Gambiana

Opinion | I will not criticise Attorney Emeritus Fafa Edirissa Mbai

Former United Kingdom Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill from 1940 to 1945, during the Second World War, and again from 1951 to 1955, is one of the most controversial world leaders, often glorified by history. 

However, now increasingly, the world’s view is being revised. Even though he said that the victor writes history, we now know of his appalling racism, his proclivity to war-mongering. 

However, in 1953, the Nobel committee, well aware of these very traits awarded him, the Nobel Prize in Literature, citing, “for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values.”

Exalted human values indeed. Not many Indians who remember the carnage he wrought over the country will put the words exalted plus human values when describing Churchill. 

However, he ended the war, and by 1953, capitalism had triumphed. The West owned the instruments of history, and soon, Stalin was to be a villain. Churchill, whose crimes are comparable, became a victor.

It is not easy to write about Attorney emeritus Fafa Edirisa Mbai and praise him and not come out as Jaliba. His sycophancy deifies Fafa Mbai embarrassingly, even as he knows he is a mortal of common fears and everyday faults. It is not easy to praise him without descending to sycophancy.

It is also not easy to write about Fafa Edirissa Mbai and criticise him without coming out as Domorifoday and Babajaling, and many others. They think statecraft is an art or science with definite rules for holding populist ideological attempts to decongest the language of contemporary political narratives over the nature of democracy and preserving friendships. 

It is not easy to criticise him without descending to vitriolic proclamations of the trivial type. Fafa Mbai is a star that cannot be stopped by other constellations and shines forth inconsistency, integrity, and other intentions. 

Moreover, many others of objective reputations will write about Fafa Mbai giving him what is due to him and denying him those accolades that should properly be reserved for saints. 

Those who benefit from positive human testimonies are often considered decorum in the face of death. Whether he will be eaten by sharks or survive in the belly of a whale remains to be seen. 

Nevertheless, I think Fafa Mbai will finally be vomited in Nineveh, where the people of God await his message. I will not criticise Fafa Mbai. The mistakes we make are worse; making friends, trusting everyone, listening to public opinion, ignoring the competition, being too truthful, and publishing our intentions.

I will not criticise Attorney Fafa Mbai in so doing. He was motivated as much a patriotic duty to advance for his country, having the proper education and wisdom in life to have shown early signs of intellectual flair, with interest in ideas and their connections both in his elementary and university studies. 

Fafa Mbai had a deep interest in legal education. He infused with a solid dose of law on scholarship,  whose transformative legal arguments and theories, vivid writings, and outsize personality made him a leader of a conservative intellectual renaissance in his four decades of law practice. 

He is an extraordinary individual and a scholar, admired and treasured by the legal fraternity and the Gambia writer’s club members. He has his roots in legal conservatism but quite distinct from the restrained vision of textualist and originalism and structural constitutionalism.

He was, in all ways, a reincarnation of the world celebrated critical pedagogy liberation icon, Paulo Freire. He was way much ahead of his time, in short. He was also a great author and understood his philosophy better, and one can read his traditional classics books here.  “In The Service of My Beliefs”  and  “Senegambia Insights.”

Attorney Fafa Mbai has a deep interest in political science and religious aspects of human history, the facts and mystery of human existence, and the forces and resources that promote and shape the human community. 

Fafa is a scholars’ scholar, a kind of indispensable historical midwife, lawyer, and author of books, and a creative thinker par excellence. However, even to describe him this way is to do him less than justice.

Fafa is a man whose life bore out the adage that truth is stranger than fiction—a stranger, and more affluent, more terrifying, more hopeful, and more exciting. 

Within the legal profession, Fafa’s contribution is ubiquitous. First, he was an advocate of the Supreme  Court of The Gambia. Consequently, he has been a member of the  Gambian Bar Associations (GBA), respectively. 

Arguably the most accomplished legal scholar in the country, his contributions have gone beyond the roles and duties of advocates in law courts. Time and again, the Gambian courts have invited Fafa as its amicus curie. 

He is one of the Gambia’s foremost authorities on Constitutional law and argued more Supreme Court cases in the Gambia history than any attorney on Some famous cases. 

He had orally argued several cases before the Court of Appeal of The Gambia and the then Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London involving various issues until 1998 when the Gambia established a Supreme Court in the Second republic.

There is a Gambian section, whom we can narrow to a specific geographic location, who are consistently critical and opposed to Attorney Emeritus  Fafa Edirissa Mbai living distinguished legacy services in the rule of law democracy against corruption. 

They rubbish his books, his thoughts, and in their eyes, Fafa is a Wolof Fana fana from the village, which should be shunned at all costs. Fafa’s silence or take on the two regimes, the PPP and the AFRPC, also rubs him wrongly. 

They wish he spoke about it in clear terms so that we can know what he stands for. He was opposed to corruption and injustice during the PPP  when he established the  Evaluation of Asset Prevention  Corruption Commission and advised against human rights abuses by the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council  (AFPRC) against the civilian population.

Before I serve some uncomfortable facts, I admit that they are right in their criticism, only that it is a bit narrow-minded. It is not the ability to know the periphrastic conjunction, or solve the Pythagorean Theorem, or understand the principles of heat, light, and sound, or verify the mystery of quadratic equations. 

These are all most important, but they do not indicate true academic scholarship. They do not make for a dynamic social order. Creativity, emulation, initiative, and intellectual rigor are the earmarks of scholarship.

For the record, the people opposed Fafa Mbai for what he stood for and believed in his service to the Gambia. I spend my entire life on the media and social media, and I do not remember even a single post where they have ever criticized Fafa Mbai; not when talking about corruption in the PPP administration, the flawed human rights abuses, among many things their Godfathers is known to be or to have done.

When Fafa Mbai was fighting corruption during the  PPP, ethnicity aside, this was at the height of the Cold War. It was more ideological than anything else. 

Defeated by the Banjul Mafia and the Terri Kaffo, he never left the country. Furthermore, he has lived in the Gambia continue his law practice for nearly two decades. 

When he tried a come back as Attorney General when Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara had been removed from power, he was attacked. Bad things were said to him when he took an appointment from the  Junta.

While he has become apolitical in local politics (something convenient and his colleagues in the bar and the bench who were hiddenly critical of Yahya Jammeh, but continue his law practice writing books he has remained astute in reminding us to decolonise our minds, he says, and rightfully so, until we get over the colonial hangover, we will never be free enough, this is a worthy cause.

Those who hate Fafa Mbai forget that several eminent Gambian professionals and intellectuals were once astute politicians who had to swallow a massive chunk of humble pie and join Yahya Jammeh’s administration,  some often seen as an intellectual lightweight, according to people served in the Department of Justice.

Emeritus Attorney Ousainou Darboe, who since 1996 as leader of the opposition United Democratic Party (UDP), has never criticized Fafa Mbai, not because he is a saint, but because that is how politics works.

You can hate Fafa all you can, but can you write better books than A “Senegambian Insight,” The Service of My Beliefs, and a review of “The Road to Justice: Lord Denning, Master of the Rolls 1962-1982”. You can deride Fafa Mbai all you can, but can you develop a better philosophy than what he stands for?

In the climate of mass disaffection with the PPP government, revolutionary politician Kukoi Samba Sanyang, a so-called Marxist-Leninist revolutionary theory and political ideas of Socialists revolution with a small following, led rebels to an unsuccessful coup against Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara in 1981.  

The People’s Progressive Party ( PPP) under Sir Dawda Kairaba established the Special Criminal Bill that was passed in Parliament in 1979 by Attorney General and Minister of Justice Mr. Mohammadou Lamin Saho, as well as the Evaluation of Assets and Prevention of Corrupt Practices Bill, shepherded in 1982 Attorney General Mr.Fafa M’bai to regain the public’s confidence in the government’s integrity.

However, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) era was inseparable from widespread corruption that took such firm root in the country that ill-gotten gain was flaunted as the norm.  

Fafa M’bai, Attorney General in 1982, shepherded the Evaluation of Assets and Prevention of Corrupt Practices Bill, which on 31st December 1982 became Act No. 17 of that year. We know what happened to Fafa and his Act when the Banjul “rapacious mafia” went to work on him. 

It is not even persuasive to contend that the “society” perceived “the exercise as being manipulated and used as a political weapon targeted principally against the urban elite of a particular ethnic group.” 

Even the history of anti-corruption law itself is one exciting tale about the paradoxes girding the Gambia’s flawed anti-corruption system.

When Fafa decided to write his first book, he centered it around leadership, responsibilities of lawyers experienced in the Gambia, and decided to do the big one, A Senegambia Insight. 

He focused on the History of Senegambian people around the History of Senegambia and issues of identity formation in Senegambia and the two countries’ colonial policy.

Writers come from a place. Yesterday, Fafa Mbai decided to write about his community and his people. It is not because he has a blind, ethnic jingoist. We all come from a place. 

In the course of life, there are causes we will pick, and some we will not. If I  decide not to say much about climate change and then the entire planet perishes because of a climate-related apocalypse, should I  be blamed for my silence?

So, to this clique, who are opposed to any form of art from public intellectual giants, constantly questioning the credibility of honest people when they are alive or dead, continually dismissing our public intellectuals, writers like Dr. Sulayman Nyang, Dr. Momodou Darboe, Tijan Sallah, Dr. Karamo Sonko and Lenrie Peters and Swaebou Conateh, I have a straightforward request: Get real.

By Alagi Yorro Jallow

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