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Golden Jubilee and Golden Names

Feb 17, 2015, 9:39 AM

Tomorrow Wednesday 18 February, The Gambia celebrates a landmark anniversary: her 50th anniversary of Independence or Golden Jubilee.

What makes the event golden maybe can be attributable to major players both national, as well as foreign.

We cannot celebrate these fifty years of independence without taking into account and recalling their individual and collective contributions.

In chronological order we must acknowledge and thank colonialists who however helped substantively in pushing the independence agenda forward.

One very important actor was Governor Windley, the last of the colonial Governors who succeeded Governor Percy Wyn-Harris in 1959.

Windley has been such a great friend of Gambia that an important school in Half-Die was named after him (Windley School).

Putting aside his plumed white helmet of Governor, he became a member of The Gambia national cricket team which won inter-colonial (inter-col) matches against main rivals Sierra Leone.

His performance as wicket-keeper and opening batsman contributed appreciably to those victories.

But it was in Gambian politics that he played the greatest role. He was personally and principally responsible for guiding the 1959 Constitutional conference which produced progressive constitutional revisions aimed at achieving in the immediate term independence for Gambia or self-rule at least.

In addition to constitutional revisions to balance the representation and the number of seats in the legislature as equitable as possible, Governor Windley pressed strongly for universal suffrage across the country.

Previously elections were mainly limited to the capital with exception of few seats for chiefs in the provinces.

With the new revisions, all Gambians could vote equally irrespective of status or locality.

This important revision was accepted and expressed immediately in the 1960 elections the following year.

It was the first national elections in Gambia’s political history. It was after those elections that Gambia attained self-rule in 1962 and independence in 1965.

So it was Governor Windley who set the first stage for Gambia’s independence.

At the home front we have to call to mind the following actors: Edward Francis Small was leading advocate for political emancipation mustering all his influence as leading Unionist and executive member of the Legislative Council.

Although he lost in Gambia’s first legislative elections he was a main promoter and architect of the Democratic Party that was formed after those elections.

Mr Small sustained his activities and his passion for independence until his demise seven years later in 1958. He is definitely one of the greatest names in Gambian political history.

Reverend John Colley Faye (popularly known as JC Faye), took up the independence mantle and formed the Democratic Party after 1951.

He ran on his party’s ticket in the 1954 legislative council elections and subsequently entered a coalition of Democratic-Congress Alliance.

Faye was one of the first elected members of the legislative council and was always most active in Gambian politics and in drive for independence.

I.M. Garba-Jahumpa was founder of one of the Gambia’s first two political parties, the Muslim Congress. Jahumpa was one of Gambia’s leading and most adroit politicians who held many ministerial positions.

He became Minister of Agriculture at the 1954 elections. He subsequently served in other ministries, as Minister of Education and of Finance and Trade where he served most prominently and longest.

Jahumpa served on both the legislative and the Banjul City Councils. He was a Secretary of the Gambia Labour Union and held strong Pan-Africanist ideologies.

He attended Pan-Africanist Conference in London and other venues with the likes of Tafawa Balewa of Nigeria and Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya.

He was an important figure in talks in London and elsewhere in preparation for Gambia’s independence. He individually initiated the ideological training of young men in Ghana during Nkrumah’s presidency.

I.M. Garba-Jahumpa will always be remembered in Gambia’s political history and governance but mostly in his role in the struggle for independence.

Pierre Sarr-Njie was leader of Gambia’s third political party, the United Party. His party was the first to woo the provincial electorate and to establish a multi-tribal, Multi-religious and mixed-class political structure.

His political approach won him the 1954 elections convincingly after which he became Gambia’s 1st chief Minister. His party was very active and competitive to Jawara’s PPP in the drive for independence.

Dawda Kairaba Jawara is political father of the Gambian nation. He joined the political race in 1960 and won the 1962 elections that made him Gambia’s first Prime Minister.

He devoted all his time afterwards to the attainment of independence, which he finally succeeded in achieving on February 18, 1965.

Following that major achievement, Jawara proceeded on another battle for Republican Status, which was attained in 1970.

Jawara, we can say, is therefore the leader of Gambia’s independence and political father of the Gambian nation.

President Yahya Jammeh took over from former President DK Jawara and brought about some major constitutional changes that presently govern our electoral laws, government structures, and foreign relations, as finally incorporated in the 1997 constitution of The Gambia.

Even though The APRC is post-independence, the party has contributed a lot to the political development of The Gambia.

Surely there are many more actors who have participated effectively in the political life of this country and for Gambia’s independence.

We could remember Kebba W. Foon, a Certified Accountant who operated from London and standing elections in Bakau. JR Forster Candidate for Banjul Central, St Claire Joof of Perseverance Street contesting in Banjul North, Alhagi A.B. Njie of Clarkson Street for Banjul Central, Sulayman Jack of Hagan Street of Half-Die Ward, Alhaji Bun Gaye of Dobson Street contesting for United Party, M.E. Jallow-Jallow who was a very vocal President of the Gambia Workers Union, and his colleagues like Henry Man Joof (Secretary-General), Wahab Loum (Assistant Secretary General), all the PPP cabinet, among others. All these have played significant roles in the political life and achievements of this country, especially in the strong drive for end of colonial rule and domination.

But the above profiled personalities have no doubt played very prominent roles.

On this day we thank all of them for their heroism and accomplishment. May they always be remembered and never forgotten in the political history of this dear nation.

We have to thank all those who have contributed in one way or another to the political independence and socio-economic development of this country.

While we cannot count and mention everyone, we singularly realize that the achievement never came from one personality alone, or one party, or one tribe, or region, or religious domination, or ethnic group.

We must acknowledge that political and socio-economic development were the product of all people of the nation giving all hands on deck.

Therefore, we should all strive that the development we have achieved so far continues from strength to strength. The development of the nation is development for all.

We would seize this opportunity therefore to remind ourselves that always the level of success and progress of the country will depend on how well we set our minds, hearts, and actions together towards that singular goal.

Once again His Excellency, who happens to be the pre-ordained incumbent at this historic event, is urged to continue to deliver his best and to accommodate all Gambians of good faith even those who disagree with him or hold different views.

We are mindful again that past developments were not by one person or one party, tribe, religion, ethnic group, or region; it was an achievement by all.

We must thank His Excellency President Jammeh certainly for all the remarkable development of these years since commencement of APRC governance and his leadership. But we must not stop there.

For maximum progress it behoves all Gambians to give President Jammeh our overwhelming, genuine and unstinting support.

Long live The Gambia! Long live peace, progress and development of our dear country!

“The Sky Is The Limit”

President Yahya Jammeh