By Nelson Manneh
The widow of the late Baba Jobe, a one-time lawmaker in Jarra Central Constituency on Monday, 22nd June testified before the TRRC.
Tida Jaiteh was born in Banjul on the 30th September 1974. She attended Sir Dawda Primary School from 1984 to 1989, Muslim High School from 1990 to 1994 and finally Nusrat High School from 1995 to 1996.
She said from 1997 to 2001, she worked with The Gambia International Airlines (GIA) and she got married to the late Baba Jobe on the 3rd March 1997.
Baba Jobe was born on the 10th July 1959 in Jarra Karantaba Village in the Lower River Region. After completing his secondary education in the Gambia, he got scholarship and went to one of the universities in Libya.
Tida said when Baba Jobe returned to The Gambia, he worked with the Ministry of Agriculture under the Department of Soil and Water Management. She said Jobe joined the Government when Yahya Jammeh and his colleagues overthrew the Government of Sir Dawda Jawara in 1994. She testified that Jobe was employed at the State and made Secretary to the President because of his connection with the late Libyan leader, Maumar Gadaffi. She said the Government wanted someone who will link them to the World and they thought Gadaffi was the best option. She added since her late husband had a strong connection with the late Libyan President and this was why he was hired to work for the regime.
The witness said Baba held that position till when he was elected as the National Assembly Member for Jarra West Constituency under the ticket of APRC and that was in the year 2001 to 2003. She averred that while serving as a lawmaker for Jarra, he was also holding the position of Secretary for APRC. Baba was also elected as the Majority Leader of the National Assembly.
Baba Jobe was the leader of the July 22nd movement before it was dissolved before the ‘Green Boys’ were formed.
Tida said during the PPP regime, whenever Baba came to The Gambia for holidays, he was always arrested and in one of the occasions, Yahya Jammeh was part of the team that arrested him. She said while under detention, Yahya Jammeh used to discuss with Baba Jobe about the regime. She added this used to happen when everyone was asleep.
“They got something in common which was to topple the regime (PPP Government),” she said.
Baba Jobe was the founder of the Youths Development Enterprise and he served as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO). She testified that her late husband used to tell her that the place where the company was housed, belonged to him and he used to hold 95% of the shares of the company.
The witness said Baba used to tell her that the reason why he opened the business was to help Gambians.
“Baba was closed to Yahya Jammeh,” the witness said.
She said a few months after Baba was sentenced, there was an announcement over GRTS that Baba’s assets were frozen including his bank accounts based on UN Resolution 1532.
“They don’t write to Baba’s family, they don’t write to his lawyer and we had no choice than to vacate his compound,” she said.
She said she saw a court order for them to vacate the compound, but they did not give it any value because they knew that Yahya Jammeh was doing things he wanted.
“Baba was viewed as a very powerful man in this country and they used to call him ‘Jarra Mansa’,” she said.
She said her late husband was powerful because he used to have command over the security and other government offices.
With time, Baba fell out with the regime and was arrested and he was taken to the Police Headquarters.
She said Jobe instructed her to hide all her documents as he confirmed his arrest to her during a telephone conversation.
She said Jobe spent one night at the Police station and was arraigned before the court and was granted bail. Jobe was rearrested in Sibanor by the Police and was taken to the Police Training School where he spent six months.
She testified that during the course of the trial, there were attempts on the lives of the lawyers who were defending Baba Jobe including Lawyers Ousman Sillah and Mai Fatty.
She alleged that Lawyer Sillah was shot in front of his compound, but he survived it.
Baba was charged with economic crime and was convicted and sentenced by Justice MA Paul.
Tida said she used to struggle to see her husband who was imprisoned and this was why she was bribing prison wardens to get access to him. She said she used to pay prison wardens D1000, sometimes D3000 and they used to smuggle things into the prison to Baba Jobe.
She testified that the prison warden used to help her to smuggle food into Mile 2 because she was not allowed to take food for him.
She said the reason why she used to cook for Baba was because Baba told her that the food they prepared at the prison was not good and if he continued eating it, he could contract Beriberi.
She said the smuggling of the things into Mile 2 was done by both junior and senior wardens including ex-Director General of Prisons David Colley.
She said she once gave D10, 000 to Colley for him to buy a generator and Baba’s younger brother, Ebrima Jobe also bought four television sets and three amplifiers which were distributed to the three prisons; Mile 2, Jashwang and Janjangbureh Prisons adding that the fourth generator was for David Colley’s personal use.
He said these things were given to the prison with the consideration that they will take care of Baba.
She said David Colley never requested anything from her, but he used to collect bribes from Ebrima Jobe, Baba’s younger brother. Tida said while David used to collect bribes from their family, he reciprocated it by facilitating their access to Baba. She said David used to bring Baba to his office where Ebrima used to meet him and discuss.
She said one of the prison wardens by the name Ismaila Colley used to go to her compound to collect rice, clothes and other foodstuffs.
“We were doing all these things in order to save his life,” she said.
She said Baba was not released despite his prison term elapsed. Jobe was still detained at Mile 2 and she tried all means to secure his release, but all her efforts did not pay a dividend until Baba died.
She said when she spoke with David about Baba’s release, he used to tell her that the order for Baba’s release must come from the Ministry of Interior.
She said they wrote a letter of clemency to the former President Yahya Jammeh informing him that Baba Jobe’s jail term had elapsed and he was still under detention as they pleaded for his mercy.
She said the ex-leader replied to them, but indicated that Baba was the cause of whatever happened to him. She told the Commission that she met the President several times during his meet the farmers tour and she talked to him directly about her late husband’s detention.
She testified that the Libyan Leader Gadaffi intervened and engaged former President Jammeh to secure Jobe’s release, but he was kept in prison until he died.
She said Gadaffi tried all means possible to secure Baba’s release including offering money for the payment of a court fine imposed on Jobe, but former President Jammeh was not ready to release him.
According to her before Baba was pronounced dead, he was sick and was taken to a Ward at the Royal Victoria Hospital (as it was then called). She said the family were not allowed to spend the night with Baba.
She testified that Baba was first confirmed to have Malaria by the doctors and was moved to a place called ‘Harr Yallah’ inside the hospital. She said while at ‘Harr Yallah’ Baba was recovering, but he was asked to move to a Private Block at room number 10 inside the hospital.
She said one day, she saw some prison wardens at the hospital including Jumbo and the prison medic one Jarju.
The last day Tida saw Baba was in the early hours of a Saturday morning. She added Baba was recovering from his sickness. She said Baba told her that he was poisoned at Mile 2 and that was the cause of the rashes on him. She said on this Saturday, there was a ‘set-setal’ exercise and she was informed that Baba was dead.
She said she went to the mortuary where she found the decease and this was when she believed the news of his death. She said she saw something yellow coming from Baba’s mouth and nose.
The witness said there was a day when her nine-year-old boy was arrested by plain clothes officers and questioned whether his father Baba Jobe has bought a compound for him. She testified that Baba’s brothers were also arrested several times and were questioned on some of their seized properties.
“When Baba died, we were not given any assistance and I kept on moving from one house to another, all my house properties got spoiled,” she said.
She said she was disturbed several times and that prompted her to vacate to Senegal.