By Fatou Samba
Welcome back to another edition of the Encounter, a column where different people are accorded the platform to share experiences and achievements. In today’s edition we bring a chat with a renounce Gambian Business man who has got the experience in the field for quite so long. As the proverb goes experience is the best teacher, so read to find out more.
Info, Sir please introduces your self to our dear readers.
Mr Drammeh-my name is Bai Mattar Drammeh , I am a private sector operator and also the former president of the Gambia Chambers of Commerce and Industry and the current president of the Federation of West African Chambers of Commerce and industries and I am currently doing insurance am also the current the major shareholder of GNIC, I am the proprietor of OMAKAN Hotel in Sukuta. I just clock 67 on the 19 of December believe it or not,,
Info, Tell us about your educational background.
Mr Drammeh-well beside going to St Augustine here in the Gambia and St Thereses Methodist in Kanifing, I proceeded to the USA after completing University education from St Joseph,s University in Philadelphia Pennsylvania where I did my degree in veteran and after degree I realize that I was not meant to be a doctor but a business person. I later move to George Mason University in Fairfax Virginia.
Info-What is the secret behind your success in Business because a lot of people know you in the field.
Mr Drammeh - I believed that there are certain characters that which one has to have such as quit for word, committed, royal, truthful and must have a target or a goal which you can visualize and go into after it without detraction and once you do that you gain trust which will take a long time but you will gain a name if you truthful to everyone and you have to respect people for who they are and what they are but must importantly you have to be at all times which I believe people must be convince so that they can trust you which I think right now it hidden away because now we have people who want to make quick money and forget the most important thing which is trustworthy. So this is part of some of the characters which one should have and be constant with them not today you like this, tomorrow you change which is not good. If people trust you business then business will come to you and people make you who you are and don’t try to make fast move, quick move, don’t try to get over on people and say what you can and do what you can, which are very important things which people tend forget and in the end people start moving away from you because you are not who you said you are and you are not doing what you say you will do and people are not getting what they accepted to get from you then that’s a sign of failure because you will optimally go down.
Info- Can we know some of your biggest achievements.
Mr. Drammeh- I think my biggest achievement actually is the value I give to charity because all the time I be a member of Rotary Club of Banjul which is all about charity and I was once the president of the club and member of the Jammeh Foundation For Peace which involved in charity. So to me charity work is something which is very dear to me and I take it seriously because it allowed me to participate in giving out money without been know, helping student go to school without been know, it allow you to do what you want to do in secret being anomalous about it is you don’t want the thank you but you do it because you just wanted to do it. Secondly family matters which I really value and always with them all the times share everything with them. I am also the founder and owner of the Omakan Hotel In Sukuta which was opened in February 18th 2007 and I am the first executive chairman of the Gambia National Insurance Company which I help bring out of insolvency to a profit making institution and a viable enterprise in the year 1996, in 1992 founded 3D consulting services representing international corporations and personalities seeking investments ideas and opportunities and in 1989 April 4th founded the Great Alliance Insurance Company Limited both as a shareholder and the first managing director. I am also a member of board of Directors in many companies such as Life Trustee, Business Training Center, Jammeh Foundation for Peace, The Observer Company , Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency, The West African International School, National Council of Arts and Culture, Chairman of Access Bank, Ambassador of International Insurance Society and regional director, member of the council University of The Gambia and former president of the Gambia Chambers of Commerce and industry and the current president of the federation of West Africa Chambers of Commerce and Industry. My talents lies in creating business by putting the structures together and has someone else run it then I will walk away because that is were am full fit the most.
Info-when was your happiest moment in life.
Mr. Drammeh- yes yes yes….you know when don’t have much and you accepted it in good faith then you spend a lot of time praying to god to help you. The biggest thing that happens to me which I did pray to god was that he gives me the ability and the capital to spent my mum and dad together to the holy city Mecca and that time I have a uncle who was spending people to Mecca but I used to pray to god that my uncle don’t see my parent and god did give me the opportunity to spend my parent to Mecca myself. My dad said to me son everything I ever prayed from god he have giving me accept one thing, is what you now giving me and I have the feeling that the one thing my dad wanted and I was able to do it for him which I cannot compare with anything. The second one was that I was just traveling to Dakar on the ferry and my phone rings which was the call of the protocol offices at state house and he informed me that he get a good news for me the president want to do his pilgrimage and he wanted to go with you which makes me so surprise because I was in the water traveling just around Barra and I get a better news that I should turn around and come back to give them my passport so that I will be able to accompany the president which was in 2006, it was also a very happy day in my life because if someone take you to Mecca whether you can afforded or not that person was willing for you to accompany him that is special, being with the president you treated like a very important person all because of the president so you get accorded all good things treated like a VIP all over its not like the regular and normal hajji where you will be on your own which is totally different which I compare to the 2003 which I when to is different with that one with the president this one am treated lie a king. So it was a fantast experience.
Info- of course their lot of people the president could have moved with but you were part of those he choose to move with to Mecca. How did you felt?
Mr. Drammeh- well I wonder why me because obviously their many Gambian and the president could have called anybody else but they call me. I wondered why but only the president knew why and I felt so good and special because when we have 1.5 to 2 million people choose from and I think it was four of us. It was a state of mind that gives you scene of been special and rewarding which makes me committee myself with actions and attitude to the welfare of the nation. This was a very important event in my life and in my office, at work you will see the picture am with the president, myself, Ardy Sarge.
Info- how did you start business.
Mr. Drammeh- I work for some companies in US before i left simply because wanted to work for myself and I need some experiences. I once said to myself if I am employ by a man born of a woman, I am a man born of a woman too, so I need to be creative and I need to start my own business employing people rather than been someone who is been employed. It was clear that my goal was to worked for myself. I worked for people because I was there to learn the ropes and the tricks of the trade and the pitfalls of the trade. Of cause you go to university learn all about this but its different from the practical Alana totally different from the book, you need to know when to be careful, when to take a risk and when to be neutral and do noting, so those were very important issues in my life and when those happens I pray to god again to please give me the opportunity to start something and the first opportunity was to start Great Alliance which we started four of us and I was the managing director I put the structure in place. Secondly when we brought GNIC I move from Great Alliance to GNIC to oversee our investments there and I need to find out there was one big reliability which GNIC had they need to be pay, so that took the company down and my first task was to bring the company back up were it will make profit and god helped us to do that which was a challenge I enjoy encountering and it gives me a better person. Later I realized that the water in Banjul and also the coastal region was been eroded so I approached some consultant in Nederland to be among those that help in taking care of the coast and fortunately I was representing a company that were awarded the contract to do the studies and ultimately we recommended the company that did the sand replenishment so I was involve in the saving of the city by stopping the rapid erosion by bring the beach back and upon it encouraging tourism visitor in the beach, it gives me great satisfaction that now I can go behind the Atlantic Hotel because their a great beach on the road by the cemetery in Banjul now that is fantastic which I think is a way to contribute to the development of once nation for the benefit of the citizen. I work in so many places like Gambian Customs, in US I worked in a wholesale book company, after university I work in a shop were I supply men, children, ladies wear I had a lot of moments because I did well and it earned me with a lot of awards.
Info- Sir a lot of people knew you through GCCI tell us about it.
Mr. Drammeh-GCCI started maybe seven ago longer but seven year is the high light point when I just when to an AGM not know that by the time I left the AGM I will be come the first vice president and when I was nominated I was like no because I was not running for any post but the people who were there insisted that I should vice president and after six year I was elected in 2006 as president of the Gambia Chambers of Commerce and Industry. After been elected I had two goals to full fit such that the GCCI has an head office because we were renting for 45 year and am sure that all president wanted that but gives me the opportunity to me in finding contract, partners all of us put resources together and built the new office in “Begilow” we apply to government and they give us land so we were able to put the structures in place, I Had an office there which I deliberately did not use because I knew I was finishing up and that was on of my goals that we have an office on our own with better and more quality membership this where the two things I wanted to do and now all body is interested with GCCI it turns out at the last AGM which we never had before everybody came to the AGM. It was a good thing that awareness was created and I wanted people to be aware of GCCI which is an important organization and I was appointed president of West Africa chambers of commerce and industry which is a position that which you run for two years while am running that now my goal is to have a sea link to link all the seas in country to sea so that we can trade to each other. So that our African women like to accompany goods will be going to join the vest to their own destination and buy flesh good bring home still accompany their goods. I will Insallah like to have this done before I finish there too, I am praying to have a sea link set up that will link all the countries to Cameroon and backup to Senegal also fighting to have the head quarters in the Gambia
Info- Sir you grow up with some on same month, year but today you have been know more than them why.
Mr. Drammeh- well I feel great that I was able do that and I feel grateful to god also for enabling to do that and I must say I followed advices. Yes god we have not seeing but seeing our parents and I follow their advice god has not show us his self physical but he has show us through our parents side. I think what helped me was that I was so close to my parents and so concern about their welfare always make them happy to me that is the key. One must not forget were you come from if you treat you parents nice it means you treating go nice and if you ignore them you ignoring god. I think it all started with my attitude towards my parent.
Info- When you were young who your mentor was.
Mr. Drammeh- my mentor was mother Madeline and mother Anna who was the head of the school in St Therese’s a catholic none. Both of these two took real interest in me and were pleased with me, after school I used to go to them and do my studies every Sunday will go with mother Madeline to Royal Victoria Hopital and buy goods for the sick people myself and Ida Jallow will go to the hospital and giving out. She teaches me how to care, share with people which has telling me that we live in a society were we must be aware of each other. I heard that she is now retrial and I always wish to go see her for the last time or if dead go to her grave just pay my rest to mother Madeline because she was such an important person in my early days.
Info- Sir you did mention early that you wanted do be a doctor but now doing business why
Mr. Drammeh- you see when I was going to the US to study, I said to my mother am going to be a doctor but my mum said to me son you meant to be a doctor but I insisted. So I when started fight very hard to be admitted for the four years in the premet school before going to the medicine school for another four year then you will be done to be a doctor. In my first four year I encounter things I did not like such as piglet, fork, cat take it home at night dead cat put it on the table to study follow up at the veins and all the structure of physical being, you will smile it through out my apartment as a student and you will kill forks then do a lot of things in the process which I didn’t like dealing with dead animals. On top of all we want the hospital once to look at the dead people then I started vomiting I just could not continue with this one is not working out. After getting my premetry degree then I was suppose to apply to a medical school but instead I apply to a business school which I realize is my field. We all have god giving talents but you have to discover your talent early not your intelligence, if you if you follow your intelligence you will be going the wrong thing because I followed my intelligence I knew I was very good in Biology and other science subject but not my god giving talents. If one follows his god giving talent you will be happy and successful, my mother used to tell me when your dad was out if we were to cook and ask me to kill a chicken I will not kill but rather go out side call my friends do it for me so how can I say I can be a doctor, so that was how I change from being a doctor to a businessman and my father was also a businessman I should have followed his footsteps. Am always glad if someone can fine who they are before they embark, do what makes you happy and when you it that makes you who you are.
Info- sir your unique personality makes young people to regard you as a mentor, how did you feel.
Mr. Drammeh- well I feel rewarded by that because I think everyone you like to be in such a situation were you appreciated and young people looking up to me It means the world to me. I will say I have full fit my task, you see when you live in a society were nobody know about you, who you are that is a very sad but if you find out people recognize you have to thank god.
Info- what is the meaning of Omakan giving to your Hotel as a name?
Mr. Drammeh- I named my hotel in Sukuta as Omakan because I love my parents and I named it after them my father’s full name is Omar so I remove the R and my mother’s name is Kani, I also remove the I. so if you put them in words you have my parents names .it was also opened in February 18th 2007
Info- what advice do you have for young people.
Mr. Drammeh- my advice first I think is discipline which is number one because my dad say and touch my ear not only hold but touch and say son your ear is more important than your mouth. He always insisted that I listening to him and he told me in listening you learning, its important for young people to acquire and let them have goal setting let them stop the ghetto as I always say to my boss in the US because the ghetto is not good it brings you down make you poorer and the head of the ghetto will be rich ghetto is not the place for future leaders. Young people must learn to be discipline and learn to save for every dalasi that comes through your hand 20% must be save not for wedding, funeral, naming ceremonies etc but for you sweat because tomorrow your children will ask you dad and mum when you were young what were you do during your youthful days, when you are pay you pay your self first and what you save will be your capital and you will be able to invest so that tomorrow you can show. You will be surprise when you save and people will respect you.
Info- sir its pleasant been with you on the encounter your final words.
Mr. Drammeh- thanks for the interest that you have express to have an interview with me because its an honor and wish you and your paper a great success information is power and your column is empowering people and its very important it is making us all grow.