According to reports by the daily observer, out of 114 wards, the APRC government went unopposed in 69 areas, and won 35 of the remaining 45 seats that were contested. The remaining 10 seats went to independent candidates. Local government elections are one of the greatest tools for promoting and consolidating grassroots democracy. Notable within the list of winners, is Abdoulie Bah alias ‘Lie Bah’ who emerged as winner of the Banjul mayoral election. He not only won as mayor, but also defeated Samba Faal – once the star of the ruling APRC party.
Although the victory of Lie Bah should not be seen as an outright dissatisfaction of the Banjulians with the APRC as a party, rather than a simple dislike for the ruling party candidate; given their proximity to the seat of government and as host of the APRC party headquarters, the audacity of Banjulians to defy the political wishes of the APRC party is indeed a litmus test to the strength of democracy, and the idea that there is nothing that we cannot achieve as Gambians if we work together. Although these victories might be seen a small events in the eyes of some, but a wise man once said, “Even a whale can be eaten one bite at a time.” There must be some common vision other than the political division and bickering, we should all be committed to working towards. If not now, when is the question?
Congratulations Lie Bah! We wish you well. The numbers have shown that you have clearly won the mayoral elections, but it is equally evident that you have not won the hearts and minds of all Banjulians – however, that is the beauty of democracy. Only in dictatorships do everyone consent to the leader. From the events and development of your election to office, it is needless to point out that you have been voted based on the power of democracy, the audacity of hope and trust of those citizens of Banjul who elected you as their mayor. You are now officially the mayor of Banjul, and as such, the welfare and common wellbeing of all Banjulians regardless of political affiliation, race, sex, or religion should be your administrative concern. The art of governance is a murky business, and the strife and bustle gets even dirtier and tasking in these hurried and unforgiving times when competition is not only at the local level but global level where local actions could have national, regional or global consequences. Given the circumstances of your election, and the state of the city of which you are now in charge, you be confronted by steep challenges that require the support of all Gambians towards consolidating our democracy and the idea that development agendas can also be achieved not only through the government, but also through individuals who have great personal vision and the selfless drive towards making the lives of those around them better.
I hold a few strong beliefs that might serve not only Lie Bah, but all the other candidates who have won in the various local government wards:
- As a leader, you bring purpose and value to people’s lives when you influence them in a positive way. To be a good leader, you have to grow your capacity to lead. This is achieved through learning, practicing, and developing the traits that make good leaders. You can grow your ability to lead and also grow the effectiveness of your various organizations.
- Avoid charisma and just be the simple idiot who gets the job done without expectation of praise or adulation. Charismatic leadership has for many years been the source of most administrative problems in The Gambia. Don’t be a part of that problem, be on the side of the solution. No matter how small the act towards the solution. It might be as simple as visiting the ‘vous’ of the youths and counseling them. It is the energy of the intent that really matters. Let the youths be your guard, you obviously can’t solve all their problems, but you can lend them your ears when needed. Take to the social media, and reach out to the sons and daughters of your locality who are within and outside the country. Engage civic groups, NGO’s and individual citizens with the problems of your community, and come up with your intentions, ideas and suggestions for sustainable solutions. Keep your financial records public to attract investment, donors, and to avoid possible accusations of corruption and mismanagement.
- Abide by the principles of democratic governance, and shy away from frivolous party politics. You are independent candidates, and as such, your duty should be towards rallying the people within your district towards a common goal that promotes the welfare of everyone. It is virtually impossible to win the hearts and minds of everyone, but with honesty and dedication to service, there is nothing that is unachievable. Be open to members of your ward, as you are their servants, and custodian of their trust. Be open to criticism, and seek dialogue on things that are out of your expertise. There are tons of Gambians within and outside the country that will be ready to lend you their ears.
- Share your vision with your people, motivate and empower them to work with you towards achieving your goals and objectives. Motivate them to come out of their comfort zones and inspire them to stretch beyond their limitations. Don’t allow pride or fear to stop you from admitting your failures or expressing your challenges to the people you represent. With a frequent and meaningful system of dialogue, you will not only succeed in engaging the people of your locality, and keeping them abreast with the affairs of their community, but you will win their hearts. Don’t let the fear of openness consume your attention. For if we all run and hide in our fears, who will be left to confront the obstacles that lay ahead of us? Fear can only be overcome by faith and love, so be faithful, and love the art of making a difference in the lives of those you represent. Remember the art of communication is the language of leadership. The leader has to be able to communicate his vision with passion. Not just from the intellectual side, but from the emotional side. Good communication is the ability to listen intently, and to ask questions in order to deepen and strengthen understanding. It is also being courteous and appreciative not just to your close allies, but those who oppose you.
- Cultivate an internal guidance system, a moral compass that we call integrity. Integrity is what separates a good leader from a great leader. Everything else can be taught in leadership, but integrity is a quality that has to be ingrained in a person’s genes over a lifetime. Leaders of integrity shape organizations that are ethical in all their operation which in turn attract honest people and partnerships. People want to be led by someone who upholds the highest ethical standards, not by someone who is likely to subject them to deception, treachery and intimidation. It is impossible to positively influence another person with flawed character. As an ethical leader, it is should be more important to be political correct than to be historically inaccurate.
- Put the long term interest of Banjul first, and everything else second. As a low lying coastal city, Banjul like most other towns or small villages in the Gambia, are vulnerable to the threats of climate change. As a result, be very protective of the environment, and don’t abruptly embrace urbanization policies that might have negative environmental effects towards the people of your community. Protect the sustainability of the swamps, the wetlands, farmlands and the historical buildings of your community for the future of the next generation. Promote the local cultures of your community without with enough conservatism and governance not to exceed your means or ability.
Things will be hard, and you will be tested to the point of wanting to quite, but keep on pushing. It is during times of trials and hardship the true valor and strength of men are tested. Always remember to keep your friends close, and to bring your enemies closer. When your house is in ruins, you don’t soil it, you clean it up. So live the hopes of your dreams and do the best of what you can, and leave God with the rest. The Gambia is watching, and history shall judge you according to how you uphold the values of your public office.