Jammeh’s political niche in the Gambia has been the vulnerable women and youth population and his all-time winning strategies are voter intimidation, suppression and scare tactics as evident on his fall back on the same old again during his first campaign speech in Essau Nuimi. He was preaching peaceful campaigns and political stability and surprisingly didn’t ask for their votes but urge them to vote for their choice. However, he further lamented that Allah will crown him victorious no matter how they vote. This devil and planet earth’s worst criminal propagating peace on his first campaign stop made me really chary and I wonder if that was his reconciliatory concession speech or he is just going back to his best political strategy of instilling fear in the Gambian electorate by threatening to kill, arrest and imprison opposition members. Gambians by nature are peace loving people and sacrificing that peace for a political change is tough sell and this is what Jammeh understood and gravely exploiting it. Gambian women are more susceptible to this stereotype and since they are the largest voting block (2011 female population: 882,994) no wonder Jammeh constantly direct his scam at them. He manipulates the youths by making big promises and preying on their emotions and aspirations because they don’t know better as information and access are state-controlled.
Crunching the previous election results, it’s pertinent that the coalition concentrates resources and energy where the numbers matter. The last presidential elections during the first republic was on April 29 1992 with a total of 400,000 registered voters. In that election 201,017 Gambians exercised their civic duties registering a 50.25% turnout of which former president Jawara claimed 117,549 votes which represents 58.48% of the total votes casted. During this time in our history most Gambians have settled for the status quo and a good fraction simply belief that their votes cannot effect a political change thus the low turnout.
Fast forward to 1996 when Jammeh’s lust for power stripped him off his military attires into civilian politics coupled with ongoing national excitement about his new leadership, the polls were crowded and turnout trend sharply up to 88.4% which was 394,537 votes out of a total 446,541 registered voters. Jammeh won the hearts of 220,011 Gambian voters in the 1996 election which translate to 55.77% of the total votes casted. This trend of massive voter turnout and larger winning margins for Jammeh has continued to the last and most recent 2011 presidential elections which recorded 82.6% turnout and he won with 71.54% of the total valid votes of 657,787. It also important to point out that Jammeh won in all regions from 1996 to 2011 with the exception of Mansakonko in 1996.
While we saw a declined in opposition support across all regions, support for Jammeh increased. I put all these data out to send the strongest warning to all Gambians that we cannot let our guards down and that we have a lot of work to do to reach the last person in the most remote part of our country to turn these numbers around and in our favor. The socio-political and economic atmosphere 5 years ago is immeasurably different from the current realities and has sway away tremendous support and a gigantic dent in Jammeh’s support base. The decline in his popularity and support and the long awaited extraordinary opportunity to have a united opposition front is the singular recipe to extricate Jammeh and unshackle Gambia and all Gambians. Gambians both at home and in the diaspora are trying hard with their time, energy and resources to send the loudest statement that we are ready to take our country back and I will urge and encourage us all to keep pushing by reaching out to all our family members, friends, communities and tell them where we stand and that all votes rightly belong in Adama Barrow’s ballot box who represents the coalition of minds, political affiliations and one Gambia under Allah.