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Constructional works on infrastructural development and others such as communication, health, agriculture, education and economic development are at this very moment Taking place throughout the length and breadth of the Country

May 4, 2011, 4:57 PM | Article By: Alhaji Ba Trawale

Over and above the attempt to tackle the infrastructural problems such as roads, bridges and buildings taking place at an unprecedented pace to bring the country to the level of its neighbours which had had an early start as far back as colonial days in the implementation of works of infrastructural development, we in The Gambia with very little financial resources had been trailing behind as a sort of a Cinderella. But efforts are now being made to catch up with those neighbours and at the present rate the speed we now moving, it is certain we will soon cease to be the Cinderella of West Africa.

At the moment, constructional works are having flowing rhythm unequalled in the annals of the implementation of the country’s development programmes.

Such works include, the laying of the foundation stone for the construction of the 21st Century Bijilo multi-billion dollar hotel project.

The government is urged to replicate this project, even if it is of a medium size in Farrafenni, Janjanbureh and Basse.

Side by side with this constructional works, go the present efforts to project the profile of The Gambian personality. Every other day, the name of someone appears in presidential dossier in acknowledgement of their contribution to national development. 

Among the many places whose indigenous have come under the spotlight are the people of the Island of Janjanbureh in the middle belt of the River Gambia. The Island is known by three names, all in use during the colonial days. These are Georgetown, name of a British Royalty, McCarthy, the name of a colonial Governor, and Janjanbureh, the local name. All these three names still apply but today the official name of the Island is Janjanbureh. The others are no longer in official documents.

The Island is situated in the middle Belt of what is now known as the Central River Region and the seat of the Governor of the area.

Janjanbureh is between Fulladu on its south bank side and Sami on the North Bank side. In terms of space, it is the largest governorate in the country, divided into twelve districts, six on each side of the river bank.

First to note about Janjanbureh is the good news that His Excellency, Sheikh Prof. Alhaji  Dr. Yaya A. J. J. Jammeh (Nasuru Deen), has adopted it as his hometown. We will dwell on this new home of the president later.

Meanwhile, let us have a look at the profile of personalities of the Island of Janjanbureh whose names these days appear in the presidential dossier. Three names have been spotted, namely Aja Lady Fanta Basse Singhateh, Alhaji Bakary Sidibe Esq. Aja Dandang Sanyang. A fourth name also appears and that is the governor’s of the CRR.

The announcement of the award of a national honour to lady Fanta Basse had a thrilling effect. Telephones, her own and those of relatives, friends and admirers in and out of Janjanbureh including those in the Diaspora all jammed by calls all re-acting positively, expressing delight and observing an all-night celebration, Congratulating the awardee and also thanking the president for this act.

The delight is fueled by a multiple of factors, beginning with her impeccable records of decorum. For the benefit of the young readers who may not have had the privilege of meeting Lady Fanta, hearing or reading about her contribution to the national development. The husband was a founder member of the PPP, the party that spare-headed the movement for political independence. And it is said, ‘every successful man has a strong woman behind him’.  She as a frontline campaigner joined the husband to end colonial rule and the total liberation of the country.

Lady Fanta was an advocate of communal, cultural and social development.

Her main pre-occupation is encouraging young couples to live in harmony and peace and to calm-down troubling marriages and encouraging young men and women to tie the knot of marriage.

These and others were the people who in a show of appreciation and joy celebrated the award of national honour to their icon.

This is not the first award made to Lady Fanta Basse. She and the late husband, during the administration of the PPP, before the country’s attainment of the status of Republic were awarded the insignia of knighthood – a very high title among the civil accolades of Britain. This award to Sir Farimang Singhateh and Lady Singhateh was done by the hand of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth Second of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Sir Farimang was at the time, the substantive holder of the office of the Governor-General representing Her Majesty Queen of England as the Head of State of the territory of The Gambia.

The award of knighthood by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II caused the husband to be addressed Sir Farimang and she, Lady Fanta Basse. This high honour bestowed on her by the Queen of U.K was appreciated by admirers and friends who are in great number, in and out of this country.

Added to that honour is the announced prospective award of an insignia of a national honour to Lady Fanta Basse Singhateh by His Excellency President Yaya Jammeh.

 Bakary Sidibe M. R. G.

In another occasion, the president paid a winsome tribute to Alh. BAkary Sidebe, M. R. G, another Janjanbureh Islander in recognition of outstanding contribution made by Alh. Bakary Sidibe. The president said “with regards to African history in general and Gambian in particular, Mr. Sidibe is a worthy Historical encyclopedia. He has a wealth of knowledge that we connot find in any library. We are proud to have a son of the soil in the person of Mr. Sidibe who could have sold his talents outside the Gambia by going for a green pastures …..”

The president made these remark during his opening speech of the 10th edition of the anniversary of the celebration of the 2011 Homecoming Root Festival held in Banjul and diverse places in The Gambia.

The materials of the Roots Publication was researched by Alex Hailey, an Afro-American who successfully traced his own ancestry to the small town of Jufureh. This was bitterly contested by some Britons who doubted the authenticity of the work as this revealed in details lots of facts up to that time not widely known. This incensed those Britons who did not want the work of Alex Hailey to be accepted and circulated but to be thrown in the bin as a garbage of no value.

The Gambia Government and the people of The Gambia in the light of these criticisms were at pain to accept the publication and with the consent of the critics, an arbiter in the person of Bakary Sidibe was appointed to study and make a pronouncement as to the authenticity and the validity of the publication.

After a thorough perusal of the researched material, Sidebe endorsed the publication as authentic, factual and of historic value, thus putting to rest the dispute of the authenticity of the work. The Root Festival held in The Gambia every other year is a by-product of the research material.

Mr. Sidibe has done a lot of other things for the Gambia. He studied African and oral Literature and general Linguistics in the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. 

His work in the Gambia included the conservation and preservation of the Senegambia culture.

He established a research and documentation division, establishing a until for restoration of Gambia monuments and museum, establishing a unit for the studies of the intangible heritage.

He played a leading role in establishing the country’s first adult literacy programme which later turned in 1982 the Government Non Formal Education Centre.

He is among a few high profile personalities that presented a paper at the 10th edition of the Homecoming Root Festival held in March 2011. The paper presented is titled “Roots: A remiscence of the origin, cause and impact of the international Roots Festival of 2011.” He was awarded the M. R. G. insignia by His Excellency President Yaya Jammeh in 2010.

Another act of joy for the people of the Island of Janjanbureh is the announcement made by the president that he has adopted the island as his hometown. This has come as a surprise, as this is the first of its kind.  This is the first time a Gambian Head of State announced that he has adopted a town other than his place of birth as his hometown.

The president of the First Republic went very close to showing his love for a town but stopped short of announcing its adoption as his hometown. This town is in the URR which he, whilst in his meet the farmers tour visited. Overwhelmed by the warm welcome accorded him, he in expression of his delight in turn announced a change of the name of the town from Sannunding to ‘Sanuba.’ This was applauded by the people of the town but the name did not stick. Officials and the people of the town failed to respect and uphold the new name. The episode did not takeoff, ending and dying with the announcement. The people of Janjanbureh and the officials and President Yaya Jammeh himself on the contrary did not treat this announcement of the adoption of Janjanbureh as his hometown lightly. It has come as a bolt from the blue and a glory to the town, and immeasurable achievement. And all efforts are being made to enforce, publicize and popularize this event.

The people are aware of the impact of such an act can have on the island and the people themselves who are looking into the future with great hope and are full of joy.

They believe that this has given a new status to the Island and a mighty stride upwards, believing that the Island thenceforth is given a new rank of a higher status.

It is believed that in no time the president will turn Janjanbureh into a showcase by the initiation of a number of activities of developmental nature to impress and attract visitors, officials/private, even visiting heads of states to see the infrastructural works, economic boom, social cultural, agricultural and industrial activities taking place there to convince all and sundry that the president’s adoption of Janjanbureh has significant meaning and benefits to the people of the island.

The Governor of Central River Region has his administrative Headquarters and official residence at the Island of Janjanbureh. The present Governor is Alhaji Ganyi Touray, a Saloum Saloum to the core from the Wolof heartland of Balangar, the fountain of Wollof civilization.

In an interview with Kebba Dibba, the Governor defines his position as a representative of the president of The Republic who as the saying goes he said is divinely chosen to lead his people. The president and the laws of The Gambia vest some authority in him, which is exercised by him. He said before the emergence of the APRC, the Central River Region had only one High school, that is Amitage. But now under the APRC, administration, the number of High Schools is impressively high. The same goes for the number of Lower and Upper Basic School, Senior Schools, Health Centres/Hospitals, Agricultural Centres, etc.

He disclosed that he had stood on his own individual political platform as an independent candidate to contest a parliamentary seat and lost to the PPP. That did not discourage him. He continued his political struggle traveling to England/Sweden to seek job after elections to keep body and soul together because jobs were denied to him in his own country only for political reasons.

He then explained how he later joined the PPP and subsequently the UDP to which he was a founder member, holding the very important job of the party treasurer. But he had enough, calling it a day when a coalition of parties under the name of NADD was created and froth with rivalry.

About development programme being implemented in his area, he made reference to the construction of the Sulayman Junkung Bridge, implying that the work was delayed by the frequent occurrences of unidentifiable objects of mystical nature. But at the end, the work was completed and the inauguration was an epoch-making event.

Gangi claimed that given the modem tools and the correct atmosphere, CRR can grow enough rice to feed the whole of the Gambia. He also spoke of fish pond there containing about 80,000 fishes.

Reaching out to the entire people of his area was a commitment to Alhaji Ganyi Touray. He said he has always been able to visit people. And in one of the visits, he discovered an old woman of hundred years plus, Aja Dandang Sanyang, also of Janjanbureh, who had been dying to have communication with President Yaya Jammeh. In her interview with Kebba Dibba, Aja Dandang implored him to convey the historic message that she has now declared herself as spouse of President Yaya Jammeh and she is sending forty warm kisses to him. She also sang a song which she said she composed offhand the day of the inauguration of the Sulayman Junkung Jammeh Bridge. She said that was a great day for the people of Janjanbureh, the people of the whole of the Gambia and the world at large.

It was an epoch-making event, so delightful that out of emotion she burst out with a song and danced heartily to it on the new bridge. The song in Mandinka is, ‘pura kelenyo te selungo ti. Moo bee ye yaya lonne’. Meaning a pigeon cannot fight an eagle. All the people know who Yaya Jammeh is.  

 A few days later after that historic interview, now entered in the Guinness Record Book of History, Ministers, Alhagie Cham, Jatto Sillah and Mayor Yankuba Kolley, Momodou Sanyang, Director General of GRTS and Governor Ganyi Touray appeared on TV seated in the house of Aja Dandang Sanyang presenting a cool one hundred thousand dalasi wad to her from president Yaya Jammeh who it was revealed accepted being husband of this “one hundred year plus young, young woman”.   She inturn showered prayers on the president.

This woman belongs to a very lucky family. Her younger sister, Aja Lady Fanta Basse was married to Gambia’s Substantive holder of the office of Governor General and Aja Dandang Sanyang now claims to be married to President Yaya Jammeh.

Aja Dandang’s first husband was the late Mamadi Dampha, a cousin to Sir Farimang Singateh. Mamadi Dampha had the aura of royalty, fabulously rich, a well built man with an attractive personality, dear to everybody. Aja Dandang’s daughter, Seni Dampha, was married to the late chief Kebba Jammeh, son of the Immortal Chief Tamba Jammeh of the Gambia.

The latest news about Aja Dandang Sanyang is that she had written a letter of thanks and appreciation to the president for the memorable gift of cash in the sum of one hundred thousand dalasi.

We wish the couple a Happy Marriage.