There is nothing any one can write that can completely capture the magnitude and impact of the life of the late Omar Adamou Jallow Alias OJ, the ever most vibrant Gambian politician. He was the single most dynamic young politician who would captivate any audience in a room. His oratory skills and authenticity in both English and the local dialect was an effortless natural gift few people would ever have. At his prime, in Serekunda as a National Assembly member, OJ was the darling of the youths, women organizations and a grassroot organizer that made the PPP the dominant political power for decades. He was so naturally gifted and well-loved to a fault.
OJ was called to national duty as a young politician well in his 30s and he never looked back after that. He became one of the most attractive and dependable young PPP politicians Sir Dawda Jawara could count on to deliver his constituency and beyond. To OJ, no one citizen was indispensable when it comes to the political future of the Gambia. He was willing to put the national interest beyond party to a level some groups within the PPP suspected him of having political ambition to replace Sir Dawda Jawara. This manifested itself when Jawara tasted the waters by declaring that he will not be contesting the 1992 Presidential elections during a congress in Mansa Konko. While many were seen whipping, others on their knees to beg Jawara to stay, OJ and some other young politicians like BB Darboe were prepared to take over from the old man. This gesture was not necessarily a disloyalty to President Jawara, but rather a symbol of young leaders groomed and ready to step up to National Duties. This was the beginning of an apparent disunity or sectionalism within the PPP. OJ had his own group and BB Darboe allegedly had another with Saihou Sabally also forming his own alliances.
From this moment on, many insiders believed that the future of the PPP was no longer certain without Sir Dawda at the helm. But for the late OJ, one thing was crystal clear, his loyalty to the PPP would be unquestionable no matter how long it takes. This apparent shakeup within the PPP led to almost total lost of control of the Jawara administration on the governing affairs of the country. After the 1992 elections, things would never be the same again for the PPP. Many people believed that this was what contributed to the fall of the Jawara regime and the birth of the young military junta who would rudely shock the world by overthrowing the thirty years administration of Sir Dawda Jawara in July 1994 in a bloodless coup. The coup appears so easy it showed the country was ready for a new beginning, but had no idea what was to follow.
As they say in our local languages, the dead of a father is not the children’s fault, but the collapse of your father’s compound is the uselessness of the children (Translation). In OJ, it was time to stand up and defend the legacy of the founding fathers; the peace, prosperity, democracy, rule of law and the human rights records the Gambia was well-known for and respected around the world. Almost every strong pillar of the PPP ran away from the shores of the Gambia for safe harbor, except for OJ and a few others. OJ Stood up to the young junta who he knew personally, and help brought up in every sense of the word as young men struggling to fit into society. He would pay a heavy price for daring to defend the thirty years legacy of Sir Dawda and the PPP. Arrested, tortured, jailed and paraded in public in an effort to break him, the patriot in OJ refused to back down. He knew he was on the right path of history and no amount of torture would quiet the free born. The strength and patriotism of a man/woman is judged based on the positions he/she takes during times of adversity. Many Gambians abandoned their duty and responsibilities to nation by failing to defend what was right and just. OJ stayed the course and traveled in and out of the Gambia regardless of the consequences. He would not be deterred from engaging in his civic duties as a politician.
The greatness and patriotism of OJ could be attributed to his sacrifice for country without expecting anything in returns for his fight. He was one of the most courageous politicians who would unapologetically defend the legacy of the PPP. At the same time, he honestly and sincerely admitted the failures or shortcomings of the PPP but make no mistake, OJ believed in the programs and legacy of the Jawara government. He was ready to give up his life to ensure that the military junta would be proven wrong and shamed for falsely overthrowing a constitutionally elected government on false premises.
OJ, worked hard to resurrect the PPP into a vibrant political party which would proof daunting as many would rather join unknown political van wagons for personal interest than working to restore the legacy of the PPP. Despite this bleak scenario in making the PPP vibrant again, OJ wouldn’t rest until the military dictatorship was defeated and shamed. He worked tirelessly with the dissident Gambian Diaspora in every opportunity to make sure that freedom and rule of law is restored in the Gambia. Despite all the threats of additional arrest and jailing OJ would not be deterred from returning to Gambia amid threats and intimidation. He was beyond courageous in making sure nothing would stop him from returning to The Gambia even after evidence that he met with strugglers in the Diaspora.
An architect and founding member of Coalition 2016, OJ had only one goal, removing Dictator Yahya Jammeh from power and restoring democracy, human rights and rule of law in the Gambia. He put his party interest aside to usher in the compromised needed to bring about the change Gambia desperately needed. He backed and championed a winnable coalition that ended the brutal regime of Yahya Jammeh and finally vindicated the PPP and restore democracy in the Gambia.
The greatest attribute, faith and power of Hon. Omar Amadou Jallow as a citizen; a father, grandfather, an uncle and politician were his abiding love for his country and ability to forgive those who did him so wrong. OJ looked at the people in their faces who tortured, jailed and arrested him so many times and said to them “I have forgiven you for all you did to me” this is the greatest trait of a free man, one who gave everything to his country and left this world without regrets. OJ was that Pan African citizen Kwame Krumah described as an African, “a new type of citizen, a dedicated, modest, honest and informed man. A man who submerges self in service to the nation and mankind. A man who abhors greed and detests vanity. A new type of man whose humility is his strength and whose integrity is his greatness.” This was Omar Amadou Jallow alias OJ. There will never be another OJ. The Gambia, Africa and the world over, lost a great man. Rest in eternal power uncle OJ and may Allah grant you the highest place in Janatul Fildaus. Amen
By Demba Baldeh a forever student and admirer of Omar Amadou Jallow.