By Emeka Umejei – Fatima Jabbe, the Gambian actress, entrepreneur and politician, is believed to have carved a niche for herself being an inspiration to a new generation of Gambian youths who see her as a role model. In this interview with Correspondent, Emeka Umejei, held at the World Travel Market (WTM) Custom House, London, she speaks on her failed marriage, career and life.
Your role in the famed Mirror Boy has won you several awards including British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) and Zulu African Film Academy Awards (ZAFAA) and so on, how does it feel
It feels fantastic because it is not every day you do something and the world notices what you do. So, if you started doing something and the world is singing your praises, then you know you are on the right part. So, I feel good and happy.
It appears the euphoria over Mirror Boy story is on the wane, what is next for you?
I am working on other projects – some film projects, which I have not finalised yet – but will do so soon and I am working towards launching the John Utaka foundation here in UK. He has launched it in Ghana and Nigeria but yet to do it in UK. I have just been appointed African-Caribbean Chamber of Commerce Ambassador here and we will be working on a lot of projects for the forthcoming Olympics. So, we are involved in Olympics and doing a lot of stuff with the ACPE here in UK.
Let us talk about Fatima the entrepreneur; what do you do?
I have businesses that I run in my home country, The Gambia; I put event together both in the UK and the Gambia and I socialise a lot and have lots of friends in lot of good places
Tell us about your friends.
I have Rowland Lumumba who is a good friend and we do a lot of PR together; Abdul Nasser is a good friend and my President is my Good friend. I have a lot of other friends that are not involved in politics, like John Utaka is a very good friend. In the film and media industry, I have lots of friends there because if you are in this business you have to have friends all over the places.
I can recall you have a project tagged ‘Face of The Gambia’, is it still ongoing?
I am still doing it; the project is a beauty competition with a difference because it promotes girl-education. It also helps inform the Gambian girls that education is the only way they can move through in their lives. If you have education you can move forward but without it you get stocked. I do it every year but I am yet to do it this year because I have been very busy but am working on doing it early next year between January and February.
What do you set out to achieve with the beauty pageant?
It is all about promoting girl-education; making Gambian girls know that education is not a privilege but a right. So, as long as the message is out there and the girls know that education is key to their lives, and then I think am achieving a lot. At present, a lot of parents who did not believe in girl-education now understand that girls can play pivotal role in bringing development. A lot of Gambian parents are now making sure that their girl children are educated.
With the fame Mirror Boy has garnered, it is believed that you have made an inroad into Nollywood, are the roles coming?
I work with a director who has a vision with what he does and most times when he has a script we go through it and if I feel it is a script I want to be part of, then I will be part of it. As you know, Mirror Boy is my first Nollywood film and I believe and feel I have done pretty well with it because, for me to win best actress, best supporting actress, and so on means I did a good job but am more particular about the kind of films I want to do. I want to do a film that will make a difference in other peoples’ life; a film that that other people can relate to; I do not just want to do a film for mere film sake; I want to read the script and know that when it touches me, it would also touch somebody else. So, those are the roles I am actually looking out for. I have got a lot of scripts that I am studying at the moment but I have not decided yet the one I want to participate in both in Nigeria and Ghana.
You acted with Genevieve in Mirror Boy, how would you describe her person?
I think she is a professional; when she is on set to do her job, she just does her job. We were there to work, not to make friends. So, we worked and delivered our parts and went our separate ways. So, for me she is a professional
So, you did not have any relationship at all with her?
When we meet on set off course we talk but when we are not together, we are in our different worlds. Remember, Genevieve is fully into the film world and has her businesses and fashion line and I am also into the same thing but also involved in politics. So, there is just too much going on and you do not have time to keep in touch.
What role do you play in politics?
I like supporting politicians that have vision for Africa and one of such politician is my president.
Do you nurture any ambition of contesting for elective post in future?
No, I do not think I have reached that height yet in politics. I am not young but in terms of politics I am a baby. I need to learn and what I am doing is to learn and keep learning and when you learn you know things and when the time comes you will be able to deliver. I am not interested in contesting any post in politics.
You were once married to a Gambian footballer.
Are you still married?
No, we are not married anymore
Nothing, it is a marriage gone sour and we decided to go our separate ways. It is marriage; it is either you keep or lose it. He is a footballer; I am an actress, politician, and entrepreneur. We decided to go our separate ways. Do not get me wrong, I was a good wife but unfortunately, it just got to a stage where we needed to be apart.
Was he a bad husband?
No, he was not.
So, how come it came to calling it off?
I think we spent more time apart than together and that affected the relationship because he was always away playing his football and I was always away; when he is coming in and I am going away. When you do not spend time with somebody you lose the effect of the reason you are married.
You had a child for him?
Yes, a boy and a girl. They are here with me in London.
How is it been managing life as a single mother?
I love it every minute. I am fine, my kids are happy and am happy.
You do not feel like going back to marriage?
No, marriage is not what I am thinking at the moment. It might happen but I think the next time I get married I must make sure it is the real for better and for worse.
What is your relationship with President Yaya Jammeh?
President Yaya Jahmeh has a relationship with every Gambian; as far as you are a Gambian citizen he has a relationship with you because he is the president. You will be surprised to know that he knows everyone’s name in the Gambia. I can tell you he calls people by names. He knows everybody and everybody is his friend. He is very down-to-earth. There is no extra-ordinary relationship; the way he treats me is the way he treats every other Gambian.
In five years where would Fatima Jabbe be?
I know I would have done so much than I have wanted to do; I would have focused on a lot of things that I have in the line to do but one thing I am sure is that I would have gone back to Africa. I would have done it last year but the divorce actually set me back. So, that is what I am working towards because I know there is a lot I can do in Africa than being here. So, that is my number one priority to move back to Africa and contribute my quota.
So, where in Africa do you want to settle? Lagos?
Gambia and Lagos
So, you will maintain dual base?
People maintain five homes in the world. Even at the moment, that is how I live. I know when I move; I will move to the Gambia but will spend more time in Lagos.
– Rehabilitated 15 hand dug wells (deepening)
– Trained health club in ten (10) schools
– Distributed WASH NFI (soap ) to schools to encouraged hand washing with soap
xii. 2011 March – August 15, 2011, served as Implementing partner to UNICEF in Emergency WASH with Ivorian refugees in Grand Gedeh County
– Managed the WASH aspect of the Toe Town Transit Center -2,500 Ivorian Refugees and provided the following services in the Center
o Constructed Water System using Polly tanks and water bladders
o Trucked 36,000 liters of water per day from the creek and purified it using Aluminum Sulphate and chlorine (1% solution) and transport it through pipes to the tap-stand for the Refugees consumption
o Construct 36 latrines cubicles –semi-permanent
o Rehabilitate one well
o Provide health/hygiene education on a daily basis through messages in both French and English, couple with culture dances portraying the message
o Distribute WASH NFI (Bucket, Soap, Jerry Can, etc)
o Constructed garbage pits
o Constructed laundry site
o Constructed bath houses
o Constructed 400 meters drainage to direct water flowing through the camp
– In 13 communities occupied with both Refugees and host communities the following activities were carried out:
o Constructed 100 family latrines in 13 communities
o Constructed five hand dug well installed with Afridev hand pumps
o Rehabilitated 20 hand dug wells (deepening)
o Carried out health/hygiene promotion
o Distributed WASH NFI
xiii. 2011 – August 16 to present ECREP is carrying out the following under the sponsorship of UNICEF:
– In 17 communities occupied with both Refugees and host communities the following activities were carried out benefiting 25,000 resident/refugees:
o Construction of 100 family latrines in 13 communities
o Construction of 13 hand dug well installed with Afridev hand pumps
o Rehabilitation of 6 hand dug wells (deepening)
o Carrying out health/hygiene promotion
o Distribution of WASH NFI
o Training of School health clubs
o Training of CHVs (Community Health Volunteers)