Breaking News:The Big Interview:Leading Gambian Professor Dr.Sulayman Nyang Speaks!!
“In light of this understanding,  I would argue that the style of rule and the manner in which President Jammeh negotiates his way with the other politicians in the country has made it different from his predecessor. Under Jammeh Gambians have seen  more violence and the Gambian people have come to taste the same good and bad of military rule. If the Jawara regime was called the times of Kairaba ( BIG PEACE), then the Jammeh period will be remembered as  the time of powerful leadership that puts much faith in the might of the state and the flexibility and malleability of the Gambian people. Unwilling to see more blood in their politics and having embraced the old Mandinka notion of “Allah Ya keh” as in the Jawara period, trouble in the political system would come only when younger men like Jammeh and Kukoi Samba Sanyang come to light. Such political animals are  endangered species because of the nature of the changing international system and the greater desire for peaceful politics through slow but positive democratization.” These were the exact words of  the leading Gambian professor Dr.Sulayman Nyang. Dr.Nyang who teaches African Studies at the Washington DC based Howard University,  is a renowned poet, cum consultant . Speaking in an exclusive interview with Freedom Newspaper’s Managing Editor Pa Nderry M’Bai, professor Nyang says politics of violence never works in any civilized democratic set up.” Institutions take time to develop and neither Jawara nor Jammeh will be around when scholars  and commentators on democracy in Africa convincingly pronounce the Gambia a working and surviving democracy. The main challenge for President Jammeh is to demonstrate commitment to the process and let history takes its course. Through compromise and bargaining he stands a chance. Any love affair with violence and intimidation would fail because of changing times in domestic and international affairs. Globalization and the increased sophistication of human beings around the world have conspired to make  democracy the best form of government ala Winston Churchill.” The Howard University professor posited. Below is the full text of the interview we had  with Professor Nyang. Please read on…

Freedom Newspaper: Can you briefly introduce yourself to our dear readers?

Dr.S Nyang:My name is Sulayman S. Nyang. I am the son of Alhaji Sheih Nyang and Fatou Bah. I am presently a full professor teaching at the Department of African Studies at Howard University in Washington D.C. I was born in the Gambia in 1944 and went to Quranic and Catholic Schools before I left the Gambia for England  in 1964. I spent about a year in the United Kingdom before I found my way to the United States of America in 1965. I received my B.A. degree in Political Science and Philosophy from Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia, my M.A. degree in Public administration and my doctorate in government from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia.From 1975 to 1978 I served as a Gambian diplomat accredited to eleven countries in Africa and the  Middle East. I was based in Jeddah ,when the embassy was first opened in 1975 and we served Gambian interest in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kuwait, UAE, Libya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, Lebanon, Iran and Bahrein

Freedom Newspaper: The Gambia, has been going through rough times in the recent past, with stories of alleged coup attempts, armed robberies, disappearances and closure of media houses. What are  your views on Gambia’s political situation today?
Dr. S Nyang: The Gambia is a country that has potentials. It can be the hotdog inside the Senegalese  roll with a big difference. What I mean by this metaphor is that the Gambians and the Senegalese are the same people but history has conspired to make them live in separate political entities. Many Gambians and  Senegalese have accepted this destiny. Once this
metaphor, is acknowledged by the peoples of the two countries then they must work hard to avoid the negative consequences of the metaphor used by the late President Senghor when he described the Gambia as ” a  revolver pointed at the heart of Senegal.” I mean the former Senegalese President was very concerned about the relationship between the two countries. He did not force the hands of former President Jawara to bring  the two countries together. Many agreements were signed and even after the UN made their proposal for independent Senegal and about-to-be-independent Gambia, Senghor accepted the Gambian choice of separate independent. This was the case up to the time  he handed over power to his successon, President Abdou Diouf.

I started answering your question this way because I want to make it categorically clear that Gambia’s political stability depends on four things. First is the state of the regional community of Senegambia Minor and Senegambia Major. If Senegal and Gambia are in harmony and they benefit for progressive, liberal and democratic political development in each country, chances the two people would coexist amicably and their economies would prosper. This political imperative is closely linked to political stability in Senegambia Major. This larger political geography includes the two nations and the other states benefiting from the Senegal and Gambia rivers. This is to say, political difficulties in Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry and Mauretania could be dangerous for peace and security in the area.

Because of the interconnectedness of the countries, it is dangerous and unwise for Gambians to pay little or no attention to the stability of the neighborhood and the stability of the  country itself. This is why the stability of the Gambia is related to the stability of the regional. With respect to the Gambia itself, three of issues affect the state of things. The first of this inner factors are the nature of the political process and  the politics of compromise and bargaining among the political elites. During the Jawara era, political stability was maintained largely because of the politics of co-optation. The United Party under Pierre Sarr Njie lost its standing because its members defected to the PPP of President Jawara and political opposition had no way of sharing power but through defection to the ruling party. The system had no room for opposition parties to enjoy some of the fruits of  post independent power at the local or national government levels.

Due to that state of affairs many of the young people who later supported anti-government activities would be directly or  indirectly linked to subversive efforts to create a new regime in the country. The Kukoi Samba Sanyang coup detat was the first evidence of trouble for the Gambia. Here one now sees the connection between political discontent within the Gambia and the role  and place of Senegal and neighboring countries in the political stability of the country. During the thirty years of President Jawara many in his regime were either oblivious to the pains and dissatisfaction of the opposition groups in the country or were deaf to  the call for better democratic balancing of the interest of the ruling party and the opposition. Once the first coup detat took place, the sitting  government of Jawara ran for cover. The Gambian hotdog now needed the Senegalese rolls for security and safety. The Senegalese came and suppressed the coup makers. Hence the Senegambian Confederation. This modus vivendi did not last long because the players were either play games with one another or were merely interested in satisfying limited and short-term ends. Whatever was their true feelings, in the end they merely laid the foundations for another explosion thirteen years later. Hence the coup that is now linked to the name of the sitting President. Unlike the first coup detat the 1994 takeover made Senegal a silent observer and the question of peace and security  failed to materialized.

President Jawara faced the same problems as his predecessors. Both men have been chosen by destiny to carry the mantle of leadership in the country. The two things that faced them from the  very beginning of their rule is the politics of the belly and the challenges of economic dependency. Without resources as in countries like Gabon and elsewhere in the developing areas, the Gambian leaders must find beat for their people and they must pay bills so as to be counted as viable and credible in international affairs. By addressing the politics of the belly through complex foreign aid deals abroad and through the establishment of a politics of comprise and bargaining with a smaller Gambian population, Jawara and his team kept the peace with occasionally eruptions here and there during the thirty years of almost one party state.

President Jammeh lives in a more populated Gambia and the level of political consciousness is higher than before. Two things have worked for him. The first is the Gambian fascination to migrate abroad and to enlist in the growing body of foreigners remitting monies to their relatives. This globalization of the Gambian families, clans and villages has made the poverty of the Gambia not the problem it used to in the early days or Jawara. Rather, it is now seen as a part of the development process and having a relative abroad compensates for the lack of direct or indirect access to government. This changes the nature of political opposition.  Another factor is the manner and style of government of President Jammeh. Any careful review of his rule demonstrates beyond reasonable doubt that he has made more Gambians ministers of state than his predecessor. Not only has he brought to government many people than Jawara; but he has brought to the centers of power many Gambians who would never have made it to the top.

In light of this understanding,  I would argue that the style of rule and the manner in which President Jammeh negotiates his way with the other politicians in the country has made it different from his predecessor. Under Jammeh Gambians have seen  more violence and the Gambian people have come to taste the same good and bad of military rule. If the Jawara regime was called the times of Kairaba ( BIG PEACE), then the Jammeh period will be remembered as  the time of powerful leadership that puts much faith in the might of the state and the flexibility and malleability of the Gambian people. Unwilling to see more blood in their politics and having embraced the old Mandinka notion of “Allah Ya keh” as in the Jawara period, trouble in the political system would come only when younger men like Jammeh and Kukoi Samba Sanyang come to light. Such political animals are  endangered species because of the nature of the changing international system and the greater desire for peaceful politics through slow but positive democratization.

Freedom Newspaper: In your view, what are the factors  that qualifies a country to be called a failed state?

Dr. S Nyang:  A country is called a failed state when its leaders have lost control of the souls of their people and the state can  no longer capture the attention and imagination of these people. Not only can a state lose contact with its people, it can create the conditions that force people to emigrate and leave elsewhere. Somalia is the best example of a failed state and the inability of foreign governments to welcome her in world conferences has underscored  the point.
Freedom Newspaper: On the other hand, President Jammeh had argued that he had brought “unprecedented” development in the Gambia, with the ordinary Gambian having access to basic education, health care and other social amenities. The regime also brags about the University of the Gambia, numerous schools, road network  and hospitals it built across the country over the years. Your views on this?
Dr. S Nyang:  The answer to this question is as follows: the development of the Gambia is evident in some areas of life, but the gap between economic  development and the capacity to develop is wide. Gambia has very limited resources and the infrastructure development claimed by the Jammeh regime cannot be denied. What one would like to affirm is the poverty of the country and the need for  Gambians to note that no journey can be taken by the Gambians if they failed to work together seriously to effect changes.
Freedom Newspaper: What positive development (if any) has Mr.Jammeh initiated since coming to power?
Dr. S Nyang: Jammeh has developed the broadcasting service of the country. There is a TV station that adds a great deal to the definition and magnification  of the Gambian identity. With TV the President and the people have a place in the cyber space. They had a place in the world of radio during the Jawara regime;however, under President Jammeh, they are now able to project themselves better than President Jawara could. Another development is the renovation of the airport. I think most of the Gambians who visited the country since this renovation, agree about its improvement  since Jammeh came to power.

Jammeh’s use of foreign doctors has added to his image among certain Gambians. Gambia has many sick people. Anything better than Jawara in the field of medicine would give Jammeh greater  prestige and honor.
This is certainly true with respect to schools in the provinces. Jammeh and his supporters would count schools built by the last regime under Jawara and the new regime of Jammeh.

Freedom Newspaper: Comparing President Jammeh and Jawara who among the two would you vote as a true democrat?
Dr. S Nyang?  The two men represent different sets of circumstances in Gambian history. It is dangerous and unwise to pit them as historical contestants in an imaginary race. They are not racing against each other. History has made them members of a relay race. Jawara has already covered his ground and we can judge him conclusively, unless a miracle occurs and he is
back in power. I strongly believe the former President is more comfortable now in the Gambia than he was in England. Like his counterparts elsewhere in Africa, he now lives in the Gambia as other political exiles have done. Running for office is out of the question. Old age and thoughts about life beyond the grave are most  likely to be dominant in his mind.

Jammeh has history on his side so long as he is in command. He can change his fortune and reverse and correct past errors and lead the political arena honorably. Jawara had the chance  to do so but he thought otherwise. For this and other related reasons, it is difficult to choice one against the other. What one can say are the following historical facts. The first is that Jammeh’s rule is  linked to the violence and blood at its beginning, Not so the Jawara regime. It could have gone that way, if the opposition under Pierre Sarr Njie was recalcitrant and aggressive. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed  and the peoples of Banjul who were caught in the political fight benefited and the peoples from the provinces managed to capture political power and changed their circumstances.

Freedom Newspaper: But critics say deposed President Jawara was “reckless” in the way he runs the Gambia. That he ignored corruption and its perpetrators? Your views please?
Dr. S Nyang:  Those who blame Jawara for corruption must judge him fairly. If he had taken money he would not have returned to the Gambia. I visited Jawara in London after his fall. Prior to that he was a distant  star unreachable to young scholars like me. It was only after his fall that his relatives and in laws who knew brought my name to his attention.

When I visited Jawara’s residence in the United Kingdom I saw no affluence. I  saw no stolen property. What I believe happened in his case was his easy going behavior which open the doors to hustlers in the society. It is very easy for a chief or a king to fall into the hands of our people.  Through fear, flattery and skillful manipulation of Juju and other African means peculiar to their cultures, African leaders who build no organizations fall and perish. Without effective organizations most of the African leaders lack transparency and accountability. Through deception and manipulation a leader, even as tough and determined as Jammeh, could fall prey. President Jawara allowed certain practices to go own and those under him knew how to grease the  pole and massacre the ego of the BIG BOSS. Jawara fell into this pit of political doom when corruption was seen and identified by both his supporters and his foes. Gambia is a very poor country, and it is easy to  notice and identify corrupt officials. Jawara was not as kleptocratic as a Mobutu, but  he was careless to some extent to miss the mischief of his collaborators. This, in my view, will be the judgement of future  Gambians and Africans.

Freedom Newspaper: Would you say that  President Jammeh is repeating the conditions that led to Jawara’s removal, even though coups are illegal in all  its forms?
Dr. S Nyang:   I have already answered that question.
Freedom Newspaper: What leads to military coups in  Africa? Has the African military undermined the development of democracy on the continent?
Dr. S Nyang:  I have already answered that question.
Freedom Newspaper: What’s the way forward to end coups and counter coups on the continent?
Dr. S Nyang:  I have answered that question.
Freedom Newspaper: Do you see President Jammeh as a “dictator.” ?
Dr. S Nyang: Jammeh’s part to power resembles Jerry  Rawlings. Students of African politics would say that Gambia came to power through a coup detat and as a military ruler he was perceived as a dictator. That was why  we created the Pro-Democracy Movement in the  United States and he urged Chairman Jammeh of the military regime to think ahead and move towards a civilized government. After much debate and pressure, he and his group moved forward and the opposition groups that felt victimized under Jawara had a new  day. Unless I am mistaken, this was my feeling at the time. The opposition groups saw an opening and they thought they would do better under this political dispensation that before. Real or imagined, things apparently turned out differently.
Freedom Newspaper: If you have the chances of meeting President Jammeh one day, what would you tell him?

S Nyang: That meeting would be a private matter and its contents would be private. It will certainly cover Gambia and its future.

Freedom Newspaper: Do you support term limit for the Presidency? If yes, why?

Dr. S Nyang: This has been a debated issue under Jawara. So long as the Gambians seek power through elections, term limits will remain a major bone of contention. Such a policy can be real only when the political elites have alternative avenues of self-empowerment and self-gratification.

Freedom Newspaper: We were made to understand that you at some point served as Gambia’s Deputy Ambassador and Head of Chancery  in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. This was between 1975 to 1978 during the First Republic. What  was life like in Saudi?
Dr. S Nyang: When I served in the Gambian Foreign Service I was in my early thirties. I was actually thirty-one years old. I was First Secretary and Head  of Chancery. I was the Deputy Ambassador and I acted as ambassador whenever Ambassador Ousman Sallah, as recorded in the Gambia Gazzette in the 1975-78, went on breaks.

The Gambia Embassy in  Jeddah was a bi experience. The Jawara regime wanted to serve certain Gambian needs. There was the question of the hajj and the problems of Gambian pilgrims. This was the main task of the diplomatic staff. Being a  small country we has an Ambassador, a  First Secreatry/Head of Chancery, a Second Secretary (Omar Secka), a Financial Attache (Mass Sarr), and an Arabic Translator (Baba Drammeh). Together with my colleagues  we represented the Gambian people at the Kaaba. It was a difficult task because it consumed a great deal of time and I learned a lot about Saudi society and the African residence in Arabia. I wrote many reports for  the embassies and the stories of Gambian pilgrims are
immortalized in those texts.

Similarly, that assignment gave me the opportunity to cover the Gambian students. Many of the prominent imams and Arabic-speaking  Gambians and Senegalese who studied in the Arab countries, particularly Egypt and Saudi Arabia were known to me. We handled their cases and I tried extensively in the region. Many of my scholarly articles about the Middle East and Islam benefitted  from that past.

Freedom Newspaper: How do you get the Ambassador job during Jawara’s government? Was it  by merit or political patronage?
Dr. S Nyang: I was not a political appointee. I was recruited as a civil servant and I left my job as director of African Studies at Howard University in 1975 for Arabia. I deeply appreciated that assignment.  But because of my interest in academic life I left three years later to resume my teaching position at Howard University.

There were some jealousies among certain Gambians at the time. The politicians were apprehensive. Some thought I was going to be a political adviser from the U.S. There were many rumors. Some civil servants could not deal with the promotion some of us got because of our advanced degrees and foreign appointments.

Freedom Newspaper: What led to your removal from Saudi? Did you resigned or were you fired?
Dr. S Nyang: I left the civil service because I found  myself developing new interests in academic world and the changing nature of the bureaucracy.
Freedom Newspaper: Do you regret serving President Jawara’s government? If no, why?
Dr. S Nyang: I do not regret servicing in the Jawara regime. I was a civil servant and I believe I did my best for them at the time. I father was the Post Master and the Chief Wireless Operator of the Upper  River Division in Basse in the early 1950’s. I had a good time growing up in Basse in those days prior to my relocation to Banjul to attend Muhamedan School and the St. Augustine’s Secondary School in Banjul.

My service in Saudi Arabia was like my father’s service in the provinces. In fact, there is an interesting historical parallel between my boyhood days in Basse and my subsequent posting in  Jeddah. When I was a little boy in Banjul in the late fifties, my dad took leave and went to Mecca to perform the hajj in 1957/58. Almost twenty years later, he would come back to Jeddah to stay with me on his way to Mecca. His visit and my growth and maturity allowed me the opportunity to compare and contrast his  narratives about Jeddah wen I was young and his appreciation of changes that had taken place in the place he visited two decades earlier. It never dawn on him that one day his son would be running things at their embassy in Arabia. Thank God for that

Freedom Newspaper: As a former diplomat, how would you view the Jammeh/Jawara foreign policies? Is it okay for Gambia to befriend Iran?

Dr.S  Nyang: Gambian foreign policy under Jawara and Jammeh are similar in many ways but certain historical circumstances have worked differently for President Jammeh. Let me identify the differences between the  two administrations. Under Jammeh the Gambia government has established diplomatic relations with Cuba while at the same time maintaining relations with Taiwan. Thisow I view the Jammeh initiatives with respect to Cuba, Taiwan, Iran and others.

With respect to similarities between Jawara and Jammeh I see it most obvious in Senegalese-Gambian relations. Both leaders have taken for granted the uniqueness of the Gambian political reality and their policies are not different in any  serious ways. Both believe in Gambian nationalism and have exploited local, regional and international means to support and reinforce this feeling. The establishment of a television station by Jammeh is the most significant. In the long term the ethnic loyalties between the various ethnic groups in the two countries would become nationalized. What I am saying is that the Gambian Wolof, Jola. Mandinka or Fula would psycho-historically transform into a Gambianized  identity. And mass media is most likely going to have the same effect as the literary traditions of the other established nations. Indeed cyber technology and literary traditions have played an important part in  the more established and longstanding European situation. Pan Africanists who wanted a union of the two countries early in the post independence era would be disappointed by the coagulation of nationalist spirit in this part of the continent. I advise to those African nationalists is for them to take a look at the European experience. Africans must come  together in the long term for their own interest and for the advancement of their piece of real estate on  the planet. Perhaps history wishes to melt the diverse ethnic groups in this small land into a Gambian so that after a radical transformation they would enter an African community of independent African states.  Time will tell on these matters.

Freedom Newspaper:Gambian being the host of the African centre and the African Commission, yet there are alleged human rights abuses in the country. Any comments?
Dr. S Nyang:  The Gambia secured this privileged position in the history of human rights development in Africa largely because of the image President Jawara had in the late seventies and early eighties. We must  remember that Gambia, Mauritius and Botswana were listed then as the only democracies in Africa. Small and easily identifiable the Gambia won that status as a place safe for democracy. Real or imagined, this  view of the Gambia has put the Gambia in a problematic position. In order for its leaders to gain the recognition of the pro-democratic forces around the world, they must replicate publicly what they articulate privately about democracy. This is a tall order and President Jammeh has been playing the ping-pong game with his local and foreign opponents. The acid test for him is to demonstrate in the coming months and years that he is secure and the Gambian electorate is now sufficient convinced the viability of these institutions. The institutions he helps to create now will have a future and the Gambian people will see the germination of the seeds of democracy only when political opposition is a reality. You do not invent opposition, but you do deny them the power of self- articulation.

Institutions take time to develop and neither Jawara nor Jammeh will be around when scholars  and commentators on democracy in Africa convincingly pronounce the Gambia a working and surviving democracy. The main challenge for President Jammeh is to demonstrate commitment to the process and let history takes its course. Through compromise and bargaining he stands a chance. Any love affair with violence and intimidation would fail because of changing times in domestic and international affairs. Globalization and the increased sophistication of human beings around the world have conspired to make  democracy the best form of government ala Winston Churchill.

Freedom Newspaper:What is your view about having a university without intellectual indepndence?
Dr.S Nyang: It is a remarkable achievement for Gambia to have its own institution of higher learning. I have advocated for this since the nineteen seventies. Dr.Tijan Sallah at the World Bank made a strong case to  the Jawara regime when Dr. Jebez Ayo Langley was Secretary General of the Civil Service. The late Ayo Langley confirmed this fact when he served as a professor in my department at Howard University.Nothing was done by the Jawara regime. There were  certain considerations that militated against such a decision. Financing such an enterprise was primary in Jawara’s mind. Since Gambians have become accustomed to seeking higher education in foreign lands, it never  occurred to the leaders in education in the country to dream the impossibility. A Gambian University? There was Yundum College for teachers during the colonial days and the independent government managed to carry that burden. Indeed, some Gambians have argued over the years that Gambians could finance their higher education if they could simply develop a global diplomacy which maximizes the benevolence of both the bigger and the more advanced countries that commit themselves to a yearly scholarship programs for Gambians. The large number of Gambian graduates of American colleges and universities since Ousman Sallah pioneered the way in 1960 for hundreds if not  thousands of Gambians inspired that point of view.

Now that we have a university, the President and his colleagues must develop the institutional support locally and externally to make it a reality. I believe the people running the
University, are currently engaged in building relations with sister colleges and universities around the world. .

Freedom Newspaper: The Gambian being a secular state, what is your view of having a mosque at the state house?
Dr. Nyang:: This question has been raised by a number of people. One Gambian scholar, Dr. Modou Darboe, recently made reference to it in a seminal paper on Islam and Politics in the Gambia. Other scholars who  are writing in the field of religion and social change in Africa have also touched on this matter. I do not know the rationale for this decision at the time. One can argue that it was both political and strategic in  the sense that the new President was concerned about his popularity with the local and international Muslims. There were even false allegations that he was a crypto Christian. Through such a measure the question of personal security was addressed  realistically if prayers were to take place close to home. His decision to bring church and state (mosque and state) at State House certainly won the hearts of conservative Muslims around the country. It was open  the circle of friendship and cooperation in the Middle East, especially in Saudi Arabia and Iran. However, it raised the alarm bells among the Christian minorities and others committed to a society where no religion  dominates the state.

As an advocate of democratic principles in Africa, I think it is dangerous and unwise for Africans to allow religious differences to be reflected in state affairs. Africans  should study the five types of church/state relations in the world and develop their own variety. The dominant paradigms are USA, France, Britain, Former Soviet Union and Iran. The way in which church and
state interact under these political dispensations, is known to political leaders around the world. Many states have modeled themselves after one of the other of the five listed above. Gambians too must learn from  history and develop their own arrangement. President Jawara’s legacy is different from Jammeh’s. Jawara stayed clear from any confusion, although he had the opportunity to do so because of his involvement with  the inner activities of the Organization of Islamic Conference.

Freedom Newspaper: What’s your view about Gambian literature?

Dr. S Nyang: Gambian literature is beginning to take roots and the society and state together could enhance its capacity to influence the lives of younger generations of Gambians in the public school system. When we were growing up in the last days of colonial rule in the Gambia we went to missionary schools and the dominant books of literature were Western imports. A number of us can still quote extensive passages from William Shakespeare and others. Until the Heinemann books featuring Western African writers such as Chinua Achebe and Lenrie Peters were available, Gambians had no window of their own to the gateways of World
Literature. Lenrie, for too long became the only cultural oasis where thirsty Gambians could run for water of inspiration. Some years later younger minds such as Tijan Sallah took up the baton in this relay race to make additional runs for the Gambians. Certainly creative Gambians such as Charles Jaw, Swaebou Conateh, Hassum Ceesay and many from my generation or old emerged in the field of poetry and short stories. Many of these writers are now known to readers of essays on Gambian literature, published in the Internet. They have registered their presence on the Gambian cultural landscape. My recent reading of studies on Gambian literature has given be much hope.  There is a local Gambian saying that our people are the best of imitators. As they say in Wollof, roi donna. If this saying is true and Gambians actually act on it, chances in the next decades the number of Gambian writers in English, Arabic and the local languages would lay the foundations for a Gambian renaissance. Not only are they going to imitate but they will inherit the legacies of other benefiting human cultures.

This is a positive development and the older leaders of culture in the country should take the initiative to found an organization on Arts and Letters of the Gambia. I believe an effort to  establish such a body was made some years ago. I am not hearing anything about that anymore. Some of us in the Diaspora would be willing to give ideas and monies to sustain this venture. Annual meetings of the people  of culture can take place in the country every year. Here the musicians with their guitar and drums will share space with their colleagues who wield their pens and their computers to advance the frontiers of  Gambian, African and global cultures.

Freedom Newspaper:Have you ever had a bad experience in Nigeria in the past? If yes, what happened?

Dr. S Nyang: I have been to Nigeria several times. I went there during FESTAC 1976 as a member of the Gambian delegation. At that time Honorable M.C . Cham was our Minister of Education and I wrote a paper on the Abrahamic Religion and Africa. This would later develop into my book on Islam, Christianity and African Identity (1984) published in the United States of America. That  experience was very successful and no incident of significance took place. Similarly, after I went back to the US from my posting as a Gambian diplomat in Arabia, I went back to Nigeria as a scholar invited by  the Department of International Relations at the
University of Ife (now called Obafemi Awolowo University). This visit was health and productive. It was the era of War on Indiscipline (WAI) during the term of Muhammad Buhari. Nigerians were forced to obey  road signs and to form queues.

The third trip to Nigeria was under the auspices of Ibadan University. As a guest of their department on Islam and Arab I gave a lead paper on Islam, Terrorism and Development. It was a successful conference and the lectures I gave elsewhere were well received. There was no problem in this case.

My fourth visit was troublesome. During this visit I came face to face  with what Nigerians called complications and complexities of 419. Because I had spent much of the funds I brought with me to Nigeria, I found myself in a position that was too dangerous for a foreigner, especially someone for the Western countries. Unable  to access funds through your credit card because of the dangers therein, and caught in the difficulties created by 419 scam, friends at home who can come to your financial rescue became apprehensive about Nigerian deceptions and scams. When I tried to get funds from certain persons known to me, I sensed a feeling of doubt and uncertain. So deep is the notoriety of Nigerian scams that one suffers simply because of one’s condition inside the country. Fortunately, I had two reliable and trusting friends. One was an Arab American from Tennessee and the other was an Iranian American. Both are long standing friends and they know me well over twenty years. With  their assistance and cooperation, I survived this Nigerian trauma and arrived home safely.

The lessons I learned is that fear and deceit are among the most dangerous boobie
traps in social relationships and Africans, particularly Nigerians, should work very hard to widen the circle of trust and deepen their cultural education programs to make the best of their cultural values multiply. May the Good Lord answer our prayers. I wish you well. Keep the faith and good luck.

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Posted on Friday, July 20, 2007 (Archive on Friday, August 31, 2007)
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