With David Kujabi
It was a huge relief when the Deputy Commandant of the Training School Superintendent Lamin Banda came to our rescue and told RSM Jobe that it was enough. Soaked, muddy and struggling for breath, we were lined up and Commissioner Mamour Jobe Commandant of school came to formally welcome us. After his briefing which I hardly remember now, he suggested that a photo be taken of us telling us that it would be a good memory to keep. He then instructed that we be allowed to go take shower and be helped to settle as training would commence the following morning. We were then paired and allocated to different rooms in the camp.
I and Demba S. Jammeh who is now Station Officer (SO) Crime Records Office (CRO) were put in the same room and given the same bed. It was a double bed, one on top and the other at the bottom. I took the top bed and fortunately for me it was conveniently placed near a window, which gave me little to worry about the heat. Our room was called Nimba 3 and we shared it with eight other recruits. Being a Cadet ASP and the most senior, I automatically assumed leadership of the members of the room.
By the time we were showered and finished settling down, a whistle was blown calling us for dinner. I was tired and just wanted to go to sleep but I was advised by some of the recruits to try and eat as I would need the food for the energy needed to survive the following day. So I took my plate which was earlier given to me as part of our supply and went and cued at the kitchen to receive my dinner, I’m sure you are curious to know what it was, but I’ll skip that (at least for now) it wasn’t bad though. After dinner I went to bed while some of the recruits went to the classroom to read and others hung around the campus yard practicing their drill (marching) skills, brewing ataya or chatting. I climbed up my little bed and you can bet I prayed to my Maker that night and tried to sleep with one eye and ear open as we had been advised. Despite the good position of the bed near the window and fatigue from the grueling baptism exercise I can’t say I slept well.
“Peeeeeep, Peeeeeeeep, Peeeeeeep” I was woken from a dream by the sound of that ominous whistle. It was followed by a voice shouting fatigue fatigue. I could hear the other recruits jump off their beds while muttering all sorts of insults. I jumped off mine too and nearly landed on Demba’s head as he too struggled out of bed. Forgetting I was sleeping about one and half meter off the ground I landed heavily and almost twisted my leg. I looked at the time and it was 04:30AM. I asked what this was all about and was told it was time for fatigue. “And what does that mean?” I asked and was told it means sweeping. Then I knew why we were asked to bring with us a broom. I quickly picked mine from under Demba’s bed and walked out of the room to join the others to sweep the school compound. There were 150 recruits in all and they were divided into four platoons. The cleaning was also apportioned so.
This was okay but what I could not fathom then and still do not is the fact that we had to sweep the gravel road from the training school gate to the main highway. The road was about 300 meters long and had to be swept clean each morning. More incomprehensible is the fact that it had to be watered as well. I could not understand why we had to sweep and water the road, was it part of the socialisation process or was it one of those meaningless things one had to do. With the amount of water wasted watering the road, we could have had an orchard of bananas, but then I thought, who am I to ask questions.
After the sweeping and watering, there was no more going back to bed, we had to prepare for the day. By 07:00AM we were all showered and dressed in our marching blue baggy shorts and white T-Shirts called banyan, we collected our breakfast and ate. Breakfast was interrupted by a loud voice commanding “Keep Still”. Spoons, tea cups and bread were put down, munching ceased as all stood at attention as Commissioner Mamour Jobe Commandant of the Training School drove into the school compound. It seemed as the world stopped as the Boss came in. At my own attention position with breathing evenly coordinated and made subtle, I wondered how often I stood at such absolute attention for God. Under my breath I muttered inaudibly, “This is another circumcision process for us”.
By 08:00AM all the Cadet Officers were lined up for our first drill lessons. Our drill instructor came and commanded, “Cadet Officers Come to attention!” we responded but in an uncoordinated fashion. “As you were! Stand at ayes! Pred pred shun! We did again and it was much better. The actual command words are – Parade Attention and Stand at ease but for ease of command it is said pred pred shun ……..
“By the left quick march Left, right, left, right, left ………..” the instructor commanded and we marched as best as we could heading towards the drill ground. I smiled thinking, this is easy, I’ve been marching during independence celebrations when I was in primary school and it used to be fun. My other colleagues seemed to be enjoying it too.
The Cadet ASPs were myself, Abdou Bojang now Personal Assistant to the IGP, Momodou Kujabi now doing his Masters in Cyprus, Lamin Manka now Officer Commanding (OC) Tallinding Division, Muhammed Lamin Sonko now OC Basse Division, Omar D Bah now doing his Masters in Taiwan, Lamin Jaiteh now OC Community Policing Unit. The Cadet Inspectors were Lamin Njie former PRO and now studying in Turkey, Malang Jarjou now OC Serrekunda Prosecution, Demba S Jammeh now SO Crime Records Office and Fatoumatta Touray now prosecutor Serrekunda. Fatoumatta was the only woman amongst us and I must confess that she was as strong as any of the men. On hindsight, I think some of us men must have endured the rigorous training for fear of being ridiculed because she stood every test. Fatoumatta was not only resilient, but was also beautiful and endowed from behind, I still tease her as being a welcome distraction especially when we marched behind her which often was the case because of her height.
At the parade ground, we started our first drill lessons, attention by numbers, marching, saluting by numbers, about turn by numbers and so on. While doing the actions we were expected to count aloud as well. It was not easy and before long I was tired of the counting and repletion of the counting. The sun was scorching hot and the upper skins of our bald heads were peeling off from the intense heat. Our voices were going down by the minute and we were being shouted at “louder louder”. At that moment, I missed my office and students at St.
Therese’s, my mind momentarily drifted away but I was jolted out of my reverie by the instructor “Cadet as you were, do you think this is a party ground, once you are here you throw degree away and take commands from me okay”. Yes I responded, “As you were! What did you say?” “Sir Yes Sir” I corrected myself quickly.
We had arrived two months after the recruits and the instructors wanted us to move fast in order to catch up with them. So we were pushed to almost our tethers end but we hung in there and as the days went by we began to appreciate and enjoy the drill. Our instructors were firm but friendly and often understanding and supportive. It was first the foot drill, and then the weapons drill and riot drill. We learned all under the scorching sun.
I still hold all of our instructors in high esteem, there were Chief Inspectors Demba Baldeh, Yarbo and Touray and also Sergeant Badjie. There were the younger ones, DO Jobe, Sergeant Momodou Faye, D Jammeh, SI Ansumana Sanyang and also two very formidable ladies, Jainaba Sambou and Maimuna Sanneh all under the watchful eyes of late ASP Gallo Sowe who was coordinator of drill. There were the nice and not the too nice but all of them did what they had to do to make us the police officers we have become and we forever remain indebted to them.
Late ASP Sowe was an enigma, he received no conventional education but was a police Officer par excellence. He was always neat, impeccably dressed, punctual and highly disciplined. He was non-compromising of standards and would often boast, “Na British train me” (I was trained by the British). He would often tell me “David you na woman, you na office material”. The reason was that I smiled a lot and not because I wasn’t marching well, for him a police officer always has to look serious.
Life at the training school was full of very intriguing and interesting experiences, there is so much to tell but I won’t bore you with all of our experiences (at least for now). Besides the physical training, we also received theoretical lessons on policing, the criminal code, and traffic code and so on. There was a lot to learn and I then realised that contrary to what most believed; policing was more about using the brains than physical strength. I later came to conclude that the standards and requirements for recruitment into most police services in Africa especially former British colonies were the same for similar reasons. The British were ruling people who obviously were resentful of being colonised and therefore would often rebel and commit crime.
The Police services were created to ensure that the people conformed to the wishes of the colonialists and to enforce that, they needed strong and able bodied people. As it was often said, “education no matter”. The responsibility of the police then was not necessarily to protect life and property but to protect the interests of the colonial masters. For obvious reasons, the police were then viewed as wicked and that belief has been handed down from generation to generation. This made many people afraid and weary of police officers not out of bad experience, but out of stereotype handed down to them.
Today it is different, police are here to protect life and property and maintain law and order and not to intimidate or harass any one. All must view the police as friends who are here to ensure that they live in peace and harmony and not otherwise. This understanding did not only make me appreciate the work of police and made me eager to go out and serve. I was particularly fascinated about prosecution and often fantasized being in court and arguing a case.
To be continued