With Rohey Samba
There was a time in The Gambia, when hating Yahya Jammeh was the thing to do. Everybody claimed to hate him. Even those who fed from his hand and bowed down in his presence. Nowadays, it seems like hating UDP, and in particular Lawyer Ousainu Darboe is the new trend.
Such is the general purport that in a recent ViewPoint on The Standard, a not so pretty writer himself, wrote among the weaknesses of a celebrated TV program:
1 Presenters not beautiful and pretty
1 Not independent (This platform offer more favoritism to UDP only).
Now how the hell can these be weaknesses?
First of all, Oprah, the best and most successful female talk show presenter the world has ever produced is not so beautiful and pretty after all! Also UDP is a party like any other. Surely, anybody can choose to support the Party. It’s LEGAL! Oprah for instance flagrantly supported President Obama, and openly denounced President Trump. So what has that got to do with ‘competition in the media’?
But that’s not what gutted me. What really got me was the underhand tactics.
When shall men stop pitting women against women? Both Fatous are holding their own, and certainly do not need my acclamation for their approbation. For the record, I don’t know either of them. But Sir, if you hate UDP, hate them for what you are worth…this is what democracy is all about after all, but find better analytical skills with murmur enough to lull your arguments to rest. Your viewpoint was debasingly biased, distorted and insulting.
I figured that I should say so on this platform for our Sisters.
On today’s issue…
It was around 2:00 p.m. last Monday. The sun was exceedingly hot. The house was eerily quiet. My baby was taking his usual long nap and the other kids had gone to school, plus I was not expecting them back home until 4:00 p.m at least, when I heard a loud thud on the house gate.
Since my confinement leave, which began in February this year, the same month my new son was born, I use all of my spare time to work on a project at my home office in order to disengage myself from the listless repose of my solitude.
My house help, younger sister and conversation partner, all in one, Aisha Jarju, opened the gate to usher in the visitor, who was surprisingly my older son. Ignoring her enquiries as to why he came back home so early, my eldest walked briskly pass Aisha towards my office, his footsteps sounding solitary on the tiled floor.
Due to my clausophobia, the front door to my office was already opened when he walked in. Before I could ask him anything though, he said, ‘Good afternoon Mama. Could you please call my father for me?’
‘In Dakar? I queried. Why don’t you just WhatsApp him?’
‘Well, he said I should call him directly. He would instruct his office driver to come drive me to the Polyclinic at 2:00 p.m. so that I could get my ears checked.’
My breathing slowed, a reluctance, a sense of foreboding, almost, took over me. I had completely forgotten about his ear complaints. It always happens with Matin, he is so playful; I fail to separate his pranks from his reality. Standing in front of me with that serious face, I knew he was far removed from making jokes.
I gave him my cell phone to make the call, and after he was done talking to his dad, I got up from my seat to take a cursory look at his ears myself. ‘You mean your ears are still bothering you?’ I murmured as I got up.
‘I have been telling you for the past days, Mama. They are really bothering me,’ he added.
I could feel my legs tremble literally. The fit of trembling reached the muscles of my arms and spread to my fingers as I stared horrified into the middle ear of my child. I took a look into the other ear and a sense of dread took over my entire body all over again.
‘Let’s go.’ I said detachedly. ‘Let’s go to the hospital right now.’
‘But, how about Demba Saine? My dad has called him already,’ he called out, referring to the driver. I ignored him. Against my inveterate propensity to linger, I rushed to get my car keys and my sleeping child before heading towards Serekunda Hospital.
Following a near death experience, when my year old daughter was misdiagnosed with asthma some three years ago by a private hospital, whilst she actually had severe bronchitis and pneumonia, I always take my kids to Serekunda Hospital first in case they needed urgent medical care.
So we rushed to Serekunda Hospital and I went straight to the ward labelled, Theatre, where my ear problems are usually fixed, for I often experience ear infections myself. One look at my son’s ears and the young nurse politely urged me to go to the Emergency ward to fix an appointment with an EMT. My fear quadrupled. How could I have ignored my own child’s plight? I scolded myself.
With my less than six months old baby in my arms, and my eldest in tow, we walked towards the Emergency ward. You may be wondering why I took my baby along. Well, long story short, I do exclusive breast-feeding for the first six months of my child’s life. I have done so since my first child, who is almost eleven years old now and I have never stopped since then. Knowing that by 4:00 p.m. he would need to be fed, and uncertain as to how long the hospital visit would last, I had no option but to take him with me.
Before we entered the corridor leading to the Emergency ward, I paused, hesitating, summoning up the courage to walk in. Fact of the matter is that, my fear of enclosed spaces and heights is only matched by my fear for people in trauma or dead people. I shivered as I entered the ward, wondering for the millionth time why I did not pay heed the first time my son complained about earache. And just how different I am from my own mother, who would rush to the hospital at the word ‘ear’ before ‘ache’ could be completed.
When I walked into the ward, my nerves became uncontrollable. My trembling reached my stomach as I saw the chaos in the ward. I allowed the fear to sink by breathing slowly, like I do before I am able to give any speech in public, and then took a seat in front of the empty nurse-in-charge desk. But nobody came to take any notes. They were all engrossed in a case of drowning that was unfolding right before my eyes.
I had noticed a Safari tourist taxi, those old fashioned Range Rover types, with some Rasta guys outside of the ward, earlier on when I was walking in but had thought nothing of their presence there. Evidently, the guys had brought in three youngsters from Palma beach where they had been swimming after school. Upon noticing them struggling in the ocean, the guys had rushed to their aid to rescue them.
On the explanation of the high scholar who came with the guys, fifteen pupils from the Annex of the named school had gone to swim after they had completed writing their exams on that day. Once they realised their mates were struggling in the ocean, and unable to do anything about it themselves, the twelve pupils had fled the scene and left the three remaining ones at the mercy of the sea.
At one point, the young doctor, Dr. Baboucarr Sanyang, who was sparing no effort to revive and resuscitate the young ones, came out from the curtain screen separating the victims from the Emergency ward’s reception to request for the girls’ parents to be contacted. Unfortunately, one of them had died from drowning at the broad expansion of the Atlantic Ocean. Her name was Habibatou Jallow; I cannot vouch for the fact, but rather advert to it, in order to be precise.
I froze and turned to my son. He wore a blank face on a nonchalant gaze, as if saying to me, ‘I have my ears to worry about, Mama.’ But at that moment, the last thing on my mind was his earache. A sombre stillness took over my senses and closed about me. I was gripped by a sudden, unpredictable sadness that overwhelmed me with emotion. I thought about the mum to be contacted. I thought about the dead girl, whose life was cut short at the bosom of that spacious body of water. Afraid, desperate, struggling to cling onto life. And unable to do so. I began to cry. Silently, at first. And then it turned into sobs.
The young Dr. Sanyang came out just in time. Now, I know Baboucarr Sanyang in passing. Along with Abdourahman Cham, we scored with the best percentiles in the Common entrance exams of 1995, and were summoned together with our parents to State House by the new President of The Gambia, then, H.E. Yahya Jammeh, who gave us fully paid scholarship all through high school.
Baboucarr Sanyang is not only hands down, one of the most brilliant Gambians I know, he is a very humble and patriotic young fellow, who is doing a lot of good at RVTH Serekunda ER. He could have stayed at his father’s lucrative practice in Kotu, i.e. the senior Dr. Sanyang, but he knows that The Gambia needs him, even if she cannot pay him well. And now, that’s what a patriot means to me!
Dr. Sanyang at that juncture, calmly asked to see my son’s ear, diagnosed his ailment as Otitis Media and wrote some prescriptions.
Be that as it may, unknown to me at that time, the rescue of the three girls by the beach guys had been caught on tape by a young lady and was already making the rounds on social media. The next day, a few people sent me the videos on WhatsApp. This of course exacerbated my sadness.
I mean seeing the dead girl frothing live on video touched on my motherly instincts and I cried all over again, at the pain of her mother who had sent her child to school hoping to see her when she returned home after writing her exams paper…
My only consolation in this matter, as I hope it is for her mom too, is the knowledge that Habibatou Jallow, did not go out to die. Her time on earth was done. She went over to answer to the inevitable call that we all await in this earthly life. For we all live to die. Seeing her beauty, even at death, I could not fail to mention her in this medium, when happenstance dictates otherwise.
Videoing a dying young girl, and circulating it on social media, is by all means callous and inhumanely. And it is a big shame that a young woman did this to a fellow young woman. The intention might have been to educate, but hey, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. At least, that’s what the good book says…
Let’s learn to use social media wisely Gambia. Bringing to the fore our humanity first. If we can’t help people in need, let us not expose them for our momentary glory or shot at fame. It’s not worth the while. Our compassion for our fellow humans must transcend our prurience. Everybody has a family that cares…And that is as much as I can say about this matter.
I stop here!