CELEBRATING THE LIFE OF A NATIONALIST; COURTESY OF DR. EBRAHIMA LOWE.
“At age eleven (11) with a very spongy 16 kilograms between my two ears ready to absorb that which was to be passed on to me by my tutors at school, I stood some meters away from the RVTH hospital and saw Edward Francis Smalls looking sickly and feeble- holding on to the bars of the balcony all in all deserted vocalizing angrily in despair. He was a true nationalist, an anti-imperial establishment and a through-going communist. Mind you, he was misconceived doctrinally by his most close ones. He died a destitute, but an ever-living legend.” (Dr. Lowe, 2018).
One of the greatest sons of this soil, a Gambian, unionist and a revolutionary leader who always stood by the less-privileged and the marginalized for a change of socio-economic status-quo and for a liberated Gambia was Edward Francis smalls. As an Aku man, Smalls was fortunate to be part of those hand-full Gambians you acquired western education. As a nationalist and anti-westernestablishment, he became one of the most critical elites who challenged British self-perpetuating rule.
As an organic intellectual, Smalls took an oath to give back to his country-folks. He became the barricade between the farmers mostly inhabiting provincial Gambia, and the colonialist. As they were the most susceptible productive faction to British exploits. In other to reposition this trajectory, Francis ventured on a rigorous sensitization campaign in other to inform and educate the Citizens of this country particularly farmers, in relation to British colonial rule and how this got them trapped in the poverty circle. Classes were organized and villages also visited as a way of reaching out to a wide range of audience. In other to intensify communicationdissemination, Smalls with the support of his compatriots mostly rural dwellers launched a local news paper captioned “Gambia outlook”. All of this was influenced by his intrinsic values and desire as a born-nationalist to quench the inferno of foreign rule and bring an end to externally induce impoverishment.
Notwithstanding, the aftermath of this move was not an enjoyable experience. The colonialist upon discovering the ploys of Smalls for self-determination noticed in his publications, exiled him to neighboring Senegal. While in exile, he stayed glued to his dreams. The Gambia outlook and Senegambian reporter being the name given to the media outlet, continued to unravel British ungodly rule.
Being a unionist and a innovative figure, he formed numerous organizational groups to help support him drive out the colonial leviathans. One of his earliest foundations was The Gambia native defense Union (GNDU) alongside other Akus. In 1917, he founded The Gambia farmer’s cooperative association shaped by his goal of empowering them for an improved earning capacity. Still on his establishments, Smalls in 1929 founded the Bathurst trade union; a recognized and influential union that spearheaded the course of self-governance and effected a political revolution. The Bathurst trade union caught the sights of the British with a terrifying look as they staged the first ever registered protest which went viral far and near, as Gambians and sympathizers to the union manifest their dissatisfaction towards British colonial governance. Echoing voices repeatedly expressing the slogan “no taxation without representation” triumph over every other discuss. In 1930, he founded the rate payer’s association. One that took a paradigm shift, transforming to become a giant political party that emerged as the new hegemony dominating local politics in Bathurst. Such a political movement was tremendously backed by the indigenes of Bathurst, enabling them to defeat all other competitors in the political landscape. In the 1963 elections, the party swept the polls winning all six seats meant for African contestants.
All these were successes powered by the efforts of a single iconic figure and to do justice to this literature, I’ll confer greater percentage of the credit to Edward Francis Smalls. He is certainly a true reflection of nationalism; a personality that lived and died for the greater good, for a balanced, free and egalitarian Gambia.
Political science student,
University of The Gambia.