Just when Jenna Bush, daughter of US president George Bush was getting married on Sunday 11 May 2008, wedding bells were also sounding in Freetown. Former President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah knotted Madam Isatu Jabbie commonly known as I-Jay, for better or for worse. It followed the death of his wife almost exactly ten years ago. Well while others were busy feasting and boozing at the new groom’s house on Juba Hill, the BBC’s Umaru Fofana had his microphone handy and spoke to the new couple. First was the groom. He asked him what it felt like, being a husband, again.
Kabbah: It’s not new to me. It’s just that, I’ve fulfilled a desire. The desire was to pay last respect to my late wife who passed away about 10 years ago. And I have been, for quite sometimes, going out with my present wife, as friends. And I found her to be very intelligent, sincere in her relationship with me and hard working; and somebody who cares a lot about the development of our country. So I thought she should be a natural successor to my late wife since… my…although I regard myself as an elder statesman in Sierra Leone and this means that I have spent the rest of my life not doing party politicking. But doing things that will help the country forge ahead.
Umaru: When you say you have been with her as your friend, what does that mean?
Kabbah: Just that, friends.
Umaru: It sounds like what Mrs. Gracia Marchel said about Nelson Mandela before they got married?
Kabbah: Well I’ve told you, I’m not talking about Mrs. Gracia MarcheI I’m talking about Tejan Kabbah. She was a very good friend. I tell you, also, in 1996 when I first contested for the presidency, she was at the university, Fourah Bay College. And she and so many other students solidly supported me and campaigned extensively for me in this country. I very much appreciate that.
Umaru: And you have spoken highly of her, Mrs. Isata Kabbah, I must say now. Apart from her being intelligent, hardworking, as you say. Is it her youth that that also encouraged you to marry her?
Kabbah:. Initially, it was. But I’ve known her since 1996 and… ah…So…
Umaru: She must have been very young then; 1996. She must have been … what…less than 26 years?
Kabbah: That is right. So it was just that, she was… she liked what I was talking about… my vision for this country and she wanted to know more about that aspect of my life. So that’s how we became friends.
Umaru: You say her youth was probably one of the reasons that attracted you to her. Couldn’t that possibly be the reason why somebody might ask about your age difference. You are something like 40 years older than she is?
Kabbah: This is a different line of thing. Clearly, age does not enter into this type of personal relationships with people. And what you think is right and it is what you think that you can do for your country. We are taking about the sate of Sierra Leone. We are not talking about the development of Tejan Kabbah or the development of Isatu Kabbah now, former Isata Jabbie. We are talking about the development my identifying someone that I thought was very sincere about this country and very keen about the fact that things should be done rightly in this country… in the right way. I was attracted by that and that was the basis for our initial relationship. Even at one stage, I contributed top her education.
Umaru: Mr Kabbah thank you very much and I wish you a blissful marital life with you new wife.
Kabbah: Thank you very much. Thank you
Mrs Isatu Kabbah (I.J.K)
Umaru: Mrs Isatu Jabbie Kabbah, tell me, what it feels like being the wife of a former president?
I-Jay: Well I feel very proud and I feel much honored because he is a gentleman. He is a very nice person and I have known him for 16 years.
Umaru: When you say you’ve “known him”, what do you mean?
I-Jay: Well I’ve been dating him for like 16 years. Since 1992 when I entered the university, we’ve been dating each other. So today he is not a stranger to me. I love him very much and I’ll continue to love him.
Umaru: Why do you love him?
I-Jay: Because he is a very nice person. And when I say he is a very nice person I mean in every aspect. He is a gentleman. Complete gentleman and a fine gentleman. So that is why I say I love him and I will continue to love him, because he has always proved to be a very nice person to me.
Umaru: And reason why you are getting married only now?
I-Jay: Well no special reason, because I feel its God’s time. You plan your own things but God has His own way of doing things. So I think this is the right time for us to get married.
Umaru: And you don’t think the age gap between the two you is relevant at all. He is 40 years older than you?
I-Jay: Come on, age gap has nothing to do with love. I have always loved him and I will continue to love him. From my own perspective, age has nothing to do with my love affairs. I love Tejan Kabbah. That’s it!
Umaru: Thank you very much Mrs. Kabbah for talking to me
I-Jay Thank you very much, Alhaji [Umaru Fofana]