On the Chronicles of Lambai: Exploits of the Great Sons of Salikenni in Gambian Politics (Part 3)
The history of politics in Salikenni cannot be written without a major segment dedicated to the exploits of the late Dr. Lamin Naffa Saho. Dr. Saho [8th August 1944 – 6th May 2007] was a Gambian political scientist, leading politician, and statesman.
He attended Salikenni Primary School, and Armitage High School, in McCarthy. Dr. Saho obtained teaching certificate from the Yundum College in 1964.
From College, he was awarded scholarship by German government to pursue his Bachelors, Masters and PHD in political science at Bochum University in Germany. He completed his PHD in 1975, and returned to the Gambia with his family, and joined politics.
As a Youth activist, he established Youth\Community center, health centres, and brought many community projects to Central Badibou with his German friends.
As a politician, Dr Saho, strived to salvage and empower his people, and making sure that they lived a dignified life. Out of his service to his community, he earned the title “Naffa”.
“Naffa” is a Mandinka word meaning benefit. Lamin was foundational in defining his constituency’s spirit of community development , self-determination, and political tolerance.
Dr Naffa Saho had a socialist orientation. He always emphasized that Gambia would develop only if the people are selfless, and care for the common good. He believed strongly that it is necessary to be virtuous and generous, and he regularly attended religious services. He erected a Mosque at his compound in Sukuta.
Dr Saho was in his mosque reading Surah Ya-ssin [Chapter 36 of the Holy Quran] when he received information that his wife gave birth to a baby girl. He continued reading the chapter, then rushed to check on them at the hospital. He named the child after the chapter; Yassin. Yassin is now a Law graduate in the United Kingdom. Dr Naffa Saho retained a strong faith in Allah until his death in Birmingham, UK.
He was passionate about academic excellence, moral uprightness and environmental protection. He had uncommon appetite for intellectual discussion. He emphasized the need for self-actualization, hard work and go-getter lifestyle. He detested idleness and unproductive conversations.
One of Dr Naffa Saho’s notable traits was his humility, respect, care for the less previledged and determination to secure sustainable development in the Gambia.
His wife fondly remembers Dr. Saho for his generosity. Aja Ndela Singhateh [Daughter of, Sir Farimang Singhateh, the first Gambian Governor of our country]: Ndela recalls that she once asked him to give her money to buy somethings for herself; Dr Saho told her that she had to wait till another time because he did not have enough cash at hand. Minutes later, he was approached by one ‘Oustass [Islamic Teacher] for financial assistant, he handed the man some money. When Ndela asked him how he managed to have helped this guy after telling her that he was not having enough money, he responded with these words: “This dude has family to take care of, and that he deserved to be helped with a sense of urgency. Your request was important too, by the way, but you can wait until tomorrow.”
Some of his close associates tells me that, Dr Nafa Saho had helped his political opponents more than his cronies.
According to his first child, Fatoumatta Saho, Naffa Saho loved reading and writing. He kept his dark black Afro hairs neat at all times. At his leisure, he would narrate stories about his early life to his family. He was always on the move
He liked driving around the city, going to the Parks to unwind and chill out with his family.
“My relationship with my father was special. I had the best dad. He loved his family. I was never embarrassed to talk to my father about things that I wouldn’t be embarrassed talking to my mother about.” – Fatoumatta.
In 1982, Dr Lamin Saho contested for the Central Badibu parliamentary seat as candidate for the PPP against Opposition Sheriff M Dibba of NCP. This was a an epic clash of titans between two great sons of Salikenni.
Political pundits say, there’s something spectacular and unique about Central Badibou constituency. The founder of NCP, was the prominent candidate in this constituency from independence up to 1982.
Dr Saho defeated Sheriff Dibba in that hotly contested election in 1982 with a small majority of 95 votes, but went on to consolidate his grip on the constituency. In the subsequent 1987 Parliamentary election, he won the Central Badibou seat again and became the minister of Information and Tourism.
Dr Saho pioneered politics of development in his constituency. An accomplished Parliamentarian, he was widely admired among the people of Badibou. His efforts proved vital for many development initiatives in Central Badibou.
In 1988, he was asked to resign by President Jawara over his decision to change the sequencing of how national news was read in local languages, at Radio Gambia. On the day he left Jawara’s cabinet, Dr Saho met a handful of people from his constituency in his house, grieved and frustrated. He told them these hope-reassuring words: “Look, President Jawara only removed me as a Minister, but I still retain my parliamentary seat. Only you, my people, can remove me from the House of Parliament through election”.
Author: Buba S Njie,
Director of Political Department, at Sahel Network TV.