FEATURE: Is Bakau a controversial constituency?

Friday, February 08, 2019

Sir Dawda Jawara, former president of The Gambia, was very popular in Bakau Constituency, especially Bakau Dinkokono, where most of his supporters used to live. Blue flags could be seen flying over the compounds of his supporters. He was popularly known as D.K. His supporters loved him so much that his first parliamentary candidate for Bakau Constituency, Fansu Demba, went unopposed.

Abdoulie Njie was the second PPP parliamentary candidate for Bakau Constituency, who was also returned unopposed until 1977 when he lost the seat to Bakary Camara (Bunding) who contested under the NCP ticket.

This was two years after Mustapha Sheriff Dibba formed the National Convention Party (NCP) in 1975. He held a rally in Bakau immediately after he formed his party, parting company with Sir Dawda’s government.

Thousands of Sir Dawda’s supporters switched allegiance to Sheriff Mustapha Dibba, after he told them the reason to leave Sir Dawda’s government. But the remnants of those who were supporting Sir Dawda did not give up. Prominent among Sir Dawda’s supporters was the late Aja Fatounding Jatta, Rambo Jatta’s aunt. They vowed to take back the Bakau seat from the NCP.

Bakary Camara, NCP Member of Parliament for Bakau, died in a car accident in 1978. As a result, there was going to be a bye-election. NCP supporters decided to see Dembo Bojang, who was then working at the Department of Agriculture, to be nominated for the bye-election. They promised to vote for him if he resigned from his post.

Dembo Bojang gave it a second thought and agreed. He then resigned from his post. The PPP nominated Famara Bojang for the bye-election. Famara Bojang hails from the Bojang Kunda kabilo. His father, Sutay Bojang, was a prominent elder in Bakau.

Dembo Bojang was then nominated by NCP and was flanked by Sheriff Mustapha Dibba, Fodayba Jammeh, Foday Makalo, Kemeseng Jammeh and other NCP strong men on nomination day.

The PPP campaign was characterized by dishing out money to people. Both parties campaigned vigorously to win the support of the electorate.

At the end of the day, Dembo Bojang was declared the winner of the bye-election. In 1982, PPP again nominated Famara Bojang as a candidate for the parliamentary election but he again lost to Dembo Bojang. Then Dembo Bojang’s supporters gave him the title ‘By Force’.

Dembo By Force again won the Bakau seat under NCP ticket in 1987 and again in 1992, the late Sam Sillah, who contested under the ticket of PPP, lost the parliamentary election to Dembo By Force, after dishing out a lot of money to the electorate.

When President Jammeh came to power in 1994, the NCP was banned along with the PPP. And after the UDP was formed, many PPP and NCP supporters joined the UDP. Dembo Bojang again won the Bakau seat  in 1997 under the UDP ticket in the National Assembly elections against Saihou Sanyang, who contested under APRC ticket. This was Dembo Bojang’s biggest victory in the political history of Bakau. He has never lost the Bakau seat.

APRC in 2002 won the Bakau seat when they nominated Kalifa Jammeh, who was returned unopposed because the UDP boycotted the National Assembly elections. The APRC again nominated Kalifa Jammeh in 2007 for the National Assembly elections and he won against Famara Bojang, who was nominated by the UDP. This was the first time the opposition lost the Bakau seat. In the 2012 National Assembly elections, APRC again nominated Kalifa Jammeh and he polled 4,306 votes against Dodou Kassa Jatta, who stood as an independent candidate and polled 2,974 votes.  The wind of change had started blowing across Bakau Constituency.

The electorate in Bakau turned their backs on Sheriff Mustapha Dibba in the 2001 presidential elections when he polled less than one thousand votes. He really lost grip of Bakau, his former stronghold.

Bakau electorate gave loyalty to Ousainou Darboe after the United Democratic Party (UDP) was formed. They gave him over six thousand votes in the 1996 presidential elections against President Jammeh’s over four thousand votes.

The 2001 presidential elections saw Ousainou Darboe’s votes in Bakau coming down from over six thousand while President Jammeh victoriously maintained the four-thousand-range vote.

Why was Ousainou Darboe losing the political battle in Bakau after the electorate switched their allegiance to the UDP immediately after its formation? Why did his votes drop in the 2001 presidential elections? What went wrong?  Ousainou Darboe again suffered another political defeat in the 2006 presidential elections in Bakau when he polled 3,788 votes while President Jammeh received 4,686 votes. And again, Bakau Constituency gave Ousainou Darboe 4,292 votes in the presidential elections in 2011 while President Jammeh polled 8,260 votes. 

Some politicians attributed Ousainou Darboe’s loss in 2006 in Bakau to his pulling out from NADD. The marriage between Bakau Constituency and President Jammeh came to an end when Bakau gave Adama Barrow, who contested under the ticket of the 2016 coalition, 6,550 votes while President Jammeh polled 3,547 votes.

 But Ousainou Darboe’s UDP made a political comeback when Assan Touray won the National Assembly elections in 2017 in Bakau Constituency, and the party again won the Local Government elections.

Will Bakau Constituency continue to embrace the UDP? Well, time will tell.            
Author: Dawda Faye