Gambian-born US Mayor Recollects Gambia’s Sweet Days

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Mayor CeesayThe Gambian born Mayor of Oklahoma city of Glenpool has granted an exclusive interview with Kibaaro Radio. Momodou Ceesay’s almost two hour interview touches on everything, including his personal struggles, recollection of the Gambia’s sweet days under People’s Progressive Party and the use of siko [two-sided Mandinka drum] as a means of disseminating political messages and entertainment.

The traditional drum played a key role in the struggle for independence. It also added meaning and flavor to party politics, especially for the PPP. “Siko is a Mandinka musical gathering which brings a whole lot of people together to communicate messages and people will dance,” Mayor Ceesay recalled. Weekly siko and wrestling matches were very common and provided happiness for people at the time.”

Mayor Ceesay also made a recollection of a time when “our country was the example of human rights, the rule of law, democracy, freedom of expression and family cohesiveness; we are all one big family. We are Gambians first and treat each other as brothers; we camp out without being worried about anything bad. My upbringing in the Gambia was just awesome.”

The first son of Alhagie Yaya Ceesay, a former minister and parliamentarian in the PPP regime, recounted his joyous summer holidays in Sankwia in Lower River Region.

Mr. Ceesay, the first Black mayor of a city that is 99.5% White, followed the footsteps of his father. “My father saw me as his carbon copy,” he said, describing his father as “people’s politician” who has never ceased to help those in need. Alhagie Yaya took care of many people who later held important positions in the government. “He always believes in helping less fortunate people,” Mayor Ceesay said, saying he was surprised to see police officers stopping and saluting his father for his role in the struggle for the Gambia’s independence and shaped the country’s future.

Mayor Ceesay took a swipe at dictatorship back home. “Any society that oppresses its people stays behind; any society that enriches its people prospers,” Ceesay said. “The systems are in place in the Gambia and my recent visit is a true testimony to that. Every office we go, people are ready to help you.”

He however said dictatorial rule is hindering the Gambia’s progress. He wanted President Yahya Jammeh to see himself as the steward who is mandated to do anything that will better people’s lives. “He needs to provide good roads, electricity, and freedom as well as allow people to do commerce without interference. I am really disappointed that Gambian people are doing well but the government is not there to help Gambians out,” he said, saying “the role of government is not to oppress people but to provide essential services and improve the quality of life. Gambia needs to take lessons from Nelson Mandela. Nothing lasts and that we need to learn from history.”

Mayor Ceesay urged African leaders to follow the bright legacies of Nelson Mandela, the unifying figure who teaches South Africans about true democratic lessons.

Mr. Ceesay compared himself to Africans who traveled abroad in search of their dreams. He praised Gambians for excelling in their careers, loyal to their country and family-oriented. “Every Gambian has a desire in contributing to our society,” he says. Mayor Ceesay defines himself as a “Gambian who came here with an empty suitcase, managed to educate himself, set up a business and now the Mayor of Glenpool.” His story has become a source of pride for his children who have been inspired to do better than their father.

Mayor Ceesay’s interview, done in English and Mandinka, is being streamed on Kibaaro Radio.