Editor Mbai,

This was a lively, lovely debating occasion. It was expertly compered by the MC Harona Drammeh to whom must go the credit. It was also a historical first – I don’t think there has ever been such a televised debate between two party leaders. So the Gold Medal must go to Harona Drammeh. 

The debate between “Socialist” Halifa and “Capitalist” Dr. Ceesay is as old as Africa’s independence … in the early 1960s the “Socialist” Mwalimu Nyerere and the “Capitalist” Jomo Kenyatta had the same arguments. So I am not going to consider the debate in any depth, but I have posted the full video of the debate here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0aZvXli3W5o&ab_channel=DidaHalake    (LAST 10 mins of video: Halifa waxes lyrical in alliterative Wollof – the man should be writing POETRY in Wollof!).

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Over in Masai Mara, the lions never ever challenge the Old Elephant. Not only that, even 20 elephants resting under a tree during the mid-day sun will scatter out of the way when an Old Elephant saunters by.

The young lion, Dr Ceesay, did not have a Masai Mara upbringing like yours truly – and, rather unwisely, challenged the Old Elephant Halifa Sallah to a debate. The result, predictably, has been a blood-bath (if I may exaggerate a little).

It all started with Dr. Ceesay throwing a probing left paw:

“Coalition 2016 has failed and betrayed Gambians”! 

Halifa respond with an instant right-tusk upper-cut:

“Not at all! We had a first peaceful change of government in 52 years! We threw out the dictator. That is why we can stand here and debate safely!” 

It is clear from round 1 that this is not going to be a “friendly”, but then again elephants and lions have never like each other: the elephant knows that he is the King of the Jungle … but the lion thinks that he is the King of the Jungle. Dr. Ceesay tried to recover with an over-arching upper-claw:

“Were you offered a cabinet post? Why didn’t you take the responsibility of guiding the Coalition Government?” 

Halifa responded with a devastating trunk-shove that left Dr Ceesay hanging helplessy onto the ropes:

“I offered a ‘Think Tank’ of Gambian Experts to guide the Transition and that was rejected. So I remained out of government to safeguard my moral integrity!”

At that point the referee mercifully sent Halifa to his own corner and offered Dr. Ceesay a respite with a standing count of eight. Rested, Dr. Ceesay produced a pretend-bounce in his footsteps and tried to corner Halifa against the ropes:

“Your state-controlled socialist economy will not bring The Gambia out of poverty. Look at Russia, Cuba, North Korea, Russia! I am a free market capitalist!”  

Bemused by the young pretenders Dutch-courage, Halifa simply remained in a gentle and unflinching rope-a-dope pose:

“But I never said we will control the economy … we want to control the resources of our country for our people and prevent investors from exporting our wealth as profit”! 

Tactically clueless, Dr Ceesay rained a flurry of jabs at the rope-a-doping Halifa:

“We want to issue investment bonds to raise funds on the global market”. 

Suddenly the sleeping elephant came alive, swung the tiring young lion onto the ropes and unleashed a powerful mid-rib tusk-stab:

“What are investment bonds? Are we a wealthy country like USA? Let us have co-operative banks that utilise our own sovereign wealth to develop our country!” 

That left the young lion winded and crumpled on the canvas. The referee carried on with a slow count to nine, but it was all over: Dr. Ceesay remained sprawled on the canvas – and the medical assistants rushed in to make sure he was OK.

The Old Elephant blew his trunk and led his PDOIS family (disguised in the audience and instructed to clap at the right moment!) to the water-hole. The lions stayed well away.

Declaration of slight bias:  

Firstly, as a school-boy in Nairobi, I played the character Baroka in Wole Soyinka’s play: “The Lion & The Jewel”. Lankule, the Western educated professor in The Lion & The Jewel is no match for Baroka the old chief: a perennial theme in African politics since independence.

Secondly, even as a school boy in Kenyatta’s Kenya (and I have a school photo with him at his home in Gatundu in 1968!) my hero was Nyerere next door whose philosophy was UJAMAA (African Socialism).

Thirdly, Halifa asks Dr Ceesay: “What are investment bonds? This reminds me of a gathering of Kenyan Students at Dr. Ceesay’s Edinburgh University in 1982 – to hear Kenya’s High Commissioner Kiplagat (later Chairman of Kenya’s TRRC). Kiplagat mentioned Kenya’s “thriving stock exchange” and I asked loudly “Where is Kenya’s Stock Exchange?” The room burst into embarrassed laughter: it was in a Nairobi back street of no significance! I can see why Halifa spat out “What are investment bonds?”!

But please watch the full debate: I HAVE NOT DONE IT JUSTICE HERE! 

Dida Jallow-Halake,

Notting Hill, UK.

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