Tribute to Alhaji Momodou Baboucarr Njie

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

G.c.r.g. J.p - A Former Speaker of The House of Representatives by Alhji A. A. Faal

A dark cloud hanged over the Gambia on Tuesday 3rd March, 2009 heralding a "portent" - the death of one of our illustrious sons in the person of Alhaji Momodou Baboucarr Njie. He died age 80.

The information which flashed like lightening was received with bewilderment, as little was this expected at this point in time. Death, however, which is no respecter of person will stretch its invisible hand when least expected. This was so on that fateful day.

The afflicted nation including children, wives and the political leadership however, soon settled down to reality, as they remember that as stated in the Holy Quaran, death is inextricably bound with our destiny: -

"Hu - wa

Yuh - yii

Wa yumittu

wa ilayhil Turgehuun

"It is He who giveth life

And who taketh it,

And to Him shall

Ye all be brought back".

(sura 10 ayat 56)

In the circumstances, we all took comfort in the following verse of the Quran:

"Inna Lilahe

Wa ma ilahi Rajehun"

"To Allah we belong and to Him shall we return"

(sura 2 ayat 156)

Reflecting on these injunctions, the dismayed congregation proceeded to make arrangements for the funeral. The Head of State, Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya A. J. J. Jammeh readily assumed command of the situation, and informed the family through Khalifa Alhaji Muhammadou Saho, that he has decided to give AIhaji Momodou Baboucarr Njie a state funeral in recognition of his distinguished service to his country.

The family was gripped with both joy and sorrow as the former had diminished the intensity of the latter. At that point the state took command of the situation, and conveyed the information loud and clear through the media.

Momodou Baboucarr Njie was born in Banjul on 10th February, 1928 to Alhaji Babou Kumba Njie (tailor/farmer) and Aji Fatou Secka both of

Perseverance Street
(now
Minyan Bobb Street
). His mentors on reaching adolescence were his parents, and other relatives, such as Alhaji Bai Omar Secka, Alhaji Momodou Njie Absa, Alhaji Ebrima Antouman Faal and Alhaji Muhammadou Saho

Like most children of that period, he attended the Dara (Koranic School) of Seringe Barrow of

Wellesley Street
(now Seringe Barrow Street), and for his Western type education, he attended St. Augustine's Primary School. From there he proceeded to St.

Augustine's High School during the principal ship of Father Farrel.

Momodou was a good student. He graduated from High School in 1948 and passed the Civil Service Entrance Examination in 1949.

School days are generally the most exciting days in a boy's life, usually full of Joy and adventures. For Momodou, however, while participating in the adventures of that period, he did so in a subdued manner. The deep religious atmosphere which pervaded the home, and his early responsibility as a senior "Talube" (Scholar) at Darra Seringe Barrow somewhat tempered his activities. That notwithstanding, he shared the joys of boyhood with some near relatives, such as Sulayman Drammeh, Ismaila Bobb and Tijan John. Tijan was his most intimate friend. This remained uninterrupted even though Tijan took sojourn in U.K for many years.

When Momodou Baboucarr passed the Civil Service entrance examination in 1949, the scene for a working life was thus set, but due to illness he could not at the time take 'up Civil Service appointment. He subsequently took up appointment as a clerk with the French Company (CFAO). This development came as a bit off a disappointment to him and the family, but in retrospect, this was destiny at work. Little did we know that the appointment at the CFAO was going to be for him the route to a life enriched with prestige, dignity and happiness. At the CFAO he worked in various sections, particularly in the wholesale Department. He attained the rank of Divisional Chief, and retired voluntarily from this post to take up appointment with British Petroleum (Gambia Ltd). Momodou Baboucarr was bilingual; he spoke French with ease and this was an asset in his work at CFAO and B.P, and indeed his chairmanship of the Assembly of the Sene-gambian confederation.

It was around the period of work at the CFAO, more precisely in 1953 that a courtship developed between him and his first wife Mrs. Awa Loum Njie, daughter of Alhaji Amadou Loum, shipwright/trade unionist (a protégé of the late Edward Francis Small, the doyen of Gambian politics). The Union which was extremely happy was terminated by Awa's early demise in 1970 leaving behind young children. This had a deep psychological impact on Momodou Baboucarr. He soon, however, realised that he had to approach the problem of bringing up young siblings. He did this with fondness and sympathy, and happily enough, he has seen the children grow up as children who have been provided with the tools for becoming good citizens in both their public and private lives.

Following Awa's death, Momodou married the following wives: - Mrs. Yai Tut Njie (daughter of late Paul Njie, retired Civil Servant) and Mrs. Mariama Njie (daughter of late Edward Eunson, Educationist/Cricketer). These marriages have also been successful and the children in this union have also been well equipped to fit into society. Alhaji Momodou is survived by these wives, children and grandchildren.

At B.P, he expanded the company's marketing outlets and was innovative in many ways. In this way he became known as Njie B.P. He worked for B.P from 1970 - 1992 and was its Managing Director in the Gambia. When transformation to Elf Gambia Ltd took place, he continued as its Managing Director from 1992 - 1994. In 1994 he became the Company's chairman until his retirement in 1999. Thus ended a distinguished career in the OH Industry.

In tandem with his executive functions, AIhaji Momodou Baboucarr took up interest in farming and maintains a farm at Kanifing. The fruits from this farm have reached many institutions, such as the R.V.T.H, the mental home, the needy as well as friends and relatives. Alhaji Momodou was a philanthropist and his helping hand reached the poor, the handicapped, School children and several mosques in the country. On retirement, he concentrated on his farm and established a modest business relationship with some hotels.

Alhaji Momodou was also a friend of the Arts. In his farm at Kanifing there is a museum with modest collections. He had entertained a desire to expand this. In this context, he was a standing patron of the Bati Linguere Choral group of the Catholic Church. He also appreciated the services being rendered to the community at large by the St. Paul de-Vincent society. For this extension of service between a Muslim patriot and the Catholic community, the church also offered a private mass for him.

In the prime of his life, he contributed to many facets of National development. In the pursuit of better conditions of service for workers in the early sixties, which was spearheaded by M. E Jallow, Alhaji Momodou was the treasurer of the Union from 1955

-         1962. In 1972 he was nominated to parliament. During the period 1972 - 1983 he was an Executive Committee member of the Peoples Progressive Party. He served in this capacity until 1983, when he was appointed Honourable speaker of the House of Representatives.

By this appointment, he followed in the wake of the following eminent speakers: - Sir John Mahoney 1954 -1962 Sir Alieu Sulayman 1962 - 1972 and 1977 - 1983, Dr Samuel Horton Jones 1972 - 1977. In this assignment he recalled with appreciation a gift of "Erskine May's compendium on "parliamentary practice" which Tijan John presented to him. On the role of a speaker, John A Wiseman of Newcastle University in a paper presented by him on "The role of the House of Representatives in the Gambia political system at a Roundtable Conference in Birmingham University in 1989" wrote inter-alia "The role of speaker is crucial to the fti'nctioning of the House as any hint of bias would be very damaging to parliament". Alhaji Momodou Baboucarr held to this principle, tenaciously, and thus when change came, he left with dignity.

In terms of public service, he also served on the following Boards:

- Tourism Advisory Board, National Olympic Committee, -

Chairman National Trading Corporation of the Gambia (1975 -81),

Vice Chairman National Library Board (1977 - 85), member, Public

Service Commission 1977, Chairman Finance Committee National

Youth Week Committee (1978 - 1991), Vice chairman public

service commission (1978 - 1983, President Gambia Chamber of

Commerce 1978 - 86, chairman Social Security and Housing

Finance Corporation (1982 - 83) Chairman Board of Governors

MuslimHigh School and Gambia Muslim Association, 1982 - 1993

Chairman Board of Governors S 0 S Village (1983 - 1993).

Honourable speaker of the House of Representative (1983 - 1994). Chancellor of the National Order of the Republic of the Gambia (1983 - 1994). Honourable speaker of the Sene-Gambian

Confederal Parliament (1983 89). Member Committee of Banjul

Muslim Elders, (2003 - 2009)

In the international domain, he served as Deputy Treasurer of the Federation of West African Chambers of Commerce, (1977-86).

ChairmanCommonwealth Parliamentary Association, Africa Region, (1992 - 1993) Managing Director ELF Gambia Ltd, (1992 - 1994) Chairman, ELF Oil Gambia Ltd (1994 - 1999)

In recognition of this impressive record of his service to his nation and humanity, Alhaji Momodou Baboucarr received the following awards: -

- Grand Commander of the National order of the Republic of the Gambia - G. C. R.G,

- Knight Bachelor of the Civil Merit Cross - SPAIN (1976)

. - Commander of the Civil Merit Cross - SPAIN (1979)

- Officer of the Legion of Honour -France (1990).

On Wednesday 4" March 2009, Alhaji Momodou Baboucarr was conveyed by a cascade, which conveyed the coffin (draped in the National Flag) to the National Assembly where he was laid-instate.

Honourable Fabakary Tombong Jatta member for Serrekunda East, deputised for the Honourable speaker, Fatoumata Jahumpa Ceesay. He paid a glowing tribute to Alhaji Momodou in the following words: -

"Alhaji Momodou Baboucarr Njie was a great servant of the country who served his country in various capacities diligently. As speaker, he executed his functions diligently, without fear, favour affection or ill will and to the best of his ability. On this note he extended the Assembly's condolence to his family, and concluded his remarks with these words "Good bye great son of the nation".

Hon Sulayman Joof, member for Serekunda West and Hon. Seediya Jatta member for Wuli West associated themselves, succinctly and eloquently, with the sentiments expressed by Hon Fabakary Tombong Jatta. Alhaji Assan Musa Camara, a former Vice President of the first Republic, Alhaji M. C. Cham and Alhaji

Baba Touray, Parliamentarians of the first Republic, also paid their respects.

The benign figure of Alhaji Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, also called at the residence of Alhaji Momodou and expressed his condolences, which he rounded up as follows - "Alhaji Momodou Baboucarr is a person worthy of emulation.

At the fidawu prayer, Alhaji Momodou Saho, Alhaji Mass Jah, Imam of Kairaba Mosque, Alhaji Seringe Alieu Saho and Imam Momodou Lamin Drammeh also paid tribute to Alhaji Momodou Baboucarr. Honourable Ismaila Sambou Secretary of States for Local Government and Lands, other Secretaries of State and some Senior Government official were in attendance. Alhaji Ismaila also expressed Government's condolences to the bereaved family over the loss of an illustrious Gambian, who had truly served his country honourably, and prayed that his soul rests in perfect peace.

Alhaji Seringe Alieu Saho retired Cadi (son of Seringe Omar Saho who introduced Momodou Baboucarr to the Tidjani fraternity) led the funeral prayer. After this service, the cortege moved to the Old Jeshwang Muslim cemetery, where the body was laid to rest. The last rites were performed by the Imam Ratib of Banjul, Alhaji Chernor Alieu Mass Kah assisted by other Imams, including the president of the supreme Islamic Council, Alhaji Momodou Lamin Touray and Alhaji Abdoulie Fatty, Imam of State House Mosque. After these obsequies, a contingent of the Gambia Police Force took charge. They fired twenty-one guns salute and blew the last post. All these episodes invested the burial with spirituality, somberness and colour. We therefore conclude with the following Quotes.

"Lives of Great men all remind us we can make our live sublime

And, departing, leave us behind us

Footprints on the sands of time. ( Longfellow)

Seydina Au Abn Abi Talib the fourth Caliph of Islam puts the fate

of the good person in the following words: -

"The good person is alive even though he lives in the home of the dead"

Alhaji Momodou Baboucarr was one such person.

May Allah bless him with heaven's richest blessings (Aaamin).

Source: Picture: Late Njie B.P