I don’t know why but when I was growing up, taking a bath or shower was not a moment I looked forward to. Often, my mom made me take a bath before school and before I go to bed because I spent most of the daylight hours in the sands of Bundung. And by bath, I don’t mean the kind where you lie in a tub with little bubbles whispering sweet nothings to the pores of your skin while you sip on some syrup, I mean pouring a pot of cold water over your head while contorting your body to impossibly avoid the water touching you. I just said “bath” because I guess “bath and shower” mean the same to some of us. But no, bath for me then, meant going to the well, fetching some water, and putting it in a bucket and carrying the bucket to our toilet area that had four enclosures but no roof. And the water from our well was the best water you could find anywhere. Even when a communal tap was installed around Sillah Kunda in Bundung, we stuck to our well water and neighbors often came to our home to fetch water. Our water was clean. But our water was often very cold too! Imagine taking a bath with so cold a water that your mouth does that involuntary movement that almost shatter your teeth. If you can imagine that, you can imagine my disdainful attitude towards a bath in the days of yore. Nowadays, I claim to be so fresh and so clean that I walk on water.
My beloved mommy, bless her soul, would heat up my bath water and insist that I take a shower no matter how cold Bundung was. It was a sort of a compromise because I complained that I didn’t want to take a shower because the water was just too cold. She sympathized with that but the fact of the matter was, like many little boys (you can pretend you loved your showers), I simply hated showers. Of course I’d resist and try to claim sickness or any other excuse I could summon to save me from the water. However, nothing I said could convince my mom! And when I tried to only wash my hands, legs and head like they do in Badibu, she somehow always knew that I didn’t take a proper bath. It seemed as if there was nothing I could do to save myself from a bath. If I knew there was a place in The Gambia called Baddibu Noo Kunda, where the people are on eternal strike against bathing, I’d have migrated there. I hated showers. I remember telling my mom “ I took a shower yesterday; why must I take one today too”? Nothing I said mattered to her it seemed. But I always looked for a good excuse to not shower!
Then one day, I heard from one kid (must have been a Baddibunka kid) that at birth, we are allocated a certain amount of water to use during our lifetime. That once you use all your allotted volume of water, you simply die! I don’t know why but this made so much sense to my innocent mind. Aha, I thought to myself, since my mommy loves me so much, she wouldn’t want me to die anytime soon. This is my moment of truth. Either I take less shower or I die early. Forget fatalism or destiny or whatever confuses Gambians to settle for abuse because even at that age, I knew that my destiny was in my own hands. We must reduce my usage of water so I can live longer and fulfill my dream of having her live in a story-building or I continue to take two showers a day and die young. Armed with this new and groundbreaking information, I went to my mom to say taking a bath everyday is a matter of life and death! I confidently narrated what I heard and gave my mom the ultimatum: Continue to force me to take two showers a day and when I use all the water allotted to me, I’ll just die. Or, allow me to take showers every few days so I can live longer and you will get to live a happy life because when I grow up, I’ll make sure to take very good care of you. With that, I concluded my pitch! Akin to the politician telling you “allow me to lord over you for five years or you will die when you allow the others to lord over you.” The key is someone and their closest allies will lord over you regardless!
I waited, with bated breath, for my mom to see my point and say “Mmajiki, you are completely right; from now on, you will only take shower every few days.” In my beautiful mind, I found something near and dear to my mom’s heart: My long life! To ensure I live long, she must not make me take shower everyday. Politicians know how dear and near peace is to you people in the colonial space called Gambia. This is not withstanding the limited understanding of what constitutes “peace” by the way. So they will tell you that in order to maintain this fleeting “peace”, you have to vote them in. In my mind, since my mom knows that taking showers everyday will shorten my life, making me do so means she does not want me to live long. I presented a win-win situation to her. She gets to save water (it was free water anyway) and I get to live long. What I presented to my mom was what they call the False Dilemma or False Dichotomy. And in this case, my premise (that I have a certain amount of water “allocated” to me at birth) is off, and my conclusion (that too many showers will mean a short life) is way off. And that my friends, is what constitutes politics for many of us. If Barrow does not take showers in that Stately House, other tribes will be deported, therefore Barrow should be the choice of those who don’t want to be deported. False dilemma. If you want Mamma Kandeh’s misguided and ignorant understanding of peace, vote for Kandeh! The alternative I guess means war! False Dilemma.
“Your greatest hope is your greatest fear” goes the old African saying. And fear, my friends, is one of the most powerful human emotions. Imagine a cocktail of fear and love. Fear is what the abuser uses to control the abused. It is what the tyrant uses to maintain his chokehold on the people. It is what the power-hungry uses to maintain power. It is what the desperate sycophant summons to keep their fangs in the flesh of the people. It is what many African governments use to control their people. Fear is a very powerful tool in the arsenal of the coward. Ask Yahya Jammeh and his NIA/SIS. Do not let anyone tell you that if you clean yourself often enough, you will die! I believed the little boy that told me too many showers meant a shortened life and tried to sell that fear to my mommy. Don’t let anyone tell you if you don’t vote for them, something bad will happen. Politics is hardly a binary choice, if at all. You have multiple choices and you are free to associate with mine: Dismantling the whole freaking political leach system! For many, this politics is nothing but a hustle. Don’t let anyone hustle your minds. Sleep with one eye open because hustlers are a dime a dozen here. Some are parading as politicians, others are philanthropists, some are shameless demagogues, others are religious leaders, some present themselves as patriots while others claim they are here to fix your country. And did I already say politicians and their sidekicks already?