The American writer Christopher Pike wrote that death never comes at the right time, despite what we believe; that it always comes like a thief in the night. We would agree with Pike while we mourn the former high commissioner to Sierra Leone, Alieu Jammeh, who was returned to the earth on Saturday to join his ancestors in Barzakh.
But in the case of Omar Jallow, Pike was way off the point. Sometimes death would play roulette with us. It would spin. Stop. Spin. Stop. And never to spin again. On Sunday evening, after a long period of debilitating illness, Omar Jallow died. Calling someone a man of the people has become a cliché. But if ever there was a Gambian who fits that description, it is Omar Jallow better known by his initials OJ.
Last evening, the cerebral director general of the public utilities regulatory authority, Yusupha Jobe, sent us this note for reproduction in our paper: “A pillar has fallen, a true hero and lover of mankind. OJ epitomises elegance, dignity and care. He rose to be a minister in two periods of our history but never sold out to the dictator and stood his ground with dignity.
“He was a mentor to many and a role model to many. OJ made many people graduate through his efforts and also christened a lot of kids by supporting the poor and needy. He was charming, kind, gracious and humble. He never sent anyone away. His home was never shut and his doors were always open to all including foreigners.
“He was a true patriot and even though aligned to a political party, that never made him a hater of others and he would even help his rivals when it came to humane actions. OJ touched many lives in The Gambia and abroad. He was similarly popular when he served the United Nations in East Timor. He took his charm and care and respect and showed a lot of people there how to be worthy citizens.
“Serekunda has lost one of its greatest sons, in my opinion, and we all mourn. We will never forget you and may Allah forgive your shortcomings and grant you Jannatul Firdaus. You ran your race and did not drop the baton.”
Indeed, OJ was an outstanding Gambian. He dedicated his life to serving his people in Serekunda and the rest of The Gambia. He lived by his beliefs. And one of these beliefs is democracy and rule of the law. Being a stickler to his beliefs cost him dearly – incarceration, torture, dispossession – but he took it all on the chin.
As this paper prophetically proclaimed in its maiden edition, “time will free the mouse and catch the lion”. And when that happened in The Gambia and the day of reckoning came, OJ thought Gambians graciousness by forging those who subjected him to the harrowing inhumane ordeals.
In the end, he died, a free man. A proud man. And as Mr Jobe puts it, he ran his race and did not drop the baton. And in his death, it behooves all Gambians to keep his legacy alive by striving day and night for a better Gambia.
Adieu good man!