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Sunday, October 1, 2023

Major Maba Jobe (1964-2023) Soldier and Diplomat


By Hassoum Ceesay

Major (Rtd) Maba Jobe, who died last week, was catapulted to the esteemed job of Commander of The Gambia National Army (GNA) at a tender age of 26, when he was barely in need of a razor, in the summer of 1991 upon the retirement of the pioneer Commander Colonel Ndow Njie.

Major Jobe has had barely 10 years of service, and his army was just seven years old. Both the army and its commander were therefore very young. However, what the Major lacked in age, he made up for adequately intact, training (he went to Sandhurst) and finesse of leadership. The GNA lacked the years, but already had its baptism of fire in peacekeeping duties in Liberia, and in soldiers protesting over unpaid peacekeepers’ allowances. In the 15 or so months Major Jobe headed the army under the disinterested eyes of his C-I-C, Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, he was kept busy dousing the incipient grievances of the ranks who went on duties in Liberia, and were asking for pay or treatment for wounds.

Major Jobe’s other problem was definitely his age. In the eyes of many PPP Ministers, he was too young to lead a whole 800-man army of our Republic! His appointment in 1991 was therefore curious; it served merely to plug a hole, whilst Sir Dawda spoke to General Babangida, the Nigerian strong man, on military support. The collapse of the Senegambia Confederation in the summer of 1989 had made Jawara to look towards Abuja for military cooperation. By mid-1992, Jawara had secured military technical aid from Abuja, and the Nigerians deployed successively Colonels Lawan and Dada to head the GNA until the army coup of July 22 1994. Major Jobe was defenestrated to a diplomatic post in London where he worked with his former boss, Col. Njie.

Had Major Jobe continued to lead the GNA, I believe there would not have been the coup against Jawara.  Major Jobe was au fait with the fragile ecosystem of the GNA and could have deflated the egos of the coup makers, who were his age mate or intake peers. The Nigerians who led the GNA were known makers of coups, since Buhari’s 1984 coup against Shagari, and therefore looked askance when Yahya Jammeh and his cohort struck on 22 July 1994. In order words, they got their pips by manufacturing coups!

The July 22 1994 coup makers did not quite remember their former boss after they seized power. When they did in 1996, he was promoted as High Commissioner to Abuja. He completed the long relocation of the Gambian Mission from Lagos to Abuja, and was instrumental in arranging the crude oil largesse from General Abacha to the Jammeh junta, and on which the Janneh Commission had interesting things to say. Major Jobe was an old soldier, so in the eyes of the junta, the perfect person to handle General Abacha and the militocracy in Nigeria.

 Indeed, in his five years as High Commissioner, Major Jobe worked with President Generals Abacha, Abdulsalami and Obasanjo before his recall in 2001. Apart from a fleeting stint as Foreign Minister in 2006, Major Jobe laid low for the past two decades as a Consultant. He was less in the public eye, and therefore had to live a life almost beyond formal recognition. However, this did not mean that he meant less to his vocation of soldiery and diplomacy. Major Jobe was a service-oriented man, profoundly professional. He had wanted to write his memoirs, an on an occasion, he was in earnest enough to call me for guidance on this matter.

To his family, peers in the army and friends, I convey sincere condolences and pray that his soul rest in perfect peace.

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