With Alagie Manneh
Mustapha Touray was born in a proud family in Bundung that made its name in Gambia and in Europe. Born in 1970, he attended Serekunda Primary School, later Latrikunda School from form 1 to 4, before advancing to GTTI in 1985-88 but unable to complete his studies, gave up education and took-up industrial plumbing. In 1989, he traveled to Norway and later shifted into business, shipping and selling cars and other high value commodities to The Gambia. After about 30-years in Europe, he returned home in April 2015 and began his quarry, selling stones and employing over 150 people in rural Gambia.
In this week’s Mayors’ Podium, Mustapha speaks to Alagie Manneh of his life experiences, desire to be mayor, vision for KMC and how he will drastically change lives for the better if people follow him and believe in his leadership.
What is the motive behind your desire to be KMC mayor?
As I said, I was born in Serekunda and my schooling and my entire life has been here, even though I spent some time in Europe. All things I know; Mandinka, Wollof and Fula, I learned in Serekunda. But unfortunately, the way I left KMC many years ago, is exactly the same today. No changes, no development, nothing is new. Everything was falling apart. It was even better when I was leaving for Norway. Look at the streets, the schools, and roads. No jobs! And I know it is KMCs job to employ the people to develop the place. My family alone, are more than hundred. If they didn’t travel to Europe, how will they find work? So I know I can change things and better many lives. This is why I decided to stand. I am the right man for the job, and can do it better than any other.
Indeed, all other candidates feel the same, that they are the right man for the job. So what makes your case any unique?
Do they love KMC better than me? Are they going to sacrifice what I am going to sacrifice for the KMC?
What are you going to sacrifice?
Everything! My wealth, my time. Here is my birthplace. I absolutely believe I would offer more for KMC than any other trying to get that office.
Are you contesting on any party ticket?
Yes, I aim to stand on the UDP ticket. I said on radios and in other interviews, I want the UDP to choose me. If they don’t, I am still UDP and will support any other candidate they choose over me but I believe they will choose me.
Why are you convinced they will select you among all the other candidates? Will you stand independent if they don’t?
No, I will not stand independent at all if they fail to select me. I am with UDP, even if they don’t support me. I will give my ideas to the candidate they select. I love this city. I will do and accept what’s better for the city.
But many said you are a newcomer, an unknown aspirant who doesn’t understand the municipality and without any experience in politics at all. Is that a fair observation?
You know, young man, politics is just like ruling a family. If you have a company and maybe one hundred people working under you, like your boss here, is the same as politics, you just have to know how to go about it. You listen to people and don’t see them as useless or uneducated. Of course everyone is a politician in the end. I voted for Adama. I spent lot of money, supporting Adama and the Coalition to see that justice prevail. And that is what I did. We all have a way of contributing to national development. Maybe I didn’t go out with a mic in my hand in support of the Coalition but I am doing my part underneath. I am sponsoring those transports, those vans, food, and logistics. I am sponsoring T-Shirts all for the new dispensation. So when people say ‘he is a new comer’, I think that is wrong. It’s an unfounded statement.
Tell us about your involvement with the local communities. Since you have been in Europe for years, how have you helped the community?
This is my homeland, it is my city and I have been doing what I can to help ever since I went to Europe. I took an oath to help my people, my country. I have been constructing roads, building schools. I sent containers loaded with clothes and I never sell to people. Let me tell you one thing, I have been in Europe and have been sending containers here for almost 20 years. I have never even sold a bicycle, I give it for free. The only thing I sold… my business was newspapers, photocopy papers, I sell cars, but anything other than that I give it out for free. I give out bicycles for free, fridges for free, used clothes for free and I never sell them like people are doing now. I donate up to the country side, for free.
And there are people who can substantiate these claims?
Of course! Anything I said here, in politics you can go and verify it. I can give you transport money from here to Basse, to Baddibu, there are people I am sponsoring.
Now I am building schools, digging boreholes and giving women jobs to stand for themselves.
In rural places?
Yes in rural places. In Kombo Santo. You go there now, I have almost 150 people working for me at the quarry. Yes food is free. Everything is free for them, especially women. One must always empower women with their children and that’s what I did at the country side. The women that go that long distance, pumping their water or boreholes, I change all that to solar system. And all these things happen before talk of this mayor thing came up.
Then why the sudden interest in politics?
No, it is not sudden. That’s the thing. I know politics. Maybe I have not been staying in The Gambia but my family have been politicians since Jawara’s time. My own sisters are die-hard Darboe supporters. So my family have been in politics, just I was away. But I came back and got involved.
The only reason I didn’t involve 100% with the Coalition is that I have a sister who fell seriously sick. I told her I am going to stand against Yahya Jammeh and she said she was going to kill me if I do that. I said why? She said because ‘I am sick and if you the one going to take care of me, involve in politics, Yahya Jammeh is going to kill you but before he kills you I will do it myself,’ she joked. This is why I hold distance but I provided food and transport and ordered 150,000 dalasi worth of T-Shirts for free at Wellingara, for the Coalition. And this you can verify. You can call anyone in Wellingara. It was a queue. I told the boys who made it that I don’t want a cent from it, I don’t want anything from it. And because that business went good, the boy now is running a canteen of his own. So when people say he is a new comer, I think they don’t know what they are saying.
What plans do you have for KMC?
People always say ‘ah it’s Africa, here is just Africa, never mind,’ but I believe we can do better. First of all if I am chosen, the number one priority is garbage. Number two we see how much we earn and how many people we can employ but like I said garbage is number one because we are talking about people’s health. It’s easy, and I can even buy trucks myself. I gave gravels to the whole of KMC free but the demand is so high, three days ago I went and bought another truck of gravels.
You seem to be spending a lot of money lately
It is mine and I want to do it to make the society better, the city better, and the roads better. Although I cannot put concretes on the roads now, but I promise to do so when I become mayor. Also, we must build roads, good roads. Without good roads, you have no good business, because the business and road are one. We must also look at hospitals and schools and see how we can improve them.
I went to Bakau Newtown School. Have you been there?
It’s my ex-school
Newtown School? I was sick. It made me sick. Even the classrooms that I went to in 1976 in Serekunda School, they are better than them. They called me for help and their fence also collapsed. I am going to do something about it. It’s in my plan. The Bakau MP sent me to see what I can do for them.
When I become mayor, I also plan to increase salaries and bring many buses to ease transportation.
Someone told me Bakau is the least employed in the KMC bureau. I think that is wrong. Look at Bakau, I am trying to help them, but their roads are not good, they are narrow. It shouldn’t be. I think we deserve better and we can do anything we want without support from outside. We have enough money here to at least start with.
What is your message to the electorate?
What I want to say to all these people who wish to see KMC great again, let them follow me. Let them come and work with me. Let them let me lead them. I love this place more than any other.
Do you think your financial muscle will give you an edge over your opponents, since politics now is all about ‘who has what and where?
The thing is about character, it is not how much you have. I can have wealth and be greedy. I think the best person will be in that office and should be there. I love this place and I am going to do what I can for them. I want my legacy to be spoken about for many, many, many years to come.
What one thing will you accomplish others cannot?
Everything almost. I love this place better than them, more than them. It is this love that will allow me to do more and to do better. If they do good, I can do better.
Since you plan to contest on the UDP ticket, are you aware of the wide perception that the party’s Mandinka base tends to believe they own UDP?
No. That is just not true. They have been misquoted. Mandinkas know they are not the only ones living here. They know that together we can succeed and make progress for our dear country. My mother and father are all Mandinkas, but my father speaks Wollof better than Mandinka. My neighbors are Mandinkas, Wollofs, Jolas, and I have some Jola aunts. My mother’s mother is a Fula. My father’s father is a Bambarang, so I don’t think Mandinkas think they own UDP or UDP belongs to one tribe. They want oneness, we all want oneness. One Gambia. When people say these things I say ok, ‘let’s count how many Fula ministers we have’. Who in Gambia can tell me you don’t have a Fula, Jola or Mandinka relative? All Gambians voted for Adama Barrow despite him coming from the UDP. I think we have rotten potatoes that want to destroy and play with people’s minds.
What do you make of the ‘New Gambia?’
I think people should be patient because I know things are going to get better. Even Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Many said this New Gambia is reminiscent in many ways of the former government’s style. Does that claim hold water?
Maybe. I don’t know. Maybe you can give me an example. Twenty-two years is not 22 hours. Sometimes these things take time.
What about Barrow’s face imprinted on every T-Shirt and wax Ashobis at celebrations marking the Coalition government’s first anniversary in power?
I don’t think Barrow was behind the idea of those T-Shirts. I don’t believe he initiated it. I see no problem with that, celebrating one-year in power.
Critics say there was nothing to celebrate at all. They said nothing has been achieved
How? As I said we have to be patient. We cannot just expect things to flip flop just like the button of an air conditioner or lamp, no. Everything takes time. Slowly but surely. The Commission of Inquiry is talking about all those billions getting lost. So you expect a country that has lost all that cash to get back and stand on its feet in one year. No, things take time.
What are your hobbies?
My hobby is helping people, really. I don’t have grande palace. I get up every morning trying to see how I can better one life. That is my hobby.
Do you believe that you will win?
And if you don’t?
As I said if I don’t win, I follow whosoever wins.
Any final comment?
Let us join hands and build our KMC. As I said, united KMC for a better KMC.