Breaking News: The Big Interview: Ablie Njie Lekbi Speaks!!

Lekbi Speaks!!
“My opinion of the Freedom newspaper is that it has evolved in terms readership and can be accurately called the oracle of Gambian issues these days, but I think one can easily see that it is  an Anti APRC/Jammeh paper, which is very obvious  based on the stance of the majority of your postings which tend to scrutinize everything the current administration is doing ,and mostly leaning towards the negative part.It sometimes tend to apply a guilt by association strategy with no regard to possible implications far beyond politics such as its inability to distinguish between what is personal and what is public to the extent that it can break families apart, thus making it very difficult for well intended people.It presents a very difficult case for neutrality in terms of fair reporting.  Perhaps equal scrutiny of the opposing parties might make it a more balanced paper.  But judging from the number of daily hits I see, I can safely say that it is here to stay and have presented a very tough competition to the once dominating  Gambia-L and Gambia Post respectively.  It is in my opinion , the Gambian version of The Daily Enquirer.So to me regardless, it serves a purpose, but requires a more balance ratio.” says Ablie Njie alias Lekbi. He was speaking in an exclusive interview with the Freedom Newspaper. Mr.Njie, a leading musical promoter based here in the US, commented on a wide range of issues. Mr.Njie who had MBA in international Management believe that the Gambia can be a better place to live if its people are willing to entertain dialogue. Below is the full text of the interview Mr.Njie had with our Managing Editor/Publisher Pa Nderry M’Bai. Please read on….

Freedom Newspaper: Can you briefly tell us about yourself?

Ablie Njie-LEKBI
I am known by some as Ablie Njie- Lekbi , and I was born and raised in Banjul @ 2 Lasso Wharf Street and blessed with  a very caring and loving family.  I lost my father at a very early age when I was only 18 months old. I was practically raised by my mother who migrated to the Gambia from Sierra Leone.
I learned about tolerance growing up in a family consisting of both Christians and Muslims.  I have three siblings who are Christians with last names of Thomas and Williams respectively.  So, I guess you can say that I grew with a rare luxury of celebrating Christmas, Tobaski, Easter, Koriteh all in  one household which subsequently solidified my belief that co-existence is very possible regardless of one’s religious choice , political  or ideological belief, and therefore my reason for intolerance of religious hegemonic propaganda.
I attended The Gambia Muslim high School and was among the first batch  on September 15th, 1975 after passing the common entrance examination from St. Mary’s Primary School.
As far as my profession, I can only say that I spent the last twelve years in the telecom industry after obtaining my MBA certifications in 1994 from Golden Gate University in San Francisco , California in the field of International Management, a telecommunications management  BS Degree from Devry Institute of Technology  as well as an Information Systems degree from Interactive College of technology.
I have been very active as a  promoter of mostly Senegalese musicians to perform here in the states since 2000, and I am equally active in the Atlanta community organization known as AGERA.
Freedom Newspaper: What is AGERA?
Ablie Njie-LEKBI

AGERA is an apolitical organization ( meaning it does not deal with politics) and was created to meet the emergency needs of the Gambians in Atlanta.
It is an organization with very well intended and vibrant people.  As a matter of fact, it plays host to the annual July Fourth celebrations held here in Atlanta, Georgia which by the way will be celebrated this year from July 6 thru 8, 2007.
Freedom Newspaper: How did you find your way into  America?
Ablie Njie-LEKBI

I have a sister by the name of Kura Njie who came to the states and helped me come over.  I must also say that for me, coming to America was my preoccupation even when I was studying for my GCE O’ levels in 1981.   I remember making jokes when my classmates asked why I was not applying myself especially knowing that I was the best student in French at the time, and I used to say to them, “Who needs France when you already have America”? I guess my poor French speaking skills are somewhat paying off  whenever I deal with my Senegalese business partners.
Freedom Newspaper: Do you like it here in the U.S?
Ablie  Njie-LEKBI
To me, America just like any other country has its pros and cons.  But  ultimate wisdom often dictates that ones home is where his family is.  So, I can therefore say to you that, as long my family including my sons and daughters are in the states, I will continue to like it and consider it my home.
Freedom Newspaper: Reading your postings on the Gambia L and the mighty post, you sound like a very independent minded person. Are you really controversial as widely portrayed in some quarters?

Ablie  Njie-LEKBI

I think one must always have an independent mind, and not allow yourself to be easily swayed. I guess my reason for that is the fact that it takes a lot for me to trust, and I refuse to be part of something just because it is deemed the politically correct thing to do, whether it is PRO or Anti government.
Therefore, I try not let anyone influence me in making decisions I don’t believe in just because I want to be accepted as a team player.
People have their beliefs and convictions about issues and I must respect it, but that does not mean that I have to believe in what is illusively perceived  as the right path, ideology or political affiliation and risk being branded a blind follower or supporter.  If that is what being independent is, then that’s a very fair assessment of Ablie Njie-LEKBI Chi Birr Atlanta.
It is OK to have different points of views and still find a common ground for the sake of progress and not to hate or malice, because at the end of the day , we must find a way to get along since we are all Gambians, but not in the name of patronizing or groupthink.
As far being controversial, I do have a tendency of asking bold questions which some will perhaps choose not to pursue for the sake of Maslaa and ultimate fear of being blacklisted or marginalised.
Some might think that, following that path of thinking is not good for progress, but I’ve always believed that one should always develop a habit of thinking out of the box, this way you hear and raise issues which in some cases might be the so-called forbidden fruits. In my opinion, that is how you achieve thorough and well thought out results.
I always yearn for clarity, honesty and confidence in whatever I do with the utmost goal of being able to deliver what I/we promise. Like all things in this world, some will like you and some will not. Some of our endeavors will materialize and some will not, so life is a gamble and LEKBI does not loose sleep over that- Some you win, and some you loose.

I think that one must be able to define himself and character if you are to live in this world.  So, I am not worried about being branded as controversial, it is part of life.  The good thing about it is that I stand for something and not afraid to speak my mind regardless of the consequences.
Freedom Newspaper: What is your own assessment of Gambia’s political situation, as we speak?

Ablie  Njie-LEKBI
This is a very sensitive question.  Some would like me to say it’s O.K and some would like me to say it is not.  My assessment about the political situation is that we must find a way to get along and be more tolerant towards each other.  Speak the truth regardless of our political affiliation and be able to recognize the difference  between CRITIQUING & CRITICISING.-they are in other words, APPLES & ORANGES.
I think the intentions to do good are there simply because Gambians all over the world are interested in the well being of our country, it just happened that we have a different ways and preferences of achieving that objective.  For instance, supporters of Jammeh and his regime believe that he is the right man for the country regardless of some monumental and unprecedented issues, while others share the opposite view, but both camps with very good and tangible reasons. However, at the same time there are areas which need some serious reconsideration for the sake of unity.

Freedom Newspaper: Would you describe the Gambia under President Yahya Jammeh as a “democratic” country? If yes,  what make you to say that?

Ablie  Njie-LEKBI
Of course I will call it democratic in some areas.  I say yes because elections were democratically held, the people went out and voted and chose Jammeh and not the UDP or NADD.

Now, when you talk about democracy, it is not just a matter who the people voted for, it entails many other issues including certain civil liberties where  I think there are some deficiencies, but nothing that cannot be worked out if all camps are willing to entertain serious and honest dialogue.
Freedom Newspaper: In your view, what areas does this administration needs to improve on, in a bid to win the confidence of the civilized world?
Ablie  Njie-LEKBI
I think your Freedom Newspaper has a very big role  to play as well in this bid for the simple fact that the majority of your postings are geared against the APRC regime. Because in this day of the Internet, you never know who is reading. So, you also have a responsibility to contribute to this bid and so does every Gambian.  In a nut shell,   I think you must also try to include some of the positive things they are doing.
As far as the current administration, I would like to see more tolerance for the press amongst a pile of issues and an effort to come and meet the Gambian diaspora so that we can have a dialogue and work towards the common good of the Gambia.  Therefore, I think  both the administration and its detractors have a huge role to play.

Freedom Newspaper: Do you foresee a power vacuum in Gambia, in the event President  Jammeh happens to gracefully step down  from power today? Even though he said he would rule the Gambia for the next 40 years, let assume that he changes his mind and said “enough is enough” I need a private life. Do you think business would go as usual  in the absence of Jammeh?

Ablie  Njie-LEKBI
I don’t like to dwell on what-ifs especially when I don’t have much knowledge on the subject.  The Gambian people are the ones who decided to elect Jammeh, and that is a question only they can answer. As a  Gambian however, I think there must be people within the human resource pool of the country who are qualified to manage the country in the event he changes his mind.  That succession process will have to be in the hands of the electorates and must not be left on speculation.  One thing I can assure you is that Gambians are very smart people.
Freedom Newspaper: Do you see President Jammeh, as a dictator as he is painted in some quarters?
Ablie  Njie-LEKBI

No comment on that.
Freedom Newspaper Why not?
Ablie  Njie-LEKBI

I am not a politician and would not venture in that area.

Freedom Newspaper: In your own view, has the Jammeh government achieved any success story since coming to power?

Ablie  Njie-LEKBI
Of course, they have achieved some success in some areas.  I last visited The Gambia in 2006 and stayed for three months.  I saw some significant developments in some areas, but very little or almost none in other areas. For instance, the housing industry was and is still booming although I think it requires some kind of order to maintain the landscape and put more effort in paving the street roads , the telecom industry was at its infancy stage compared to countries like Senegal where a DSL line is readily available through bundle packaging of Cable, telephone and internet similar to the U.S., and electricity was at the time intermittently available and rationed mainly due to the absence of aggressive privatization efforts.
I also saw an effort to address these utility sectors through the establishment of PURA , but the country was not where I left it when I visited in 2000, so in my opinion there have been some significant progress in  some areas during the six years .
However, I can also tell you that Gambians are very keen on going about their business.  In most cases very reluctant and uninterested in discussing politics. I really think that if they do  discuss it, it is often done  behind  closed doors for fear of being labeled.

Freedom Newspaper: What is your fair assessment of the  deposed Jawara government and that of the Yahya Jammeh government? Any difference between the two?

Ablie  Njie-LEKBI

The PPP did its part towards the evolution of the Gambia from a dependent colony up to their time of extinction. The PPP regime like the current  APRC regime has its pros and cons. So it just depends on which side of the fence you want to be. But at the end of the day,  one can fairly say that they both had/have their chance to perform and history will be the judge.
Freedom Newspaper: The coming of the military was it necessary in the first place?

Ablie  Njie-LEKBI
I am not very knowledgeable when it comes to the military.  Perhaps you can educate me on that.
Freedom Newspaper: Has Jawara over stayed his welcome?
Ablie  Njie-LEKBI

I read somewhere that he once offered to retire but was convinced to stay.  Perhaps he should have listened to his instincts and be independent minded, it does help sometimes you know.
Freedom Newspaper: What is your honest opinion of the Gambia opposition?
Ablie  Njie-LEKBI
I think the current opposition setup needs a serious realignment.  I say that because it seems to lack mass appeal of the people, and perhaps it’s time for them to step aside and give chance to others.
Freedom Newspaper: Do you think that the current opposition can dislodge Jammeh’s government through the ballot box?
Ablie  Njie-LEKBI

If it is anything like what they presented in 2006, I seriously doubt it. After the 2006 election, like many people, I did an analysis of the election results based on total registered voters. After what I found comparing the figures of both 2001 and 2006 gathered from the IEC , it was my opinion that, neither the APRC nor the opposition carried a majority  of the Gambian  registered voters if analysis were to  based on the total number of electorates i.e 670,336 in 2006 versus 450,706 in 2001. I said that because over 42 percent of the registered voters stayed home and decided not to go to the polls. Only 39.44 percent voted for the (APRC) and 19.10 voted for the (Opposition), therefore, there is an obvious SILENT MAJORITY which is the forty-two percent in whose hands lies the decision about who the next President will be in 2011, if they ever decide to come out and vote.

The reason for this was that voter apathy had played an alarming role which signals   dissatisfaction of many voters and  lack of mass appeal for the current opposition parties. For the APRC, it could  also mean that for Jammeh and APRC to hold on to power, they must reach out and find a way to connect to the silent majority
Freedom Newspaper: Do you still stand by your views on the famous NADD? If yes why?

Ablie  Njie-LEKBI
I am not sure what views you are referring to.  I  have always  thought that NADD had a chance to contest more competitively if they remained  intact than when separated.
Freedom Newspaper: In your view, what must have been responsible for the collapse of  NADD?

Ablie  Njie-LEKBI
I am not privy to that information, perhaps STGDP members are in a better position to answer that considering they worked tirelessly to see to  it that it was a successful outcome.
Freedom Newspaper: What needs to be done to have a credible and vibrant opposition in the Gambia?

Ablie  Njie-LEKBI
I am not in the business of  making suggestions on how to form political parties. However,  I suspect that either an independent movement would one day emerge totally different from the current opposition set up we have or the silent majority will continue to increase in portion. So, wherever they decide to go, that is the party that will definitely to win. So far,it looks like all Jammeh needs is  about 20 percent of that majority.

Freedom Newspaper: What political party do you support in the Gambia?

Ablie  Njie-LEKBI

I do not belong to any political party.  Politics is not my interest, but as the saying goes- politics is present in everything we do or say.

Freedom Newspaper: What is your impression about the Save The Gambia Democracy Project? Is this organization really living up to expectations?

Ablie  Njie-LEKBI

I think it is an organization which has worked real hard to see the NADD coalition to fruition only to have all their hopes and chances to defeat Jammeh shattered.  For right now, they seem to be dormant, but you never know, they just might come back more vibrant than ever.
Freedom Newspaper: We read somewhere on the G post, where you lamented about the Organization’s late response to  journalist Fatou Jaw Manneh’s case. Can you elaborate more on this?

Ablie  Njie-LEKBI

What prompted my comment was that I read almost three articles at the time, all of which indicated that her  membership in STGDP  was part of the reasons for her arrest, albeit the article she wrote about Jammeh.
I therefore, expected STGDP to come out with a press release prior to any other.  To me, they have come out and did what I thought was the appropriate thing to do and it is now history.

Freedom Newspaper: Are you a member of the Save The Gambia Democracy  Project?

Ablie  Njie-LEKBI
No, I am not a member of STGDP. I am not a member of any political party.  I am a member of the SILENT majority, and therefore a fence sitter.
Freedom Newspaper: What areas do you think the Organization needs to improve on?

Ablie  Njie-LEKBI

I cannot make suggestions as to where they should improve on.  Judging from the membership pool I know of, they do have very intelligent and capable individuals who I am sure can work on their own improvement.  I am definitely the wrong person to answer that question.

Freedom Newspaper: Let shift our gears now  to the music industry. What inspired you to go in for music promotion? Anything special about this?
Ablie  Njie-LEKBI

I got into music promotion by accident through a conflict that occurred in 2000 regarding the celebrations of the July fourth in Atlanta.  At the time, the organization then known as (GRO) thought it could enhance the standards of the celebrations.
The only problem was that a group of us in the organizing committee decided to bring Alioune Mbaye Nder to Atlanta through a selective investment group . A production group known as Juffure productions was created which later became Senegambia Productions.
The venture although fully successful , raised a big problem to the extent that we had two separate celebrations after unsuccessful  attempts by many in the community including the former Gambian Ambassdor to the U.S. John P. Bojang to bring about reconciliation.
Luckily in the name of Unity we all came back together the following year . The rest is history!!!

Freedom Newspaper: The average Gambian perceives music promoters as “unskilled” and unschooled. Your views on this?
Ablie  Njie-LEKBI

Then I must have defied the norm.  I think people have different passions in life amongst  many , some political, some social and some musical like myself.  There are Gambians in the entertainment business for example. promoters  and producers like OKO Drammeh, Buharry in Sweden, Njok Malik who are highly eloquent and articulate in any subject  of discussion to the extent that you wonder if they are in the right profession.
As far as I am concerned, I think once one acquires good management skills similar to the ones demonstrated by these individuals, they can even run a country – Its just a passion we have, but it does not mean that we are inadequate in any way shape or form.
Our academic accolades clearly speaks humbly for themselves- Remember, someone like Buharry has created Raaki Radio and is highly skilled in the technical field, not to mention his eloquence especially when he writes and OKO Drammeh has reached heights and levels unheard of in the U.S ,European, Asian and other entertainment industries at a time when it was very difficult to tap the World music industry.

Freedom Newspaper: You have been bringing Senegalese artists into the US over the years. Why not Gambian artists? Is it because they are not marketable?

Ablie  Njie-LEKBI
Yes and No. It is simple economics 101- Marketability is a relative phenomenon depending on your target market.  For example, there is a young upcoming Gambian sensation by the name of “Freaky Joe” who is really trying very hard.  In fact, he was the opening act of the recent Viviane Ndour show we had in Atlanta in 2006,  and I must say that Viviane was very impressed and happy with his performance ,Jaliba Kuyateh is equally marketable as well, particularly in the New York and Seattle markets. We have also seen how AKON has pretty much defied conventional modus operandi of the U.S music industry with an unbelievable success.  So, one must have something to offer that is appealing to the consumer.
However,   as a business man, my bottom line or ROI( Return on Investment) matters.  At the end of the day, it is  this investment that partly feeds my family. I therefore must distinguish between patriotism and forces of the marketplace i.e supply and demand .
The U.S. Senegambian mbalax audience is no different from that which is back home in the Gambia and Senegal.  The same reason why you see most events being done by Senegalese artist back home is a matter of choice and taste of the consumer which is therefore the driving force behind why we provide products that has a higher demand in the market, thus more commercially viable.
For instance, Buharry has been very patriotic musically by devoting a lot of his time to Gambian artist, and so is Oko. I have worked with Oussu Njie Senor and to some extent Maslaa bi  who eventually were denied Visas in Dakar.  So my intention to work with Gambian artists is there and is currently in the pipeline.
As far as my view about some Gambian musicians, I think we need to develop our own genre similar to how the Senegalese mastered Mbalax .  Besides, there are Jamaicans and Americans who are better at playing reggae and Rap.   I think Jaliba Kuyateh and Tatadinding once developed a very unique genre by mixing the mbalax, Kora , Tama and Sabarr together. Although this was at its infancy stage, in my opinion they should have held on to it because it had a lot of potential.

Freedom Newspaper: Who is your favorite SeneGambian artist?
Ablie  Njie-LEKBI

I do not have a favorite Senegambian artist.  To me any good music is appealing to me.

Freedom Newspaper: Does one  needs to have a good capital to bring artists in the US?
Ablie  Njie-LEKBI
Of course, it takes money to make money, although I can confess that I have a long way to go before  I start seeing the rewards of my persistence and perseverance.   Bringing musicians to America entails very tedious logistics of which money is not the most important, but very necessary.  Like Coca-Cola, my formula will remain my secret.
Freedom Newspaper: What can you tell us about the pending well publicized Pape Diouf shows in the US?
Ablie  Njie-LEKBI

Like everything else I do, I like to approach these tours from a project management standpoint, and make sure I look at each development stage carefully.    Right now, we are in final parts of the  planning and designing stages.  Hopefully, we will get the desired results in the end.

Freedom Newspaper: What’s your overall assessment of the Freedom Newspaper?

Ablie  Njie-LEKBI
You’ve asked a question which really requires my independent and controversial nature you eluded to earlier in one of your questions.
My opinion of the Freedom newspaper is that it has evolved in terms readership and can be accurately called the oracle of Gambian issues these days, but I think one can easily see that it is  an Anti APRC/Jammeh paper, which is very obvious  based on the stance of the majority of your postings which tend to scrutinize everything the current administration is doing ,and mostly leaning towards the negative part.
It sometimes tend to apply a guilt by association strategy with no regard to possible implications far beyond politics such as its inability to distinguish between what is personal and what is public to the extent that it can break families apart, thus making it very difficult for well intended people.
It presents a very difficult case for neutrality in terms of fair reporting.  Perhaps equal scrutiny of the opposing parties might make it a more balanced paper.  But judging from the number of daily hits I see, I can safely say that it is here to stay and have presented a very tough competition to the once dominating  Gambia-L and Gambia Post respectively.  It is in my opinion , the Gambian version of The Daily Enquirer.
So to me regardless, it serves a purpose, but requires a more balance ratio.
Freedom Newspaper: Do you feel scared at one moment, when you thought of advertising with Freedom, considering how Jammeh and his agents  viewed this paper?
Ablie  Njie-LEKBI

I guess if I have to follow your frame of thought and reasoning,  then I should equally be scared to advertise on the daily observer which is deemed an anti-opposition and pro- government paper.  I have in the past and will in the future seek publicity with them if I feel that they can provide the readership we need.
Advertising on the freedom Newspaper has nothing to do with Jammeh and his agents.  I am a businessman who has a need to reach Gambians, and the Freedom Newspaper including the Gambia Post and Gambia L at this present moment  can satisfied that need.
I am also confident that President Jammeh and his agents have more pressing issues to attend to than worrying about who is advertising on Freedom Newspaper. I am glad that you can satisfy an advertising need, and that you can also help enhance the marketability of our project.  Your  team have been very helpful in  making sure that our ads are out on time.  I must also say that I really admire your work ethic.  We therefore thank you and hold you in high regards.

Freedom Newspaper: What makes you to advertise with Freedom? What’s the secret behind your move?

Ablie  Njie-LEKBI

It is a pure business decision and nothing else. Any business entity wants product recognition through publicity, and therefore tend to go towards the direction of mediums that can offer visibility to their products.  Advertising on Freedom Newspaper to me serves a reciprocal  purpose.
It is evident that Gambians are accessing your paper despite numerous complaints about its contents, you have  financial gains from it when we pay you for your services, in return we anticipate awareness of our projects.

Freedom Newspaper: Any final word to Gambians?
Ablie  Njie-LEKBI
I think we should find a way to come together to the table with an open mind based on sincerity, genuine dialogue and a strong will to contribute towards the development of the Gambia regardless of where we are or who we support. It is the spirit of being a  GAMBIAN.
Freedom Newspaper: Thanks Mr.Njie for sparing your busy schedules to grant us this interview.

Ablie  Njie-LEKBI

Now you know how I think.  Thanks and Good Luck to you.

The editor can be reached at the following addresses:editor@freedomnewspaper.com, or panderrymbai@gmail.com If you know that it’s happening or is about to happen please contact us. It’s easy. Just type your info on our contact us file and  then click send. The Freedom Newspaper is your leading and most authoritative  source of news. We have the required professionals to serve you round the clock. Get your morning breakfast news by reading Freedom. We have good stuffs  every morning. At Freedom, we mean business.

Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2007 (Archive on Monday, July 23, 2007)
Posted by PNMBAI  Contributed by PNMBAI
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