By Latirr Carr
I had meant to spew some nonsense on modern day gibberish otherwise known as street slang for my older readers this week. For once, I would have published something useful enough to be used by everyone. I had gone through my facebook newsfeed to get back in touch with popular culture and was browsing through the cracked screen on my IPhone 5S which is well past its expiry date when I was forced to turn around. Right opposite ChopShop restaurant on Kairaba Avenue, a few minutes before Dokk, a speeding Pajero rammed right through a scooter. Driver and scooter both bounced off the Avenue and landed on what should have been a pavement.
It felt like a movie to me and for a minute I was motionless as I watched the whole incident happen in slow motion. The driver of the Pajero who looked like a thirteen year old, probably wetting his dross, soon after sped off and a chase ensued.
A day earlier, in my favourite taxi – Mr B star la – I noticed a white SUV parked on the side opposite Maroun’s Supermarket with its front totally smashed in. Apparently, the driver had driven into another car and refused to stop. Again, cars chased after him and in their pursuit, he drove into another car and off the highway where his car would eventually come to a halt and the chase would continue on foot.
You see, to be honest, I would rather talk about hip lingo than all this traffic nonsense but these things just happen. Just like a trip into Foni, you leave home expecting a one hour and fifteen minutes’ drive to Somita but you end up spending two hours on the highway because traffic police and the PIU have decided to mount checkpoints every fifty meters.
During the last government, after the December attack our country turned into check point nation. We would spend over two hours trying to get into Banjul and everyone suffered the consequences of extreme roadblocks and sometimes unnecessary traffic conversations. Last year as things started getting heated and elections drew closer, the checkpoints were back in full swing and even scarier. Then, as we got into the impasse, the sandbags joined in. It’s 2017 and even though the sandbags have gone our country is still checkpoint nation.
I’ve always wondered what our men in uniform are looking for. Are we harboring the CIA’s most wanted? Does he have a funny moustache and a beard that looks like mine? I could swear that anytime I come across a checkpoint with a new face representing our men and women in blue, they take an extra minute to stare at my tache and beard. Whatever it is our men and women in uniform are searching for, it is obvious that it isn’t for minors on the wheel. There’s nothing funny about this. People have lost their lives due to the negligence on our highways.
Over the last few weeks I have heard of at least three hit-and-run incidents that left people dead. Who is to be held accountable for these losses? Are we going to continue preaching that whole ndogali Ya’Allah sermon whilst people continue to lose their lives? If we are going to continue having these countless checkpoints on 5 kilometre highways that lead nowhere, then they had better serve this country more than what they currently are – salibo centres! I know that if I do end up losing my life to a minor driving a Pajero on Kairaba Avenue, I’ll make sure my ghost haunts all those checkpoint traffic officers, negligent parents and all the many people that have created this system where kids that are yet to understand the value of human life enjoy this game of ending someone’s life for a joyride.
Talking of joyrides, I recently put up a status update on facebook about the lack of wealth in our beautiful Jollof. It was my observation that we are not only a poor people but what is supposed to be our upper class of wealthy people doesn’t really exist.
I met a young man a couple of years ago and we had a conversation about investment in the Smiling Coast. He had a long story to tell. For him, he was a made man. He claimed to have invested three million dollars into Jollof and was racking-in annual turnovers exceeding two million dollars. His figures caught my attention! I mean this dude was talking in dollars. A few days later I would discover he was a fraud. Perhaps fraud would be too strong a word for our country is full of them. He had decided to take up the life of faking it till he makes it. There’s no crime in that I suppose.
He wore fitted suits, designer shoes and drove a flashy ride. I imagined he was the envy of many a youth. My wife calls it prove champion – the act of faking a life that one couldn’t afford…or talking the talk but not walking the walk…or just plain out lying through one’s teeth…or a number of other definitions. My experience in Jollof would prove that we had too many of those in our midst. If they made a buck, they called it ten bucks. I would guess it does wonders for their egos.
“Casting a curious gaze down on planet Earth, extra-terrestrial beings could well be forgiven for assuming that we humans are programmed in every move we make, by a palm-sized, oblong, slab of glass. More perplexing than that, who on earth could convince them otherwise?”
Alex Morritt, Impromptu Scribe
In a society where appearances are everything, who could blame my friend? What we have managed to create is a society programmed to live a lie just to look better in the eyes of everyone else. Yet, our country remains one of the poorest in the world. We are sadly a nation of EVogues, Mercedes G500s and insurmountable debts. To live a lie one would have to afford it…no?
So we have these people amongst us for whom life itself is a joyride. YOLO!! Deka bi ken du tehki wai nyeup dinenj dunda dunda bu cherr. Billahi lii doiye na waar. Now I wonder who made me judge and jury. Ndaham dama sobb. When I spoke about this on facebook, someone decided it was his place to call me out. I tried to decipher his comment but I am yet to reach the level of the great grammarian that he is. Until then, I would have to wait for things to sink in.
It is however this same desire to impress that we have passed on to our kids which forces them to act out Fast and Furious scenes on our highways. I know you would say I used to be a reckless teenager once. The difference was, my heart would be beating twenty times a second anytime I was doing something reckless because I knew I would be held accountable if I got caught. We have sadly however allowed our kids to believe themselves to be adults when we are the same ones to talk so deeply of our desire for things to change in our country.
Our Police Force – or is it service – must take this very seriously. We are losing lives every day because of negligent service and disregard for our traffic laws. Even when parents prove irresponsible, the law must be seen to hold them accountable for such irresponsibility. Human life is too precious for us to continue with this whole Dogali Ya’Allah sermon. The system is broke and someone would have to fix it…Now!
Latirr Carr is Petroleum Engineer (Gambia National Petroleum Company) Founder & Executive Director Blaque Magique Co.