Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji’un.

The passing of Comrade Abass Manneh saddens me. Though we had not been in touch for some time, I knew him during my youth activism in the First Republic and my medium-term sojourn at the Foroyya as a reporter and freelancer those days. I found Abbas admirably courageous and principled, as well as a marvelously likable human being.

The first time I met Comrade Abbas Manneh was in 1987 in Churchill’s Town (People’s Democratic Organization for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS) political bureau. I had gone there as a polling agent for the 1987 General Elections. 

Comrade Abba was quite skinny in those days! We became friends very quickly because of the joking relations between the Fula’s and Manneh Kaaabu  Nyancho’s cultural affinities, and a life-long bond friendship was formed. May his convictions and principles live on. He is now gone. His spirit will live forever: My heartfelt and profound condolences to the bereaved family and the entire Brufut and Kombo North Constituency, the PDOIS Central Committee, and all party supporters. 

I had enormous respect for Comrade Abbas Manneh. I enjoyed his affection and matchless charm of giving delight and arousing admiration captivated me. His passing is a loss to his family but for the nation and for all of us who had the privileged of crossing his path. His contributions to defining and defending the Gambia and socio-political and cultural harmony index were substantial. His decency and courtliness were legendary.

The death of a scholar and an older man is the end of an era. The reality of death is harsh yet inevitable and inescapable. Comrade Abbas Manneh, who had greatly influenced countless lives across the globe, has left for the final abode, leaving us behind in dismay. 

However, we have nothing to say except that the eye cries, the heart feels sorry. We will not utter any words other than what our Lord will consent. Comrade Abbas will never be unforgettable; his legacy is indelible. The beloved politician, community organiser, and teacher will live on.

Death of an older man, we are told, is like a whole library in flames. When a teacher dies, what image does it evoke in the mind of the pupil? It is like an entire world of knowledge consumed in a volcanic eruption. 

It becomes even more devastating when the departed is not just a teacher but a political ideologue, educator, mentor, and staunch believer in the promise latent in the pupil’s future. You meet him at every bus stop of life. He was an excellent teacher- he taught something positive (even if unconsciously) that ultimately shapes him and sees the world; however, some standout. 

We remember Comrade Abass at every pause, every reboot, and restart of the journey of life. He leaves a mark, indelible (even omnipresent) in the sands of the impressionable mind. His “waters rushed on golden sands.” He changed lives. 

Alternatively, more appropriately put, was a helper of destinies. What marks him out is not the number of his experiences and qualifications, but significantly, the depth and breadth of his humanity and his potters’ deep emotional feelings for the images coming out of his matrix. 

Rousseau noted that a man is valuable or not valuable not because of his position, station in life, or because of his education. Instead, “value is to be sought inside- in the man’s emotional core.”

Comrade Abbas Manneh was not the run-off-the-mill teacher that taught as a matter of duty. He brought passion and compassion into his work, and these were precisely what upped his worth and estimation in the eyes of his students. In the unforgettable decades of service, the anvil breathed life into its work subjects. 

Comrade Abbas Manneh made no pretence about it that he was not relating with students — he was engaged in a life-long journey of friendship with partners. He was hired to teach like an ordinary class teacher. 

However, he added career counseling to his almost interminable tutoring of the willing student in his care: “You must get the best out of this department and go out to get the best from the world,” I once heard him tell his students. 

Poor teaching in schools to him was capable of altering destinies. He spoke loudly to his colleagues to work against the system that made the school’s poor performance inevitably improved to a quality standard.

Comrade Abbas was very simple and humble. He was also very friendly with everyone. He had very little interest in material things. We had a common interest in politics at that time. I believe our socialist political values cemented our friendship because we always discussed politics and how to salvage the Gambia right up to his passing.

Abbas was also surprisingly sociable for someone who was so self-effacing. We had many enjoyable and memorable experiences at political rallies and town hall meetings, and other educational and social events! He also had a perfect sense of humour belied by his often stern visage.

Abbas was a Pan-Gambian, global citizen, who recognised no boundaries between peoples, be they racial, ethnic, religious, class, or political. He made friends with everyone. He was a man of unimpeachable integrity. Incorruptible! He is knowledgeable, cerebral, articulate, yet very humble, accessible, simple, generous, and kind. He is the go-to person when issues become knotty. 

The most endearing of his many virtues is his absolute dedication and uncorrupted loyalty to friends and ideas. When he stands with you, he does not stand bending. Men like him indeed have a day with destiny, and as he has raised his hands in helping others, so will God raise the hands of destiny helpers in his ways.

I remember he once narrated to me after he got married to his wonderful wife. He told me how he showed her his first paycheck to know that he was not wealthy and would not steal! He was a decent human being.

I remember asking him about the rumours making the rounds. He was making money as a Chairman of the Brufut Recovery committee, a member of the VDC. He stood by the community and represented us very well, especially the youths of Brufut. 

He immediately showed me the memorandum setting up the Committee to deal with the issue, and he was not even a member. He also showed me how he had been able to block attempts by many influential and powerful persons to make much money at the expense of the poor. 

He knew that fighting corruption with such single-mindedness and fearlessness would see him at the receiving end of the venom of potent forces but was undeterred and preferred to ignore all the defamation against him.

Abbas was loyal to a fault. He was a  member of his PDOIS at all costs and would take any bullets for the party. And he did! Since he became a member of PDOIS, Abbas never rested. He worked day and night, seven days a week. 

He was a hard taskmaster who did not suffer fools gladly. He gave a lot of himself and expected his subordinates and colleagues to do the same. He was brilliant, very well-read, and had a wide and varied professional experience. He held strong opinions and did not yield position easily. However, once he believed in someone or a cause, he would fight with everything he had.

Abbas believed utterly in the Gambian project and believed entirely in PDOIS. Gambians will look back in years to come and see that he was indeed the Best Man. Rest In Peace, my brother. May Allah grant you Al-Jaanah Firdaus.

By Alagi Yorro Jallow

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