It was already afternoon on 31st December, 1991, when Amadou Samba as usual walked up the stairs and went into his Banjul office. He had spent the morning, as he is wont to these days, at his other office in the Kanifing Industrial Area, the location for GACEM Company Ltd, the three month old cement factory of which he is President and Chairman.
On his desk on this last day of the year was a two page letter from the Gambia Communication Agency. According to Swaedou Conateh, the agency’s Managing Director whose signature was appended to the letter, Samba has been designated “Man of the Year 1992” for the agency’s publication, The Gambia News and Report Monthly magazine.
The letter further stated that Samba would be featured in a special report that would be featured in a special report that would involve the use of his photograph on the cover and an account of his life, career and achievements to date. It would be a story on the formal and so formal part of samba’s life, his day to day activities at home and the office, the letter added. As to the criteria of his selection, Conateh’s letter listed the following three considerations:
1. That through his work, profession, or personal endeavour, Samba’s was judged to have contributed the most to the public welfare and to advancing the country’s development in the interest of all Gambians.
2. That he was seen to have contributed significantly in enhancing, in a direct and tangible form, the social and economic status of Gambians as a whole.
3. And that he has also put in place for posterity facilities and or infrastructure and other achievements that could serve as a lasting memorial of his contributions to national development.
“As a result of your business success over the years, and In view of the important development your company GACEM brought about through the lowering of the price of cement in 1992, the management of The Gambia News and Report Monthly magazine is satisfy that you have met the criteria set out above and has accordingly designated you the magazine first “Man of the Year.” “Congratulations on the well merited recognition”, the letter, with wishes for a happy and prosperous new year, concluded.
This indeed was a sober moment. It was also a moment of happiness to be shared with the staff, with friends and with family.
Samba was especially pleased that the honour came from an independent and a reputable source, one who was neither tainted with the ongoing rivalries and infighting of the local business community nor with intrigues of the wider world of politics.
Samba himself had known the Managing Editor of the journal in question from his days as a student in Nigeria, when the latter worked as the Gambia’s Director of Information and Broadcasting. He had been among the post-independence generation of Gambians who joined the civil services as trained professionals and also quickly proved themselves on the job.
Indeed, Conateh became the head of Information and Broadcasting Services at a relatively early age and succeeded in conducting himself and the operations of the Department to the respect of virtually everyone who knew him. For such a man, several years his older, to address him the letter designating him Man of the Year, was therefore of some significance. However, as with everything else, Samba rested it all to destiny, as he was to tell the News and Report in a subsequent interview.
“I believe in God very strongly, and in destiny. Everything is predestined by God”.