By Musa Val Banja
Dr Ismaila Ceesay lied extensively and unapologetically in his recent interview with Kerr Fatou. In the run up to the December 2021 election, a new party called the Citizens Alliance was formed and registered in 2019 (Secka & Manneh 2019). Among its founder members was Dr. Ismaila Ceesay who is its current leader. The Citizens Alliance was formed on the promise of jumpstarting the stalled reforms that the current president Adama Barrow had promised on ascension to power in 2016 after ousting former president Yahya Jammeh. Barrow had promised to stay in power for only three years and to resign and oversee the first free and fair election after Jammeh. In an about-turn, barrow refused to relinquish power and formed his own party the National People’s Party in 2020 on which he contested the 2021 election and won. Dr. Ismaila Ceesay was the Citizen Alliance’s presidential candidate, but the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) refused to clear him. Ceesay was a vocal critic of Barrow and accused the president of planning to rig the elections. On denial to run in the election, the Citizens Alliance refused to endorse any of the opposition candidates and instead set its members free to support candidates of their choice. In a surprising turn of events however, party leader Dr. Ismaila Ceesay supported the incumbent President Adama Barrow and campaigned for him. His unexpected move in supporting Barrow was the subject of his interview with Kerr Fatou and his response was full of lies.
The first lie that Dr. Ismaila Ceesay uttered was that he did not have the power to decide for the executive committee members whom to support in the election. In that statement, Dr. Ceesay implied that he did not have any influence on the National Executive. That assertion was far from the truth. As the Party Leader and presidential candidate in the last election, Dr. Ceesay had much influence on the National Executive and the party members. Indeed, his position would be interpreted by many as the position of the party. Granted, Dr. Ceesay reported that the National Executive debated at length the issue of who to support in the election and that there were divergent views it became impossible to agree on one (Fatou, 2022). In the end, in his words, 90% of the National Executive members voted not to endorse any candidate and to allow each member and party members to support candidates of their choice. Nonetheless, his widely publicized meeting with President Adama Barrow at the height of the campaigns was correctly interpreted as an endorsement for the president at the time, a fact he admitted at the interview. He cannot therefore claim that he did not influence any national Executive member or party member to vote or to campaign for President Barrow.
Second, Dr, Ismaila Ceesay was emphatic that his support for President Barrow was in his individual capacity and not as the party leader of Citizens Alliance. Dr. Ismaila Ceesay himself was confused about the matter of in what capacity he endorsed President Adama Barrow. When pinned on the matter of facilitating for acquisition of vehicles for Citizen Alliance party members to campaign for Barrow, he reiterated that the National Executive of Citizens Alliance agreed that members could support whoever they chose in their individual capacity (Fatou, 2022). He noted that some members supported the United Democratic Party (UDP), others supported the Gambia Democratic Congress (GDC) and still others supported the National Unity Party and the PDOIS. Consequently, he insisted that his support for Barrow and the NPP was in his individual capacity like the rest of the executive members. At the same time, Dr. Ceesay made the wide claim that his support for the NPP was necessary because the CA at the time faced an “existential threat” from other parties. In the same vein, he emphasized that his agreement to support Adama Barrow and the NPP was “in the interest of the party”. He went on to note that it was difficult to separate his individual self and the CA party leader as he would do anything any time for the best interest of the party. What comes out clearly therefore was that Dr. Ismaila Ceesay threw his support behind President Adama Barrow and the NPP as the party leader for personal interests. Upon being summoned by the National Executive later, he admitted that his action was in poor judgment. The admission implied that he regretted supporting Adama Barrow in the 2021 election and campaigning for him. Notably, his admission and apology only came about after it had emerged that he had procured vehicles from Barrow for the campaigns in several regions. It is obvious that Cr. Ceesay would not have admitted his actions if they had not been reported. His claim of regret is thus hypocritical.
Thirdly, Dr. Ceesay lied blatantly when he said that he believed that President Adama Barrow was the best option that the Gambia had in the 2021 election. Ceesay made that assertion when he was pressed to explain how and why he went on to support and campaign for President Barrow. Dr. Ceesay is on record having called President Barrow “clueless” and “lacking in intellectual pedigree” to lead the Gambia (Bah, 2022). How and when he changed his opinion remain unknown. The important point is that he supported the same person he had dismissed as most incompetent to lead Gambia. Dr. Ceesay then claimed that President Barrow had developed much in the first term and that he was now in position to lead Gambia. He pointed out that the president had many “able” people to help him provide sound leadership. Specifically, he cited the vice president and the minister of education (Fatou, 2022). In that claim, Dr. Ceesay left out the fact that the vice president and all the people he named had been with president Barrow from the beginning and hence there was little if any that they could do in the second term that they could not do in the first term. He even made an attempt to credit the education minister with the STEM scholarships that Gambians were awarded to go study abroad, a program that had been in existence for many years long before Barrow. In a similar vein, he claimed that it was wrong to blame Barrow for any failures of the government because the problems of Gambia began years ago. He was however unable to name any achievements of Barrow in the first term, especially when evaluated against his pledges in 2016.
Last, Dr. Ismaila Ceesay lied that he could not resign from the position of party leader of Citizens Alliance because the party could not do without him at the time. Nothing could be further from the truth. In making such a claim, Dr. Ceesay seemed to imply that the Citizens Alliance could not do without him (Fatou, 2022). The truth is that the party like any other, can do without an individual. The reasons for Dr. Ceesay’s refusal to resign, although unknown, were more likely personal and had nothing to do with the best interests of the party.
In conclusion, Dr. Ismaila Ceesay presented himself as a dishonest individual who only paid attention to his personal interest. His conduct during the election and the subsequent support he gave President Barrow had nothing to do with the interest of the Citizens Alliance or Gambia. His dishonesty and secrecy in acquiring vehicles for CA members to campaign for the NPP were all pointers to his dishonesty. His assertion that Barrow was good for Gambia was a sharp contrast to his earlier position. Similarly, his unwillingness to resign from his position was for personal reasons of relevance in the political scene.