Tell a man who has been in a particular business before you’re born that his ideas are bad and you’re going to have a problem with him.
Essa Faal learnt this truth on Saturday when he attacked Halifa Sallah’s ideas in a way that has never been seen before. He treated Mr Sallah’s ideas to development with every disdain and no wonder the PDOIS leader resisted.
“This is not the type of debate I wanted to engage in, it is very combative. I expected something different. But then when personal assault comes, I will hit the person right in the face and people must be careful,” Mr Sallah warned right at the end of the debate while reacting to Essa’s behavior towards him.
Essa came to this debate ready for war, a war he never contemplating losing. He wanted to come out of this impressing the entire nation. That’s Essa. He loves being seen as the best and must be and that’s why he hated it the rest were not there.
The first signs of these two men not getting along came in the first segment when Essa attacked Mr Sallah’s cooperative bank. Sallah wants to set up a cooperative bank to support farmers in their agriculture but an unimpressed Essa blasted: “We have had the agricultural development bank, it failed woefully. Sovereign wealth funds can fail. They are just like state-owned enterprises that are given resources to manage but if they are to be managed in the manner suggested by Honourable Sallah, I think it’s going to fail.”
While Halifa remained patient as Essa went about castigating his ideas, there was every indication it’s only a matter of time before Halifa had enough of him. Essa wanted voters to know Halifa has outdated ideas that can’t work anywhere. And for Halifa to attempt to describe Essa as someone who going about enabling the Jammeh dictatorship by prosecuting him showed he has been provoked.
One top official of Essa asked my expert media view on how the two men fared and this is what I told him: ‘for me, neither of the leaders was clear enough in terms of their policies. They don’t look like people who have a full understanding of their own policies’.
I say this because for example, when asked how he is going improve quality education in Gambia, Mr Faal only stop at saying we need quality professionals (teachers) but did not say how he is going to ensure that. He also talked about vocational and skills training which he said is what the country needs. Education mismatch has nothing to do with improving quality.
Equally, when asked the same question, Halifa also could not say much other than putting experts together to look at the entire education system and providing free education. Those are clearly not clear-cut solutions to the issue of quality.
In the end the two men walked to each other and hugged. But that’s just for the optics.