NADD...at a Crossroad

The point newspaper reported last week that NADD is in disarray… oh but wait a minute that was after Ousainou Darbo whose party reportedly withdrew from the coalition denied any knowledge of it and before they could get in touch with Halifa Sallah who coordinates the activities of NADD; resulting in a subsequent byline in the same paper titled NADD not in Disarray.

The initial reporting started a firestorm on Gambian forums. Opinions ranging from outright support for NADD to the conundrum that NADD will find itself to their seemly lack of message control. The likes of Ebou Jallow, who could explain anything under the sun but what he did with the $3million dollars he allegedly absconded with, were all over the map. Allgambian’s Yero Jallow (aka Dalton) also wrote a piece that was all over the place. It was supposedly a message for Darbo and the UDP that end up? … Well read for your self.

So what is a layman to do? In the midst of all these analysis one commentator’s analysis of the situation caught my eye. It is a poignant treatise that deals with the situation that NADD found itself in post Supreme court decision and what steps they could possibly take to make a difference come 2006. Without further adieu I present LJDarbo’s piece:

NADD, the By-elections, and the 2006 General Elections

In light of the adverse Supreme Court decision on the four opposition National Assembly seats, and considering the stated intention by the leadership to contest the September by-elections, it is incumbent on NADD to undertake a fundamental reassessment of direction if it is to even come close to achieving its key strategic objective of capturing the State House in 2006. All indications suggest the NADD high command is already so engaged, but supporters not privy to those consultations are legitimately worried about the troubling signals clearly discernible from that process.

In the titanic struggle for a nation's soul, fourteen months does not constitute enough of a window to remove major road blocks in time to arrive at the aspired destination ahead of a well-resourced incumbent. NADD's unresolved issues centering on the Supreme Court decision are due for urgent solution. Otherwise, it is unclear how the September by-elections can be contested under a NADD, or for that matter, any other opposition banner, without the Alliance coming apart at the seams.

As stakeholders, NADD's base of global supporters are entitled to a say on how the Alliance extricate itself from its evident internal impasse, occasioned - among other, but lesser, considerations - by the Supreme Court decision. It is my view that, as the intended beneficiaries, NADD is our enterprise. The party leaders, constituting the executive, and crucial to the ultimate success of the enterprise, are nevertheless mere trustees of a vital national project. Their duty is to the people they intend to liberate from the clutches of tyranny. Their duty is to us.

What, it may be asked, is the nature of NADD's duty to the people of The Gambia? Overriding all subsidiary considerations is the absolute imperative for the Alliance to remain committed to the vision underlying its formation. I reiterate my contention that the September by-elections, threatening the very survival of NADD - even as they remain insignificant in the larger scheme of its vital political project - are best left uncontested. If NADD must contest the by-elections, it is duty bound to explain how it proposes to do this in conformity with the Supreme Court decision even as its fundamental features remain at odds with the minefield that is section 91 (1) (d) of the 1997 Constitution of the Republic of The Gambia.

The Supreme Court decision, tailored to the limited issue of the status of the four opposition National Assembly seats, was nevertheless broad enough in its seismic implications to unhinge NADD. As contended by the IEC – and this view was endorsed by the Justices – UDP, PDOIS, and NRP, "had been subsumed under the new political party known as NADD". Logically, this position extends to the PPP, and NDAM. The question is whether, by itself, this Supreme Court endorsement of the IEC position is sufficient to safe NADD as an entity? Not if the full force of section 91 (1) (d) is brought into play.

The Constitutional provision is controlled by a proviso, and at least two of the party leaders relied on this proviso pre-litigation for the untenability of the first, and third defendants' position. Interestingly, the legal team protested at the hearing that the party constitutions did not prohibit a merger. After the decision, another party leader argued that there is no party whose constitution will prohibit a merger with other parties.

The constitutional command is explicit in its requirement that parties wishing to merge at the national level must be permitted to do so by their individual constitutions. The only reason why plaintiffs failed to rely on their most lethal weapon - the proviso - was because the party constitutions were at best silent on the question of merging with other parties.

If this permission was not available, there could be no merger, and if there was no merger, then to all intents and purposes, there is legally no NADD. Although the IEC relied on its secondary legislative authority pursuant to section 127 Elections Decree 1996 to register NADD, that was an inconsequential act when juxtaposed against the compelling argument of an explicit constitutional command.

In any case, even the IEC's Elections Rule , Rule No. 1 of 2005, conforms with the constitutional mandate that parties wishing to merge must be authorised by their constitutions to do so. It is unclear why the IEC registered NADD without checking that this critical precondition was complied with. As the document itself appears to be undated, there is no indication whether it was promulgated before, during, or after the Supreme Court case.

The merger threshold was set so high that those who drafted section 91 (1) (d) knew that navigating its requirements was never going to be an uncomplicated process. However, we are confronted with a national emergency, and the party leaders must now demonstrate the selflessness we all along assumed they possessed, individually, and collectively.

Clearly, we have not yet arrived at the unfulfilled terminus of the NADD project, but none of the available options for the journey's successful completion are painless. In light of the complicated, and multifaceted, nature of the scenarios confronting us as a people, it is not acceptable to blame any one party should NADD disintegrate. To blame any individual, or party, we must first take the entire leadership to task on how they propose to respond to some options out of the evident stalemate.In my humble opinion, and pursuant to the Supreme Court decision, NADD's options may be in two broad categories:

1. Deregister NADD with the IEC by abandoning the "Agreement in Law", and opt for a loose coalition of parties. This calls for cooperation in the sense that the opposition pools its support for a presidential candidate selected by one party to contest against Jammeh in 2006. The NADD coordinator considers this unwise, using APRC's informal marriage with the NCP, and what that means for the latter.

2. Formally disband the constituent parties of NADD (UDP, NRP, PDOIS, PPP, NDAM) by each party deregistering itself with the IEC. To implement this, NADD must first be deregistered, and then the individual parties would amend their constitutions to allow for mergers in conformity with their internal procedures for amendment. A fresh application will then be submitted to the IEC for registering NADD as an "Agreement in Law". The current IEC must first commit in writing to accepting the existing secondary legislation on mergers without amendment. After the 2006 general elections, the constituent parties of NADD may re-register in their individual capacities.

I urge all supporters of NADD to reject the insinuation that one party is committed to driving the Alliance off the road. On any analysis, this sounds too simplistic. We should instead lobby the party leaders for a commitment to one of the available options, or variations thereof. As voluntary, strategic withdrawals, NADD will then re-enter the race for No. 1 Marina as a lethal force. If it is compelled to disband, the psychological implications may sound the death knell for all hope of a national democratic rebirth come 2006.

The longer we delay in applying the requisite pressure on the NADD leadership, the nearer we are to the day when they announce their intention to go their separate ways. In that eventuality, the September by-elections will be a picnic in the park compared to the certainty of monumental tragedy in 2006.It is time to constructively apply pressure on the NADD leadership to stay the course.

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