Our neighbouring country Senegal has been locked in a tense battle since last week between state security forces and protesting youths over the arrest of opposition Pastef leader Ousmane Sonko, who was accused of rape by a 21-year-old masseur.
As Gambians, we should naturally be concerned about happenings across the border and learn lessons from it. Sonko’s arrest is the catalyst of the sustained protests, but many analysts believed it was a combination of factors that led to the unfortunate situation which resulted in the loss of lives and destruction of properties.
Protesters sent a strong message to President Macky Sall that a third term bid from him will not be entertained. His predecessor, Abdoulaye Wade, introduced term limits when he came to power in 2000 with his SOPI coalition. He later reneged on his promise and vowed to seek a third term because the law cannot be applied retrospectively meaning his first term should not be counted. The constitutional court agreed with him, but the people disagreed and sent him parking. Even if he were to win, he wouldn’t be sworn in again as the masses were determined to end his reign.
This generation of young Africans is allergic to “third term” and rulers wanting to stay on and on. The last few dinosaurs are being phased out gradually. Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo tried all tricks in the book to squeeze in a third term without success and he bowed out.
When President Adama Barrow came to power in 2017, he said he is a contented person and would leave by the end of 2019 after organising a fresh election. He reneged on that and is now in the last year of his first term. He is seeking re-election in December this year. As if that is not bad enough, he wants a third term provided that he wins in December to complete his 15-year rule prophesied by his marabout.
The “retroactive clause” President Barrow is crying foul about, claiming it is “discriminatory” against him, is like what President Wade was crying about. We all know how it ended.
Many Senegalese believe that President Macky Sall wants to do them another Wade by claiming that his first term shouldn’t be counted because there was a referendum in 2016 to change the constitution. So far, he hasn’t said anything yet, but all those that spoke against his third term bid have been sacked lending credence to the speculation.
President Barrow should shun the leeches around him and accept the “retroactive clause” so that the draft constitution can pass. If he wins in December, he can serve his second and final term. If you want it all, you end up losing it all. Leave when the ovation is still loud, don’t wait to be pushed out.
The Gambia and Gambians of 2021 will be different in 2026 and very different in 2031. If he doesn’t listen to wise counsel, he will face a resistance in the near future never seen before in our country.
More young people are graduating from school with nothing to do coupled with a build-up of anger and frustration. When it reaches a saturation point, he wouldn’t survive that resistance and might end up in exile.
By Saul Sarr