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City of Banjul
Sunday, September 27, 2020

Keeping the faith

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Immediately after the article made it online, there was an intense sharing of the link and as I imagined, a lot of private discussions on my blasphemy and lack of religion. Some people even mistook my article for the words of now “self-exiled” Fatou Camara and heaped her with some rather tasteless insults which were actually meant for me. It was double-sided print though…the article had fans! I think it would have been unfair to interrupt the discussions surrounding the article by plugging in a new one so I let it simmer for a bit. Actually to be honest, I lost track of the days and discovered rather late that my essay was due for submission. I pleaded with Sheriff Bojang for an adjournment and the gentleman that he is had to oblige. 

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My last RBN piece was published two days after a very kind gentleman gave me a pat on the back on The Standard for my pieces. My father who I suspect is my biggest RBN fan insisted that I read the letter and I was glad he did. I took pleasure in knowing that at least one mature reader was appreciative of my mediocre grammatical intertwining. To satisfy his appetite for more RBNs, I thought it wise to gather my Arsenal, take a few deep breath and ready myself for a lengthy two months of mouth-watering articles leading to the highly acclaimed “Blaque Magique” gala dinner scheduled for December 25th (that was not an attempt at a cheap ad for my event – I know Mr Sheriff Bojang will be more than willing to throw some Standard support behind such a prestigious undertaking). Meanwhile as I took a break from the art of spelling right, Mr Bojang’s The Standard was busy publishing bizarre headlines. Ok I exaggerate, it was just one! One crazy one!

You must have heard of her somehow; wealthy, connected and apparently (well at least before I read the article covering her comments) smart. There’s confusion as to whether she owns hospitals, old people’s homes or clinics but there’s no doubt that Faith Cole has become a household name in urban Gambia and is most probably The Gambia’s wealthiest woman. There might be wealthier women out there but I just haven’t heard of them. However, I have just discovered that ideas of a national magnitude might not be her forte. While the nation talks of food self-sufficiency and Ebola awareness, Ms Faith thought it better to join the debate on a totally different angle. I actually feel insulted that she distracted me from my Dr Naik discussion! This was a total violation of my rights! I cannot put a finger on the exact statute that was violated but yeah…one of them was violated! The obviously smart businesswoman was right in identifying one of our issues as a country; discipline. In my language we call it “bad home training”. It was something the Akus never had and something the Akus believed was very “Wolof”. I can still remember my dear mother (who is of Wolof heritage by the way) calling all my bad habits “Wolof habits”. So how dare an entire nation adopt this bad trend! I get Ms. Faith’s position. I totally, absolutely get it. What I however do not get is her solution to this disastrous situation. In the article, it was clearly stated that her master plan to solving the indiscipline in our young happens to be mandatory military service…..ummmm….WHAT!?!?!?!?!?!?

I saw her involvement in the discussion as very welcome but more like a hypothetical Fatoumatta Ndure (now Mrs Dr Kajally Jobe) reading the news on GRTS about The President’s visit to the Vision 2016 farms and then suddenly stopping mid-sentence to scream “Chop Shop Burgers!!!”. I do not believe Mr Alhaji Lamin Manga would see a need to review her contract but they’d much certainly hold a meeting to determine her mental state. Oh! And lest my words get misconstrued, I am in no way questioning the mental state of such an accomplished young lady. I am simply saying, public opinion on matters of national interest just might not be her forte! But then again, who made me judge and executioner? So now the issue of national discipline is no longer the responsibility of the home, we have to throw some uniform into it.

I had a bitter argument with a police-officer a few days after her article. The young officer who must have spent a little over a year in the service behaved like a man undeserving of a uniform. As I tried to communicate with him like a gentleman, it was evident that gentlemanliness was the last thing on his mind. Where he was certainly in the wrong, he has the audacity to tell me he was imposing “his law”. Like bloody h*ll! I flipped! I tore into the depths of my bowels and I just let rip!! I was breaking imaginary tables and chairs, flipping over non-existent flat screen HDTVs! I told him what I felt. He was undeserving of such a prestigious uniform (no this does not count as a bribe). I asked him if he knew his duty was to “serve and protect” me! He waited for a crowd to form around us and he rose to his feet as if to initiate an attack. Yes! The POLICE-OFFICER! In his all blue glory! He was coming for me. The huge over 6 feet man with a baton was coming for me! I stood my ground. I know the law enough to never assault an officer of the law; not physically and not verbally. He was actually more undisciplined than anyone I had met this year and he was proud about it. I laid a formal complaint and had it sorted.

That same week I had a very different encounter with a State Guard (I assume they guard state property…no?). At 5 in the morning, as I worked on my laptop in my tiny living-room, a bold voice called out to me. At first I thought it was a spirit so I waited for the voice to come through yet again. Alas it was one of the military guards on my street. He apologised for calling out to me so late and explained that a young man was seen jumping over my fence. He felt it was his responsibility to have me identify whether the man lived with us. Unfortunately for the young man, it was the first time I had ever set eyes on him. His excuse which is undeserving of my essay was flimsy enough to tick off the man in uniform. To cut a long story short, this was not the first time that officers guarding a different house had taken the initiative to ‘protect and serve’ the community.

Before my trip to ‘outer lands’ for university, I spent a lot of time around men in uniform and tried to understand them. I made quite a few friends, some currently incarcerated; others still serving and a few I lost track of ages ago. I remember my interaction with then Lt Ous Gomez and how he made me fall in love with military service. I also remember when former Captain Sonko was Commanding Officer of the State Guards and I was taken aback by his gentlemanly approach even in speech. This wasn’t the image I had formed in my head of our men in uniform but my interactions with them made me see that they were just people like us protecting and serving. 

Like the week where I met two sides of law enforcement (the good and the bad), my interactions brought me face to face with the different characters in the uniform of service. To believe that militarising our country is the solution to indiscipline is to believe that the solution to deforestation is building a space station. The two are in no way related!

I remember sometime last year when the Police PRO was invited on the Fatu Show and he spoke of their attempts to remodel the force. He acknowledged the many problems the force encountered in the past and continues to encounter but also emphasised that a lot of progress had been made. I agree with him wholeheartedly. From fighting crime, to being friendlier with civilians, to being better educated, the Gambia Police Force has risen through dark times. I believe there is also general consensus that the Armed Force has always been seen as more strategically disciplined especially in its dealings with civilians but they’re also far from perfect. It is surely not a one day’s journey but a lot of progress as per relations and interactions with the civilian populace still has some progress necessary to be made.

I imagine you must be wondering where I am taking this. My point is simple. Parents need to own up to their responsibilities of raising their children right! Militarising these kids is basically more of criminalising the military. There is a reason why background checks are made before a person joins the military. The mistake that Ms Faith is making is in seeing the military as a tool FOR discipline instead of an institution to “protect and serve”. 

I have no doubt Ms Faith’s heart is in a good place. I have heard of her many philanthropic gestures and her willingness and joy to identify with The Gambia is a thing to applaud. However, I want to believe that the journalist that asked her the question which led to the news article creeping up on her so quickly that she had little or no time to come up with a more appropriate response or it was just a bad answer day for one of Jollof’s most successful people.

I however thank her for the much needed distraction after a week of red black nonsense online. It was well received and much appreciated. *insert smile*

Remember, Ebola is real. Let’s keep Gambia Ebola Free. Get sensitised and stay sanitised!

TGBA

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