With Alagie Manneh
Alagie Manneh: Congratulations on your recent nomination as CA’s presidential candidate for next year’s election. You were unopposed in a party which has been boasting of a long list of intellectuals capable of leading this country. Why you?
Ismaila Ceesay: Firstly, I am humbled. I thank all the party members that nominated me. The fact that there was consensus in my selection shows the level of confidence and trust members had in my ability to lead our great party and country. As to why me, only the party members can answer that.
Did you see this coming; you being nominated as flag bearer?
Well, I knew I was going to make it to the final list. But I wasn’t expecting to be the only one. I had expected and desired tough contest. This would have tested the strength of our internal party democracy.
People said there was zero surprise in the party’s decision to choose you as presidential candidate, that it was always going to be you anyway. What do you say?
They have a valid point. I have been visible and represented the party at different levels. I have also been working hard to ensure the party grows and stays relevant.
In nominating you as the flag bearer, what kind of a leader should the party expect?
A selfless leader that will serve and unite everyone. A leader that is ready to listen. A compassionate leader who understands the problems of this country, the plight of our people. I will provide effective leadership and the vision needed to transform this country.
Some say you are just too ambitious but inexperienced to preside over the affairs of the country. Why should anybody pick you over, for example Halifa Sallah or Ousainu Darboe for next year’s polls?
Nothing is wrong with being ambitious if that ambition is to transform your society. And someone who has worked in academia leading different departments for ten years is not inexperienced. When it comes to the job of the presidency, all those vying for the office are inexperienced as well as none has ever been president before. The most important thing is to understand your society’s problems and find the solutions for them. I have the passion, the drive and like I said, I understand the problems and I have the solutions for them. I have the innovative solutions to solve our contemporary complex problems but also anticipate future problems, find solutions for them to ensure the welfare of future generations.
In one of your media interviews recently, you talked about “the road to restoring the dignity of the people of The Gambia”. What dignity is lost that is to be restored? What did you mean?
The fact that our people lack access to the basics that ensure one to live a dignified life is a problem. It is a problem when our people are living under circumstances where their salaries are not enough to ensure they are able to feed their families. Our youth are neglected to the extent that they chose to die at sea rather than stay in their country. Dignity means the state or quality of being worthy of honour or respect. The fact that we have to beg to survive is a problem. We want to harness our resources to finance our development aspirations and not to be dependent on aid and we want to empower our citizens by investing in them to ensure they have access to the most basic things that ensure a dignified life: access to quality education and affordable healthcare. Access to clean water and electricity and the infrastructure needed to connect our communities.
Let’s talk about President Adama Barrow and his newly-registered NPP. While many people rule them out, obviously others will now see them as a force to be reckoned with following the party’s double victories in last month’s by-elections. What do you see as Barrow’s chances to win next election?
Well, 2021 will be an open contest and it’s too early to determine the chances of any party. The most important thing is that the necessary reforms must take place to ensure a fair and transparent process.
You always talk about this current government’s mess. Is that mess fixable as far as you’re concerned, or is it beyond repair?
Yes, it’s fixable. The current government are not serious in fixing the problem. All they care about is to self-entrench.
You came under coruscating and very personal attack by President Barrow following your ‘clueless’ comments, has the State House apologised to you?
Do you see yourself working with Barrow under any capacity?
I have a party to lead and we hope to win 2021 election. We are focusing on that for now.
And in changing that regime, you’ll have to defeat Barrow first next year. Of course, a lot of people already see CA’s chance of winning as mission impossible. Do you honestly think you are electable?
Like I said, we are focusing on selling a clear agenda to the Gambian people. They will decide who they want to lead them after 2021.
What do you say to critics who say CA has no support base?
They have a right to their views but that will be clear in December 2021.
Saturday is CA’s Congress and first ever political rally, and they are taking place in your hometown of Brikama. Why Brikama?
It’s where we have our headquarters and the party decided to have the congress there.
Nominating a presidential candidate or being nominated a presidential candidate is not the same as really contesting for election. There are a lot of candidates and parties that have already registered with the IEC, and obviously some of them will join other (bigger) parties. Can you confirm with certainty that Your face will be on the presidential ballots next year?
I have no doubt about that. We did not join politics for any other reason than to seek a mandate from the Gambian people by selling them a clear development master plan to develop this country.
If you are to form coalition with any other existing party right now, which one will it be?
We are not thinking about coalitions for now. Our focus is to sell our agenda and work to convince Gambians that we are the right choice. We are here to lead and change and we are focusing on that agenda.