The PPP rally in Brikama, seen by many as the re-launching of the party, finally forced out what is seen as the inevitable UDP/PPP political conundrum. For all practical purposes these two parties are one of the same. The UDP came into being back in 1994, at the death bed of the PPP when the new players in town, the Junta made a deliberate calculated decision to ban the PPP and other parties that were seen as stumbling blocks in their desire to take over the country through the political route. The APRC after taking the reins of power through the barrel of the gun, all the established political parties were sent on a political holiday, and most notably was the PPP.
The entire PPP party structure, from “Yayi Compins”, youth groups and sponsors repackaged and created the UDP. The new party, UDP was fathered by the PPP and some members of the NCP elite party players. To sanitize the new structure from the negativity that the PPP was suffering from, a non-political lawyer who was also perceived at that time as someone who could not be tagged with the PPP label, or even a supporter of the party was brought in to lead. Again, it is a fact that during that period the PPP currency was at its lowest value, and no serious political counter to the Junta can be done without distancing from the PPP. The creation of the UDP was a direct tactical counter to deny the Junta’s their plan to monopolize the political space in the new Gambia.
After thirty years of the PPP, the Gambian people wanted something different, and with the wind of change blowing in every corner of the country, the Junta was able to capitalize on this yearn for change among Gambians and lay out every promises to create hope. The final nail on the coffin was the redrawing of the political terrain, and tagging the UDP as the new PPP, basically calling it same wine in a new bottle. During the twenty years of its existence, the UDP still maintains the party structure players of the PPP and the NCP. Even when the ban was lifted and the PPP was reinstated, some of its Yayi Compins and grassroots supporters have moved on and considered the UDP as their new home.
The July coup has really left the mighty PPP in total disarray, some of its party leaders have retired from politics, a good number have already become comfortable in the new UDP party hierarchy, even the Maestro himself, Sir Dawda Jawara, the ex-president was invited back to the country and retired from politics. The little flicker of hope for the comeback of the PPP was in the hands of none other than Omar Amadou Jallow, the ex Agricultural Minister, who refused to bury the legacy of the PPP. After the lifting of the ban, a despondent party reluctantly made OJ the Interim party leader. OJ initially recognized the difficulty for the re- launching of the PPP as a fully fledge party, instead settled for throwing the party support to the leader of the UDP, Alh. Ousainou Darboe. OJ is regarded by most Gambians, one of the shrewdest politicians the Gambia has ever seen, and understood that the only way to effectively take the fight to the APRC is through alliances with other opposition parties.
The APRC has not only become very powerful, but ruthless to anyone who dare challenge or pose a threat to their existence. In his attempt to take the fight to Jammeh and the APRC, OJ has been tortured, sent to the notorious Mile 2 prison several times, but he refused to be silenced. From the outset, OJ understood that to effectively continue his fight against the APRC, he recognized the unpopularity of the PPP among Gambian people who were still riding the change agenda, so he joined forces by supporting the UDP in their quest to run against the APRC. On paper, the PPP still existed as a registered party with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), but after their leader for thirty years, Sir Dadwa came back from exile and retired from politics, and the rest of the leaders do not seem to have the will to fight for the recreation of the PPP; OJ settled for the title of Interim leader and continued his partnership with opposition parties, especially the UDP. However, OJ never gave up the legacy of the PPP , and even as he continues to work with opposition parties through building of alliances, he maintains the independence of the PPP that frankly did not have an elaborate executive, and the party structure of yester year was all gone – absorbed by the UDP.
Over the years. most of the PPP campaigns are being waged through interviews and attending UDP rallies. In opposition circles, especially in the Diaspora, OJ has built a reputation of a fearless leader, and as the APRC begin to show its true colors as the worst government within the Africans continent, and whatever semblance of democracy the country ever had was all gone, the thirty year PPP rule was beginning to be seen as not that bad after all. The Diaspora that was the constituency that was adamant in their support to the new APRC back in the early days of the coup in 1994, and believed that the county has enough of the PPP, have begun to revisit the PPP legacy and were convinced that Gambia under the PPP was by far better than what we have now under the APRC.
The Gambia has become a dangerous place for most Gambians: a good number have been sent packing and became dissidents, others sent to the notorious Mile 2 prison, a good number were either killed or gone missing. The human rights record of the APRC has become one of the worst in the entire world, and to majority of dissidents in the Diaspora, at least during the PPP Government; the Gambia was seen as one of the few countries in Africa with the reputation of having a culture of good governance.
As for the economy, what use to cost Gambians D8.00 to import goods from the outside world is now costing close to D45.00, and the entire Gambian economy is now under the tutelage of the autocratic leader. With this kind of transformation of the political dynamics, it became obvious for Omar Amadou Jallowa and his few PPP leaders that the political realities have shifted on the ground and the PPP legacy has become lot more palatable. Not so fast, you will hear from circles, and the reality is that the PPP party structure has been dysfunctional for the past twenty years and re-launching the PPP will no doubt brings rumblings within other parties, especially the UDP.
Trying to bring back the hey days of the PPP basically means having to start poaching, and getting the Yayi Compins and grassroots supporters back in the fold from parties like the UDP to come back home. This exercise has not been easy and could even get lot worst. There is accusation of insincerity, untrustworthy, selfish and a whole lots of bad feelings that have begun to emerge among the party leadership of both parties.
These two parties are in reality one of the same, basically relying on the same constituency, and in a real democratic environment this should be welcomed and very good for the country. But, with the political dispensation in the Gambia, and a possibility of the country becoming a failed state, the country cannot afford the UDP/PPP political conundrum. The country’s political reality is for a united front to take our country back, and build a new democracy that all political parties can compete to win the trust of the Gambian people. The PPP and the UDP should come to the realization that their only way forward is to form a merger of the two parties and come up with a new executive. This of course will be a temporary arrangement, that will make it easy for some of their supporters that are caught in this web and remove the distraction and focus on the APRC and Jammeh. With a new merger, selection of the executive and even selecting of a leader will jump start the first step of a needed alliance, and much easier for the formation of an alliance with the other parties. It is in the interest of both parties to make the move, and it will be in the interest of all Gambians to demand this move from the leadership of both parties. In the absence of that, we will continue to see what happen in Brikama to repeat in every corner of the Gambia. You can bet your bottom dollar that will be the ticket for a landslide victory for Jammeh and the APRC, in fact, Gambians in their numbers will not only boycott 2016 but the opposition parties as a whole.