The Standard: First of all, how would you describe the state of the APRC party, of which you are the national mobiliser?
Yankuba Colley: Very, very good. We are very well-placed, above everything, above every party in this country. We are stronger today than ever before.
After weeks of preparations you were supposed to have a congress in Kanilai which was cancelled at the eleventh hour. Is all well in your party?
That is nothing. For us, even if we want we can do the congress tomorrow. Everything is well in APRC. We do not have any problem. We decided to go to congress. We put everything and all our plans together. Financially, we are fine… again, what is the problem? I do not think we have any problem. It was postponed for a reason and the reason is not something one would hide. We are doing it in Kanilai and we are doing it in a proper way. We have gone round the country. You can see the enthusiasm that we have received from the provinces. You can see the people are very happy about it. We were well-received and everything went fine. And for having the congress, APRC is having no problem. It has coincided with some programmes and those programmes we feel we could not do together with it. That is the reason but nothing else.
So what are these reasons?
I have been telling journalists that APRC is a very well-organised party. It is well-structured at all angles. There is nothing wrong anywhere. Everything is fine.
But it might have an adverse impact on the confidence of your supporters that a party of your muscle and clout is making such a sudden U-turn?
We do not have any problem whatsoever, to God! It is only the change of date. We only felt that we should change the date and that’s all. I cannot recall the date but I know it is going to happen in April.
There has been mounting concern about the expulsion of MPs from your party deemed not to be toeing the party line like Cherno Cham of Lower Niumi, Yahya Dibba of Kiang West and Dawda Manneh who automatically lost their seats in the National Assembly?
Dawda Manneh has been convicted of drug peddling. Should we maintain that person in our party? Answer my question.
My opinion is immaterial, yours is… So how about Cherno Cham and Yahya Dibba?
I told you this party is a very organised party. We have disciplinary groups. We have a committee on discipline. If you violate the party rules of course you can face expulsion. That shows you how well-organised the party is because it is not afraid of kicking one of her key members out. That can simply tell you how strong we are. When you act in a way that does not conform with the party regulations and rules… There are no sacred cows in the party. So that is why all those people were expelled. They went against the rules of the party.
What rules were violated?
They went against the rules of the party. Some of these things are not to be said out. We will not talk about some of them but I would tell you that if you don’t violate the party rules, nothing happens to you.
You are a ruling party that is supposed to be a paragon of transparency. It seems you are shrouding certain things in secrecy?
No, no! Remember, the person you are dealing with also has a family. Some of it should not be that open; they have a family who have to be protected also. We need to protect the family, remember that. We are just like the Muslimhood. If you do not pray, you are not a Muslim. If you offend a law in Islam you will be expelled automatically.
But why do you have to offer protection to somebody who has violated your disciplinary code and done something potentially adverse to the national interest?
Why did I mention that of Dawda Manneh – that he is convicted of drug trafficking? I mentioned it because it had come to everybody’s notice that he went to court. The others you are talking to me about, they have not been to court. They were internally punished. And we will not wash our dirty linen in public.
Don’t you think your party’s ability to expel members who automatically lose their seats constricts and constrains the APRC-dominated National Assembly to serve as a check on the excesses of the executive?
That is happening. Are you not aware of the PEC/PAC? Are you not seeing those checks that are going on? Even the president has gone to the assembly and said that there are no sacred cows. For us we believe in these three systems of government: the legislature, judiciary and the executive. And each is doing its work without any problem, without any interference.
But that seems devoid of basis in reality because a more than casual observer will see that there has been increasing emasculation and strangulation of the independence of the judiciary. The recent sacking of the Chief Justice Agyemang is a case in point?
You see… me I would not touch on that. But the system in place is that if you don’t do anything nothing happens to you.
The Secretary General, Momodou Sabally, has been appointed APRC Secretary General. What added values does he bring to the party?
A lot. Remember, Sabally is our own. I call him ‘Sunu Buss’. We trained him and now he is serving us. So there is nothing new in the party system for Sabally. He started from the scratch. He was educated from the scratch and he got all what he has here. Sabally is the party-trained one who knows the policies of the party. Sabally’s coming is greatly accepted by all quarters of the party.
How impressed is the party with his performance so far?
In fact, there are lots of improvements since he took over as the secretary general of the party. There are lots of things he has done right now.
A lot of it …some not to be mentioned. He has made the system more vibrant. He has made all the parts of the party machine work very very well.
You talked about greater vibrancy in the party, does that include the sacking of the women’s mobiliser Aja Ndey Jatta and youth mobiliser, Pierre Minteh?
No, no, Aja Ndey Jatta is not sacked. They were not sacked but retired. Remember Aji Fatou Sallah was retired.
But they have not reached retirement age. In fact, they are relatively young?
Pierre is not retired. It is just a change of policy, just a change of position. That’s all.
Don’t you think the fact that he had to be changed is indicative of the fact that there’s something wrong somewhere?
Maybe… it is possible. But all that I can tell you is that these positions are not permanent. You will be there for some time and somebody comes in. Remember the former national mobiliser was Yankuba Touray. He started it and gave it to Antouman Saho; Antouman gave it to Balla Jahumpa. When Balla left, it was returned to Antouman. When Antouman left again, it was given back to Yankuba, then it came back to Antouman and to me. So positions change. Before, Babou Gaye Sonko was there, another person came and then Pierre came and Babou came back again. So that is not a problem. There is no position that is static.
How would you assess your own performance as the national mobiliser?
I don’t know. I will always leave that to the people and the leadership. I will never assess myself… No. That’s not fair. If you ask anybody even if they are not doing well they will say ‘I am doing good’. You leave people to judge who you are and what you do. I cannot talk about my performance. All what I know is I am doing my best.
You have been described by your detractors as ‘semi-literate’, ‘incompetent’ and ‘devoid of the much needed charm and experience’ to be the mayor of KMC and national mobiliser. What would you say to such critics?
Every person is entitled to his opinion. That is okay for me. I like people who criticise me. I like people who talk about me. For me I know between me and Allah I have been schooled. I know I have been schooled though I know I didn’t attend university. I am not a university graduate but I have sat in a college in the UK. At least I understand a little and when it comes to performance in the KMC, I think I can raise my hand and say what I have done, there is no mayor who has been in this position who did that. And whatever the critics may say, they are entitled to it. They are entitled to their opinion. If I told I am not that competent and cannot deliver, I would not have been the national mobiliser.
Which brings me to the next question. How woud you assess your administration of the affairs of the KMC?
KMC is moving. We do not have any problem. Everything is fine.
There have been reports of financial constraints for KMC. Your staff’s salaries are sometimes allegedly not paid or delayed and you owe huge debts to banks?
Let me tell you about that. Tell me, are the super powers, the Americans, are they not in debt? So what is the problem of taking a loan to provide services for your people and paying back to them? What is wrong about that? Everything that we do is transparent. We have very good checks and balances here both in our accounts.. and you know KMC. You cannot take money from KMC just like that. That is not true. And paying of salaries that’s not true. There is no month that comes when we don’t pay salaries.
But salaries are sometimes delayed?
We collect from the people and then come to pay. We do not have a big deposit of oil which we are going to pick and receive money somewhere. All the salaries are paid before the fifth day of every month.
There is also the perennial problem of the Bakoteh dumpsite?
I think that is solved. You did not visit it. Go there and see. You will know that it is solved. There is no more smoke. We have done everything that we could. For us, rubbish collection is everybody’s business not only the municipality’s. Let me tell you if you travel you will know it is a global problem.
Why did it take you so long to fix the problem?
It did not take so long. We looked onto the problem; we discussed the problem and came up with a solution. That’s it.
The APRC government has been accused of harassment of opposition supporters?
For me anything that the president does is right.
But he makes mistakes.
I know whatever he does, there is a reason behind it. I give him that full support. For me, whatever the president does is fine. He is somebody who sits and thinks before he acts. And anything that he does is for the benefit of this country.
Only to ask you people to give him the support that he needs .He needs to be supported.]]>