Sudan announces a three-year transitional rule. Three. Years. Sudan gets it.

But The Gambia doesn’t. Three is the kind of a number you allocate to transitional leaders. They are handpicked. They are transient. And they are meant to do this:

Pull a nation up from, say, the rubble of a civil war or a national upheaval that saw the nation’s ramparts turned upside. And set the country on an upward trajectory of national renewal. The rest is for future leaders to pick up on, to expand and to deepen.

Abdallah Hamdok is Sudan’s new prime minister. In years prior and in other countries, other leaders had served similarly. Who else? Amos Sawyer of Liberia. Ernest Shonekan of Nigeria. They became temporal leaders of their respective countries. Because they were merely handpicked by a few in society rather than voted in by the electorate, such leaders and their typecasts can’t stay on for a long while. They’ve got to go, to be replaced by leaders who come through representative politics, through consensus and choice. And dissent.

Lest I cast the net too wide, let me be territorial. Giving then-candidate Adama Barrow a three-year mandate for a five-year electoral cycle has got to be the biggest blunder of Gambian political thinking. There is no other way to look at it —- the sheer absurdity and amateurishness that went into picking up a number as farce as three in this matter, boggles the rational mind.

The two political adults (Halifa Sallah for his intellectual fecundity and Omar A Jallow for his government experience) in that room of coalition talks, ought to have known better. The Gambia wasn’t in any political strife. It was simply in the dying throes of a dictatorship, but a dictatorship that allowed elections and which eventually did it in.

It was a terrible mistake to envision a future President Adama Barrow through the prism of Liberia’s Sawyer or Nigeria’s Shonekan or Sudan’s Hamdok. These leaders are the embodiments of transitional governance, the stop-gap measures of stabilizing the nation and readying the ship of state for more tranquil waters further ashore.

President Barrow is more of a coalition rather than a transitional leader. He is only transitional by dint of fine print (an agreement by all stakeholders that he should just run the country for a specific period of time and step down.)

Alas, the coalition leaders went for three years, meaning a costly and unnecessary return to the polling station in a short space of time, a total reconfiguration of our electoral calendar.

The three-year mandate is farcical to the hilt. It’s illogical and dangerous. Then-candidate Barrow shouldn’t have accepted it. It’s an insult to be treated like an appointed leader when you actually rode to power through the crucible of democratic consent, fought in an election in which the other half, if not many more, of the electorate, voted for a five-year mandate.

Then-candidate Barrow should have insisted on and to which his coalition partners should have assented: I will serve the constitutionally-mandated five-year term and then step down. And a return to multiparty politics would usher in a new president. Our country won’t have the need to redraw the electoral cycle. The seasons will go on. Uninterruptedly.

By Cherno Baba Jallow

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