Laconic he was with words, authoritative in his reportage and to crown it all diligent in his service to the fatherland. That was the late Alhaji Kebba Dibba for you in one heavily loaded sentence. Not only his face, he was equally blessed with one of the most distinct voices in The Gambia and with it, he won many hearts and minds without having to speak like someone else. He was simply natural. Kebba proved to be the ‘Kebbamaa’ for many of us in the inky fraternity; from print to broadcast.
On Tuesday, barely few hours after some of my colleagues and I had planned to go visit Alhaji Kebba Dibba upon his return from Senegal where he underwent surgery, news of his passing filtered in a way and manner deserved of a returning hero from a battle. Unfortunately, his own battle with illness was one he could not win in the end. Like many others, it took some moments before I could fully absorb the sad occurrence having been communicated to me in the middle of an evening nap.
In the thick of the online media frenzy that was generated by news of his demise, not all were in the mood to easily accept the fall of a man they have grown to admire and respect all these years. They were right to have their misgivings about the reports, not because Kebba was any immortal being, but for the fear of the potential backlash of spreading such a serious matter only to find out that it was untrue as it have been the case for some people in recent times. Privately, I have been messaged by mourners near and afar seeking the veracity of a news that had shook them to the core.
The late Alhaji Kebba Dibba was an epitome of inspiration to countless Gambians of different backgrounds and age brackets. From a distance, they followed him on television doing what he loved to do. From his unique one-on-one interviewing techniques that became the hallmarks of his shows; ‘The Exclusive and ‘Kachaa’ to his well articulated endearing reporting style, the late Dibba struck a chord with all who kept an eye on him.
For some of us that he had taken under his wings, the late Kebba Dibba was more than just the quintessential modern day professional. With that charm of his young ones, namely Ebrima Baldeh, Baboucarr Senghore, Momodou Jallow and myself would go to his office every now and then to not only tap into his reservoir of journalistic knowledge but more than that. Here was a man who was so much at home with major global happenings. Kebba was highly adept with international affairs whilst his many years of covering and reporting of summits at the level of ECOWAS and the AU meant he was also an expert on both regional and continental geopolitics.
Added to these were his repertoire of analytical skills which were always evident in his television commentaries and newspaper publications. The last of these as far as I can remember was a piece entitled’ Slavery and Colonialism: Crimes against Humanity-Gambia to table UN Resolution seeking apology and reparation’ published by the Daily Observer on May 10th this year.
Confident and ever charitable with that which he knew, Kebba Dibba’s journalistic prowess was the stuff of dreams for many a Gambian angling to become a reporter someday. Who would not remember his starring coverage of the Bissau Guinean crisis in the early 2000 during which his canny ability for ‘a stand up’ or ‘piece to camera’ left me (then a young Nusratarian) in awe of him? When I did get the chance to work with and under him following his return from Cardiff, United Kingdom, I never hesitated to ask for and take home some of his hand written scripts that I found to be so intellectually engaging. Such was the influence he had on us.
I may not have known Kebba Dibba as much as those that were with him long before I started cutting my teeth under him, but I am well placed to offer an insight into his humility and candor. For a man who has seen a lot, travelled a lot and covered a lot including functions at the corridors of power both within and beyond our shores, the man we proudly referred to as Doctor or Professor Dibba should be an example to every young Gambian journo.
In an age when we the young ones tend to have our eyes firmly transfixed on instant celebrity status after doing too little too soon, a senior citizen of Kebba’s brilliance and overall standing remained down to earth and focused, driven by the sheer will to improve in his craft. Because of his achievements, most of us do not realise that he never started his trade on silver platter. Through hard work, Kebba Dibba, albeit in a short spell, transited from camera operator to unarguably one of the finest all rounded journalists of our time.
On a personal level, Kebba Dibba was a brother whose doors were opened to all who knocked on it. He preached to me the virtue of faith and the importance of striving for higher education not once but anytime we spoke person to person. That speaks volumes about his bigheartedness devoid of any fatheadedness.
More importantly however, the fallen Sintet native has served The Gambia well not only as a media practitioner but a teacher before launching his well storied journalism career. We pray that Allah the giver and taker of live grants him the highest Janna and as well give his family the fortitude as they come to terms with his demise.
Adieu Keekendoo. Till we meet again.
by Famara Fofana