The Gambia Moral Congress was lining up for a push forward. It was about to have its first complete executive and transform from a one-man party to a group with a force to reckon.
When the GMC party leader Mai Ahmad Fatty became the country’s Minister of Interior, it suddenly seemed that the party had a future even with its structural disadvantages.
Fatty came from exile like he did every election period and this time, he became one of the most powerful men in the country in charge of security and sitting in the cabinet and the National Security Council.
He scolded anti-government protests and skirmishes in the Foni, took a strong stand against rioters in Farato and warned that any behavior that seeks to jeopardize the security of the country will be consumed by the law.
His strongman position earned him as much support as it did critics. But he was surly and slowly strengthening his party’s base and gaining popularity with traditionalists and conservatives, who wanted to see a firmer leader.
The forecast of a better and stronger GMC is grim again. Mai Fatty is fired from Barrow’s cabinet and technically being sent back into exile [redeployed to Foreign Service]. This will keep Fatty far away from local politics. It will make him less influential and his party non-essential.
The GMC stood a better chance of gaining a strong support base if Fatty stayed in the Coalition government of Adama Barrow. But even if he turns down the choice of going into Foreign Service and stay back to become an opposition leader, his strongman popularity ratings for being a proactive security minister will not save his party.
He will remain the leader of his party for years to come, but will always have to rally behind a different party to even get a shot at ever topping a ballot.
Fatty’s dismissal has put the GMC in a position that makes it impossible for the party to have the capacity to single-handedly drag him as a presidential nominee over the finish line.
GMC is facing structural challenges and Fatty will need genuine executive members, not those that came to him because of his newfound power [which is now gone and such people will be gone] to stir up support towards his party.
If some of the structural challenges are addressed, at least Mai Fatty will be able to win a parliamentary seat in his hometown and if lucky, the party can win at least two seats. As at now, GMC as a party has no seat and is surely not putting up any candidates for next year’s local government elections.
The party does not have the capacity and the support to do so unless it goes into a tactical alliance with the main coalition stakeholder, the United Democratic Party.
A nightmare has arrived too early for the GMC. A real struggle beset the party, and the ministerial position, which is the bridge between Mai Fatty’s party and the Coalition has been blown.
The result is that much of Mai Fatty’s dream of leading the Gambia is now in peril more than ever. As if that’s not bad enough, it’s hard to see how he will lead the party to become a key political stakeholder from afar being an ambassador.
Unlikely to maintain a high-profile presence in Foreign Service, Fatty’s ouster from the cabinet signals the final eclipse of the political dynasty he dreams of for the GMC.
When Jammeh refused to cede power, Mai Ahmad Fatty, so well dressed and eloquent, electrified the people. He sounded progressives and demanded Jammeh steps down or be considered and treated as a rebel.
This is not without irony: Fatty after a back and forth with Halifa Sallah decisively fired Sallah as the spokesperson for the coalition and took the role himself. Sallah rejected a cabinet and executive level position in Barrow’s government to avoid being fired. And 11 months into Fatty basking in glory, he suffered what Halifa Sallah feared.
But no matter what is said, Mai Fatty’s profile has risen and will have to adopt a radical political style that will set his fan base ablaze. There is a crop of young people who might support him: they are outspoken but uncompromising.
I can tell you already that witnessing Fatty’s commanding performances while being Minister of Interior, many have fantasized about him running for president and dealing with former President Jammeh in a rather heavy-handed way. Many are in support of his strong stands on how to deal with Jammeh.
There will be great pressure for the GMC to adopt a vision that draws on the populist success of Mai Fatty as Interior Minister. It will unsurprisingly be met with opposition from the usual critics.
GMC should not follow the new Gambian norm of having a political party for business. That will only worsen the problem and sink them into a state of complete uselessness like NADD.
There’s no obvious answer to how Fatty can reconcile his personal ambitions and the goals of keeping the party alive but it is certain that the next presidential election in The Gambia will be a clash of coalitions.
If Mai Ahmad Fatty can string behind the winner of the next presidential election, and take up a junior level cabinet position, the GMC may gradually mold into a decent shape. The GMC will start a lasting tilt toward dominance. But if they lose, the outlook will be grimmer than it is today.
Well, this whole Mai Ahmad Fatty’s fall from the Cabinet has shown the folly of predictions of political demise and one cannot assume all exogenous factors will remain stable.
If the GMC have anything on its side: it’s the same force that saved the Gambia from dictatorship: demographic change. As the nation gets less older voters, the GMC must largely depend on young votes, which can sometimes be less tenable. It must make radical changes to hold great power in the long run, while the party is on life support.