Hassoum Ceesay, Founding Father: P.S Njie, a moral biography, Baobab printers, 203 pages, 2018.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Prolific Gambian historian Hassoum Ceesay’s fourth full length book titled Founding Father: P.S Njie, a moral biography, has just been published. The book is the first full length biography of the great Gambian political leader, lawyer and philanthropist Pierre Sarr Njie aka PS, (1909-1993). Hassoum, in this book, tries to restore the long forgotten legacy of PS by charting the various contours and contortions of PS’s legal and political career from the 1930 until his death in 1993.

The book is divided into 11 chapters and is in two parts: part one is a narrative of PS’s life and times from his birth in Bathurst(Banjul) in 1909 through his work as a teacher in the 1920s, his work as a court clerk in the 1930s, his tussle with the colonial government(p.25), his studies in London from 1943 to 1949, his return (p.36), his entry into politics(p.44) and his triumphs as a nationalist leader and founder of the United Party(UP) in 1951. His time as Chief Minister 1961-1962 is well captured in the book(p.94). This section is indeed very revealing as Hassoum tells us how in 15 months in office PS was able to do so much for his country including schools, power supply to Basse, the Brumen bridge etc. Queen Elizabeth II visited Gambia during PS Njie’s time and Gambia gave the royals a great welcome. Indeed, the narrative offers gem insights into Gambian political history during decolonization as all our Founding Fathers come out in the book: D.K Jawara, J.C Faye, E.F Small, Garba Jahumpa, Hannah Forster etc.

In part two of the book Hassoum brings out raw archival documents on PS life and career verbatim. Much of the information which had been missed in part one could be gleaned in this section. It is a mouth watering section which the reader will enjoy. The documents reproduced include a rare verbatim interview PS had with Nana Grey Johnson, the great Gambian writer with PS, in 1990. What I have not seen in the book though is insights into PS’s private life; maybe it is subject for another book by another historian!

The book is well researched and scholarly. The endnotes are complete and tight and informative; the index is comprehensive and the reference section dependable.

All told, this is an excellent history book on a great Gambian figure whose life and sacrifice the youth and leaders of New Gambia must read and emulate. PS was a role model, Hassoum reveals in his new book. It is highly recommended reading  to all activists of the New Gambia, history students, teachers and our new leaders who want a sense of direction and moral pillar to emulate.

Available at Timbooktoo.

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