Someone once said that a nation needs leaders to thrive. Here, leader is not only referring to political office, but to the wider application of people who take centerstage and play a leadership role for others to follow. In other words, these are – will be – the trailblazer. Any nation that has a dearth of this type of leadership will not progress, or if it does, it will be a snail’s pace.

Though this is not a gigantic or unsurmountable problem, it requires a focused and concerted effort to solve. In The Gambia, one of the main problems we face and continue to face, is patriotism – or the lack thereof. Patriotism which will see a person prefer the nation over self; take risks even, just to ensure that the interest of the nation at large is protected, and the good image of the country preserved.

In order to do this and infuse love of nation in our people – particularly the young – we need to have mechanisms to make sure that they know their great ones and what they have done for the nation. They need to know that we have had great sons and daughters of this country who sacrificed everything to ensure that the country prevails. This is why it is important for us to rewrite our history and project our people in the right light. This means that we do not have to leave the writing of our history or the description of our nation to people like Berkeley Rice.

This is where Hassoum Ceesay comes in. Hassoum is a walking encyclopedia of Gambian history, as someone told me not long ago. He has been doing a great job of researching and documenting the traits and feats of some great individuals who trailed the blaze for many a young Gambian. I have read a lot about some very prominent Gambians and now know a little about them and their sacrifices, thanks to Hassoum Ceesay.

The latest such effort is on Pierre Sarr Njie commonly known as PS Njie. The book is entitled Founding Fathers PS Njie A Moral Biography. In this book, Hassoum has brought to life the great and significant contributions of this great son of the land. Reading this book, I was filled with admiration for this great man who until now, I didn’t know much about; quite like Edward Francis Small on whom little was – is – known. There is an acute need to shed light on the lives of these people. This is what will make the young have a focal point, so to speak, role models to look up to and aspire to be like.

It is avoiding the same pitfall we fell into regarding these stalwarts that I am writing this piece to shed light on Mr Hassoum Ceesay. Famara Fofana, author of When My Village Was My Villageand Recollections of an African Child, point out to me that there is a need for someone – or better still some young people – to follow on the footsteps of Hassoum Ceesay and understudy the great work he is doing. I totally agree with him because Hassoum is indeed a trailblazer like the great sons and daughters of The Gambia that he is telling us about. There should be some young people who follow in his footsteps so that they can continue from wherever he stops.

His personality is a pleasant one. He is a keen listener and is an inspiration to many young people in this country. He encourages and nurtures talent in whomever he spots it, and trust me, he has a keen eye for that. I am mostly speaking from personal experience here. Hassoum is very humble and unassuming despite his vast knowledge of the history of this nation.

Most of the time, when I visit Mr Ceesay at the National Council for Arts and Culture where he works, I find him buried in books and old newspapers from which he conducts his research of what used to obtain decades ago. I remember he showed me one particular passage from an old newspaper which was of the 1940s, if my memory serves me right, where great issues of national import were discussed. That is Hassoum for you, always seeking knowledge.

Mr Ceesay is humble and very open. Many new writers find an ally in him. Due to his tenacious support and encouragement, they have the courage and the zeal to continue and become published authors. Hassoum does not discriminate and gives each individual the ear to speak to, then offers valuable advice on how to move on.

His love for The Gambia is unmatched. Once he showed me an article published in the 1950s or around that time which was a letter from one of the colonialists talking about how groundnut crops cultivation was transported from the Gambia to the other colonies like Nigeria Sierra Leone and Ghana! He was beaming with pride that the Gambia was the country that gave the subregion what became the main cash crop. Here is a patriot!

It is for this reason that I reiterate a call I made earlier on for our education system to be reviewed to include subjects that will instill the love of nation in our young ones. One of the ways in which we can do that is to include the study of these people in our school system perhaps as early as in primary school. The books published by Hssoum Ceesay are based on very credible research and their inclusion in the books studied in school will be of great benefit to the country.

Hail hassoum Ceesay!

Tha Scribbler Bah

A Concerned Citizen