Tribute to Alhaji Musa Marenah, A True Gentleman
Sunday, July 10, 2011
It is with a heavy heart and a deep sense of loss that I write this tribute to Alhaji Musa F. Marenah of Latrikunda German, The Gambia. Alhaji Musa Marenah departed this world on Sunday 26 June 2011, at his residence. If, indeed, there is anything certain about mortality, it is death. However, the transition from mortality often marked as a dramatic and sad moment in the lives of many. This transition has the added effect of leaving deep, if not, an indelible and lasting emotional scar, which only prayers, fortitude and faith mitigates with the passage of time.
Alhaji Musa F. Marenah, more commonly known as Baa and still to some as Niaminanko, in the family circles, was born in the year 1937, and was until his demise the patriarch of the Marenah-Kunda clan of Kudang, in the Central River Division of the Gambia, a village, whose people are known and respected for their passion for knowledge and success in all human pursuits. He was born to Afang Foday Marenah (an Islamic scholar) and Tida Touray. He was an accomplished family man, a virtuous servant of Allah, a trusted mentor, a dependable friend and counsellor, and above all, a mundane healer. Beyond his healthcare professional call where he rendered dedicated public service with rare distinction for more than fifty years to The Gambia, he was a philanthropic at heart. Indeed, there is hardly any major public health post where he did not serve our country from Fatoto to Banjul. He was the first National Co-ordinator of the National Primary Health Care Programme (PHC) where he worked with the former Director of Medical Services and his friend, Dr Hatib Njie, Dentist George, Dr Abdoulie Jack and Dr. Kabir Cham. During these years, he attended numerous trainings and conferences in several countries including the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine - UK, University of Carlifornia, Santa Cruz, U.S.A, the University of Zagreb, former Yugloslavia, Training Centre for Health Services Personnel, Nigeria, Togo, Ivory Coast, Guinea Bissau, Nazareth, Ethiopia, etc. He then took voluntary retirement from The Gambian civil service and joined the WHO national office in Banjul where he worked for five years with people like Dr Ulric Jones who remained a close friend and personal doctor until his death. In addition, he served as Vice-Chairman of the Scholarship Advisory Board, a member of the Hospital Management Board and later PRO of the RVH.
Although, a native of Kudang, he received his early\primary education in Bansang under the guardianship of Alhagi Karamo Tambajang (father of the first Immigration Director, I J K Tambajang), having been sent to school by his elder brother and the great educator, Pa Landing Marenah. He started his Islamic education under the tutelage of his father as well as the late Imam of Kudang and his brother, Afang Karim Marenah. He also attended the Darra of the late Imam of Bansang, the Venerable Alhaji Bubacarr Jallow. He then proceeded to Armitage High School in Georgetown, (Janjangbureh) where he established several lifelong and dedicated friendships and acquaintances. Some of his close friends still around include Momodou F Singhateh, Baba Touray (Snr) Dr. Sheriff Ceesay, Sulayman Touray, Baboucarr E. Ngum (RTVH PRO), Dr Bakary Nyambi Touray, Kalilu Sawo, Alhaji Junkung Ceesay and Kabba Jallow (former MD of GPMB). Others are Kekoto Manneh, I J K Tambajang, Janko Ceesay, Jay Saidy, M I Jallow, Seyfo Kebba Jammeh, Sheriff M Dibba, Chamsu Coker, Alhaji Kebba Sanneh, Baba Touray (Jnr), Tose Kinteh, Amadou Jallow, Lamin Bora Mboge and Sheriff Saikouba Sisay (all of blessed memory). Beyond these, he also maintained very close relations with great Islamic scholars like Alhaji Bamfa Jabbi, Alhaji Cherno Baba Jallow (after whom he named his last child), Sheriff Habib Hydara, Sheriff Kebba Koyo Hydara, Sheriff Malaine Hydara and Sheriff Kebba Hydara (of Brufut). All those associated with him would attest to very rare qualities which characterised his persona, among which were his devotion to family, compassion, humility and the desire to share his modest resources with the less fortunate, be it his kinsmen, neighbours or friends. His compound in Latrikunda German was almost always a beehive of extended family activities ranging from meetings for planning naming ceremonies, the annual Kudang Gamo, weddings and even negotiations for the resuscitation of troubled or broken down marriages.
Indeed, his eventful life was characteristically unassuming, discrete, sympathetic and devoid of sensation and publicity. These traits are further manifestations of the depth of his faith in caring and sharing with the less fortunate based on his conviction that Allah rewards our good deeds beyond the worldly expectations of financial gain or gratitude. Equally important was his contribution to the Latrikunda community where he spent valuable time in retirement as a caring elder and community leader who is always concerned with welfare of his fellow beings until his last moments on earth. Even in his retirement from public service, he still ran a pharmacy in his neighbourhood where he sold as much medicine as he dished out free of charge to the poor and needy. Indeed his demise is as much a loss to his family as to the whole community.
Alhaji Musa was a true nationalist. His mastery of the Queen’s language was just admirable; he was articulate and spoke impeccable English. He spoke as fluent Fula, wollof, aku/creole and sarahule as his native mandinka and out of his numerous namesakes countrywide, he could count peoples of all tribes in The Gambia.
His love for family also led Baa to discover his maternal relatives (two uncles and an aunt) in Rufisque, Senegal which has led to a family reunion culminating in the latter’s families regular attendance at the annual Kudang Gamo and bi-annual cultural festival (Munku Tuwoo).
As a father, I cannot fail to acknowledge the success with which he raised several children including nephews like Tumani, Sana, Baba, Karamba etc, nieces and grand children, the majority of who are university and college graduates and who are now wives, mothers and fathers in their own rights. Most particularly, he will be fondly remembered for his unconditional love and passion for his children. However, he had been an untiring and ever present shepherd over the immediate and extended family till death beckoned. For those who benefitted from his gratuitous counsel and support, we can only pray for Allah’s mercy on his gentle soul. For the many lives that he has touched with his congenial humility and compassion, we must all take comfort and solace in the rare show of respect by thousands of people and record crowd from our shared humanity who graced his death in equal measure, if not, more than in his natural life.
As we conclude this tribute, we must single out our dear mother Ajaratou Fatoumatta Laibo Ceesay, (fondly called Ley), for being the dedicated mother and pillar of the Alhaji Musa Marenah household. She was indeed the pillar which saw the family through joy, sorrow and tribulations with perseverance and much resilience. We pray for her longer life, good health and strength to bear this irredeemable loss. It is human to grief, but more importantly, our faith enjoins us to moderate our grief with reflection on our own mortality, so that we may be reminded of our vulnerability to the ultimate call from which no living soul shall be spared.
I speak for myself as one of Alhaji Musa’s sons-in-law, but I am equally competent to speak for others notably Kawsu Suwareh of Texas, USA, Dr. Alhaji Marong of UNAMA, Kabul and Lamin Drammeh of AFBD, Dakar, Senegal, that Alhaji Musa was more than a father-in-law. His love and concern for us all and our families was unparalleled, and we can only pray for his eternal peace.
To Lamin, Cherno Baba, sisters Fatou, Mariama (Yama), Tida, and Lisa, and indeed all the Marenah family, we pray that you continue to bear his absence with resilience and fortitude, but rest assured that Baa, has set the bar far higher than any of us can ever hope to reach let alone surpass. Yet, we must all endeavour to aspire to keep his ideal and legacy of making this world a better place than we found it.
Baa, rest well till we meet.
“INNA LILLAHI, WA-INNA ILAYHI RAJI-OON”
Author: Ousman Jammeh UNICTR, Arusha Tanzania