I was in Banjul, on the platform of Mustapha Njie. Mustapha is said to be the richest man in Gambia, their own Dangote. We had approached him quite early on the need for him to join our fledgling Investment banking franchise. His wide experience and international contacts were needed if we were to build an enduring West African focused franchise.
The call had come quite late and it was Mustapha on the line, ‘Edgar meet me in Banjul tomorrow.’ Who was I to say no? This was an opportunity of a life time. Lami, my long suffering Partner quickly hobbled on a flight straight to Banjul but not before stopping over in Accra to savour what Accra had to offer to dreamers. The next morning we were headed into Banjul and straight into Mustapha’s beautifully laid out pent house facing the Atlantic Ocean. This was the life.
After lunch, we had an initial discussion and he talked about the Gambia and the opportunities that were emerging as a result of the new Government in place. He took us on a drive in his gleaming bullet proofed G-Wagon showing us real estate assets as far as the eyes can see all belonging to him on the way to his beautiful sister’s house. Suddenly he stopped in front of a Villa still guarded by heavily armed soldiers. ‘this was where the President came to hide and your Obasanjo stayed here with him while negotiations were going on with the former President’ and added the clincher ‘I own the Villa’. We remained awe struck and began to see Mustapha as a must have on our Board.
Well, we ended up with his sister who laid out a large meal made up of rice and assorted items. Gambians are crazy about rice and it is their staple. We had fun with the family and retired to our individual villas’ facing the Atlantic ocean.
Upon checking in, I changed into my jalabiya and took a walk. I saw things I will not mention in this memoir, let me just say they tested my resolve to keep this trip strictly business. Gambia is known for a different kind of tourism. It is a hunting ground for retired and matured female Europeans who go there to seek the pleasures only a young and sinewy young lad would give. So around you it was debauchery, a revelry that only the mythical Sodom and Gomorrah could dare to compare.
As I strolled along the beach, having the cold breeze of the Atlantic freely cool my ‘unders’, another thought was on my mind. Command Ipaja. I wanted that platform to show the world how we could create wealth without waiting for government. The thought had been coming and going since that dusty day at the Ans barracks in yaba where I first attended a Comlag meeting. I had witnessed a comedy of errors which threw up senior Kevin Ugokwe as President. It was a joke but then I only just shrugged and walked away through the back door and never really took cognisance of the association for a very long time. But as I grew in experience and as my work took me to clients like the Shell Staff cooperative, LNG staff Cooperative, MTN Staff Cooperative, and Chevron Staff Cooperative, I began to sense the immense power in comlag. But the challenge was that the association did not have structures and was seemingly controlled by gargoyles who preferred to hold it down and run it as a social platform without any real plans for using it for more serious endeavours.
This night as I walked in the midst of debauchery, my mind was roaming and considering how to launch this attack. The challenges were humungous, outside of the first five sets, nobody really knew me. The association had grown to 37 sets with over 11,000 members. Even amongst those who knew me, I was misunderstood and in my own set it was worse.
I was seen as a clown, one not to be taken seriously and usually very controversial. The fact that those who had this impression of me were no better either in social standing or depth did not matter, Edgar was just one not to be taken seriously and as such, a Presidential push from 84 was a near impossibility.
Then it struck me. Why not go through 85? I had friends there. I had repeated in Command and had made some lifelong friends there after spending one year with them in what we then called ‘upper 4’ and guess what? their President was also a friend. People like Olumide Ohunayo, Segun Alison and the great banker Wale Oyedeji, who although was not that close to me, we had built a good rapport over our working career. The fact that he was a Board of Trustees (BOT) member would be an added push if I conquered 85 set.
This windy night, Gbenga Ismail was my target. He was their leader, a nic,e gentle man with a soft mien, greying beard and almost bent from too much enjoyment. He was and is still a great guy and very dependable. Funny, his sister Toyin worked with me on my play, Isale Eko. She was hardworking and tenacious, and she did everything possible to give me the required sponsorships for that perfect theatrical exposition. I also in my search for sponsorship surfaced at the Nigerian Breweries were I met a wonderful lady who was their Treasurer. She too took me in and helped break down all the barriers, even though the sponsorship did not come up I still was so grateful enough to send VIP tickets to her.
On the night of the show, I saw the two wonderfully beautiful ladies and Gbenga standing there like their date. I was pleasantly surprised as I was told that these two ladies were Gbenga’s sisters. The man don come my play on free ticket, kai! We smiled and hugged each other like the long lost friends that we were. So Gbenga was my man but before then, it was at Ehime Aikhomu, another fallen but great Commando’s house I had last seen him. We had both gone to commiserate with his family for their loss. Ehime had passed in the Dana Air mishap.
So I brought out my phone, while with one eye was watching a boy not more than sixteen square a mature ‘white’ woman into one tight corner getting ready to have a taste of her fruit. That the woman was his grandmother’s age was the farthest thing in the mind of this young but voraciously randy young man’s mind.
The voice came on line. It was grouchy and gravy and in his usual drawl, I said hello. ‘Gbenga, I want to be President’ I said matter of factly. He replied that he had heard but wanted to know my plans. I went straight into the vision, speaking very passionately about my plans. As I spoke, I saw the young boy squirel the old woman deeper into the hole they were going into. I sent a word of prayer to God to continue to protect her husband who would be somewhere in Europe doing night duty to pay for this vacation not knowing that his wife was coming to the Gambia to share his fruit of the loom.
After my speech, Gbenga said a few words expressly stating the need for the association to be rebuilt with concrete structures and corporate governance. He was ready to support any initiative that would bring that about. We agreed to meet up when I got back closing by saying that he was open to further discussions.
As I dropped the phone, the boy was dragging the woman out of the grove. He had had his fill but from the look in his eyes, he could not wait to get home to his young nubile Gambian princess with the firm body that would easily satiate him instead of this wrinkled and weather beaten looseness he had just tasted. This was work for him. For her, this was worth the air miles. Her smile and wink to me said it all. I gave her thumbs up as I swore for her under my breath.
As I lay on my soft and luscious bed, my mind was not on Mustapha and the millions he was bringing into Hamilton and George Limited but to my conversation with Gbenga. I smiled as I rehashed his last few words to me slowly drifting into a troubled sleep. If only I knew………….
Joseph Edgar’s memoirs, written by Joseph, is the systematic thought flow of Joseph’s adventure and experience while vying as a presidential candidate in his school’s alumni.