On Dedicated Service and Jolly Camaraderie: Tribute to Ismaila Jarju (Part 1)
Ismaila, my brother, colleague and friend,
News of your demise hit me like a thunderbolt in the morning. I am yet to recover from this shock after 3 days. And the pain is worsened by the fact that you passed away in a foreign land and we have to wait for days to receive your remains for proper interment. It is only ALLAH who is capable of doing this so we do the proclamation of acceptance as per the Sunnah of our blessed Prophets (SAWS): from Allah we come and unto Him is our final return!
My good friend, I still remember the day we first met in 1999 starting work together as rookie economists at the Research Department of the Central Bank of The Gambia; that bastion of excellence you proudly labelled the Harvard of the Bank.
From the get-go your spirit of warm camaraderie and scholarly inclination started to manifest itself. In those days of scarcity of computers, we would converge in the computer lab of the Research Department to learn word processing; and you would always bring in the classic IMF educational CD “Macro Links” for us to play on the macintosh desktops to study the linkages between the different macroeconomic accounts.
You would enrich our policy discussions with references to the “Dornbusch Overshooting Model” and the research works of the the IMF’s then research czar and Harvard Professor Kenneth Rogoff. We would study together different econometric techniques including the Vector autoregression (VAR) model; and in the broader policy frameworks, names of gurus like Jagdish Bhagwati always spring up in my mind anytime I think about you because of the reverence you have always had for them.
The current Governor of the Central Bank Bakary Jammeh would join us later at the Research Department with added impetus for econometric analysis; our office mate Samba Sallah being another academic giant, these days became the halcyon moments of our professional upbringing as an economists. From the publication of the Central Bank’s periodic bulletins to the preparation of technical papers for presentation at the Monetary Policy Committee Meetings, you were my perfect partner at work.
With your dexterity with both words and numbers, you earned my respect as a sterling intellectual and professional economist. When my former staff at the Finance Ministry Omar Jallow called to extend condolences on your passing, he reminded me that I had told him, many years ago, that you are the smartest guy I had ever worked with. He is right; that’s what I said before and that remains my testimony to date.
On many occasions when we were done with the preparation of technical papers, presentations and report writing that came with the sittings of the Monetary Policy Committee, our bosses would applaud us. Then you would quietly tell me “I know we did a great job, but personally I have not put in even half of my full capacity” and I would tell you that I agreed with you because I was well acquainted with your blessed mind. And that is why no situation at work was overwhelming for you. So you would do your occasional disappearing act in the midst of a tough work situation to the chagrin of our boss, Buah Saidy. But whenever you resurfaced with your charming and disarming personality, all the frustration melted away as Buah flashed his usual smile and work continued.
On many occasions when we got stuck with preparation of reports or technical papers due to overwork or the occasional writer’s block, you would call me into your office away from the bigger team. You would get me to sit on your desk, switch on the desktop and tell me “Modou, Boy, torgal rek nga binda”. I would start off with whatever came at the top of my mind on the subject at hand and after following my output on the screen for a few minutes, you would stop me; edit the typos and add a concept or two by typing, without speaking. Understanding your rich mind and brilliant thought frame, I would continue from where you stopped knowing where you would want the paper to head and within an hour or so, we would have a draft fitting for presentation to our bosses for editing and further research recommendations.
And I remember our strolls in the corridors of the Central Bank with that invisible yet palpable spring in our steps; and when one of our senior colleagues would tease us as to why we were so cocky, your classic response still rings my ears “no, it has nothing to do with cockiness, we just got a healthy dose of self-confidence!” Allah blessed you with a heart that does not hold grudges and a genuine humility that all who got to know you could never miss.
Your dedication to prayers and fasting was also exemplary. We were not, and could never be, perfect but a healthy appreciation of our religion was a great asset you had. Despite the heavy workload and challenging timelines you would always pray on time and also remind us when the prayer time was due.
I will forever remember your very special copy of the Quran you always brought to the office during the Holy month of Ramadan. It was quite noticeable and a bit worn-out for use and time. Our colleague Jim Touray would always call my attention to
you by saying “Sabally your friend has brought his copy of the Torah; because this one is too old to be the Quran, he must be reading the Holy book revealed to Prophet Moses.” As usual we would get a healthy dose of laughter for these and many other jokes you exchanged with colleagues.
Everyone cherished your company because you brought joy and laughter to the souls of friend and foe. That is you, Ismaila. May the angels of mercy receive you with wings of grace, mercy and joy by the special Grace of Allah, the Most Gracious Most Merciful.
Former Presidential Affairs Minister and International Speaker, Momodou Sabally is a former Research Economist at the Central Bank of The Gambia who later became Director of Budget at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs.