Honorable Halifa Sallah: The Nation’s Moral Conscience, Democrat and a Patriot Graciously Concede Defeat and Congratulate President Barrow!

by Alagi Yorro Jallow.
As the dust in the Gambia settles in the aftermath of the presidential election, memories of the grueling and arduous fought campaigns have already started fading from the nation’s collective consciousness. Moreover, as we witness the end of one chapter and the beginning of another in the Gambia, there is one central lesson that Gambian politicians can take away; one example reverberates a powerful message of hope in our political practice.
In the wake of President Adama Barrow and the NPP-led grand coalition victory in The Gambia, when the Gambia’s moral conscience and presidential candidate Halifa Sallah conceded defeat in the just concluded presidential elections with grace and humility, he did something extraordinary. However, of course, conceding defeat, in of itself, in a normal setting is nothing extraordinary, but with the kind of extraordinary atmosphere in our political structure, where elections are seen as ‘do or die’ affairs and apparent defeats are challenged by those who, for one reason or another, have a sense of entitlement, yielding to an electoral loss, often becomes an impossibility.
Losing at anything in life is always very difficult. Losing in politics is bound to be even tougher because it takes place on a public platform. However, even besides the publicity involved, the reality of any election campaign is that a large sum of money must have gone into supporting that campaign. Therefore, apart from the public let-down in addition to a bruised ego at the thought of being beaten by a rival, the loss of an election carries with it the loss of a fortune as well. The combined loss of so much must be tough to come to terms with.
It is a credit to Honorable Halifa Sallah that he has such decency and the altruistic carriage to appreciate that there is so much more to life than being in political power. It is refreshing to see a democratic, patriotic and visionary leader who understands that it is not the end of the world when one moves out and loses elections. It is a relief to finally see an example of an aspirant who does not put too much value into being driven by political arrogance and entitlement, endless perception and control of self-motion, having their images draped in giant billboards, or having their name mentioned in the front pages of newspapers. Since the presidential election, the grace and poise in which Honorable Halifa Sallah conducted himself is inspiring and has set a standard in relatively freely and pretty fairly and transparent elections.
Current and aspiring political office holders should indeed take a cue from Honorable Halifa Sallah’s “dignified demeanor” as he gracefully accepted defeat and duly congratulated his opponent sportingly. In other saner climes, this is the norm amongst democratic politicians. They unassumingly concede defeat and congratulate their political rivals accordingly. This seemingly trivial but salient act alone is essential for the enhanced political development of the polity. It largely dissuades post-election violence/conflicts and ensures that elected officials focus explicitly on their mandate. Unfortunately, however, in the Gambia, some politicians’ “do or die” mentality has primarily been the bane of our political development.
Since the democratic dispensation in the Gambia, the likes of Honorable Halifa Sallah gracefully conceding defeat to an opponent from a rival political party is indeed a “rare breed” and one of its kind. This is why archetypal leaders like Honorable Halifa Sallah need to be glorified, but any leader who gracefully conceded defeat needs to be celebrated and commended for political maturity. Furthermore, such leaders need to be recognized and credited for conducting themselves in the best interest of society and in a manner that advances peace and stability.
Sadly, some politicians, especially in Africa and particularly some politicians in the Gambia, hardly concede defeat and maturity but with the kind of grace and demeanor of Honorable Halifa Sallah in the aftermath of the presidential elections. Such rare and quintessential leaders like Halifa are true democrats, inadvertently advocating and promoting democratic principles.
Regarding elections, particularly presidential elections in the Gambia, it is a well-known fact that the incumbent presidents do “everything” in their power to resist defeat within our political structure. Alluding to the power of incumbency, which remains an essential factor in Gambian politics and many a Gambian do not believe in the possibility of hegemonic political leaders being beaten at the poll. However, as we have so often witnessed in this country, some influential politicians are generally believed to employ various means to force election results in their favor. Intimidation, coercion, and harassment, as well as cajoling voters with financial and material inducement during elections, are methods that have been witnessed in the Gambia. As a result, elections are often marred with irregularities. The incumbent usually has an unfair advantage due to the security apparatus and the unbridled use of financial inducement at his disposal.
In Ghana and other democratic societies, undoubtedly regarded as an epitome of democracy and good governance in Africa, the likes of Honorable Halifa Sallah could be found there, with akin grace, honor, and poise, as the majority of the country’s politicians at various times have put the interest of their country ahead of personal interest.
Commendably, Honorable Halifa Sallah, on the contrary, duly accepted a supervised free and fair, and credible election and allowed the independence of the process to prevail via the polls. Furthermore, he congratulated the victor after the presidential elections, a humble, patriotic, gallant, and decorous act uncommon amongst our indigenous politicians. This shows that Honorable Halifa Sallah is indeed a true democrat and progressive, devoid of the do-or-die mentality of the majority of the Gambian and African politicians. This singular act has thus forestalled any form of post-election violence or conflict in the Gambia. Therefore, it is unquestionably worthy of emulation by every politician in this great country of ours.
I want to congratulate Honorable Halifa Sallah for his magnanimity to accept and concede defeat in this presidential election, and I prayed hard for him. He is a perfect, democrat, honest, capable, patriotic and decent person by every standard and by anyone’s definition; a man who is guided by his faith and committed to his family. Everyone who knows him knows these facts about him, and now with his one-act that gives way to both defeat and hope, the whole world will know it too.
My commiserations to President Adama Barrow and Halifa Sallah and congratulations to the good people of the Gambia for peacefully conducting themselves during the presidential election.

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