Meet the People’s Tour – Another Abuse of Incumbency?

By D. A. Jawo

While there is no denying the fact that President Adama Barrow has the constitutional mandate to undertake his mandatory annual ‘Meet the People’s Tour’, but everyone expects him to do it at the most appropriate time and occasion.
We have seen a press release trending on social media announcing President Barrow’s impending departure for his annual ‘Meet the People’s Tour’ from the 19 March to 6 April. We have also seen a letter ‘ordering’ government institutions and agencies to provide vehicles and drivers for the tour. We all know that 90 percent of the people using those vehicles would be militants and supporters of the National People’s Party (NPP).
The question that all reasonable Gambians seem to ask is whether this is the most appropriate time for him to undertake the tour. The Independent Electoral commission (IEC) has already fixed the official campaign period for the National Assembly elections from the 17 March to 7 April when all parties and candidates are supposed to be out in the countryside to campaign for the elections. It is therefore quite obvious that this so-called ‘Meet the People’s Tour’ is purely a disguise for campaigning for the NPP candidates, using state resources and vehicles.
We are all aware that virtually all of President Barrow’s such outings are more political in nature and reality than discussing issues affecting the farming community. It is therefore quite unfair for him to use state resources and vehicles to campaign for his candidates whilst the other parties and candidates use their own resources. Everyone is therefore anxiously waiting to see what the IEC is going to say or do about such blatant abuse of incumbency and the electoral process.
It would also be interesting to see how the commission is going to handle the situation and harmonize it with their campaign schedule. Of course they would not dare consider the tour as part of the campaign and still ignore the use of government resources and vehicles, and yet we all know that is exactly what it is. In fact it is very likely that because of the official tag attached to the tour, his entourage would be given unlimited airtime on GRTS and the public media, thus defeating the very purpose of the IEC media schedule which is meant to give equal access to the media of all candidates.
Obviously, former President Yahya jammeh was quite notorious for using state resources for his own political activities, but he was certainly not as blatant as President Barrow’s seems to be doing it.
It is quite unfortunate that the democracy and good governance that Gambians toiled for and thought they achieved in 2017 is gradually slipping from our hands. We seem to be sliding back to a situation comparable to the Yahya Jammeh era, all for the sake of clinging on to power at whatever cost.

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