The founder and party leader of the opposition United Democratic Party (UDP), Lawyer Ousainou Darboe, turned 65 last Thursday 8th August 2013 and, as a result, he will not be eligible to seek election for the presidency, if the current provision of the Constitution of the land is anything to go by.
As dictated by the 1997 Constitution of the Republic of The Gambia, Darboe who contested and lost to President Yahya Jammeh on four occasions, since 1996, will no longer be eligible to stand as a presidential candidate as long as the relevant constitutional provision remains the same.
According to Section 62 subsection 1(b) of the 1997 Constitution of the Republic of The Gambia, “a person shall be qualified for election as President if he or she has attained the minimum age of thirty years, but not more than sixty-five years”.
A strong critic of the APRC administration, Darboe joined politics in 1996, the year in which he first ran in the presidential election.
Born 8th August 1948, the veteran politician believes that what the future holds for him is what Gambians should now ask, and not what it holds for the UDP party because, as he put it, “the UDP is larger than Darboe and it is UDP that has made Darboe what he is politically”.
In his own words, “the issue of UDP candidature should not be an issue, because the party has people with the qualities in terms of knowledge, discipline, comportment and exposure to contest as presidential candidates”.
On his 65th birthday anniversary, Darboe spoke exclusively with The Point, touching on a wide range of issues, key among them what the future holds for the UDP party.
‘‘There is always a misconception. Organizations are not built around individuals; it is organizations that make individuals; individuals can only contribute to the success of an organization,’’ Darboe told The Point.
According to him, it would be outrageous for any leader to think that a party cannot survive without him or her, adding that after-all political parties are supposed to out-live their leaders such as the Conservative Party in the UK, the Labour Party, Liberal Party, and the Democrats and the Republicans of the United States.
Asked what the future holds for the UDP, now that he is 65 years old, the UDP leader said come 2016, if the situation persists and the provision in the Constitution is not repealed, “there are others who are better qualified, more competent and more patriotic” than himself to take up the challenge.
Darboe was, however, quick to add that people should not lose sight of the fact that these are man-made laws, and can be subjected to change at any point in time.
‘‘We should also not forget the fact that constitutions are man-made laws, and are subjected to change. After-all, who in 1992 would have thought that Nelson Mandela would come out of prison and be the first black president of South Africa?’’ he asked.
‘‘Who would have thought that Alassan Ouattara of Ivory Coast, who was disqualified by the Constitutional Court in Ivory Coast because it said he was not a citizen of Ivory Coast, would become president of that country one day?
“Who would have thought that former president Obasanjo of Nigeria, who was condemned by Abacha to prison would walk out of prison and mount a campaign, and become president of Nigeria,’’ Darboe further asked.
These, he added, are the assumptions and the Constitution can be changed and this is why the UDP is advocating for electoral reforms, to get the removal of age limit from the Constitution, among others.
The UDP strongman, however, went further to assure all that even if the issue of age limit is not resolved, and it is removed from the Constitution, the future holds well for the UDP because the party has many competent people within who can be presidential candidates.
“Even if the age limit was not in the Constitution, I do not have a birthright to be nominated by the UDP as its presidential candidate, because other people can apply and the application will be considered by the selection committee. So for the fact that I am the leader of UDP does not automatically entitle me to be the presidential candidate of the party,’’ Darboe clarified.
He stated that these are the wrong assumptions people hold - that being the leader of the UDP, you are the chosen presidential candidate. “NO!’’ he declared.
Darboe expressed hope that his explanation would dispel any impression “that UDP is Ousainou Draboe and Ousainou Darboe is UDP”, noting that the UDP has always been a problem for the ruling APRC party.
‘‘Just a few days ago, the President was giving an interview about the Lailatul Qadr largesse to provide meat at affordable prices, and the President said ‘sell to them even if they put on yellow’.
“So you can see that he is being disturbed by the UDP. He cannot sleep because of UDP, and I am sure he was one of the happiest people on 8th August that Ousainou Darboe is out as a candidate; but UDP is still here!’’ Darboe told The Point in the interview.