Dear Mr./Mrs. Editor,
I have never found the cause to put pen on paper to publish in any newspaper, anywhere, but today I just could not resist mainly due to the fact that during the prayer at the mosque we the old friends of Che did not have enough time to be able to speak and most of those who spoke knew Che at the later stage of his life whilst we were with him at teenage days. So, Mr. or Mrs. Editor, please allow me a little space to pay respect and tribute to a fallen idol and childhood friend of mine, Mr. Cherno Alieu Jallow of Deloites, as I would like to have his legacy live forever and children to learn from it for years to come. I don’t claim to know Che better than anyone but here I am to speak of what I know about him. He was our friend, faithful and just to us and therefore if you have tears, prepare to shed them now as Shakespeare said in Julius Caesar.
Cherno A. Jallow was born on 31 July 1965, the very same date he was laid to rest 31 July 2014. I met Che at the sixth form in Saint Augustine’s High School. He had continued to the sixth form at Saint Augustine’s where in 1983 he came out first position in the Gambia at the GCE ‘O’ Levels with Aggregate 6. We met when I had just come from Nusrat with the best result at that school in 1983 and I remember telling him you came out first in the Gambia because you had better facilities at Saints but I am coming to show you guys that Nusratarians are no match for you so let’s see who will come out first in the ‘A’ Levels. We had a healthy and friendly competition with Alfusainey Camara and other smarty-pants.
After high school, I and Alfu went to work for the civil service (Accountant General and Auditor General and we were sponsored to do AAT at MDI whilst Che secured a job at an accounting firm KPMG and started his apprenticeship). We visited each other and studied together at MDI as he was doing correspondence courses in accounting with UK schools. He lived right next to the Serrekunda West football field at Kanifing. Che was always the guy you envied. In everything he did, he did par excellence. He was always neat, his room at that time was always clean and organized, he always smiled and melted you even if you were a heartless person. When you get into his bedroom in 1986 you wondered if he had a wife or that a maid was working for him due to the cleanliness. Che excelled in everything he did from childhood to his death. He was the best footballer, the best student, and the best friend anyone could ask for. Moreover just so people don’t think he started being pious and praying when he got sick. On the contrary, Che was always praying from the day I knew him. He would stop everything when it was time to pray including scrabble and that was the only way we won him as we cheated whilst he went to pray on time and then we followed him and prayed after he did. Che was one of the only forward soccer players, I knew, who played 90 minutes, scored goals and would not be dirty, apart from Koto Lawrence Bruce who I also knew to be like that. Che was one of those people for whom the word DECENT was invented. He would not hurt a soul, he would not offend anyone, and he was always smiling and ready to lend a hand. Above all Che loved his family and children. They are the ones that would really miss him more than anyone. His family should take solace in the fact that he is now at the place he belonged (Heaven).I have high hopes that Che is going to heaven, not so sure about the rest of us (Jobis, Alfu, Badara, Babucarr, Assan, Yaya, etc) but we will try. All that Che knew was, work, worship and family which is why a lot of people were asking who he was. Even when he did well he would not want to show off. The Minister of Tourism who was visibly emotional said great things about his public service as well as the Central Bank governor, then that was Che and then there’s the rest of us.
Apart from funerals and christening, Che hardly had a social life. He did not even know where the nightclubs were located even though some were right behind his office. I, Badara (Africel) and Alfu(Gampost) were the outgoing ones. He would always laugh at us and caution us, “guys please be careful and don’t hurt anyone’s feelings.” We would be like yes, the IMAM had spoken. Che could not lie and could never be corrupted by anything. I remember when he and Badara went to study in London, paying for themselves for at least 6 months before I and Alfu won scholarships through AAT with the ODA to join them to pursue our ACCA studies. I went to visit them at the first opportunity during the summer holidays from my school in Birmingham and found them very skinny and asked, “What is wrong with you guys, you’re sick?” They said, no we are just hungry; all we eat is junk food coz we could not cook. I said guys you better start learning how to cook. I told them I and Alfu also got sick in our first months in UK coz we were just eating KFC for breakfast, lunch and dinner which is very expensive and their small allowances were almost exhausted. I told them that we will now call a lady called Oulaye Camara and she dictates to us to cook on the phone. Straight away, Che started to practice cooking and mastered it. I also asked why they were not working and they said, “Well we applied for many clerical jobs but got no responses”. I said guys are you crazy, white-collar jobs with no experience working in UK, coming from Africa. You better come with me to Slough and let’s find you jobs in the fast food. The next day we went to Slough and got jobs at the Wimpy Restaurant, which later became Burger King and Badara and Che moved to Slough where they stayed until their graduation. Badara eventually became the Manager at the restaurant and helped to assist in hiring a lot of Gambian students that needed work experience or money to keep alive in England. Che was hospitable to beyond acceptance level. Living with people like Badara and myself sometimes, who were related to the entire Gambian community, we always had guests, friends or relatives coming to UK who had no place to stay. Che would never hesitate to give up his room and bed to such guest and would never complain. Even when Badara was making us work late, to clean the customer area at the Restaurant, and wash the machines and I wanted us to choke Badara to death in his sleep or strangle him or beat him up, Che would only smile and say DIBI DIBI man don’t mind this guy. You will get back at him one day. Then that was Che and then there’s the rest of us.
Just to add a light note to such a dark episode, I will give a glimpse of why he called me DIBI DIBI man up to this day, and he always cracked up when he sees me. One day, Badara and I rented a car to drive to Birmingham over the weekend and whilst Badara had a licence and was competent to drive in UK, I did not. When Badara went away to do some errands, I stole the keys and took the car for a spin. Unfortunately I went into a one-way traffic and could not U-turn and went straight into an interchange junction. I did not know which way to proceed or which exit to take, the cars were honking at me to move and the police were not far from the junction. In the end, I thought about being caught by the police and the ODA revoking my scholarship and sending me back to Gambia and what my Dad who thought I was a saint would feel, so I just went into the roundabout and took the one way street against the traffic to evade the police. I preferred to die than to humiliate my parents. When I reached home I found Che standing at the gate. I was sweating so profusely during winter and he looked at me and laughed. I went straight to the bathroom with panic attacks. When Badara came he must have seen the car not parked and he asked for me. Che said I don’t think you guys will leave anytime soon coz DIBI DIBI man is sick. Che did not explain to Badara what had happened, as he just could not stop laughing.
Che was the Accountant of Accountants, the professional of professionals, and a gentle man beyond comprehension. Just to show you an example of Che’s honesty and integrity, he was assigned to audit the accounts at one Organization where I was the Finance Director. He phoned me and asked that we meet. When I met him he said, “DIBI DIBI man, you know we go a long way. I just wanted to inform you that my company has been hired to audit your company and due to our relationship I have recused myself from the exercise because I cannot be objective or unbiased and our profession dictates that we are objective and transparent.” He continued, “you are a related party so I will not in any way interfere with the audit process or reports but I am confident you are fine anyway.” Che knew the ethics of the ACCA Accountancy profession and followed them to the letter. As a youth whilst we are busy roaming about, Che was either reading a book or reading the Qur’an or maybe playing soccer. Up to the time we were 22 years Che never had a girlfriend or at least that I knew of. He followed what the laws of the society and everything that the scriptures dictated and he would rather die than be polluted. If he told you he was going to give you something, you can go to the bank and borrow that amount because he was going to do it. When people were asked at the mosque to come forward if Che owed them anything, I knew that no one would come forward. He even paid for the biscuits that were served at his funeral, in advance. That was Che and then there’s the rest of us.
I also remember one time in Slough, UK he came to my place when I had moved to my own apartment in Slough and wanted to sleep over. I asked what happened, he said ‘oh we have Gambian guests from Scandinavia and I want them to be comfortable’. That was Che and then there’s the rest of us.
When I came to Gambia after my 14 years of international assignment with the World Bank and ICAO and UN, he was one of the first to call me. He said “:DIBI DIBI man, come and see me”. I went and he said, “I understand that you want to set up an accountancy and consultancy practice in the Gambia because you are already operating in Senegal and the sub region. He said it’s a good idea but you have to be in it for the long run. He said anytime you need anything just call or come over. He promised to outsource some of his clients to me and he introduced me to some of his key staff and told them to give me maximum cooperation and as soon as I left he started calling our mutual friends and others to tell them that Jobisco was back in town and that they should patronize me. In this day and age people are always afraid of competition; instead he was busy helping the competition. He knows you cannot eat what does not belong to you. That was Che and then there’s the rest of us.
On April 15th at 12 midday which was one of the my worst days, he invited me at his office at Deloites and we chatted for sometime and he gave me some clues and advise about life and family and then said to me he has a terminal illness that he has been battling for over 10 years and that the doctors in UK were just stabilizing him but cannot help cure it and that he believed he will sooner lose the battle. He showed me the medicines he was taking and told me the side effects, which included mood swings etc., and he was still smiling whilst talking. I was in tears and dumbstruck and kept asking what kind of a guy is this? But then that was Che and then there’s the rest of us.
He together with his partners have set up one of the best accountancy firms in Africa. Che has passed on knowledge to many people, as we were the first to start lecturing ACCA in Gambia at the YMCA where we only asked students to refund our transport cost. Che has helped several people trained to become real accountants and professionals some of whom are now Director Generals or heading their own enterprises. He left his mark and legacy for all to see. As John Donne said in his poem ‘death be not proud the people that you kill are just sleeping’ and as our religion and society believes in the after life, Che just went to sleep and is certainly going to wake up at a better place than this world. I remember asking my father when I was young why God keeps taking the good people at an early age and he said he could only think of two reasons:
- That those people despite being young would have done their service to this world completely, fulfilled their mission; as the English would say “when all is said and done what is the otherness”
- That he loves them so much that he does not want them to stick around for long to give Satan the chance to corrupt them;
He said that not all good people die young though. Mainly because some have a long agenda and need to complete them and so they live longer.
I TOTALLY CONCURRED.
To quote the words of William Shakespeare again “Che could be well moved if he were as us, if he could pray to move prayers would move him, but Che is as constant as the northern star, of whose true-fixed and resting quality there is no fellow in the firmament. The skies are painted with unnumbered sparks. They are all fire and everyone doth shine, but there’s but one in all doth hold his place. So in the world “‘this furnished well with me, and men are flesh and blood, and apprehensive, yet in the number I do know but one that unassailable holds on his rank, unshaken of motion.” That was Che to his friends and family.
ADIOS AMIGO CHE, we know we shall meet again and hope and pray that it will be later and we also pray to be close to your camp, and if not, then this parting was well made.
Y. M JOBE FCCA, ACMA