By Yero Jallow
Gambia’s history is certainly a must read at these trying times. A whole reference chapter on how we started is certainly a reference to move us to chapters ahead, if not for our current muddied democracy, at least as cure to our future generations. On today’s spotlight, I would like to share some few points about Sir Farimang Singhateh of the Gambia. I recently met a well versed elder and he was kind enough to share with me the politics of the 50’s coming through all the way to the 90’s. It was such a nice discussion that I thought it would be nice to do a little digging on the man, as a piece of tribute, especially at a time when the Gambia is faced with leadership impasse. If you think today’s politics is “cool,” you need to hear about the politics of the 50s and 60s. What is different now and then? This is something that most people won’t champion, but again, as we get older in our so-called independence if you may, we are getting into more trouble. There is only one speculative answer for me and that is “reality/nobility” versus the so-called civilization where most people are just satisfying their political egos and don’t really care about the family of nations. What a shame! Back then, people were motivated by passion, they had shame, they preserved honor, and nurtured something very well worth celebrating — dignity and co-existence. It is a rare chance now!
The Gambia as the old song goes was colonized by the British; meaning the Queen of England, Queen Elizabeth II, had a representative in the Gambia. Such representatives were appointed by the Queen and they were whites. We all followed with touching reflections the life story of another political icon, the late Edward Francis Small, who is thoughtfully one of Gambia’s best brains at his time, inspired from his early education on the famous slogan “taxation without representation,” details of which will be shared on this spotlight column hopefully soon, especially his role in Gambia’s much cherished independence.
Farimang born in 1912, grew up in Georgetown, McCarthy where he got educated, was the first and last Black Governor-General in the Gambia. McCarthy was the nation’s capital at the time and it was strategic for the colonist and those from the area got the rare luck of early western education, something that former President DK Jawara himself benefitted from. Farimang was a Career Dispenser at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Banjul. He was also able to set his own clinics in Soma, Mansakonko, and other places in the Gambia. Farinmang was said to be so kind with his services, to the extent treated the poor for free.
In the transformation of his career, Farimang was chosen by the Queen Elizabeth II as Gambia’s first “black” Governor General. He was acting Governor-General and Commander in Chief of the Gambia from February 9th 1966 to August 11th 1966, in which he was promoted to Governor-General and Commander-in-Chief, a position he held until April 24th 1970, when the Gambia became a Republic. Farimang replaced Governor Sir John W. Paul. (Source: The Gambia: Governors-General: 1965 –1970. Culled from the web on 01/11/2017, web http://www.archontology.org/nations/gambia/00_1965_1970_gg.php).
Another source humorously shared that due to scarcity of cars and/or even their unavailability at the time, horses were mostly used in the 40’s and 50’s for long distance travel, to which Farimang greatly utilized, especially in his numerous travels. He is believed to have vacationed a lot in Cassamance, Southern Senegal, perhaps paying visits to some family members or some special mentors.
In few searches, I came across some other important reference that went much into detail about his life, career, his religion as a devout Ahamadee Muslim, and a lot more, thus:
“Farimang Singhateh descended from a long line of Mandinka traders from Wuli, grew up in Georgetown (which was renamed to Janjanbureh). He was brought up by the wife of a British Divisional Commissioner. From 1935 he worked as a volunteer medical staff in Kerewan. He then became an employee on probation (English Medical probationer) with the Royal Army Medical Corps ( RAMC ). He served in various Gambian units during the Second World War. In 1950, Singhateh was appointed as a state- authorized pharmacist. In 1963 he retired and founded one in Farafenni which is still famous pharmacy to date.
He was chairman of the Protectorate People’s Society, he and his wife were also supporters of the Protectorate People’s Party (which later became in 1959 the People’s Progressive Party as was created ). Singhateh interrupted his political work in 1964, because he was appointed to the Committee of the Civil Service. ” (Source: Farimang Mamadi Singhateh. Culled from the web 1/11/2017, web http://memim.com/farimang-mamadi-singateh.html).
Farimang passed away on May 19th 1977. He is still survived by his two wives and children. Follow my next guest soon who in an exclusive interview will talk about the life of Sir Farimang Singhateh and some other important facts not documented for many to reference.