Musa Suso, deputy governor, West Coast Region

Musa Suso, deputy governor, West Coast Region

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You have always been popular among the youths as a socialist and community inspirer. You become a policitician, a businessman, and you become a regional official. Tell us, Musa Suso, how did life start for you as a young man?

The conversation would have been nicer if my childhood friends were here. They can tell you more about me. But my ability to mobilise crowd has been with me since childhood. I was raised by my grandmother, even though I was under the care of my grandfather, a trader. He was called Ba-Neku Cham. It was he who gave birth to my mother, and to honourable Adama Cham a former MP. I used to go all the way to Basse to help him with trade. In those days whenever I returned from my trips, the coumpound would be filled with young folks. My grandmother was here alone and lonely. She bought colanuts and and gave them to my grandfather, begging that I come and stay with her here. She brought me up. People have always taken interest in me. When I formed a club, it dominated all the other clubs here. I used to have a club called Calcutta. It was a very famous club. I then formed another club Tobaski. That too was so popular such that those who weren’t part of it became jealous. Even when I was going to school, at a time when calling bands or musical groups to play for you was very difficult, I called Ifang-bondi, Gelewarr, foreign musicians and even Lemzo Diamano. I used to round the whole of Kombo organising programmes.

When you finished vocational training, you joined the army. Why?

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I never planned to join the army. It happened that my gradmother used to send me to Bakau, to Bubacarr Jammeh, a musician whose father was Imam Fansu Jammeh. She had her herd under his care in Bakau. So, every now and then, she would send me to Bakau. In those days, between Sukuta and Bakau was a thick bush, and we used to walk it without even feeling it – the distance. One Saturday, she sent me there and on my way back, I saw a long queue at Fajara Barracks. I got curious and joined it. Luckily, for me, I was selected. The following Monday we went for exams and I passed and went for my training in Farafenni. After that, we were selected to go for a training in Senegal. We were 47 in number, but 21 came back due to the difficulty of the training. Out of the remaining 26, 15 later qualified for another programme. When I returned, I was at the training school and my specialty was weapon. Many people who hold high positions in the army were trained by me. The likes of the present CDS, Yakuba Drammeh, Samsudeen Sarr, Major Bojang, the former interior minister, Yankuba Touray and others. I was their instructor.

Why did you leave the army to become a popular businessman?

Like I said, when I was going to school, I used to go help my granny, in her business. But I ended up setting up my own company. Many people know that I was in prison. It was from there that I made up my mind to set up a business when I was released. And I did just that. I have two wives, so, I named the company after them. I called it MUTINA. ‘MU’ means Musa, ‘TI’ – Tida, ‘NA’ – Naffi. I then set up another company SUDAMA. That is Suso-Darboe-Manneh. So, I said SUDAMA.

How did you get into politics?

In those days in Sukuta, especially after we became aware… we found NCP and PPP. And whenever Kombo North was selecting candidates, they would always come from Sukuta. From history, we know that Baye Cham contested here, Kebba Manneh contested and Yusupha Cham contested. In those days, we were their youth wing. The funniest thing that happened in 1992 was that Yusupha Cham contested and lost. Then, I travelled to Sweden. I went to a boat-making factory. You know, the symbol of NCP is a boat. From that factory, I built a little toy boat and handed it to Yusupha Cham upon my return. I remember I inscribed on it ‘don’t worry, in 97, you will be our MP’. But in 1994, a coup happened and in 97, I became a member of parliament.

Let’s talk about your time in parliament. When you were an MP, and at the height of your popularity, you were accused of involvement in drug trafficking. Was that true?

Those who know me… because as a human being, you are known where you were born. I was born and brought up here in Sukuta. So, I think then it is the people of Sukuta who know me best. I thank God for one thing; here in Sukuta, anybody who knows me knows me with the highest elders of Sukuta. The late imam Ismaila Baye was a close friend and everybody knows it here. We always go together. Elders are my friends. The late alkalo Ahmad Hawa Cham, people know how close we were. The drug issue is an allegation. Anybody who knows me would know that I don’t deal in drugs. One, I don’t smoke. I don’t even take attaya. I will tell you how this allegation came about. It was around late 2000 to 2001. It was on a Friday on my way to State House to see a friend there called Ba-Alagie Jaiteh, he supplies fuel there. When I reached there, I was told he was in Lt Sanneh’s office, the then State Guards commander who happened to be a friend because we were in the army together… I was driving towards the Westfield junction when I found a lady, Ndeneh Faal, standing by the road side. Many people would think he was a friend but Ndeneh was never my friend. His elder brother, Pa Faal was my friend. He was working at GPMB and was very popular. So, when a change of government came, Pa Faal left the country and because of that most of Bijilo became opposition to the next government. But interestingly, he told the people of Bijilo to support my candidature for Kombo North. That’s how relations developed between myself and their family. So, one day, I was driving from State House towards Lamin when I found Ndeneh Faal on the road side, his car facing the airport junction. He was with one guy called Mbaye Jome, a mechanic at State House. They were in a discussion when they waved me, and Ndeneh said they were looking for a lift to airport. He said that he had a phone call that his mother was seriously sick. I told him I am going to Lamin and that I have kids in my car. He said since he was going to Bijilo, he could transfer my kids in his car and drop them off in Sukuta before he left for Sukuta. He said he would top up my fuel but I said no, I can help you out for free. I did not know that on the whole, they were tailing him. When he transferred that lady from his car into my vehicle, I think those giving information called the police at Banjulinding and told them that the woman has switched cars. My vehicle number was apparently given to them and when I reached Yundum police station, I met an officer there called Njie, who complimented me and allowed me to pass. His SO, sitting under a veranda, saw my vehicle passed and whistled immediately. When I looked in the mirror, I noticed it was for me and so I reversed. I thought they were asking for a lift but the officer said to me that they have information that one of my passengers is carrying an illicit thing. They asked the lady for the key to the suitcase but the lady said she didn’t have it. They searched me and found no key. There was no female officer to search her for the keys, and so, they tear the suitcase and discovered cannabis. I told them the one who actually asked me for a lift, I don’t have her contact but I contacted her brother Pa Faal, and informed him about everything. When they came, they told the station officer that I knew nothing about this and that it was them who had asked for a lift. They even wanted to release me on the spot but I wanted to clear my name. I allowed the matter to go on. Then my colleagues in parliament came and visited me. They were fighting for my innocence when Almamo Manneh and Lt Sanneh were accused of plotting a coup. When that happened, they forgot my case and some days later, were taken to court.

Some people said you were framed, that it was a set up.

Many things happened. They even also accused me of having an affair with Jammeh’s wife, Tuti Faal. But I have never even seen Tuti Faals thigh talk less of a relationship with her. This whole thing was a set up, I believe. At some point Jammeh wasn’t happy with me especially during one of his trips when he saw line up of my posters along the streets. He asked me: ‘are you the president or me?’ After he left, I was advised to take those posters down by a friend and I did.

When you were released from prison, you went back there again. Many people thought this was because you were getting too popular and famous for the liking of then leader, Yahya Jammeh.

That is very much possible because personally, I know that I did nothing that should warrant my going to jail. They filled our trial with foreign judges and were taking us from one jurisdiction to the other. They kept rotating me. And when I was convicted, there was an incident that happened there. I was the only prisoner with a mobile phone and…

To be continued