Remembering the Magic Pen: Letter to Deyda Hydara in heaven


By Momodou Justice Darboe

It was 16 December 2004; the 13th anniversary of The Point newspaper. The day also coincided with the birthday of his wife. So, one could understand what December 16 meant to Deyda Hydara and his family.

16 December 2004, there was an unusual development at one of the country’s critical newspapers-The Point. At around 11am that day, exquisite US diplomatic vehicles pulled up at the newspaper. Among the immaculately dressed servants of US that stepped out of the vehicles was the shy-looking Joseph Stafford.


Stafford was at the time the US ambassador to The Gambia and he was there to pay us a courtesy visit on the occasion of the paper’s 13th anniversary.

Impeccably dressed in suits and bespectacled, Deyda was there alongside his dedicated staff to receive the diplomat. And then a conducted tour of the paper and speeches ensued.

“Today is our 13th anniversary as you may know. 13, they say, is an odd number but we are serene and confident,” Deyda told the visitors.

After the speeches, the diplomat and team left and the staff quickly settled down to work to make up for the lost time.

It was around 5pm when Deyda informed me about a party that he intended to throw for us that night.

“But how can we have a party without music?” I asked.

“Do you know how to arrange for it?” he queried.

I told him I can if I he should give me D500. As he counted the money, Ida Jagne, one of the typists, walked into the office and she said we could easily get a musical set from aunty Adam just across the road after enquiring about the reasons for the money. Good to say here that we also had our sibling rivalries at The Point and I was among the pet children. Pampered and spoilt! Ida knew what I was capable of.

I and my former confederate in crime, Alhagie, went to aunty Adam and she was so excited to grant us our wish. She even gave us locally-made juice. We took the musical set to The Point, fixed it and it started oozing melodies that saw me and Alhagie made dance moves that even Deyda commented on in a nostalgic way.

Staff and guests started arriving at around 9pm. The newsroom where the party was supposed to be hosted started filling up. Party mode activated!

In the interim, I had a cause to be absent from the venue for just under an hour but when I returned it was deserted.

I was confounded and went straight to Deyda and before I could say anything, he informed me that it was one of the senior secretaries who distributed all the foods and drinks because she said she was going to Church. He then gave me a food pack that, he said, Ida had put aside for me. He also gave me D50 to cover the farewell ceremony for the Gambian contingent to Darfur the next day. Utterly disappointed and somehow exasperated, I left after bidding him a good night.

Did Deyda see his death coming? Well, his speech about odd numbers, confidence and serenity still leaves me in quandary. Also before we left the office, Alhagie had told me that he had noticed something in him which I dismissed as probably the result of the failure of the party he so wished to throw for us. He was right and I was naïve. At the time I and Alhagie left The Point, it was less than an hour before Deyda would be shot dead.

Sadly missed and lovingly remembered by his heart-broken children both biologically and professionally, Deyda Hydara was an epitome of valor, a quintessential journalist, a fatherly figure and a patriot who saw a calling in speaking truth to the power.

A true gentleman gone to be with Lord, Deyda defended with his pen the poor, weak, deprived, underprivileged, privileged and the abused. In short, he led a fulfilling life of service to the nation and humanity. A life of crusade for freedom and democracy!

At a time when speaking truth to the powers that were was at the peril of life and limb, Deyda never felt selfish to be economical with the truth. He consistently did this through his widely-read columns of Good Morning Mr. President and editorial. In these columns, readers were able to understand how he abhorred rights excesses, abuse of executive power, fiscal indiscipline, violation of the rule of law and all what not.

As some of us are still unable to convalesce from injuries inflicted by your callous murder, we take solace in the fact that it doesn’t matter how long a man lives but how fulfilling he’d lived. We still cry in silence. Still distraught, devastated but not daunted. We shall keep your spirit alive because you remain a source of inspiration and tower of strength for many.

We still remember the avuncular manner with which you treated us. Your generosity of spirit, empathy, sympathy, reliability, approachability are still discussed and appreciated.

As you continue to rest in peace on Allah’s Golden Shores, we also remain serene and confident in keeping your spirit burning.

Adieu, Sir!