by editor | April 9, 2018 1:46 am
By Prof Abdoulaye Saine, Miami University, Oxford Ohio
Hon. Omar Sey, passed away Friday, March 2, and today, April 8, 2018, marks forty days since his passing- unbelievable.
Born in Basse to an enterprising Fula family in the early 1940s, Omar attended St. Augustine’s High, and Yundum College before proceeding to the United States of America in the early 1960s. Following his studies at Temple University, Omar would return home in 1969, as lecturer in educational psychology at Yundum College- it is where our paths crossed.
A trailblazer, Omar had returned home shortly after independence to mold young minds, and later serve in highest positions of authority- nationally and internationally. He was a brilliant and popular teacher who related well to his students and colleagues. His passion for basketball, and soccer widened his circle of friends among students- making each student feel special.
He was never keen on protocol, as we called him by his first name- unheard of at the time. We respected and adored him for his humility, and thoughtfulness. At Yundum, Omar joined “Haddy’s Vous,” a group of like-minded students who met each evening to drink “attaya,” share cigarettes, and jokes, and fondly picked on one another.
In 1971 Omar Sey would become the first Director of Youth and Sports- an appointment he would hold until his foray into national politics. Distinguishing himself as an MP, Sir Dawda would appoint him as Minister for External affairs- a post he held from 1989 until the 1994 coup. Following the coup, Omar would work for the UN in several capacities, as well as FIFA- the international football association. He had a towering presence, and commanded considerable respect and admiration among his colleagues for his honesty.
Hon. Omar Sey was a worldly man- traveled the globe, dined with queens, kings, and presidents, addressed the U.N. General Assembly numerous times, as well as other august international bodies. A renaissance man by all measures, he remained humble- never once forgetting from where he came, and his friends. He was quick with a smile and a joke- his gentle eyes reflecting inner piety, strength and kindness. Alhaji Omar was also deeply traditional- blending, and executing his state, religious, and family responsibilities seamlessly.
He had a big smile and an even bigger heart, and at a relatively young age while his older brothers were still alive, became the Sey-Kunda patriarch. He bore responsibilities to his large extended family with forbearance, doting on his nephews and nieces- often privileging them over his own children. Omar’s responsibilities would increase after the passing of his brothers, and took it all in stride.
Khaddijatou Jallow-Sey, his devoted wife of four decades or more stood by him through life’s pleasures and trials- foregoing what would have, otherwise, been a lucrative civil-service career to raise their children- Amadou, Ousainou, Momodou Musa, and Isha Bah. Jainaba Sanyang-Sey and Mai Njie-Sey, would also stand by him, especially in the twilight years of his life- after his brother Ambar had passed on.
Omar Sey was truly a gentle soul, a teacher-scholar, diplomat, humanitarian, and most significantly a family man. He had an unmatched passion for football, which he enjoyed with his numerous friends, including the late Ousainou Njie, and Babou Ceesay, to name a few. Significantly, he touched many lives in his journey on earth. I know he touched mine in ways that I always will remember and forever remain grateful.
Alhaji Omar Sey was not only my teacher, mentor, and friend- he was my brother. In the mid-1970s, he would send me to the U.S. for further studies, connecting me with friends in Denver- and another family he had lived with earlier at Fellowship House/farm during his days as a student in Philadelphia. He also paved the way for many young Gambians at the time- now well-known professionals, as well as several nephews to study in the U.S.
The world is a better place; Liberia and Sierra Leone, are at relative peace today, in part, because Omar Sey had lived. He was a man of peace in both his personal and professional lives, shuttling the world to promote human rights, and dignity in Iraq, globally. I loved him as a brother, and he was beloved by many more. He is sorely missed.
Thought we all are saddened by your passing, Omar, I/we celebrate you for the exemplary life you lived; thousands of lives you touched, and saved, and the glowing legacy you leave behind for us to continue.
Rest in peace Alhaji Omar Baru Sey. You have played your roles with distinction and poise- never for personal gain, or attention. I know you are at a better place, and your memory will be forever etched in our souls. Adios, my brother- until we meet again.
Hamilton, Ohio April 8, 2018
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