Greetings Mr. Best,
I congratulate you, on your 75th birthday, and wish you many more years of celebrations. I was asked by Fatou Jaw Manneh to contribute a brief reflection, in honour of your 75th birthday. In celebration of your 75th birthday, Fatou wanted to show (share with) her readers why you are so “special” to your friends and (former) colleagues at the *Daily Observer*.
But who really needs to be told that you have devoted a substantial part of your life to the betterment of African Journalism (49 years of exemplary
service to be precise)? In particular, you have made an indelible mark on Gambian Journalism. In fact, your contributions to the newspaper industry
in the Gambia are so tremendous and have had a lasting impact, especially on the Gambian print media industry. Therefore, it is my hope that you’ll
one day, be recognized and given a National Award by the Gambia for your seminal contributions (to the Gambian media industry).
In fact, to really appreciate the decisive role you played, in relation to the development of the media industry in the Gambia, I hereby challenge postgraduate research students at the University of The Gambia to come up with a comprehensive study whose main objective would be to investigate the influence of the then *Daily Observer* on the reading habits of Gambians. Specifically, the proposed study should also aim at providing us with a qualitative assessment of both the *Observer’s* contributions to the country’s democratic process(es) – positive (under your able leadership) and negative (under Yahya Jammeh’s ownership of the paper). Today, the Gambian State has exclusive control over the medium, and dictates what ought to be reported by the paper. Under your dynamic leadership, the *Daily Observer* promoted and defended human rights and the rule of law, as well as strengthened democratic ideas and values.
The pivotal and instrumental role you played in the revitalization of the newspaper industry in the Gambia should not be underestimated. In my view, you have single-handedly revolutionized the newspaper industry in the Gambia. You paved the way for others to follow. In the context of the Gambia, you were a pioneer, groundbreaker and an innovator with a remarkable foresight. In short, your determination and resolve did embolden and inspire others to start their own newspapers.
In the olden days, the media industry in the Gambia was dominated by just a handful of cyclostyled newspapers whose circulation was only limited to the greater Banjul area. But since its launch in May 1992, the *Daily Observer*, when it was under your control editorially, had revolutionized, restructured and reformed the Gambian media industry by providing Gambians with the first Daily newspaper in the country. The newspaper introduced Gambians to non-fiction reading; and reading, as we all know, is the corner stone of learning. Reading, as the old adage goes, is an essential tool for lifelong learning. The *Daily Observer*, under your editorial direction and guidance, did help to improve our reading habits, debating skills, knowledge, and awareness about the world. The *Daily Observer, *when it was edited by you, provided an outlet for its readers to express their views and share opinions on any important topic. The newspaper had radically changed the reading culture in the country – if, in fact, there was one (before the paper was launched in May 1992). The *Daily Observer, *I reiterate, played a huge part in cultivating reading habits among Gambians. Thanks to you, our reading habits have changed dramatically since the *Daily Observer’s* launch in 1992.
Before the *Daily Observer* was founded, there was a lack of a reading culture in the Gambia, and this contributed immensely to the fallen standard of education in our country, but through the* Daily Observer*, you helped to transform and restructure the newspaper industry in the Gambia. In the context of the Gambia, the *Daily Observer* re-shaped the way news was written, produced, printed and distributed.
But things were not as easy as they sound in this write-up. You have indeed faced numerous hurdles before the paper was started. When you decided to launch the *Daily Observer* in May 1992, people doubted you. You received a lot of skepticism, doubt, pessimism and even some ridicule.
The naysayers were quick to remark as follows: “Mr. Best, we don’t think that your newspaper business is going to work here. The newspaper business is a not viable and a daily newspaper is not sustainable. Your chances of success are very slim, because Gambians do not read or buy newspapers. Some Gambian journalists, before you, had tried to do to set up newspapers and failed…”
In short, you were told in unequivocal terms, by many doubters that your chances of success would have been one in a thousand. But with a single-minded determination and unflinching integrity, you have taught all of us that with hard work, courage, determination and drive, a lot can indeed be achieved. Anything is possible with hard work and determination.
You are a truly visionary leader, a strategic thinker and one important principle for the visionary leader is to never give up. That is the lesson! You have demonstrated considerable prescience. You were prescient on the *Daily Observer*. Looking back, it is clear that you had a dream, conviction, vision, drive, determination and innovation. But more importantly, you also had perseverance and resilience: the ability to bounce back from setbacks, rather than giving up.
But no expression of gratitude and appreciation would be complete without accentuating the fact that you are also a devout Christian; a lay reader in the Church; a remarkable husband, a wonderful father and a much-loved grandfather. Without your immediate family’s endless support, constant patience, love, collaboration, direction, advice and guidance, you may not have been the remarkable and incredible person you are today. You and your wife (Mae Gene) have been bound together by mutual trust, respect, understanding, love, a lifetime of shared experiences, and deeply held spiritual values.
During the time I have met and worked with you, you have touched my life, and I thank you for that. Thank you for keeping us amused with your many anecdotes, wit, charm and phrases. You’ve been an inspiration to us all. All your friends and colleagues would like to raise a glass of water to acknowledge your wonderful contributions, remarkable achievements, and wish you all the best for the future. Thank you for serving as one of our treasured, cherished mentors and role models for several years. May God bless you with continued good health, long life, peace and total happiness!! May you live for the next *1000 years*because we need you all the time!! Happy Birthday to an exceptional person who never stops giving/serving!!
Ebrima Ceesay (Coach)