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Africa’s Security Awards: Day Gambia’s First Lady served us delicious jollof rice (2)

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BRASS TACKS with Suleiman Uba Gaya  

Africa’s Security Awards: Day Gambia’s First Lady served us delicious jollof rice (2)

The first thing I recalled, as Madame Fatoumatta Barrow, First Lady of The Gambia served us the delicious jollof rice that she personally cooked for us, was a chanced meeting we had with a team of Gambian chefs, on the flight from Accra, Ghana, to Banjul, The Gambia.

My big brother Brigadier-General SK Usman, former spokesman of the Nigerian Army who outlived the terror-kingpin Shekau and his endless threats, had inquisitively asked the team what they went to do in Ghana, obviously seeing that they joined us on the flight with a trophy in their hands, beaming with the traditional Gambian smile. They happily responded that they just conquered Africa in a cooking competition that took place in Accra.

It was an opportunity for some of us to try to settle the great jollof rice debate that has been raging between Nigeria, Ghana and The Gambia. Each of these three countries is staking claim to being the first to cook jollof rice, and each one says its own version of the meal is tastier.

Predictably, Chef Bojan, who is obviously the head of the Gambian chefs, answered that his country, not Nigeria or Ghana, founded jollof rice, and that their own is far tastier than that cooked in the two other sister African countries. In fact, he dismissed Nigeria’s version as fried rice. Of course we all laughed over it, thinking he was just bluffing.

But it is said, and rightly so, that the taste of the pudding is in the eating. So for some of us that were privileged to have the whole first lady of a sovereign nation cook exceptional jollof rice for us, it somehow settles the debate, even if not in our favour as Nigerians, that indeed the Gambians have a recipe we in Nigeria are missing out on, which clearly makes their own jollof far tastier than ours. Of course it is a matter of time before we upstage the Gambians in that wise. Nigeria no de carry last.

To be sure, the meeting in the Presidential Palace in Banjul was not all about jollof rice. Madame Fatoumatta, the First Lady of that country, is seriously concerned about the standard of living in her country, as well as ours, and was concerned that unless the political class in unison up the ante and the followership all over Africa also play their part, development, especially the kind we envisage, may continue to be a mirage in our continent.

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When citizens expect only the government to do the right thing, refusing to play their part by supporting good policies and adhering to law and order, it will amount to a daydream of sort to expect real development. Only when citizens drive intelligence, for example, will the security services in the continent know where the enemy is hiding and do the needful for us to have peace and make progress.

Her husband, President Barrow, is working hard to make the needed difference. Of course he is being hamstrunged by dearth of adequate resources. But a major hallmark of a leader is his ability to look at a problem straight in the eye and defeat it by resolving it. Of course the question of resources can only be a work in progress, as challenges needing funds for solution keep mounting.

So the two things the Gambia’s President has done, since his assumption of office, is deepening transparency in governance, blocking as many leakages aiding pilferage of collective patrimony of his people, and opening up opportunities for all, irrespective of background.

In that country, unlike many other African nations, appointments are mostly merit based. And unlike here, where the argument has been that the youths must push hard to displace the old who have taken up almost the entirety of the public space and opportunities therefrom, it is far easier for citizens at young age to assume prominent positions in the government of The Gambia, accounting for why President Barrow has been achieving solid results even in the face of monumental odds facing him.

Of course there is the argument, as to whether youths in leadership automatically translates to effective and result-oriented governance. In Nigeria, the result has unfortunately not always been positive, as some of the youths have thus far ended up as bitter disappointment and terrible example to their generation.

The Gambians have also proven that with a smile, you can conquer the world. They deploy warmness and generosity of spirit to attract meaningful foreign direct investment especially in tourism.

In The Gambia, the smile is not just what flows from the human face. It goes deep down to the heart.

The ease of doing business in that country is solidly effective. And the man President Barrow has appointed to superintend investment in that country is full of drive and focus. You can register a compmany in a matter of few hours, even as a foreigner. And the issue of multiple taxes does not arise in that country.

The Gambians have a way of making sure one does not easily forget one’s visit to their country. Not only the First Lady is working hard to support her husband in projecting her country to fellow Africans and other global citizens. It can be said that all Gambians, from the young to the old, are somewhat working towards endearing their beautiful country to the whole world.

Whereas, for example, here in Nigeria we tend to be over-critical and hardly show appreciation to those whose sacrifice of yesterday ensure our today, the Gambians were, for example, eager to show appreciation to General TY Buratai, former Army Chief of Nigeria, for the key roles he played in deepening democracy in their country when the immediate past president, Yahya Jammeh, wanted to torpedo democracy in his selfish bid to rule the country forever. The role President Buhari and in general the ECOWAS played in ensuring the winner of the 2016 presidential election takes over power has been a huge blessing to The Gambia.

The Gambian Chief of Defence Staff, Lt-General Yankuba Drammeh, hosted the visiting Nigerian team, made up mostly of top military generals and media personalities, including Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo, our productive Chief of the Naval Staff, and led by General Buratai, to dinners and luncheons.

General Drammeh cut short his tour of the country where he was visiting the armed forces of that country, just to play host to the Nigerian delegation. The dinner he hosted was attended by the Minister of Defence of that country, as well as the National Security Adviser, my good friend Colonel Momodou Badjie, and a host of other top security and intelligence officials of The Gambia, including another patriot and good friend, Seeday M. Touray, the DG of the Gambian immigration.

Repsentatives of the Nigerian Chief of Army Staff, as well as his airforce counterpart, Major-General Victor Ezugu and AVM Calmday, respectively, and not to be forgotten the media friendly Major General Kangye, who is also the Chief of Civil-Military Affairs of the Nigerian Army , were all in attendance at the dinner and throughout the conference.

For a continent besetted by all manner of security challenges, the Africa Security Watch Conference served as a veritable platform to ventilate ideas and engage in a kind of peer review of tasks facing our respective countries, individually and collectively.

As General Buratai has said in his presentation, much as foreign support is vital, African countries cannot forever look up to outsiders for real solutions to our problems. The conference has given life to the adage, united we stand, divided we fall.

With the kind of cooperation engendered by this conference, Africa’s problems will sooner than later be a thing of the past because in unity, there is hardly a challenge that will be beyond solution.

Nigeria in particular has a lot to benefit from excellent papers delivered by all the resource persons at the conference, drawn from different African countries.

The problem of piracy has badly affected African trade and investment to the volume of several billions of dollars, money that could have been channeled in developing the continent.

God so kind, Nigeria is presently leading in efforts to stem the ugly tide of piracy and other maritime challenges, since the appointment into office of Vice Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo as Chief of the Nigerian Navy almost two years ago.

Africa’s Security Awards: Day Gambia’s First Lady served us delicious jollof rice (2)

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