By Talib Gibran
I must admit writing this piece was almost as difficult as my first essay which was written having realised, naively of course, that a poem is too constricted to convey what heaves inside my little brain. I started and stopped. Started and stopped. And then stopped altogether. And then started all over again. I don’t know of other writers but one place that jogs my memory, pricks my creative sense, fans my literary ego, besides pooping and or peeing is toilet. Yes, a loo, to be a little euphemistic after being somewhat blunt! Sounds funny or eww!! Disgusting! That’s what you’re thinking, right? Well, brace up because you’re staying with me in the toilet today.Even as a child growing up at the village, I would occasionally squat over a pit latrine (yes, pit latrine because modernity didn’t give us any flush toilets) just to think….and then, keep talking to myself.
If you and I have the same timetable; meaning if we both visit the toilet at almost the same time and I get in there before you, oh boy, you are in trouble especially if you are pressed or have a running stomach. Sometimes I would just squat until my shabby legs couldn’t carry my slim physique anymore and then, interestingly, I would stand up and stretch…..and then go back to squatting over the toilet. But, with all the weirdness and seemingly crazy obsession with spending too much time in an enclosed place like toilet, I always come out a better man or a better boy, when I was a boy at the village. I would cogitate. Ruminate. Meditate. Contemplate. Deliberate. Even calculate, but not numbers. Time and again, when I need to make a decision or plan something important or even think of something to write about, the first place I go to and stay there until I get an answer is toilet. This time too, it has helped complete this essay. So you can call me Toilet Man and I know you will.
You will agree with me that the last few weeks in Kambia have been a Kambia missed by everyone. Put all the ugly narratives aside, Fangbili’s tour of the country would usually give us something to gossip about because it would be suicidal to openly berate him or anything he said. But, just when we began to think that excitement from the presidency has died, Ado maintained the tradition, sort of! I already promised someone that my essays, henceforth, would devoid of Ado….and allow the poor man to settle in his job but I couldn’t hold on to that promise; at least not today. I’ve been an animated listener of world leaders, Trump excluded, for obvious reasons: having watched him during the presidential debate get excited about nuclear weapons and, the last straw, ‘shithole’ Africa. That was painful. Aside from him, the Trudeaus, the Obamas, the Nana- Akufos, the Mackys and our very own Ado, more or less excite me in their own ways. They all have one thing in common though: promises. Politicians like promises; it is in their DNA and they do it with finesse.
Tha Scribbler, a wordsmith and teacher, usually does a little Facebook lecture on homophones; loosely words or symbols that denote the same sound. It’s been going on for some time now and, personally, I learn a lot from it. Sadly, however, Scribbler’s lectures don’t reach the seat of power where, it would appear, there is no difference between secular and circular. We are a circular state, yes we are. No Ado, we are not. We are a snaky state!
But what stands out about the tour was not Ado’s legendary grammatical malapropism; it is promise after promise, starting off with constructing the BBB which Fangbili couldn’t; welcoming Baddibu monkeys at State House (he didn’t say that); building 60 mosques across the country but later delegated that to his youth movement when he realised that Gambians don’t like individuals building mosques, they want a group to do it; giving employment to every returnee (he didn’t say that too. I want to see a replica of OJ vs Kerr Fatou, only this time it would be Ado vs Gibran); street lights and wi-fi for dark Brikama, 20k fisheries jobs, etc. All these give us reasons to be excited about the future; promises always do. Personally, I don’t care if Ado builds a mosque in every compound or builds another State House at Nyambai forest. What I care about are his rather unwitting jibes and digs at perceived opponents; it is so low and so Mourinho-esque but he wouldn’t know that because he supports Arsenal!
Most of those actively criticising this government actually fought with the Coalition to unseat Fangbili. That said, anyone who thinks so crazily like me would say describing the same people as ‘Bakotong fenyoo’ is very funny. Hahaha. ‘Bakotong fenyoo’ is tail of a he-goat but it is so useless that it can neither help cover nor can it drive flies away from its vulnerable ass. That was therapeutic! Ask the late Kebba Dibba’s permanent Kachaa guest, ‘Master’, and he would tell you that Mandinkas use that expression on someone who is considered ‘totally useless’. It is funny but a bit unfair to them….and I know how they must be feeling right now.
That was humorous and it would make anyone laugh but you know what is not funny? It is criss-crossing the country telling unsuspecting citizens that journalists asked him for money to write ‘good’ stories about him or revealing that some diasporans, who have ironically become jobless simply because Fangbili is gone, unsuccessfully lobbied for positions or telling a healing Foni crowd that he gave their deputies cars. A leader is like a marabout; people will always tell you their deepest secrets especially if they believe you could help them. If all the marabouts in the country spill the beans, we will have one-third of our people putting themselves under house arrest. Only super kanja mouths speak about those things!
Back in the days at Nusrat, as arts students with our default hatred for mathematics, teachers made us believe that having credit in math is a ticket to heaven. If you fail math, you will be this, you will be that…
I hate math, I’ve always hated it even when I was scoring 100% in junior school. But when WASSCE was fast approaching, I became serious. I would attend all math lessons and stay for extension classes. In addition, myself and almost all my classmates were deceived into believing that if we master a few topics, that would be enough to give us at least a C6. So I went ahead and drank vapid and sugarless coffee every night, sat and practised construction, probability, and so forth. I beamed with confidence in the exam hall before the question sheets were dished out…but that changed nor sooner than I opened the first page. Having gone through all the questions, I couldn’t find a single one I could answer. Boom! That’s how I knew I had failed math even before I attempted answering. Then I started cursing those who suggested the topics as a lifeline.
The rest is history! However, here I am, still having that red on my results though but I am alive….and kicking. Math or English doesn’t determine anything for you! Therefore, knowing that none of these subjects decides one’s success or failure should make us drop them as compulsory entry requirements into university. We are all here griping and wailing about the over 12,000 candidates that failed to get the minimum university requirement, blaming parents, teachers and students while we ignore a simple fact that if you want people to go to university in their numbers, then maintain the five credits and de-mystify English and math. The Gambia doesn’t have a generation of math geniuses like number-obsessive Pythagoras or a sizable number of people who have mastery of the English language like the Bard of Avon. If math and English are not working, pick other subjects as compulsory requirements and triple the percentage of candidates going to university. There is nothing special about them…….and they are not any better than science or even literature. Imagine, if having credit in English or math is optional, how many of the 12,000 would be going to university next year? But, PLO Lumumba is right, Africans never miss the opportunity to miss the opportunity.
Based on popular astrological refereed papers, the longest lunar eclipse came last Friday as the world watched an eerie blood moon majestically, and rather frighteningly move above us. In Islam, Fridays are, well, Fridays. The day has so much significance and connotations that when it dawns upon us, people with strong faith would consider it the last day until Saturday comes. That is why eclipses don’t bring so much excitement to Muslim communities. But, I must admit, that has changed. Now Muslims like any other consider eclipses as just celestial phenomena that should be marveled at. We get excited when it is coming purposely because it would be another photo opportunity.
According to Islamic history, one of the Holy Prophet’s sons’ death coincided with an eclipse. Being so dear to the Prophet that when the eclipse happened, even the shahaba thought Big Man in the sky was mourning too. It was later narrated that the Prophet clarified that the two incidents have no connection and that when eclipse happens, we should be terrified because, as widely narrated, it portends punishment. It used to make devotees afraid and they would always say Salatul Kusoof until we became use to it….and then instead of fearing it, we rejoice when it comes.
Last week, the skies frowned, gentle winds permeated the country, screeching sounds slowly went into absolute quietness, and a creepy reddish creature rose at nightfall. Each part of the world, either seen or not, heard about the eclipse. That’s the same way the whole world heard about her death that very eclipsed Friday. So long, grandma Asombi Bojang!