The Gambian people trooped out in their hundreds of thousands to perform their civic duty on Saturday December 4, 2021, Presidential Election. 

The patriotism of Gambians was heartwarming and affirmed our oft-repeated statement that Gambians are brothers and sisters born from the womb of one mother, Gambia. 

Regarding the presidential elections, it is clear that there were manifest of the famous sovereign voice of the Gambian people to elect a president of the Republic of the Gambia.

The 2021 presidential election began like much-awaited suspense and action Hollywood movie featuring many actors. However, while many feel that the real heroes 2021 Presidential Election and the peaceful democratic election are the trios of President Adama Barrow and his NPP-led coalition, the Gambian voters, and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), I feel that the primary protagonists in this true-life movie set in the Gambia were the Gambian people! 

All over the country, teeming Gambians from eighteen years and above trooped out en masse on that faithful election day to make history. Eligible voters in all the seven geo-political zones, including Banjul, the capital city in the country, certainly knew they had a date with destiny as they came out to exercise their suffrage.

However, in our democratic struggles for the past three decades, we have never seen our democracy so enhanced as it was on December 4, which was a challenge. 

Still, President Adama Barrow was unrepentant and genuinely triumphant in the election outcome. It is sad to see those who trampled on democracy thumping their noses down on the Gambian people in this Presidential Election. 

Consequently, they reject the Presidential Election result may be challenging it in court. President-elect Adama Barrow must assure his supporters and the entire  Gambian people that together, we will not allow the Gambia’s nascent democracy to be emasculated. 

We hope and pray Gambian will someday summon the courage to defend democracy. That is the only way to move away from being the world headquarters for extreme poverty.

Those who believe the 2021 Presidential Election was rigged should stick to their position and support the politicians in their litigation. Nobody should say, “it is a waste of time.” No litigation is ever a waste of time. 

Previous legal experiences have influenced some improvements we have witnessed in our electoral system. There is a reason our laws provide for post-election petitions. Mr. Abubakar Darboe of the United Democratic Party (UDP) and  Mr. Mama Kandeh of the Gambia Democratic Congress (GMC) should exercise their legal options. 

Those who cast the election as a battle between literacy and illiteracy should also stick to their story. They are inevitably saying the election was not free and fair. However, they are only telling the outcome was not reflective of the preference of the majority of voters, whom they consider to be informed voters and lovers of poverty. 

This narrative is condescending, no doubt, and reinforces inherited prejudices and biases against certain sections of the country — but at least it represents the mindset of some analysts. Our only problem with that is the abuse and misuse of statistics that readily come with such a mindset.

After five years of president Adama Barrow’s rule since the return to democracy in 2017, the majority of the Gambians voters went to the polls eager to overturn this dominance. During the  presidential elections, Gambians who had been thirstily awaiting the poll heeded the call for “continuity” and voted for President Barrow’s National People’s Party’s (NPP)-led grand coalition. 

They then protected their votes to ensure that the results reflected their desires. This epochal and watershed event would be the first time since our independence that a new party and non-Godfather has successfully wrestled power from political landlords and political gladiators. 

Hundreds of thousands of Gambians achieved this rare feat in Africa, despite toxic divisive politics by male chauvinistic ethnolinguistic elite cultural hegemonic politicians, widespread technology challenges, and the bullying of the national stakeholders in the elections.

However, this feat was not achieved without its fair share of drama. The “Gambian factor” present in most things “One Gambia, One Nation, One Destiny” expectedly refused to rear its ugly head of disintegration. 

Nevertheless, the silent majority of Gambian voters persevered and remained adamant that their votes must count. Over the years, the discernible Gambian voter had been disillusioned with elections in the Gambia. 

The majority had lost hope and saw elections as an extension of the hydra-headed monster of corruption, where only powerful politicians reap the benefits. As a result, voter apathy was the norm, as many eligible voters declined to exercise their rights.

However, the build-up to the 2021  presidential elections was never seen in our clime. The emergence and amalgamation of several smaller parties to form a single unit – including the former ruling dominant APRC party  – and their mantra of “continuity with Barrow” resounded many Gambian voters fed-up with toxic political polarisation and bridge political divides. 

From Niumi to Suduwol, Gambian voters voted massively for the party with a white stallion as its logo. The Gambian voters defied this custom even in areas traditionally referred to as “strongholds” of the opposition. Instead, they placed their mandate on the burgeoning political party.

Retrospectively, before the presidential elections, there was fear about the foreboding effects the polls would have on the unity and existence of the Gambia as a country. 

Some countries issued several statements to this effect. The overheated polity before the elections, through political vitriolic and shenanigans by some politicians, seemed as if the doomsday prediction of these countries was at hand. 

However, when it was seemingly apparent that the Gambia was heading towards its foretold doom, the Gambian voters rose to the occasion. 

Armed with their Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs), Gambians voters patriotically and peacefully queued up in single files in different polling units across the country, waiting to be accredited so that they can be able to cast their votes for their preferred political parties/candidates. 

In addition, there were election observers, including former presidents representing the African Union and regional body of ECOWAS and the European Union Election Observation Mission, in sure wards and polling units across the country observing the elections. International and domestic observers primarily saw the election as credible, accessible, and fair.

The Gambian voters inadvertently became the heroes who ushered in the present “continuity” dispensation. First, they were the heroes who unsentimentally cast their votes and stood by their voices to make them count. They were the heroes who voted in the spirit of unity and oneness, as the election results reflected this. 

Finally, they were the heroes who used social media to canvass support for their preferred political parties and candidates in ensuring that they get elected. That 90-year-old woman who braved all odds to cast her vote on Election Day with the hope of creating a better future for the present, future, and generations yet-unborn, is undoubtedly a hero in my book. 

That 18-year old who just became an adult and eligible to vote for the first time voted on December 4, 2021 election day with hopes of a better tomorrow for himself, family, generation, and the country is indeed a hero in my book. 

That blind man who on Election Day insisted that he must vote and his vote counted is also a hero in my book. That pregnant woman who, on Election Day, insisted on voting with her unborn child, with the hopes of a better tomorrow for herself and her baby, is a hero in my book. 

All eligible Gambian voters who voted peacefully and in an orderly manner on Election Day and who protected their votes to the latter, ushering the present change-led administration, are definitely the biggest Gambian heroes of the day. 

The Gambian voters for their tenacity, sense of self, love for Kin and country, hope for the future, patriotism, desire for change through peace and unity, “the Gambian people and voters…” are my persons of the year for  2021.

By Alagi Yorro Jallow

Alagi Yorro Jallow

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