With Alagie Manneh
Mr Ebou Faye is the General Manager of the Independence Stadium Born in 1967 in Banjul Faye attended Wesley Primary School in Banjul, then Crab Island School and later St Augustine’s High School. After graduating from High School, Mr Faye traveled to Norway for Agricultural studies and later moved to England, where he obtained a Diploma in Journalism and International Studies. He also holds a Master’s Degree in Development Studies.
After completing his studies, Mr Faye returned home in 1999 and worked for the Office of the Ombudsman as Communication Officer, and rose to Director of Investigation.
He also worked for the National Library as Information Director before moving on to work at the Independence Stadium, where he is serving to date.
In this week’s edition of the Mayors’ Podium, he spoke to anchor Alagie Manneh on why he is the right man for the Mayor of Banjul, his vision and way forward for Gambian politics.
You have built yourself a reputation in sports. Every Gambian knows you to be a sportsman. So your sudden shift in career raised eyebrows. Why politics now?
Sports is just my public face and not an avenue for my living or my career. I gained admission into High School because of football and basketball. From there I moved on to be a coach, administrator, and sports journalist. All the places I have worked have nothing to do with sports.
When I returned home in 1999 I worked for the Office of the Ombudsman as a communication officer and rose to Director of Investigations. From there I moved to the National Library as Information Director and then to the Stadium as General Manager. So you can see it has nothing to do with sports. Sports is just my public face. People know me for sports because I have been in the sports cycle and involved in football. It is my life. Football is my drug.
Moving to politics, I think it started almost 8-years ago when the youths wanted me to be the Mayor of Banjul, maybe because of the hope they have in me to serve Banjul. They know I have been serving there for a longtime. And I resisted until recently when the process mounted again. I had to do some consultation and then from there I accepted to be a mayor because as my mother advised me, ‘when the people want you have to agree.’ So this is why I am now involved but I am still not a politician.
But again it is because of these reasons you aspire to be mayor, right?
Yes. But it is not an ambition I pursued in life. It happened accidentally and I have to accept it and serve Banjul to the best of my ability as my life is Banjul.
Now that you have accepted the peoples wish, what then is your vision for this capital city?
My vision is to move Banjul from its current state, because we all know the many challenges in Banjul. One key priority is the drainage system because when it rains, Banjul is like another place on earth. We need to address the drainage system which was built by the British in 1948. Now it has not been functioning since the late 80s to early 90s and it has affected Banjul a lot. The other one is the sewage system which is the responsibility of Nawec and sometimes there are problems with this sewage system, as it overflows.
The other issue is the roads which we have to work with government to address because the council is responsible for feeder roads but the main roads are the responsibility of the government.
Then you have the waste management system which is such a big challenge not only for The Gambia but the whole world but it can be addressed because when you look at the waste management system it involves four key critical areas; collection; transportation; disposal and treatment. The biggest challenge for Banjul as of now is the collection and transportation. At the dumpsite, that is where the disposal and the treatment come in and that’s another avenue that can generate revenue for the council and create employment. And also, the waste can be transformed to either gas, electricity or fertiliser. So those are things we need to look at and address.
Also, the traffic system in Banjul is another challenge. We have so many trucks in Half Die; double parkings, road congestion due to the trucks and they are mostly responsible for the bad roads, the unemployment situation for the youths in Banjul. And these issues can be addressed through both the drainage system by creating employment, and skills training.
You are part of the pressure group called ‘Tahawal Banjul’… do you intend to use this platform to catapult yourself into mayor?
(Laughs)No, no, no. Team ‘Tahawal’ Banjul was created to give opportunity to any candidate who wants a platform to go and represent yourself and if the people choose you, they will support you. If the opportunity arises for the platform to be created I will go there and put my case to the people of Banjul and if I am selected yes, that’s it.
But do you think this will happen?
Yeah I think it will happen. Although I have not been involved with the team for a while now since they posted my picture on the internet that I am going to stand which was against the concept of team ‘Tahawal’ Banjul and to enable the team to be a neutral player, I decided to withdraw myself totally from that group.
Despite not living in Banjul you frequent the area almost everyday. Why?
Not living? It depends on your definition of living. Yes, I don’t sleep there. But I am always in Banjul 24 hours. So your definition of living may differ from mind. I live in Kanifing and sleep there but then everything I do daily I do almost all of it in Banjul. Sometimes I spend the night there. I am a Banjulian so I cannot do without Banjul.
So why are you convinced that the people of Banjul should put their trust in you and vote you into office? What can you possibly accomplish that others cannot?
Well what I can do is I have the leadership skills. That’s one thing I can do because whatever you do as a mayor you must be a leader, able to unite people, bring people together and ensure you provide a leadership that is transparent and open to the Banjulians. I have the vision; that is create a vision that the Banjulians will believe in and bring everybody on board towards achieving that vision. Also, the drive to be able to push the vision and the leadership and make sure my vision is implemented at a reasonable timeframe to address challenges facing Banjul now. I also want to ensure that the council respect Banjulians because at the end of the day, the council works for Banjul and we have to make sure we work for the interest of Banjul and change lives and transform communities and that’s what I intend to provide.
Sounds like an amazing vision…
Yes, and the other area that we need to look at is the unemployment rate in Banjul. We need to find ways to make sure our young people are marketable, get our schools to be more competitive both in terms of education and sports and culture. And it’s the council that should provide that leadership for people to come with you, buy the vision and you work with them to achieve those visions.
Clearly, there are so many aspirants in Banjul, are you worried this may hinder your chances?
No, it’s good to have so many candidates because it shows democracy in Banjul and will bring the issues of Banjul out so that people will know all the challenges and people will choose the vision that they will affiliate with and believe in. It’s good to have many candidates. If people have so many candidates to choose from, then it will bring the best out of aspirants and will move Banjul forward. So it’s a good thing for Banjul.
You are a household name in Banjul and most parts of the country, do you believe this will give you an edge over your lesser known opponents?
It will give me an edge in the sense that I have been working for Banjul for so many years and the country. When you invest, you need to reap the investment and I have invested a lot in the development of especially sports in Banjul. So that’s the result of investment and that’s what I have done.
Are you proud of that?
Of course. Very proud. I believe in that because I was supported all my life. I went to High School because someone gave me the opportunity and that opportunity afforded me the chance to educate myself through sports, because I used to play basketball and football. So it is good to help. No man is an island. And so many people who I have supported are now coming to give back to me what I have invested in them. So I appreciate that.
What is your overall assessment of the political situation in the country? Surely there are a lot of tribal sentiments in Gambian politics today…
Yeah but that doesn’t exist in Banjul. We are Banjul as one. We don’t look at tribes. Tribe is not necessary. Why do you have to be a tribe? You are a Gambian first and so you should believe in Gambia first. In Banjul, we have different tribes, different religions but we share everything together.
So you don’t think tribal sentiments exist in Gambian politics?
I don’t think so. I don’t think Barrow was elected because of tribe, because all Gambians came out and voted for him. There is no one place in this country where you have only one tribe, it’s a mixture. So if some people have that sentiment they are living in the old ages. We are in a new world, a new village. You can see America they have challenges with foreigners, even though foreigners built it. It’s a ‘New Gambia’ and we have to meet that word. We are all the same. You go to football field you see different people playing. They don’t look at what tribe the other comes from, they have one objective and that is to win the game. What we need is how do we move this country from this level to the other.
So you share the common belief and hope that this ‘New Gambia’ holds promises of unity, togetherness, progress and development?
That’s why everybody voted. We were not happy with many things in terms of how the country was being governed, so it’s always good to change. Always good to come with new ideas, new impetus, new vision for a country. That’s how a country moves. Every Gambian should have the belief that his/her son could be a President in this country. The presidency is not just there for a few privileged people, is for everybody. So everybody who has the ambition to be president, work for it.
Mr Faye, do you think you will win the election?
Yes. Why not? If I don’t believe I will win, I will not contest.
And if you don’t win?
I will support the candidate that wins, definitely. It’s not about me, it’s about Banjul; how do we move Banjul forward. So if I don’t win the ideas that I have I will take to the candidate who wins for us to work for the improvement of Banjul.
Do you have any final comments or observations?
I would like to thank you for giving me this opportunity and to call on all Banjulians to believe in my vision and join me in moving Banjul to the next level.