As one of the leading young Gambians punching the name of the tiny West African country of The Gambia above its weight within the United States of America, Alhassan Darboe is one of the extraordinarily remarkable youngsters of his generation. A native of Gunjur, he is currently a Real Estate business man in the US, investor, prolific witty writer and an avid book reader and lover of education. In this exclusive interview with What’s On-Gambia, he talks about his recent holiday in The Gambia
What’s On-Gambia: You were recently in The Gambia on holiday. Can you briefly tell us about your trip?
Alhassan:Well, I was in The Gambia as part of my annual holiday in The Gambia and had a great time connecting with my family and friends alike. It was littered with some interesting and life impacting activities while I was there. I did also go to my alma- mater Gunjur Upper Basic and gave a prize to the best English-Literature student to encourage reading and education which I think is dying in our Gambian society. We need to stop making ignorance and mediocrity sexy and make smart and education sexy again. Because I strongly believe that the strongest weapon against inequality, poverty and the better path to opportunity is education that can price out a human being’s God-given potential, as my own experience in life clearly laid bare.
Was it your first visit since the arrival of President Adama Barrow?
Yes, absolutely; first time since barrow took over the mantle of leadership in The Gambia.
What’s your honest opinion on his presidency?
It is interesting that you have deployed ‘honest’ in your vitally essential question. And I assure you that I will give you a cast-iron guarantee answer of a non-political, no-holds-barred honesty. Honestly; I think they are trying well under the circumstances. Could they do better? Of course, yes! I think Gambians are dying unnecessarily to most simple of ailments like malaria, diabetes, high blood, yellow fever and meningitis due to lack of proper diagnosis and medicine. Actually, some nurses and doctors in our hospitals are thieves. They steal medicines meant for poor patients in our hospitals to set up their own pharmacies and then refer patients to buy medicines outside the hospitals in pharmacies run by themselves. This is premeditated attempted murder and manslaughter and government should come up with something to combat this menace among health care professionals in The Gambia. Barrow should also upgrade RVTH to a better standard and even get donor countries like China to help with experts in different medical specializations to help cure most of the diseases poor Gambians struggle by going to Dakar, India or Europe to cure when it could be cured right at home and even save us much needed foreign currency that we take to other countries to restore our people back to health. While it’s a good thing for Adama Barrow’s government to provide a vehicle for every MP; our people are dying and living with only a few hours of electricity while our government is busy dolling out vehicles to MPs when the money could be used to fix our broken health care system and provide stable electricity for the masses. This is a national embarrassment and a mis- prioritization.
Could you say something about the ongoing feud between your native village; Gunjur and Golden Lead Factory?
My vacation home at Gunjur is literally five minutes away from the once beautiful sandy beach of Gunjur and the offensive odour emanating from the GL factory at Gunjur beach and finding its way into the village is heart wrenching and disgusting. While I think they are providing employment to the locals, they are destroying our environment and they must desist from that or leave ASAP. The Golden Lead factory is a ticking time bomb the government is playing with.
The National Assembly Member wasn’t happy with your brother, Sainey. What happened?
I was on holiday in The Gambia at the time and later came to understand it had something to do with an alleged slanderous article my twin brother wrote about him that he wasn’t happy with. As much as I disapprove of the full-throttle journalistic skewering my twin brother directed at the Honorable Majority Leader of the National Assembly, I was also very disappointed with the way our honourable MP handled the issue in public. But, you know, in the end, journalists must do their job of holding public officials accountable and public officials will have to get on with doing their jobs of serving the public. These things are inevitable, especially in the testosterone-fuelled and emotion-filled arena of politics and journalism. Like a floating surf wave, the feud has passed on like a helium-fuelled balloon tribute. It is great that it now belongs to the past, because instinctively, my brother for all his overwhelming love of standing up for the downtrodden in society, which he was doing with panache that triggered the feud, is an opposite character of flummery. That well said, I have so much respect for Honourable Kebba K Barrow and I hope he will be corrective and move on to serve his constituents and The Gambia better.
During your visit, you were involved in a tree planting exercise. How was that experience?
Massive success is how I will describe the outcome of the exercise. Gunjurians came out in their large numbers from all corners of The Gambia and from every walk of life to plant trees to protect their environment. Sand mining is destroying our environment and we are doing whatever we can to take care of whatever we have left of our forest.
Do you think Gunjur is the most powerful settlement in Kombo South?
Life and God himself teaches us to be humble and resist such narcissistic attitudes about ourselves and villages but I think Gunjur is a great city and an intellectual power house. We are blessed to have robust intellectuals in both Islamic and western education. The best lawyer in The Gambia right now who never lost a single case in Gambian courts Lamin J. Darboe is from Gunjur, Amadou Scattred Janneh, Oustass Lamin Touray, Ahmed Manjang, Ebrima Janneh,Essa Darboe and the list is inexhaustible. Gunjur is blessed and I’m proud to be a native of Gunjur.
Where is Mbemba Jatta, former PPP heavyweight?
I don’t know. Maybe he is still here in the US.
What’s the best “celebrity” encounter you had during your stay? (laughs)
Disclaimer alert: I’m not an elitist or a celebrity chaser but a man of the masses and do not ever crave to mingle with people because of their social status but based on certain principles and service to humanity. Charles Tremendous Jones once said, “You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.” So, the quality of the people I meet and spend my time with is very important to me. I have met some very inspiring people in the Gambia including ordinary, struggling poor masses who are my celebrities and stars (in my world) as a result of the intellectual nourishment and inspiration they give me and humanity. Momodou Sabally, Besenty Gomez, Jimmy Hendry Nzally,Sir Ousman Barrow of Solar Enterprise, Omar Jabang and Lawyer Lamin J. Darboe are some of the people I met in The Gambia and I’m a better man today after meeting them. I did a speaking engagement with Momodou Sabally and Jimmy Hendry Nzally at Gambia Tourism Institute in Kanifing and he also connected me with some really good people in The Gambia and from abroad. That’s what I crave for, connecting with good people and none of the celebrity obsession nonsense. I also spent a lot of time with my beloved brother Besenty Gomez inspiring youths in my native village of Gunjur and even running a mobile library to encourage reading and personal development in my village.
Any plans to start a business in The Gambia?
A great uncle and mentor of mine Abdoulie Touray AKA Baks once advised me this “there are few things only you should know, your income, your love and your next move” so I will keep my cards close to my chest. Also, my mom thinks I’m ‘super Kanja mouth’ [ laughs] and put everything on Facebook so I’m trying to control my ‘super Kanja mouth’ and won’t be sharing a lot in public these days [ laughs].