By Omar Joof
The face of modern Bakoteh is no more. Alkali Meta Jassey recently joined his ancestors after a tenure of almost fifty years.
He became Alkalo in 1971, the fifth since the introduction of the office of Alkalo in The Gambia in 1927.
The tenure of the son of Kaddy Drammeh (BOJANGHO) and Janung Jassey covered more than fifty percent of the period the office has been in existence so far.
Meta Jassey’s grandfather, Lang Jassey is sometimes erroneously credited for the founding of Bakoteh. Actually it was his great grandfather, Jassey Kebba who settled in the community.
He is said to have been a disciple of Kombo Sillah, which makes sense because the Serer elements already settled at Bakoteh were also known to have been fighters of the renowned Muslim Scholar and Jihadist, though they were never converted to Islam at the time.
Then there is the story of the Sillah disciple being attracted to a Serer beauty.
He dared to ask for her hand in matrimony but was told she had a sore with which they never allowed their girls into marriage.
He proposed to treat her if he would be allowed to marry her after she recovered. The Serer elders agreed and he started treating her.
She eventually recovered, and Jassey Kebba went back to the girl’s elders and reminded them of their promise.
They were initially flabbergasted that he was so serious with his quest; but they were bound by their words.
The girl, who is merely referred to in our narratives as Mbinkey, is the one our late aunt Mbinkeybaa was named after, and you still have Mbinkey in the Joof family of Bakoteh.
The first Mbinkey was the mother of Lang Jassey. His father was the first Imam in Bakoteh.
So you have the Jassey starting off as Imams.
By 1927 when the office of Alkalo was introduced in The Gambia, Lang Jassey’s father had already passed away and he had succeeded him as the Imam.
There are said to have been two reasons for Lang Jassey being given the position of Alkalo when the village was asked to provide a candidate.
Firstly he was a nephew of Kasinkakunda; secondly, the name Alkalo is derived from the Muslim title Alcade, which in Muslim jurisprudence means judge.
Thus historically, Lang Jassey is the second Imam of Bakoteh, and also its first Alkali.
Before Meta Jassey took over in 1971, all those who became Alkali were from the Jassey household except one.
However, what they all have in common is being nephews of Kasinkakunda, which reflects the Serer tradition of putting the nephews at the helm, even in ancient Sine.
The Alkalolu after Lang Jassey were Sinajo Jassey, Makumba Jeng (Kaba), Sarjo Jassey, and then Meta Jassey.
Meta Jassey’s name became almost synonymous with the name of the community basically for two reasons.
Firstly, the mere longevity of his tenure saw the emergence of an entire generation to whom he is simply The Alkalo.
Secondly, during his tenure, Bakoteh transitioned from a farming community to the urbanized domicile it is today.
Koto Meta was at the forefront of every development effort in this community.
Though most of the time he led from behind, or at a distance, he has never failed to support our most progressive options.
Mostly also, he avoided being partisan by not being conspicuous at political gatherings.
Throughout his tenure, he upheld Bakoteh’s multicultural makeup, which can be attributed for the community’s current social cohesion.
When the housing estate and the layouts were instituted, there were forces of communal fragmentation, but through a process of inclusion, he helped to keep them all at bay.
Unlike his grandfather Lang Jassey who is erroneously credited for being the founder of Bakoteh, Alkalo Meta Jassey is certainly the founder of modern Bakoteh, and he will certainly be missed. So lon brother.