Breaking News:The Big Interview:Former Daily Observer Editor Cherno Baba Jallow Speaks!
Jammeh’s development is a farce

” Today, Gambians are prisoners of distance, and are fast becoming communication, too.”Says Cherno Baba Jallow Former Observer Sub-Editor
“What obtains today at the Observer is even beneath mediocre.”Jallow argues.

By The Freedom Newspaper Editors

“I am curious to know what development there is to talk about. To Jammeh and his supporters, development is to be measured through the prism of infrastructural undertakings. That’s a simplistic way of looking at development. Most economic problems confronting countries are structural in nature, and therefore, require sound macroeconomic policies to bring about remedial changes. You can’t just rely on the power of the purse to bring you economic growth. What is the point in building schools and hospitals when there are no facilities to run these structures? What is the point in having a national TV when national news is unrepresentative of reality or when opposing viewpoints are not allowed. When Jammeh came to power and with his sight on popularity, he rushed to build all these structures without assessing the economic costs involved. Too much liquidity was dispensed and there was hardly any productivity to offset these costs. In the end, an expansionary monetary policy to help finance Jammeh’s leviathan projects brought us a terrible inflation and the “vicious cycle hypothesis” of inflation devastated our purchasing powers especially in 2003. So I continue to think that the so-called Jammeh development is a farce. Look at the area of public transportation. Today, Gambians are prisoners of distance, and are fast becoming communication, too.”These were the exact  words of Cherno Baba Jallow, former Daily Observer Sub-Editor, now residing in the United States. Mr.Jallow in an interview with the Freedom Newspaper Editors commented about  his life as a Gambian journalist, the country’s ailing political situation, his past encounters with state secret police, the 1994 Commission of Enquiry set up to probe the deposed PPP administration, Halifa Sallah’s defeat, Daily Observer under Mr.Best, the murder of leading Gambian journalist Deyda Hydara among host of topical issues. Pleas read on……

Freedom Newspaper: You have the same name as the late Niumi saint. Tell us about yourself.

Cherno Baba Jallow: It is interesting how some people think that I am a native of Niumi just because of my namesake, the late Grand Marabout Cherno Baba Jallow. Actually, I was born in Basse and I was named after my grandfather on my mother’s side. I didn’t know him. He taught the Quran to a lot of Basserians, some of whom would later become public functionaries. I attended Koba Kunda Primary and Nasir Ahmadiyya Muslim High School in Basse and then Gambia High in Banjul.

Freedom: On your Presence in the US?

CBJ: I left for college in the United States. My departure came at the right time, so to speak. Those were difficult days that brought me a lot of personal anguish, a consequence of my journalistic career. Just before I left, the then Acting Nigerian High Commissioner Geoffrey Teneilabe, a pathologically loquacious diplomat, had threatened to sue me and my newspaper the Daily Observer for libel and slander. I had strongly critiqued him for his staunch support of his boss, the late Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha. I accused him of being a propagandist not a realist. He was furious and so too were some of his fellow countrymen in The Gambia. I remember when the chief editor told me I might go to court. I didn’t want to go through a trial. I internalized my anxieties moreso when I knew of the heightened stages of my plans to travel abroad. I was getting agitated. But by the quirk of fate, the Nigerian High Commission dropped the threat of suit. And I left shortly.

Freedom: Why do you think they didn’t go ahead with the suit?

CBJ: I don’t know; the reasons, if any, were not communicated to me. But I suspected that they pulled back because it was going to be difficult in court. How can you try somebody for merely speaking his mind? And as far as I knew, I didn’t write anything against the law.

Freedom: Do you miss home?

CBJ: I really do. I miss the people, the sense of camaraderie, the feeling of neighborly connectedness. I miss the hills, and the rice-fields where I tilled the muddied soil and tended the family sheep. I have sweet longings for the area we called Nature, situated along the banks of the Basse River. We frequented there in those days to drink Attaya, read, debate and fish. I understand it has now been overtaken by human settlement. Man’s capacity for environmental onslaught knows no area.

Journalism in The Gambia

Freedom: So why journalism?

CBJ: Well, I could have been a farmer or simply apprenticed for my father in his on-again, off-again construction business. That was a possible alternative especially during those intermittent periods I skipped school for financial reasons. I developed great interest in journalism thanks to the wonderful works of various journalists I had been reading over the years. When Magistrate Wallace Grant acquitted Sana Manneh of libel charges, my love for journalism shot through the roof. I realized it was a noble profession: informing and educating people about their happenings and getting paid for doing that. You really feel good about yourself.

Freedom: Who was your mentor?

CBJ: I grew up listening to Baboucarr Gaye, the former BBC correspondent, and he was really inspirational, but he was more of a broadcast journalist… so I never had a mentor in the real sense of the word, and I think that was true of most of us who dabbled in journalism. We all entered the profession with no prior formal training except for the smattering of journalistic readings some of us had had. That’s why sometimes it was really evident in some of our writings that some of us didn’t know what we were doing. Occasionally, we made grave professional errors requiring heavy corrigenda and embarassing editorial apologies. So we merely learned on the job, the trial and error route.

Freedom: What was it like to be a journalist in The Gambia in the mid 1990s?

CBJ: It was different because of the times. In the early days of the coup, the political climate was less toxic for journalists. In the early 1990s, the idea of a truly independent press was beginning to take root and newspapers were now becoming more pictorial. Suddenly everybody became a voracious reader. You could feel the impact journalism was having on individual and public lives. Some of us reporting from the various commissions suddenly realized the nexus between power and journalism. Former public functionaries who testified before the commissions constantly worried over the rough edges of our reporting. They didn’t want their public shame to be in the paper the next day. I remember receiving many phone calls following commission sittings. These were powerful directors calling, being suddenly amiable yet anxious about what you would report the next day. Some even tried to bribe  reporters. It was then I realized the power of journalism; it can be dangerous, though, if not tempered with objectivity and fairness.

In those days, it was a big deal to see your picture in the Observer. A lot of people craved it. But you also had government leaders and some members of the public calling editors and whining about their pictures. You could tell Gambians didn’t understand the workings of the press; they needed serious educating on the intricacies of journalism. One early morning, three executive leaders of the Gambia Student Union (GAMSU), angered by a column I had written, accosted me inside my own office! They waited until I had arrived. Inside a newspaper office? How daring!

Freedom: What were your most dangerous or risky moments as a journalist in The Gambia?

CBJ: Well, there were the intermittent arrests, detentions and death threats, but that fall within the province of African journalism. However, when former finance minister Ousman Koro Ceesay died, those were really dangerous moments. A government minister dying mysteriously like that? It was a shocking, strange realization. You felt the world’s weight crashing on you, at least that’s how I felt. It was scarier still when former AFPRC spokesman Ebou Jallow faxed his resignation letter to the Observer and made those damning allegations on Koro’s death. I remember we huddled in the room, anguishing over what to do. In the end, and to err on the side of caution principally for lack of evidence, we decided not to publish the serious allegations. But you could tell everybody was angst-ridden. The national mood was one of eerie silence.

Freedom: In 1994, just after the coup, you wrote in glowing terms, the prospects for press freedom in The Gambia following Jammeh’s promise to respect press independence. Given what the press went through in the last 12 years, weren’t your analysis premature? What do you think?

CBJ: You are referring to the article captioned “The Dawn of a New Era of Freedom of Expression?” I should have heeded the Greek philosopher Sophocles’ warning: “One must wait till the evening to see how splendid the day has been.” That article was the subject of instant analysis; its premise wasn’t grounded in contour and reality. I think I was caught up in the euphoria of the moment…. I should have acknowledged the detention and subsequent sedition trial of the Foroyaa co-editors Halifa Sallah and Sidia Jatta, as important as it were, to be a flagrant assault on free speech. I literally believed Jammeh’s promises on the press to be genuine. Silly me. I was wrong.

Freedom: Who is your best Gambian journalist at the moment?

CBJ: Best journalist? I don’t know. That question pre-supposes a bumper-crop of “good” Gambian journalists out of which to nominate the best. Not so. I think Gambian journalism is still an undeveloped terrain; we don’t have high-caliber journalists who have broken stories that have impacted national policy or helped make government more accountable and transparent to the people. There are certain benchmarks to be met before one is considered a “good” journalist or more so, the “best”. Still, I have high regards for Deyda Hydara, DA Jawo and Abdoulie Sey.

 Freedom: Do you think the Gambian government is serious about investigating Deyda Hydara’s death?

CBJ: No, they are not serious. The game is to keep kicking the can down the road and hoping for a coldness of Deyda’s case and his diminishing presence in the national memory. We may never know who killed Deyda until such a day of public reckoning.

Freedom: What is your assessment of the media situation in The Gambia, currently?

CBJ: The Gambian press is in retreat, decline. Jammeh has succeeded in emascualting it. With the death of Deyda, the shutting down of the Independent and the Citizen FM radio, the press scene is not something to be proud of. When The Point easily acquiesced to Jammeh’s demand recently to spike its “Good Morning Mr. President” column, Deyda’s brainchild, you know the Gambian press has taken a serious beating. It is sad commentary on the state of affairs for Gambian journalism.

Writing is Fun

Freedom: You have a penchant for writing, what inspired you?

CBJ: In high school, my Senegambian history teacher Alieu Sonko would always call me Adu Boahen Jnr after the late Ghanaian history professor, because of my essays. He always enjoyed them, occasionally reading them in class. In my second year, I participated in a national essay competition on the topic, “If I were president”. I was one of the awardees whose names got announced over national radio. My school was very proud of me. I began to take notice of my flair for writing, going on to start with letters to newspapers. Writing is fun. To have your thoughts and ideas in writing, you are ensuring longevity. Part of you shall remain as long as the written word exists. It’s said that journalism is the first draft of history.

Freedom: Whose idea was it for you to write the “Weekend Perspective” column for the Observer?

CBJ: My editor Baba Galleh Jallow created it and gave it that name. He had wanted me to alternate it with DA Jawo, but told me if I felt comfortable handling it all by my own, I should go ahead. The rest, shall we say, is history.

Freedom: What was your favourite column?

CBJ: All of my columns were favorites to me since they were all by-products of my thinking. But I attach special value to one out of the lot. It was my first column and it landed me in trouble. “Jammeh’s Chequered Year” was an examination of his first year in power. A lot had happened: 10 ministers had been given the sack. Ousman Koro Ceesay had mysteriously died. The extra-judicial killings of Novermber 11. And Jammeh’s former comrades Sana Sabally and Sadibou Haidara had fallen off the leadership cliff. In detention, I was subjected to a barrage of one-line zingers such as, “what do you mean by Jammeh’s chequered year?”; “who are you to tell the chairman what to do?” It was ridiculous.

Freedom: You were once a roving correspondent visting around the country and writing about the rural areas. What was that feeling like?

CBJ: It was a good feeling. It was one of my best moments at the Observer. I will do it all over again if given the chance. It was an effort on the part of the Observer to widen its coverage since much of the reporting was concentrated in the Greater Banjul area. I visited many areas and I realized there was a lot to write about in terms of local endeavors, local economics, the effects of rural-urban migration, culture and the environment. The Gambia is small but very diverse in its cultural sensibilities. My only regret was not being able to visit Kiang. I have such an anthropological fascination with Kiang especially those areas of Tankularr and Joolly in the interior.

Freedom: Some of your readers complain about the “big words” you use in your writings. They argue that the purpose of your writings would be defeated if they had to struggle to look out for the meaning of some of the words in the dictionary. In short, they say they want you to keep your messages simple and understandable. How do you react to that?

CBJ: I take such criticism in good faith. I wish to state, though, that there is neither malapropism (wrongful use of words) nor dictionarial indulgence on my part. Sometimes, for lack of better or simpler words, “big” ones have to be used. One part of me wants to reach out to a wider audience and the other is aware of the fact that it is the beauty of writing to allow flexibility in diction. I want to communicate ideas and thoughts and I know beautiful prose enhances delivery. And that comes with diction. You read and feel good and that somebody is able to express for you what you couldn’t. That’s the essence of diction. So it will be helpful not to focus too much on words; rather, to understand the context in which they are being used. But I will concede that if comprehension is difficult, then the purpose of communication is unrealized. I should know. In 1987, I read Wole Soyinka’s The Interpreters three consecutive times and gave up. Don’t ask me what he was talking about.

Freedom: What does it take to be a good writer?

CBJ: Write, write and write. Write all the time. But just as, if not more, important, you must read too. The two go hand in pocket. You must not only read, but read the writings of good writers. That will help you in marshalling ideas and strengthen your conceptual thinking. In early high school, I was already reading Foroyaa and it helped arouse my political sensibilities. I was an avid reader of the Kenyan writer Hilary Ng’weno, Martin Wollacott and the late Hugo Young, both of the UK Guradian newspaper. And I devoured old copies of the Africa Now magazine. I read and re-read columns by its Nigerian editor Peter Enahoro and the late economist Abdourahman Babu, a former minister under Julius Nyerere.

And you must also stay away from cliches and redundant phraseology. A piece of writing becomes bland if it is just a reinforcement of what is already known.

Freedom: Talking about reading, what do you think every high school student in The Gambia must read before graduating?

CBJ: That is a difficult question because there are so many books to read. But I think in the Gambian and African context, two books come to mind. One, you must read Things Fall Apart by the Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe. That is the quintessential African novel. It is an examination of the crisis the traditional African society faced as a conesquence of colonialism. If you can also read his other book, A Man of the People, a satire on African leadership and corruption, then you will have gotten off to a good start on the African condition, post-independence. The other book is Aristotle’s Politics. It is about the state, community and individual participation in the political life of society, the role of democracy and political education. Young Gambians, especially those keen about the political process, must begin their political education with Aristotle.

The Daily Observer: Then and Now

Freedom: In your estimation, how did the Observer of the 1990s differ from today’s of Saja Taal?

CBJ: Really different. Back then, there was better professionalism. We were very conscious of our respective roles in the dissemination of news and ideas. It was a good team: Mathew K. Jallow, Sheriff Bojang, Baba Galleh Jallow, DA Jawo, Ebrima Ceesay (the man with the nose for news), David Sommers, AA Barry, Kenneth Y. Best, the Private Eye columnist Adama and a host of others. We really tried to give Gambians a truly serious newspaper. On the contrary, what obtains today at the Observer is even beneath mediocre. It is pitiful how a once vibrant institution could now turn into an outlet for governmental propaganda masquerading as journalism.

Freedom: What kind of a journalist was Kenneth Y. Best?

CBJ: He was a true, professional journalist. He was great in every way. He could gather news, report and editorialize. And he was a good managing editor, uncompromising on accountability yet open to dissenting viewpoints. In those days, we would all cram into his office reviewing the day’s paper, errors pointed out and corrections made. He would want to know how far follow-ups on previous assignments had gone. You had to work harder. And he rewarded hard work both morally and financially.

Freedom: But Best sold the Observer to a government sympathizer. How could he do that or even sell it at all?

CBJ: Best can best answer that, but judging from what he told me after the sale, he felt like he was losing the paper. He was desperate. Domestic forces, taking advantage of his deportation, were working fast to undermine his ownership of the Observer. He said he had offered the paper for sale to various individuals in Banjul but none was interested. He eventually found a buyer negiotated through a “journalist friend”. He said he didn’t know who the buyer was but had made it clear to his agent that the Observer must be allowed to continue its independence. I had suggested to him that had he contacted Baba Galleh Jallow or DA Jawo, may be they could have tried to buy the paper instead and continued its tradition. He said he had thought about that but realized it was going to be difficult for the two to get the financial backing given that he had failed to convince a number of prominent Gambians to be stakeholders in the company.

Freedom: The Observer once published a provoking editorial lambasting the Gambia Press Union for merely organizing a peaceful march to mark the one year anniversary of Deyda’s death. The Observer opined that it was wrong for the GPU to walk to the crime scene where Deyda was murdered. It asked: “Who is Deyda Hydara?” Your views on this?

CBJ: The Observer was showing no deference to Deyda’s death. That was unconscionable, an insult to Deyda’s honor. What the Observer has been doing all along is to make light of Deyda’s tragedy and paint his legacy with the brush of irrelevancy. But in death, Deyda stands taller. The Observer is an APRC constituency, using its institutional resources to misinform and under-inform Gambians. And the public should by now see through the dishonesty coming from the Observer.

Jammeh, the Serial Bungler

Freedom: During the early days of the transition period, you visited Kanilai, President Jammeh’s home village. What was your mission about?

CBJ: It was an assignment from Best himself. He wanted me to give a “good descriptive account” of the village and talk to the elders. It was his idea that Gambians needed to know where their new leader came from, what his background was and what the needs and aspirations of his people were as a snapshot of the national mood. Kanilai was a tiny, invisible village. It was barely reachable as the road from Sanghajorr leading into the village turned out to be a narrow stretch, meandering haltingly around trees and shrubs, showing more traction of horse-carts than automobiles. Best was very pleased with the write up and I would later learn that Jammeh, too, had been very excited about the article especially since it talked about his wrestling skills, bravery in hunting and in fending off bees — anecdotes about him that his people were all too keen to narrate.

Freedom: You have been awfully silent. What happened to your regular commentaries on the Gambia Post and the Gambia L? Are you afraid or has Jammeh succeeded in taming you?

CBJ: No, I am not scared and I have no reason to be. It’s just that I have been too busy to resume regular writing. But even if I weren’t, I wouldn’t just be writing about Jammeh alone. I am trying to be a serious and versatile writer keen to talk about a whole matrix of issues on economics, culture, sports and the environment. It is very easy to throw volleys at Jammeh because he makes it so easy for you. But to react to every Jammeh infantilism is to take the fun of writing away. And why keep flogging a dead horse, anyway?

Freedom: But, personally, what is your take on Jammeh and his rule?

CBJ: Well, Jammeh is a “cook”, and as Vladimir Lenin once said, any cook can run the state. But Lenin was just kidding; Jammeh is not. The way leadership is being dispensed in The Gambia today stretches incredulity. It is like reading the Palm-Wine Drinkard by the late Nigerian novelist Amos Tutuola: comicality is superseded only by a deviation from the normal and the acceptable. At least, Tutuola was being crafty with literature; Jammeh is not, with leadership. I see some Sekou Toure tendencies here: poisonous rhetoric, erratic impulsiveness and an ingrained incapacity to harness the nation’s potential for growth and development. You can’t run a state like that.

Freedom: The webmaster of the Gambian Association website in MICHIGAN suspended your right to post stories on their site. It’s been alleged that you spend most of your time writing about Jammeh’s shortcomings as a leader rather than commenting on his developmental programs. What is your response?

CBJ: I am curious to know what development there is to talk about. To Jammeh and his supporters, development is to be measured through the prism of infrastructural undertakings. That’s a simplistic way of looking at development. Most economic problems confronting countries are structural in nature, and therefore, require sound macroeconomic policies to bring about remedial changes. You can’t just rely on the power of the purse to bring you economic growth. What is the point in building schools and hospitals when there are no facilities to run these structures? What is the point in having a national TV when national news is unrepresentative of reality or when opposing viewpoints are not allowed?

When Jammeh came to power and with his sight on popularity, he rushed to build all these structures without assessing the economic costs involved. Too much liquidity was dispensed and there was hardly any productivity to offset these costs. In the end, an expansionary monetry policy to help finance Jammeh’s leviathan projects brought us a terrible inflation and the “vicious cycle hypothesis” of inflation devastated our purchasing powers especially in 2003. So I continue to think that the so-called Jammeh development is a farce. Look at the area of public transportation. Today, Gambians are prisoners of distance, and are fast becoming communication, too.

Freedom: You happened to be one of those journalists who covered the commissions of inquiry set up by Jammeh to probe the activities of the deposed PPP administration. In your view, were these commissions impartial and effective?

CBJ: They were on both counts. That is one area Jammeh can claim credits and not be denied. Although I must hasten to say that these commissions found little or no corruption on several former ministers including Buba Baldeh, Omar Jallow, Dr. Momodou SK Manneh. And the crude oil commission was only good for the news it broke: that the Nigerian government in the 1980s had allowed The Gambia and other West African countries facing economic crises at the time, to lift oil from its soil and sell to the outside world. It was the first time Gambians knew of such a deal. If I remember correctly, the commission couldn’t recover any misappropriated funds. Profits accrued from this crude oil deal were said to have gone into the “miscellaneous” part of government expenditure. A lot of money went unaccounted for.

The commissions were good because they not only shed light on the shortcomings of government but also an entire system left to wrack and ruin. People intentionally took advantage of an apathetic central government and defaulted en masse, from paying taxes to the state. In September of 1995, the former Income Tax boss, Samba Saye, told the Public Assets and Properties Recovery Commission that in the month of August alone, a total of D15 million had been paid into government coffers. He attributed compliance with the tax laws to the commission.

Freedom: What do you make out Jammeh’s aids cure story?

CBJ: Jammeh is not crazy; such remarks suggest mental incapacity and hence, exoneration of culpability. However, there is no other way to qualify his AIDS-cure spectacle except to say that it is something between eccentric and comical. It is a mockery of science. But I think we are witnessing the incremental devastation of a mind by the squalls of power. Jammeh feels that he has The Gambia so well in hand that he can put Gambians through publicity hoaxes. Arrogance of power can embolden the audacity of certain leaders to go as far as announcing simplistic solutions to world complexities. It’s laughable only if helpless, sickly individuals weren’t involved.

Halifa Sallah: What Kind of Politician?

Freedom: We have been following your writings for a long time now. You hardly agree with Halifa Sallah, the former NADD flag bearer. What is the beef here?

CBJ: There has never been any beef and it is not like we crossed paths several times. In the past, eons ago, we sparred online, first, on his role during the transition period and second, on an article by George Ayittey, a Ghanaian economics professor at the American University in Washington, DC. Those exchanges were at times bitter and I regret that it went that way.

Freedom: Critics say those disagreeing with Halifa are driven by misinformation on “socialism” and their lack of understanding of the subject matter. What is your position on this?

CBJ: I don’t think that’s true. Anyway, what is left of the Left? In the context of current times, I don’t think the socialism thing from either side is relevant anymore. Personally, I never saw PDOIS, before its diffusion in NADD, to be driven by socialism in the real sense of the ideology. I mean, they conceptualized on the theory’s seminal ideas…. but having theoretical constructs occupy your party’s platform is one thing and implementing them is quite another. Once in power, the infrastructure of governance changes everything. So I always felt that the issue of socialism was marginal to the general misgivings many people had about PDOIS in those days. Halifa and colleagues had a perception problem and perception becomes reality.

Freedom: Halifa and Sam Sarr turned down ministerial offers from Jammeh. Many pro-democracy activists hailed the two for their principled stance. Your views on this?

CBJ: It was a principled move, no question about it. Messrs Sallah and Sarr pointed out that from the standpoint of their democratic principles, they couldn’t join a government that came through the barrel of the gun, and hence, without the mandate of the people. But it was a contrarian move, because it went against the tide of national euphoria attendant to Jammeh’s ascension to power. A lot of people weren’t pleased with their decision. Some even called for the shelving of principles in the interest of national survival. It is the mark of political maturity to stick to your core principles at the risk of mass unpopularity. 12 years later, history and reality have proven them right.

 Freedom: How would you assess Halifa’s tenure in the National Assembly? Do you think he served his constituents well?

CBJ: I think he did well under the given circumstances. He was able to articulate the issues ranging from constitutionality to accountability. And he gave a better part of his salary to his people to help with constituency matters. Now, I don’t think his successor Sainey Jaiteh will do that. But in a wider context, Halifa’s defeat should help debunk the fallacy that if you had three of his kind in the Assembly, it would be good for the country. It’s only good if they have the power and authority to move policy into the realm of possibility. Halifa had the mandate of his people but he was limited in what he could do by a super APRC majority.

Freedom: What would you attribute Halifa’s defeat to ?

CBJ: The superficiality of Gambian politics is largely to blame. People tend not to vote with their conscience, but rather for flimsy, peripheral reasons. That said, I think Halifa’s politics is to blame, too. His understanding of politics is remarkable but his politics is not. He is not a good politician. For two reasons: First, politics is all about power, but Halifa has an ambivalent, almost snobbish, attitude towards power; he doesn’t want to aspire or be seen aspiring, for political office. And that has the potential to baffle constituents. That’s the reason why in the 1980s, some Gambian elders were perplexed about PDOIS. They would say in Mandinka: PDOIS nkolu manglafi mangsayala. Translation: PDOIS members are not interested in rulership.

In the last presidential elections, Halifa initially declined to run but only joined the race at the eleventh hour. You saw hesitation, even reluctance. When he lost recently, Halifa said he could now concentrate on writing books. One gets the feeling that he felt “relieved” that he had lost; that the business of representation was becoming a distraction, a burden. I don’t think you can win like that.

And second, Halifa as a politician lacks the power of persuasion, an important tool for anyone seeking political office. He is good at convincing people but that’s an important phenomenon in the accademic world. In the political arena, you need both. You also need to persuade, to show the drive, the fire-in-the-belly kind of motivation, to get elected. In his article, “NADD flag bearer on the elections”, Halifa said characteristically pridefully that he was known not to canvass for votes. But I think that’s what a politician is supposed to do.

Halifa is all too confident of the substance of his ideas to sail him through. It works sometimes but you can’t just rely on the power of ideas and communicative efficiencies to get into office. Perhaps Halifa is in the same category as was the former US speaker Newt Gingrich. When he badly lost the US house in 1998 to Bill Clinton, he said: “I am not a natural leader. I am a natural intellectual gadfly.”

Freedom: Are you saying that Halifa is not presidential material and he is in the wrong field?

CBJ: He is presidential timbre as far as mastery of the issues and their articulation, too, is concerned. However, it requires more than that to win Gambian elections. I will say, though, Halifa still occupies an important place in the opposition movement. If anything, he is an embodiment of authenticity and he can provide intellectual capital to the democratic process, but I don’t believe he has presidential chances.

Freedom: How do you assess the opposition chances?

CBJ: I think it’s has now gone past cliche to call for opposition unity. But for electability purposes and in the interest of meaningful change, the Gambian opposition needs an individual possessed of courage and wits and who has an offensive charm, the kind Sir Dawada Jawara had years before complacency conquered his national appeal. If a coalition cannot be had, then let a strong, broad-based party emerge and be the main contender. In Malawi, Bakili Muluzi’s United Democratic Front wrested power from former president Kamuzu Banda even as it fended off fierce competition from its opposition rival, the Alliance for Democracy. Although I must say that the situations are a bit different: Kamuzu Banda was far worse and by 1994, a 15% inflation rate had left Malawians far more desperate for change.

Freedom: If the Freedom Newspaper should organize a debate between you and Halifa, will you show up? Are you brave enough to face Halifa?

CBJ: A debate is necessary when there are two diametrically opposing viewpoints that need to be aired for public consumption. We had such debates, say, on corporal punishment and school uniforms, in our high schools. It’s Halifa’s habit to ask for debates with his critics whenever he feels miffed. He did that with ex-president Jawara, Lamin Waa Juwara and Jammeh. Such debates are unhealthy because they are set against a backdrop of acrimony and incivility. I want none of that.

Freedom: Thanks Mr. Jallow for granting us this interview.

CBJ: It’s my pleasure. I enjoyed it.

All rights reserved. Copying or re-writing our pieces without the expressed permission of  this leading paper is prohibited. News Organizations and Research institutions interested in using our pieces are free to contact the editor before culling our stories. Such organizations must also give credit to Freedom before using our materials. We thank you for your attention.

The editor can be reached at the following, or If you know that it’s happening or is about to happen please contact us. It’s easy. Just type your info on our contact us file and  then click send. The Freedom Newspaper is your leading and most authoritative  source of news. We have the required professionals to serve you round the clock. Get your morning breakfast news by reading Freedom. We have good stuffs  every morning. At Freedom, we mean business.

Posted on Sunday, March 04, 2007 (Archive on Wednesday, March 28, 2007)
Posted by PNMBAI  Contributed by PNMBAI

Copyright 2006 (c) Freedom Newspaper, LLC.   :  Powered By PointClick  :  Terms Of Use  :  Privacy Statement

Be Sociable, Share!