By Aisha Keita
Our father was a hero and a man of God. He lived a dignified life, a life filled with touching lives by showing countless love, kindness, and empathy without expecting anything in return. For every life that he touched he left a mark that will be forever remembered.
Like when he gave food to the homeless because he believed that family is not just the people you are born with. Family can be the people you choose to call family. His chosen families are like his own, he took care of them by any means possible without distinction. Some people will say they cannot differentiate his adopted children from his own. To him, those are his chosen family and to his children those chosen families are family. Our father dedicated his life to making the world a better place for each one of his chosen families.
Today we are honored to tell who our father is, we never thought this day will come. Losing our father is the greatest pain we have ever encountered. Our father Alhagie Sulayman Keita was Chief of Niamina Dankunku, governor of different regions in The Gambia, father, uncle, grandfather, brother, mentor, teacher, philanthropist, human rights activist, politician, imam, and a role model to many people. These titles are what our father held during his time on earth.
Niamina Dankunku District and the entire Gambia is mourning because of the loss of Niamina Dankunku’s greatness. The one who was authentic, true to himself, and everyone around him. He was a great man who served his people to the fullest and fought for the needy and poor.
Since his death, we have heard so many wonderful, loving, and great stories from people all over The Gambia. Our family is very grateful and it warms our heart to hear these stories and our father’s impact on your lives. We appreciate you because you are grateful to our father. Some people will not agree with him but he died believing his values and his truth. He got closer to people who resented him, he provided for them based on their needs, he adored them, he was always there for them. That was our father.
Today we want to share Alhagie Sulayman Keita’s heroic stories in relation to the mentioned titles; the one he did best is a father. He loved his children, he never wanted his children to be far away from him. Imagine him coming home from living abroad for many years. When some of his children were living with his family members. He took them all under his wings like any parent would do by taking care of all of us. He wanted to live with all his children under one roof. He wanted to be our life teacher, by educating all of us, teaching us honesty, love, kindness, truth, unity, and oneness. That was how our father treated all his children and for that we are grateful.
Our father was a hero. He is an inspiration to many but for us, he inspired us to stay focus, he taught us to always seek knowledge, to be humble, to value religion, to help the needy. He educated his daughters when education for women was not always a priority. He did not send his children to school for the sake of sending them to school. He made sure they did well and succeed in their academic careers. These values we carried with us no matter where we go, his advice stays with us like a lifelong friend, teacher, an inspiration which will benefit us for the rest of our lives.
Alhagie Sulayman Keita was defined by kindness, his love for people was unconditional. He never limited himself to one group, he gave to anyone he met, whether students passing by his house after school, whether you came to him with personal problems, whether you came by to say hello, whether is the food that he was eating, he was always ready to take something out from his pocket to give. Giving was part of who he was as a person. Giving he believed brings equality, togetherness, and peace amongst people.
Our father wanted to see everyone succeed, his unconditional love and generosity are what describes him. We know our father was not perfect but he came into this world with a mission to serve the people, to love indistinctively, and to give unlimitedly. He lived by these values until he took his last breath. That was our father.
A hero is what defines our father. When he was young and in school, he was a leader in Gambia College, Muslim Senior Secondary School, and Latrikunda Upper Basic. When he moved abroad for studies, he kept the same energy with him by helping Gambians living abroad to the extent of getting some Gambians out of prison.
Imagine helping people out of prison and bringing them to your own home. Only for him to wait for them until they can stand on their own feet to let them leave his house.
Imagine him paying a fine for people who obstruct the law but are unable to pay their debt during his chieftaincy in Niamina Dankunku.
Imagine advocating and contributing to building schools in places like his district just because he cared for the people in his village and the future of the children of Niamina Dankunku and The Gambia.
Imagine building a mosque in places he had worked and valued to live because he believed that prayer is a virtue and is all we need to safeguard us in life after.
Imagine how many people got to use those mosques and schools he contributed to building and the impact he is still creating for the people of his district and The Gambia. He was a true hero and his legacy will continue to live on forever.
Baba, we love and always will love you. Your children are proud of you and we will do everything possible to continue honoring your legacy. We will always remember your great advice and true values that you lived by day by day. Those beliefs and values have impacted us, our lives, the lives of your grandchildren, sisters, wives, nephews, nieces, friends, family, and your chosen families. Your good memories will always be in our hearts.
All I know you have no idea the number of people that came to the funeral in Dankunku and Kanifing but I can assure you it was hundreds of people, all of them are sad to hear that you are gone. All of them said that they will miss you, but most importantly, all of them were happy that you have lived a great life
Baba, you are gone but your legacy will continue. You will always be loved by all of us, we will never disappoint you. A man who is a true hero is gone and straight to heaven. We cherish you; we adore you, and we will be forever grateful to you.
Till we meet again Baba.
We love you, Baba.
Author: Aisha Keita (Daughter) on behalf of the family.