There is one contested topic today: Gambia. When Fangbili was around, he zipped everyone’s lips on pressing national issues and dominated the narrative until he decided to go. No, until we flushed him out. But a marked distinction between Fangbili’s supporters and those of Ado/Fatandingo is the way each react to a dissenting expression. The dominant default instinct of any Fangbili supporter to dissent, like PLO Lumumba would say, was to do that which was bad and evil. That ‘bad and evil’ was to have the NIAs constantly on their toes by feeding them with information about Fangbili’s detractors; some were in fact never detractors but farmers who just thought Fangbili was heading south. However, with the coming of Ado/Fatandingo, dissent is no more reported to the NIA—because the spy agency lost its teeth after Ado unconsciously renamed it—but often greeted with sanctimonious, spittle-flecked outrage and indignation. The country is taken from one man who held everyone at ransom and into the hands of a vigilante group. I can defend that uncomfortable claim!
A while ago, after writing Of Men and Fib, dozens of people wanted to be ‘friends’ with me on Facebook. When I kisi kisi the long list of people who suddenly want to know me, I came across some who definitely have an ugly motive. Their apparently suspicious names, even though Mark Zuckerberg allows us to use any name, made me ignore them without a second thought. Example, UDP Sniper, Barrow Defender, Coalition Bullet; the list is unending and frightening. You accept these vigilantes and militias at your own risk; I even thought of putting in request for a security detail because I do not want to die. One of them, maybe because it took me long to accept to be his/her ‘friend’ on Facebook, sent me a warning message against the way I addressed Fatandingo in my essay. At first I was annoyed and my fingers were itching to reply but then I just let it go because it was not worth the trouble. But then I refused to give him/her that pleasure to walk on me like that without tasting the other side me. What I said to him/her is what I said to him/her; he/she knows.
Truth be told, a section of Ado supporters think they ushered in this new era; a factoid illusion they are using to snaffle and gangsterize the government and those running it. Remember democratic revolutions inspire democratic revolutions; just because we decided on December 1 last year doesn’t mean we are done with making decisions. If you want to silence people after they have been silenced for God knows how long, you gonna have to do better than just calling yourself a coalition bullet because that wouldn’t make you one. People cannot suddenly be those castanet-clacking, guitar-plucking, siesta-taking beach boys who are only passionate about making tourists pretend they are happy regardless of what their leaders do or don’t do. We must participate!
Tribal horror, which is the subject of episodic madness in the streets, presents the dark dreams the so-called new Gambia has of itself; a cavernous monstrosity, miserable in its every aspect. Talk to a sober Gambian and the person will likely tell you there is no such thing as ‘tribalism’ in the country because sobriety makes you overlook certain flaws in humans but it is alive and well. But people don’t just seem to care about it; all we are interested in now is setting up or resuming businesses because Fangbili isn’t here to shut it down while Ado rejoices in flouting the Constitution as if he has no legal adviser. There are a lot of things to talk about because a lot of things are already wrong even before they started. It is in the open but the snipers and the bullets are lurking in the darkness like Big Brother Fangbili.
The other day I had a rather tense discussion with someone who, after five minutes, branded me enemy of the coalition government. The ‘ungentleman’, bony, lofty told me UDP has suffered the most and all the other parties should fold like cyclo-style newspapers in pre-independence and join UDP. Really? If a Gambian can think like that after a pyrrhic 22-year battle, then know that we are not out of the woods yet. Besides, who is here to count the losses of parties? The important things are the lives of Gambians regardless of which political party they support. And in my unusually pissed tone, I told him that many people have perished who had no connection to any political party. The only crime they committed was by being Gambian and the misfortune of witnessing Fangbili’s time. Before dropping his bomb, he slipped his frayed feet into his shoes shaking like a vampire harging carelessly into a hail of bullets and said “itemu nying mansakunda jawooleti” (you are an enemy of this government). I couldn’t give a heck because I am a journalist (or at least I think I am) and I cannot be friends with the government. If you see anywhere in this crumbling world the government becomes friends with the media then you should be worried. I didn’t let the slender man go without telling him that whoever wants to hijack this government that was borne out of strenuous suffering, we will snipe each other all the way to the vanishing point. He needs a faith healer to cup bad blood out of his system. That was my way of threatening him!
But, if you are scared that a UDP Sniper or a Coalition Bullet might take you out like they scared the hell out of me at some point, I invite you into my secured commentary box at The Standard where Mustapha (I call him Gambia’s Eric Blair), bright, critical but with a scarily ballooning insanity in him which only his victims in political debates notice, walks around with his Jamaican bandana like an agnostic leaned atheist. His madness usually demonstrates itself, especially when he tries to defend his outrageous claim that Sona Jobarteh is a better Kora player than Jaliba Kuyateh. If you have enough of him (and I am sure you will), then turn to Immortal X; a name probably whispered into his ear while asleep by the ghost of Malcolm X. Just push the door and you would find him slightly tilting in the chair with his dreadlocks anciently symbolic of embryonic madness but, beneath the dreadlocks, is the entire corpuses of books not only of humans but of aliens and avatars. Omar Bah (Mamma Kandeh/Mayor Colley), who cavorts and croons every second, especially when he sees a bowl of rice with his bulging belly and sloppy lanuginous head which nods to even his death warrant as he pushes a huge mould of rice down his throat. But if you crave a more mature chat, visit Lamin Cham; a commanding gait and an accent like that of Tony B-liar with his Dr Zakir Naik brain that can even remember the first thing God did when He became God. You still need more? Go to Alagie Manneh, someone I’ll likely lose my job to owing to his increasing intelligence, but with a provisional mood like a ‘napsed’ back-way deportee who is teetering between lunacy and borderline personality disorder. And of course, myself, having traits of a slightly fey romantic novelist with my wistful smile like a child deprived of childhood. It’s the company you need to escape the onslaught of keyboard warriors, government bullets and party snipers.
By Talib Gibran