By Saul Saidykhan
Anyone who is following the ongoing Janneh Commission Investigating the financial activities of Yahya Jammeh while he was in office MUST KNOW almost everything in Gambian public life needs to change for the country to progress. These includes all branches of the Civil Service and Security. Gambia Radio and Television Service (GRTS) is particularly important because Yahya Jammeh had turned the place into his propaganda wing and video club. It’s true that it’s vital not to allow another ruling party to do the same. But if there is a place that needs swamp-draining, it’s GRTS. This brings me to this silly hullabaloo the past week about the heresy Ebrima Sillah supposedly committed by trying to DO HIS JOB in ensuring the Producers of a show called KERR FATOU perform as per their contractual obligations!
But first some background: the show kicked off about a month ago. From the “get go,” I didn’t like what I saw. When I saw the promo, I was aghast, it’s too Hollywood -too glamorous. I didn’t see much that reflected today’s Gambian reality especially given the fact we just emerged from a brutal dictatorship that was accompanied by industrial-scale looting of public resources the extent of which is YET TO BE DETERMINED! More disturbing to me, the setting for the show seems to be on a million-dollar property on the beach obviously owned by (like the show itself) some nameless “PRIVATE INVESTORS”. I wouldn’t be surprise at all if the so-called private investors were Yahya Jammeh’s former business partners.(For perspective, despite all the loud noise about One Gambia, it speaks volumes that the Sotuma Prince Sankanu funded his 5 VERY educative films himself, but public corporations like Gamtel and Gamcel that couldn’t provide reliable telecommunications services to Gambians in the past two decades somehow manage to find funds to sponsor Jammeh-related causes and shows like this Kerr Fatou. Why are managers of these corporations still walking around free?) anyhow, since Gambians like to imitate EVERYTHING they see on TV these days, the potential effect of this show on our collective weal wouldn’t be positive. One only needs to think of how cocaine and armed robbery have become part of urban Gambian life. I’m stunned at how quickly we forget or miss obvious RED FLAGS. This show has serious problems. The New Gambia that I joined in fighting to establish is one that I hoped will be more just, affordable to the commoner, and peaceful. I posted a comment about my disapproval on Facebook that got lost in translation. Unfortunately for Ebrima Sillah, he gave the show’s Producers an inch, and they quickly turned around to DEMAND he hand over a MILE! But I’m getting ahead of myself, so I’ll do a re-wind, and here it goes:
The Director General of GRTS, Ebrima Sillah has had to post the note below on Social Media a week ago because of accusations and personal attacks being lobbed at him Online over disagreements with Producers of one of the new shows on the Gambian public Radio and TV broadcaster he oversees:
“I have read comments by the Kerr Fatou Crew alleging that I deliberately stopped their program from being broadcast. What I want to urge everyone is to exercise maximum restraint until you hear from all sides. I am currently in a meeting but later today I will explain our side of the story. In the meantime, please go through the attached screenshots of a section of our contract with Kerr Fatou regarding obligations of each party.
Please read with open mind the last point of the contact: OBLIGATIONS OF GRTS and POINT no 2 of OBLIGATIONS OF KERR FATOU (KORA GROUP).
We refuse to be drawn into petty squabbles that bring no value to us.”
This appeal notwithstanding, the virtual assault on Sillah was at some point unrelenting. I have read countless written comments and listened to many audio tapes on the subject in the past week. Many openly question everything from Ebrima Sillah’s education and competence to his patriotism. Some of the comments are as ignorant as they are offensive. Gambians were gagged for 22 years and now that they’re free, they’re wise not to allow anyone to gag them again. I get that. What I don’t understand is this mad tendency to KEEP TRUTH OFF THE TABLE IN EVERY NATIONAL DISCOURSE.
Ebrima Sillah asked us a simple request: Please read … POINT no 2 of OBLIGATIONS OF KERR FATOU (KORA GROUP)
POINT no 2 requires the KORA GROUP to submit their program within a certain time frame prior to its airing, something the Producers of KORA GROUP failed to do. Considering what has been happening in the past week, it’s obvious this was no genuine oversight. It’s worth noting that while the much-hyped show is named KERR FATOU after its nominal host one Fatou Touray from Kombo Lameng, the main front of the FORCES behind the show is a Metrosexual character named Nyang Njie. Opinions on Mr. Njie vary as they do for anyone public, but no one can accuse Nyang Njie of lacking chutzpah.
Until late last year, I never heard of Nyang Njie. I first saw him on Senegalese TV. But if Mr. Njie was a militant against Yahya Jammeh when the going was rough, I haven’t been able to find any evidence of it. Nyang Njie’s opportunistic attacks on Jammeh when the man was on the ropes? – yes. But -that’s it. What is obvious is he is to Gambian Television what Pa Ndery Mbai is to Gambian radio: cocky, provocative, edgy, flippant on facts, and constantly ethnic-baiting. Like Mbai, Accuracy and truthfulness seem secondary to popularity or Following to Nyang Njie. He doesn’t hesitate to whip out the Tribe Card to get his way. Funnily, Gambians dont seem to have learn a darn thing from Yahya Jammeh doing the same! No one can exaggerate Nyang Njie’s estimation of his self-importance or expertise. This we need not even speculate about because he tells us in overt ways.
Nyang Njie says some of the most outrageous things bereft of any sense of responsibility, context, or understanding which his legion of fans conveniently ignore. Here are samples:
Nyang Njie said Senegalese are too “civilized” for the type of tribalism in Gambian politics. This is misleading, lacking context and unfair to Gambians. In fact, pre- Yahya Jammeh, EVERYTHING Gambian (politics, social, economy, etc.) was cleaner and better than Senegal. I’m not sure how old Nyang Njie is, but he needs to find out about both Gambian politics and economy especially the RE-EXPORT TRADE. A basic inconvenient fact: Gambians are generally more honest than Senegalese. Anyone who doesn’t know this, has never been to Senegal! Mr. Njie need not rely on my word. He can check the official records of the PS government of Senghore and the PPP government of Jawara. In the first ten years of Independence, while Gambians were busy proving to the world that they could earn their keep through a lean public service, nepotism was the order of the day in Senegal. (See the exponential growth in Senegal’s ‘human resource development’ from 1960 to 1970 which averaged over 250%! Something we’ve NEVER had in Gambia.) Gambians and Senegalese are ONE PEOPLE, SEPARATED BY COMMON CULTURES! In the PPP days, Literally EVERYTHING imported from outside Africa from tomatoes to cranes were cheaper in Gambia than Senegal. This nonsense that Senegalese are more “civilized” than Gambians is just that – nonsense!
Nyang Njie said Gambians should forget the estimated $900 Million Dollars uncovered by the Panama Papers as belonging to three Gambian companies all of which Amadou Samba claimed ownership of (per Sidi Sanneh last year.) I’ve worked for years as a Finance professional. I’ve read many of the Panama Papers. The methods used by the consortium of international Investigative Reporters who published those powerful scandalous reports are familiar to me because they’re the same methods used by professionals like myself and government Regulators at various levels in the US to validate transactions, provide Assurance, track, or prosecute criminals. There is a reason important people in several countries around the world were forced to resign from their positions based on information in the Panama Papers. Nothing in those papers is Attaya Vous material. Yet Nyang Njie is dismissive of these documents as if we’re talking of silly Bantaba allegations. This is the same investigative technique the FBI and US Department of Justice uses. The Gambia government should do EVERYTHING to get our funds back!
Nyang Njie does not try much to hide his contempt for this government, yet he sees no irony in selling himself as the right candidate for the Economics Affairs portfolio which is currently under the purview of the Finance Minister. The current Finance Minister is Amadou Sanneh, the one square peg in a square hole among ALL the political prisoners-turned-Ministers. Amadou Sanneh is an ACCA, a global Accountancy accreditation he passed on his first attempt. I have the American version of the ACCA, which is why I know Amadou has the requisite competence to handle the Economics component of his Ministry because the exam for the accreditation he holds has an entire in-depth segment on Economics. Nyang Njie needs to research Amadou Sanneh’s qualifications before trying to belittle it.
Nyang Njie, like many delusional Gambians, stated recently that executive positions shouldn’t be awarded to freedom fighters. I ask several people, and I repeat here: on what planet have these Gambians seen otherwise? I ask because, on planet earth- from Poland, Romania, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Nicaragua, El-Salvador, Panama, Mozambique, Ghana, Namibia, and South Africa, the story is the same! Freedom fighters that uproot tyrannical regimes reward themselves with executive positions. Some may not like it, but that’s the reality. I know this because I checked. These people RISKED THEIR LIVES. They paid a heavy price for opposing Yahya Jammeh. Some of them went to jail.They were constantly harassed and subjected to all kinds of torture, degradation and humiliation which is what is responsible for the death of some of their colleagues. My question is where were the Nyang Njies during that time? So please let’s concentrate on substantive issues. Hold them accountable for their performance.
Nyang Njie, on a familiar theme also stated recently that executive positions shouldn’t be awarded on tribal affiliations in terms of cabinet composition. The implication being it was. I thought Madi Jobarteh had put that nonsense to death adequately, but I guess not. At this point, all I can say is, Ousainou Darboe has seriously miscalculated in his Ambassadorial appointments. The use of tribe/ethnicity as an instrument of coercion is still an issue in Gambian public life. I just watched a clip of Jaliba Kuyateh preaching One Gambia on the same controversial KERR FATOU show. The subtext gives the casual viewer the impression that the issue between KERR FATOU group and GRTS is “tribal.” This is deceptive! The brouhaha is due to Nyang Njie’s open disdain not just for GRTS management, but for the spirit of the Reconciliation program the government has committed itself to. One of the co-hosts singled out Jolas as being favored as Office employees during Jammeh’s time. I’m part of the people who find her statement objectionable. Only fools and hypocrites will believe such rubbish given what we’re all hearing and seeing on TV recently anyhow. In a majority illiterate/semi-literate country, such blanket statements could trigger something ugly. Thus, the need for GRTS to regulate or review this show before it airs IS IN ORDER! Also, if we are sincere about our call for One Gambia, we cannot point fingers at one ethnic group as the main beneficiaries of the Jammeh years because it’s belied by the facts.
Much is made of Ebrima Sillah trying to introduce censorship. I’m yet to read one convincing argument showing how Ebrima Sillah’s request to the KERR FATOU group for Contractual compliance amounts to censorship. I’ve read many Gambians in America attacking Ebrima Sillah on this issue. Here is my advice to these brothers and sisters: please read the Federal Communications Commission(FCC) rules specifically from the tenure of Chairman Powell (son of Colin Powell) after the Wardrobe Malfunction incident of Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake] The fact is, unbeknownst to most Americans, even LIVE programs are “censored for content”. Every Network must comply with FCC rules. Overall, there is a minimum of 10 second delay for LIVE programs. In short, what we think of as Live isn’t really that by seconds in this country!
Now I agree this brother does have the right to express his opinions however ridiculous they may be and he evidently is EXERCISING that right. But Ebrima Sillah has a fiduciary duty as a public official. So Ebrima Sillah should be allowed to do his job with dignity and respect!
Because I didn’t want to make a fool of myself, I took the time the past three days to go to the archives of the Gambia_L to re-read Tombong Saidy’s posts. Then I reviewed everything Neneh Macdoll has out. Did same for Modou Sanyang and Malick Jones (not much at all.) My goal is to contrast the writings I have from Sillah with his predecessors just for “sanity check” as we say in my line of work- given all the questions being raised about Ebrima’s qualifications. What I’m CERTAIN ABOUT is, this brouhaha has nothing to do with Ebrima Sillah’s qualifications. The man is a college-educated reporter who writes well, is genteel, and well spoken. Anyone observant enough can tell that Nyang Njie isn’t a lone wolf. The young man is haughty and narcissistic, alright, but he wouldn’t be saying and doing the things he is all by himself. He is a front for a group that got stupendously wealthy from their corrupt association with Yahya Jammeh. In the past eight months, they’ve been primarily concerned with covering their tracks and laying low. Because of some of the naïve leadership we have, these people now feel embolden to push to have their surrogates in strategic positions in the public service – having already been given some positions. What they’re doing to Ebrima Sillah is the beginning of the final assault. They figure if they cannot uproot Sillah, at the minimum, they can render him a figurehead which will allow him to do whatever they want at GRTS. If they succeed, with Sillah, no one in the cabinet will be save from them! You see, this would be good for Gambia if their designs were noble. Instead, they’re WORSE THAN the politicians they keep shooing Pa Nderry on. That is why I backed off critiquing Mai Fatty and the others. So, I’m cautioning others to be careful!
I cannot speak about Ebrima’s competence because competence is a qualitative measure and therefore subjective. It’s only easy to assess when pegged to tangible results. But I have knowledge about how far Ebrima was willing to go in our war against Yahya Jammeh! You see, when MOST of the people now insulting Ebrima Sillah were hiding behind pseudonyms or afraid to get involved at all, Ebrima Sillah wasn’t hesitant to jump in the thick of things. Ebrima Sillah came to national prominence as the BBC Stringer Yahya Jammeh’s agents tried to burn alive with his family in his apartment in Serrekunda. When he escaped death, and got to Dakar, unlike other reporter asylees, he became a real activist saving many lives in the process. I worked with him from 2004 while he was in Dakar until he relocated to Accra about five years ago sharing information on Jammeh’s agent’s and their movements. We lost several comrades in the struggle, but Sherifba Jobe -who is now in Gambia can shed some light on Ebrima Sillah’s role in helping our comrades stay ahead of Jammeh’s agents. Those questioning this man’s patriotism really need to quit.
What is true is Ebrima Sillah is a political appointee and a member of the UDP a fact I didn’t even know until mid-2013, because Ebrima is equally critical of all the former opposition leaders. To many this is his crime! In his position, he has been nothing but professional. Yet not even his enemies have accused him of bias in his duties. Somehow, it is ok for Ebrima Sillah to have escaped death by the whiskers in the service of his country, and to be a political refugee for close to thirteen years. But take a job for which he obviously is qualified? Where this nonsense that a UDP member cannot be independent and fair-minded comes from, I don’t know. Gambians need to peek in the mirror and let Ebrima Sillah CONTINUE THE NEEDED REFORMS AT GRTS!
Courtesy of www.mantakara.com