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In evergreen loving memory of Phoday Saikouba Jarjussey alias PBS

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By Hassan Gibril

Gambia’s profound pool of literary talent belies the nation’s size and reinforces its importance as a heavyweight (political, cultural or otherwise) within the sub-region. Many writers, both historians, novelists, poets and essayists, have emerged over the years to chart the history of the country, from the iconoclastic anti-colonial scribes or activists, the post-colonial avant-garde to the contemporary generation of writers who now depict modern-day Gambia. A seminal figure in our post-independence civil service was undoubtedly the acclaimed historian and celebrated Presidential speech writer, Phoday Saikouba Jarjussey, fondly called PBS and nicknamed “Poros”. Even though my senior at the Gambia High School (6th Form intake), we were both recruited as part of 1972 teaching staff (he, being a graduate and I, being, an undergraduate staff member) at the St. Augustine’s Secondary School in very early 70s. Then, again, as fate would have it, we got co-opted into the civil service and posted to the President’s Office as Assistant Secretaries (AS) in the mid-70s (again he as AS2 and I as AS3). In passing, Phoday Jarjussey, was an extraordinary historian, a man passionate about Africa and its politics and a great friend of all. In fact, he was one of the leading Gambian historians of all times and an intellectual giant of his own time and in his own rights. Suffice it to say that historians and even Gambians alike would all continue to recognize him as one of the greatest thinkers of his time and perhaps even one of our greatest minds of all times. In so being, Phoday was also widely known and rightly acclaimed as an excellent speech writer, if not one of our best credited for writing our former Head of State, President Dawda K Jawara’s most inspirational public speeches (nationally & internationally); indeed many of those memorable statements or addresses in the history of our Gambian civil service, for that matter and notably at the level of the Office of the President at the State House. Working together at the President’s Office in the mid to the late 70s and even during the 80s, and reading or listening to the statements drafted by Phoday Jarjussey, I can attest to his choice of words for spoken expression which, in my humble view, is similar or perhaps can be likened to the choice a painter must exercise in choosing the right color of paint to place on his canvas to accurately portray the picture that he/she seeks to represent, nay depict. In short, the power of the words in Phoday’s drafted speeches had always been self-evident. Indeed, his written words were always sui generis, to put it aptly. Whether the language in Phoday’s writings was plain or even sometimes poetic, his drafted political speeches were truly great, very cogent, really appealing and never boring, in that they spoke to one directly and made one a part of its time, place and thinking. Lastly, Phoday was truly a literary giant, nay a colossus and genius ………. and undeniably the pride of my own generation. Yes, undoubtedly, Phoday had been and always remained a wizard with the pen and I dare even say a ‘wordsmith’ of no comparison. In so being, he had always remained a prodigious, highly talented, extremely generous and truly self-made man. Suffice it to state, however and indeed safely so, that PBS, as he was also affectionately called, could easily be termed as one of our beloved Gambia’s most respected and authoritative public thinkers of my generation. A polyvalent intellectual and multi-disciplinary scholar, his writings and speeches could span several fields, namely: History, Literature, Politics, Governance, Democratization, Panafricanism, Cultural Production, Post-Colonial Theory, Creative Writing etc etc I, for one, therefore will always remain very proud of Phoday Jarjussey and honoured to have been closely associated with him during our teaching stint at the St. Augustine’s Secondary School and, more so, throughout my entire public life, especially in the Gambian civil and diplomatic services. Therefore, I would continue to highly respect Phoday’s intellectual sagacity and, above all, his forthrightness, fairness and fair play. On his untimely passing away and under these painful circumstances, my fervent prayers and thoughts are with his grieving wife and life partner, our dear sister Mrs Oumie Njie-Jarjussey. As I extend my most sincere condolences to the Njie and Jarjussey families (both immediate and extended) as well as to other friends and relatives at home in the Gambia and abroad, I also fervently pray that the Almighty God will grant my dear brother and friend, Phoday Saikouba Jarjussey alias PBS a high place in his blissful Al Jannah.

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