Ladies and gentlemen, friends, colleagues from the media and all present here today at the launch of my autobiography, A Date With Destiny, I welcome and thank you all for taking time off your busy schedules to join me and my family for this auspicious occasion.
I wish to begin my remarks by thanking the members of the high table; the launcher, my teacher, Mrs. Adelaide Sosseh; the reviewer, Madi Jobarteh; the MC, my friend Peter Gomez, who all agreed to my request to take on various roles, particularly Madi, who had very limited notice to do the review. I am grateful for their willingness to give up your precious time to come.
My heartfelt thanks also go to my family particularly my wife – Gibba, who had given me the space, time and support needed, without which I would not have had the time to write the book.
Special thanks are reserved for two special friends, who always consider and treat me as their uncle; Fatou Jagne Senghore, Executive Director of Article 19 for West Africa based in Dakar, and Ndey Tapha Sosseh, my Special Adviser during my stint as Minister of Information and Communications Infrastructure. I have succeeded in molding an extensive professional relationship with the two, and they have given me tremendous help in realising this project and virtually everything else I have been associated with for almost two decades now. I cannot thank them enough for always standing by me through thick and thin. Ndey, for instance, whom I trained as a reporter and then editor at the Daily Observer, helped in the editing of the manuscript and gave me invaluable advice at every stage of the process. I can quite vividly recall when she first came to the Daily Observer as a school girl, expressing interest in becoming a journalist, and I am proud of the professional she has grown up to be.
Fatou and I developed a strong bond while we were both living in Dakar where she still lives. She showed much interest in the project since the very first day I told her about it. The two of them not only gave me moral support, but also contributed financially to ensure its success. I am grateful to them.
I also thank all those who contributed and supported me during this process. Particular mention goes to the Gambia Press Union, in particular Secretary General Saikou Jammeh for his demonstrated commitment and interest in the project. I am grateful for Africell’s gesture towards the coordination of the launch upon receipt of the invitation to their CEO Badara Mbye. Thank you Badara for your invaluable support.
I also thank the CEO of the QGroup, Muhammed Jah, the DG of PURA, Ansumana Sanneh, the CEO of Unique Solutions, Papa Yusupha Njie, the CEO of Gigo Construction, Amadou Gigo, and all those who have contributed both financially and morally to the success of today’s event.
My thanks also go to Fulladu Publishers, especially their CEO Fodeh Baldeh, who meticulously edited the manuscript and produced a beautiful final product.
As someone who spent my entire adult life writing about issues, mostly concerning other people, I have always wanted to make the time, to write my own story. I have reflected over many years on how, due to many different events that life has thrown at me, giving my parents and others close to me, the capacity to make decisions either to invest in giving me skills or to extend more opportunities to me.
Had these chances not occurred in my life, I certainly would not have been here today, hence the title “A Date With Destiny”.
From a very tender age, I developed an interest in things going on around me and the community at large, and I just could not cast a blind eye to some of the happenings, so I decided to use whatever means available to share my ideas and to disseminate information including my opinions to my fellow Gambian citizens. I felt journalism, in particular, allowed me the opportunity to participate in national development and the search for accountability. It was certainly not an easy journey as I faced several challenges and obstacles along the way.
Sheer determination and the opportunity of having been in the company of righteous professionals like William Dixon Colley, Deyda Hydara and Swaebou Conateh, all of blessed memory, as well as Cherno Jallow, which enabled me to weather the storm and pursue the path of journalism against all the odds.
I turned to reading to improve and to perfect my writing skills. Whilst doing all these, I also sought to connect with like-minded Gambians and others outside The Gambia to deepen my knowledge on national and international issues.
As a senior reporter and an editor, I made it a point of duty to support and encourage young people who ventured into journalism, to seek at all times to remain professional. Today I am proud of the achievements of most of the young reporters whom I had influenced and maintained close links with, whether they have remained in journalism or branched off to other areas.
Professionalism for me was paramount in my career. As a professional, I felt I had and still have an even higher responsibility to ensure that I seek to improve on my competencies. To date, I always make a conscious effort to learn new skills. As the Wollofs say, ‘Janga du wess’.
In learning new skills and professionalizing myself further in various stages of my work life, I have learnt to rely more and more, on the one resource that I cherish most – my integrity. As a journalist/opinion writer; as an editor; as a unionist/human rights activist, as a Minister and more importantly in my everyday dealings with my friends, family, neighbours, colleagues and acquaintances, I have learnt, that the one aspect of my character that people value most, is my integrity.
My integrity has helped me in personal decisions and judgments and has always helped me as a communicator in my objectives to be as unbiased, and as critical as I chose to be.
As human beings, we are gifted to be able to observe and to auto-critique. When I was young, I observed the manner in which people of high moral integrity were treated and respected in our communities, how these people were at ease with themselves and within the communities within which they found themselves, and for me, there was no option but to choose to be a person of integrity.
Why would I take the decision to write my autobiography, one may ask? My life story is not extra-ordinary in any way, but I believe that we all have a story to tell which could be of benefit to the younger generations of this country and beyond. This is particularly true for most of us who hailed from the provinces during the time I was growing up. We were faced with a lot of hurdles in order to acquire any level of education. Therefore, by documenting my life story, young persons who wish to follow a similar pattern, particularly in journalism would learn a thing or two about ethics, integrity, consistency and professionalism.
This is why I have decided to donate some copies of the book to journalism training institutions such as the GPU School of Journalism, the UTG School of Journalism and the Insight Training Centre, to give young journalists, a glimpse of the Gambian media fraternity from the 80s to the early 2000s and how we had to struggle to bring us to where we are today.
Beyond the journalism aspect which dominates my life story, I also seek, in documenting other events, and contribute, in archiving parts of our national history that I was a first-hand witness. It is true that many of us, do not find the time to write, it is important however that those of us who have the capacity, write to help establish from many different sources, a coherent national story.
I thank you all