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Saturday, October 16, 2021

Honourable Gibou Jagne, the eternal opposition politician, former MP for Serekunda

Honourable Gibou Jagne, who died last week, was Member of Parliament for Serekunda (1966-1977), then Serekunda West (1977-1982; 1987-1992). He was indeed the eternal opposition politician. By his dogged political loyalty, he was the last to abandon the P.S. Njie’s United Party (UP), and never abandoned S.M Dibba’s National Convention Party (NCP). As both P.S Njie and S.M never became President, Hon. Jagne became a sort of eternal opposition figure, always sitting on the other side.

But this political doggedness earned him wide respect as a man of rare political principles, who by his loyalty to Dibba gave the NCP a much-needed burnish as a party open to all Gambians and not a cult.  At a time in the late 1960s and early 1970s when UP MPs flocked to Jawara’s PPP to be rewarded with Ministerial, Ambassadorial or Parliamentary Secretary jobs, Hon. Jagne never wavered in his support and loyalty to P.S Njie. In 1966, he won Serekunda on a UP ticket beating HO Semega Janneh. This frightened the PPP government as they thought (wrongly) the UP was shifting base from Bathurst to the new urban sprawl. He assisted P.S Njie campaign unsuccessfully against the 1970 Republican Constitution. In 1972, he beat the Blue-Eyed PPP’s Omar A. Jallow (AKA OJ), then an ambitious PPP Youth winger. He kept the Serekunda seat in firm UP hands until 1982, when he lost it largely because he was on remand at Mile Two Prison with S.M Dibba, now his party leader, on trial for treason and concealment of treason in the wake of the Kukoi attempted coup of 30 July 1981. Although Sir Dawda allowed the NCP prisoners registered as voters and candidates, Hon. Jagne could not campaign from his prison cell, so he lost the Serekunda West seat for the first time in three consecutive elections to his long-time rival, PPP’s Hon. A.A Njie.

A.A Njie and Hon. Jagne had a see-saw rivalry in Serekunda politics which began in 1972 and only ended in 1994 following the army coup. In 1972 and 1977, Hon. Jagne beat A.A Njie to retain the Serekunda West Seat. In 1982, A.A Njie beat Hon. Jagne by 3738 votes to 2534 votes; a quite decent performance for a candidate who campaigned from behind a Mile Two Prison cell. In 1987, Hon. Jagne regained the seat beating A.A Njie and in 1992, A.A Njie regained the seat but by a margin of less than 100 votes!

Hon. Jagne was a pragmatist. He was quite good at measuring the political pulse which is why in 1977, when he realized that UP was inexorably headed for annihilation, he encouraged what was left of the UP leadership to cohabit with the NCP despite the profound differences in outlook, base and worldview. By doing so, he was able to maintain the UP brand in the First Republic politics until 1982. In 1992, when he returned to Parliament, he did so fully under the NCP ticket, and became a close confidante of S.M Dibba, the NCP founder and leader. He stayed in Parliament until the army coup of 1994. To his credit, Hon. Jagne refused to betray either of his party leaders-P.S or S.M.

In Parliament, Hon. Jagne was a respected debater. The Hansard tells us that he asked pertinent questions, especially during Budget debates. The sad fate of the National Trading Corporation (NTC) and The Gambia Agriculture Development Bank in the mid 1980s, always got his probing insight from the floor of the Parliament. He and another NCP MP, Hon. Foday Makalo, formed a two-man army against the PPP behemoth in The Gambian First Republic Parliament keeping an entire government on its toes on key national issues, including the ill-fated Senegambia Confederation, and the controversial new school system introduced in 1993.

He had great fervor for Serekunda which is why he accepted to serve a fleeting period as Interim Chairman of KMC in the 2000s. The 90 days he was there only stand out among the many other tenures because he reportedly collected more revenue than he spent or had found in the coffers of the Council!

Indeed, Hon. Jagne had a patriotic zeal for his country and community, Serekunda. To his family and many friends in and outside politics, I convey sincere condolences and pray that his soul rest in peace.

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