critical questioning and probing that has turned very comfortable soft armchairs, placed for the witnesses, to uncomfortable boiling pots. Although Mr Fall was widely admired for his bold and decisive position towards perpetrators, it was barely imagined that a man whose popularity in the country was linked to his role in TRRC would nominate himself as a presidential candidate in the upcoming elections. Against all odds, and in defiance to the criticisms from his admirers, Essa Fall took a bold and irreversible decision to declare himself as presidential aspirant, while disregarding the some-how valid accusation that he exploited his TRRC gained popularity to pursue his political ambition.
Initially, Mr Fall’s unexpected introduction to the political arena was hardly conceived as a threat to any existing political parties, not alone the Party of the sitting President, NPP. Nonetheless, within the span of one month, Essa Fall was able to extinguish political flames both the newly established youth oriented party Citizen Alliance (CA), and one of the oldest political party in the country PDOIS, whose primary admires and targeted population (youths and self-claimed educated people) are being gradually swallowed by the Team Essa Fall across the country. As the phenomenon of Mr Fall garnered more attention in urban areas as demonstrated in his relatively well-attended rally in Buffer Zone, his emergent acceleration in popularity posed additional threat to Barrow’s NPP, which can automatically translate into a golden opportunity for the United Democratic Party.
Until recently, Barrow’s sole conceivable and honest-to-goodness opposition party and arch rival has been UDP. For both imaginary and genuine reasons, Barrow and his NPP supporters as well as government ministers alike consciously plate UDP and its leader as their irreplaceable political subject. The political discourses of NPP consistently feature criticism to UDP, and the defamation of its party leader as well as blaming the political activities of the party for the increased public outrage to President Barrow’s government. Likewise, the activism of NPP has been focused on the strongholds of UDP, and where UDP poses threat to NPP campaign goals. These include the entire region of WCR with exception of Foni which remains a battle and a neutral ground for both parties despite the NPP-APRC alliance, KMC, some regions of NBR and CRR South respectively, while places like, Banjul, some regions of NBR, CRR South and many regions of URR, where NPP feel at ease with the their seemingly soring popularity, remain reserved for NPP, to a great extent.
Nonetheless, this equation is being altered to the disadvantage of NPP, and to the advantage of UDP with the trending popularity of Essa Fall in the strongholds of NPP. Generally, the loyalties of electorates and their political affiliations are defined not only political agendas of parties, but also by certain social factors to a great extent. These last consideration has given NPP a comparative advantage over UDP in places like Banjul, certain quarters of KMC, the whole regions of CRR North, larger parts of URR and some parts of NBR. However, this is no longer a valid distribution of NPP political bases, as NPP is being challenged by the encroachment of Essa Fall into these regions, where both youths and women of different age brackets are ditching NPP for Essa Fall. This is being felt by NPP leadership; hence their political messages and targets are equally divided between UDP and Essa Fall. The recent launched attacks of President Barrow and Amat Bah on Essa Fall during the just concluded “Meet the farmers tour” is an evidence their realization of the challenge posed by Essa Fall to their primary political interests.
Thus, the attention of NPP has now split between UDP and Mr Fall, who has conquered many regions listed by NPP as its strongholds. This represents a rare opportunity for the United Democratic Party, who is expected to be partially relieved from unnecessary criticisms from NPP camp, and the subsequent counter response from UDP to NPP . As NPP might be contemplating about neutralizing the impacts of Essa Fall in NPP strongholds, with exception of URR, UDP can seize the dissipating political activities and calculations of NPP to cement its presence in its own strongholds ( the entire LRR, lager parts of WCR, KMC, NBR, CRR South and some parts of URR, where NPP might be partially withdrawing to counter the pressing influences of Essa Fall and GDC respectively in its strongholds.
Additionally, the gradual acceleration of Essa presents another opportunity for the United Democratic Party to reorient its political messages to ensure that its large youthful population remain loyal to the party, as UDP , unlike NPP, possesses qualified and competent personnel who have equal or more academic credentials, international work experiences relative to Essa Fall, and who can deliver messages that resonate with the aspirations of the ambitious youths.
However, the question remains whether UDP would adjust itself to this dynamism in the Gambian politics in its bid not only to overwhelm NPP, but also to neutralize the influence of Essa Fall on the party’s youth population.