Sunday, October 10, 2010

Gambia Press Union Remembers William Dixon-Colley


Banjul, The Gambia (TNBES) The Gambia Press Union held a Symposium in memory of the late Dixon Colley, first Secretary General of the Union at The Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (TANGO) Hall in Kanifing on Saturday 12th February, 2010.

The programme, which was attended by journalist, family members and members of the public, was mainly a reflection of Dixon’s life, his contribution to Gambian journalism and the socio-economic development of The Gambia.

Dixon Colley was born on 14th November 1913. He was married to an English lady by the name Barbara. The wife died two years before Dixon. His children are still living in the United Kingdom.

Dixon became a school teacher after his formal education in Banjul and he taught at his alma mater the Methodist Boys High School and his career as a journalist started during his school days. However, he left for Nigeria, where he continued to practice journalism at the Sunday Observer and later The Guardian in Port
Harcourt
in the 1930s.

After the Second World War, he left for the United Kingdom where he became editor of the African Outlook, an independent quarterly forum for Africans published in London.

However, he returned to The Gambia in 1963 and began publishing African Nyaato, which later became The Nation. During that period, he also served at various times as correspondent for BBC, Reuters
and the Sunday Express in England.

At his death on 17th January 2001, he held the record of being the longest serving editor of a newspaper in The Gambia.

The Life and Times of Dixon Colley, a presentation by Demba Ali Jawo (D. A. Jawo) was read on his behalf by Pa Modou Faal, the Programme Manager of The Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (TANGO).

As D.A. Jawo writes, his first encounter with Dixon Colley was in February 1979, after he published his first article in The Nation, which according to him was critical of corruption in the police force, and he was
arrested and detained at the Banjul Police Station.

According to him, Dixon was so much concerned about his plight that he visited him at the police station every day for more than a week.

D.A. Jawo noted that No. 3 Boxbar Road in Banjul was the office of Dixon’s Newspaper, The Nation, and it was the meeting point of several left-learning
young radicals such as Halifa Sallah, Dumo Saho, and Sarjo Jallow among others,
to exchange ideas on national and international issues.

He recalled that encounter with the police did not intimidate him neither stop him from writing as the police had intended. “I became even more emboldened to write and with the encouragement of Uncle Dixon
and some of his colleagues at the Gambia Press Union such as the late Deyda
Hydara, the late Jay Saidy and Pap Saine, I applied and became a member of the
GPU in 1980,” D.A. Jawo said.

D.A. Jawo noted that Dixon was dedicated to journalism with unshakable principles and convictions. He said that there is one quotation attributed to Dixon
which seems to sum up the type of person he was, and it states: “If what one is
saying is right and one strongly believes it is, one should go on saying it up
to ones grave.”

Jawo says that the question of self-censorship of the truth never arise as far as Dixon is concerned. “He would write anything as long as he was convinced that it was
the truth and was in the public interest,” Jawo said, adding that Dixon subscribed to the
adage: “Write and damn the consequences.”

Jawo also have the conviction that if Dixon was alive and still active in writing in this current atmosphere, he would have been among the first journalists to be sent to jail for his writing and commentaries,
because he would never have shied away from writing the truth, regardless of
the consequences.

Jawo recalled that in 1978, a group of independent journalists founded the Gambia Press Union and Dixon was elected as Secretary General, a position he held until 1993. He was also nominated at that time as a veteran
Gambian journalist for the International Organisation of Journalists (IOJ)
prize in Prague, the former Czechoslovakia
in recognition of his long and distinguished career.

“Uncle Dixon by all accounts stood for the freedom of the press through out his life and was well known for his uncompromising stance on those principles. I remember, for instance, that he was arrested for publishing
a commentary; ‘Till Doomsday’ and charged with seditious publication. He was
taken to court and, after a lengthy trial, he was acquitted and discharged,”
Jawo recalled.

In spite of all the harassments in the course of his journalistic career, he remained unequivocally committed to the principles of truth, freedom and a better life for the generality of the people until his
death.

William Dixon Colley was also an activist-political and social, who was quite enthusiastic about de-colonization. He was always very critical of the colonial authorities, both while he was in the UK and when he
came back home.

Finally, D.A. Jawo noted that Gambian journalists have quite a lot to learn from Dixon – his dedication to truth, his energetic pursuit of what he believed to be right despite challenges; his patriotism, his passion
for writing, and his entrepreneurship that gave birth to The Nation
Newspaper and Library
– both legacies the present generation of Gambia
journalists must not allow to die.

Halifa Sallah, also spoke on the Contribution of Dixon Colley to the Socio-economic Development of The Gambia.

“Way before constitutions were written to empower the media as the fourth estate, Dixon was already playing that role. He was very practical, very independent and
could not be made to publicly declare which political party he supports,”
Halifa Sallah said.

Mr. Sallah pointed out that Dixon was not only concerned with the living standards of urban communities, but the plight of rural people as well. We all know that in 2008, the world market price for a ton of groundnut was $36, 000
while one ton was bought at D8000 in The Gambia. This was what Dixon was writing about in ‘The Nation’.

He said to serve a society is a collective responsibility and a society like ours is sovereign, Dixon was writing about the sovereignty of The Gambian people. When you look further,
you will also realise that Dixon
was also a humanist, as he was writing about universal justice.

According to Halifa, what is important for us to mark is that every individual is a social being. Those social beings who are assets to society must be considered for their contribution to the development of
society, while those who are liable to society cannot be considered as such.

Halifa also noted that despite him becoming a politician, Dixon trusted him so much that he (Dixon) asked him to identify a young and aspiring journalist to take charge of The Nation when he died.

On this regard, Halifa said he identified Fabakary Taal to take charge of Dixon’s newspaper, The Nation because at the time Tall was the President of the
National Students Union of The Gambia and was very vocal and strong.

Sallah also noted that it was Dixon’s will that his newspaper remain at N0.3 Boxbar in Banjul.

Commenting on Dixon’s personality, Mr. Jawru Krubally, a Trade Unionist and Pan-Africanist said he remembered Fabakary Taal being the last person to work with Dixon Colley prior
to his demise. Tall, he said use to manage Dixon’s Library in Brikama.

“Young journalists should be ready to continue from where doyens of journalism left by organising programmes in memory of great contributors to Gambian journalism. The struggle shall never end, so I call on
the young journalists to keep the fire burning,” he said.

Lusong Bah, the only surviving niece of Dixon Colley noted that Dixon as a person has done uncountable good deeds which he never want to made public.

“Uncle Dixon loved to see families, my husband and I have great regards for him,” she confessed.

She also announced that she received a posthumous award on behalf of Dixon in 1999, and that she would like to hand it over to the Gambia Press Union. “I
still have his award in my house and I think there is not its rightful place. I
would like to hand it over to the GPU, where people can make good use of it,”
she said. VOL:3 ISSN:91

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