By Omar Bah
The leader of the Citizens’ Alliance party has said there is no condition of service at the University of the Gambia that bars him from partisan politics.
He was responding to critics who accused him of partisanship and bringing the UTG into disrepute by virtue of his active participation in political activities as a university lecturer. Detractors said his actions have brought about a conflict of interest and a disregard for the UTG’s standards.
But reacting to the criticisms in a Standard exclusive, Dr Ceesay said: “I heard people say that but I don’t listen to those criticisms because people have a right to their opinion but when I do things I do them based on what the law says. The law is very clear that if you want to run for public office, you have to take administrative leave from your work place and then you can always come back. So, when I was running for president, I took administrative leave. I was on leave of absence and I wasn’t teaching.
“Now, there is no law that stops me from being political. Every Gambian is political but as long as you are professional at work and not take politics at work, that is the most important thing. So I see no conflict of interest there. As a political scientist, you cannot tell me to be mute about politics in this country. That is not possible but anyway, people have their opinion about such issues but for me, I make sure I am professional when I am teaching and I teach what I am supposed to teach and I do my politics outside of the university,” he said.
Quizzed on concerns that his contributions have been based on partisan lines instead of being neutral, Dr Ceesay argued: “But what does that have to do with my job as a professor at the university? In universities all over the world professors are political. They engage and align with political parties openly. Why should Gambia be a different case? Why should we believe that people who are professors should just stay in the university and not engage in politics? Morally or legally, what law says that? I am not a civil servant. There is no law in our condition of service at the university which says that we should not engage in partisan politics. If I see it, then I will rethink or reconsider those concerns.”
Reacting to criticisms that he has failed to leave his mark in Gambian politics even as he was being touted as The Gambia’s next Ousmane Sonko, Dr Ceesay said: “Again, people have a right to their opinion. Listen, when we came into politics, whether we are Ousmane Sonko or Amical Cabral, that is not important and that is not why we went into politics. We came into politics to help change this country. Now, when we went for the office, we made a pledge that if anybody wins and wants our support, we will support you. So we are supporting the president to succeed because when he succeeds, The Gambia succeeds.
“We cannot be sitting, undermining the president and thinking that if he fails it is going to be to our advantage. We don’t think like that; so I am not into those kinds of things. You are Ousmane Sonko or you are that. That is for Senegal and Ousmane Sonko to deal with.
So, people can think whatever they want to think but we know our conscience is clear and we believe it is time for all Gambians to come together,” Dr Ceesay added.
Asked whether he has not lost his way and ambition as a politician, Dr Ceesay argued: “Again people can think whatever they want to think about. Because of the alignment we cannot come out openly and talk about issues. If we have any concerns, we raise them directly. The country is facing challenges just like every country around the world. We are not saying things are fine. Yes, there are challenges but we have to get our heads around it.”
Turning to his China visit where he attended a seminar on Chinese modernisation and African development with 30 African participants, Dr Ceesay said he was there on behalf of The Gambia.
“During our two weeks stay, we visited different landmarks and attended different seminars. I also gave speeches in different universities and when I returned, I went to see the Chinese Ambassador to update him on my visit and discussed means to deepen the already mutual relationship between The Gambia and China,” he said.
He said The Gambia has a lot to learn from China.