By Rohey Samba
This would probably be my last SisterSpeak for this year. Writing about it makes it so real. But everything good must come to an end.
I am willing to bend over backward and take a brief hiatus from the column I have come to love so dearly and look forward to writing every Wednesday of the week.
Plainly, it is not for a lack of words or a lack of time that I am drawing the curtain on SisterSpeak for this year. I always repeat that I have too much time in my hands. We all do, if we are really honest with ourselves. Letting it go, in this context, is a practical resolve in the exercise of judgment, tact and diplomacy against my artistic inclinations, which are anything but…
Our lives are lived catch-as-catch-can, not always predictable but freely evolving. Everything that transpires, however commonplace, whatever the stakes, is preparation for something bigger and better. All we need is a little bit of patience and perseverance. Patience to understand the ways of the world, good, evil and duplicitous. And perseverance in the midst of tribulation.
My heart was filled with joy when I read and reread on The Standard of Friday, 22 February 2019, excerpts from Andrew Winter’s February 2010 interview with the US Diplomatic Studies and Training Foreign Affairs Oral History Project about the 22 July 1994 coup d’état, which toppled the regime of President Sir Dawda Jawara. Mr Winter, who was the US ambassador to The Gambia at the time of the 1994 coup, made an effusive narrative of events as they transpired at that time, and in particular his observation that, throughout his “time on the ship President Jawara maintained his dignity. He never showed emotion or betrayed any anger. He was always polite and in control.” These words filled my heart with pride and total admiration for a man who I am proud to call The Gambia’s Gift of Peace, Kindness and Democracy till eternity.
Now, why I write this is for a number of personal reasons, which I may expand on one day. Suffice to say that when it came to choosing between being right and being kind, Sir Dawda Jawara chose to be kind, which was one of the reasons that triggered his downfall in this treacherous society. Yet he outlived many of his nemeses, didn’t he? Yalna Yallah Yorkah Sah Fanyi, Kairaba.
Our persistence informed by something atavistic, larger than life, unknown to us, painstakingly springs forth like Muslim purity beaming through the shades of our weakest moments. This is a forte that not everybody can possess in enough quantities, for man is created weak and needy. Many people would resort to tricks and pranks or even worse, begging, when afflicted with difficulties and trials. Fact of the matter is, nothing lasts, not pain, not shame, not whatever… unless we will it.
It is very hard for me to take life seriously. I cannot be diplomatic and evoke lively prose from the mundane lives we live. I recast people’s words, whether it is grasped from the taxi I caught heading to Banjul or my neighbour’s incoherent musings as she cooks for her family next door. Years of memories and recollection also allow me to build and mold characters, which I hope have been the symbolic forms of my ‘interesting’.
More compulsive than restraint, my writing is also influenced and usually usurped by a seeming urgent happening or event in my life, which would later appear irrelevant and insignificant when thoroughly processed at a later date. Like a sword, the pen is a very harmful tool, which can divide and stir factions, just as it can pacify and become an advocacy tool for the voiceless and those whose pain is ignored or unknown for one reason or the other. Thus the pen is relevant only when it becomes one’s shield and not one’s sword.
Personally, writing is therapy I cannot afford anywhere. Writing is what I love doing. It is what slows down my tempo enough to help me remember what makes life worthwhile. By writing, I am able to dissect past occurrences on the periphery of my life with detachment and control to the point of understanding.
Perhaps my paramilitary training at The Regional Maritime Academy, some 15 years ago, reinforced this notion. The training, which was meant to test every aspect of one’s emotional capacity and endurance, enabled me to compartmentalise my emotions. I learned to suck in humiliation, anger and blind rage with Sir, Yes Sir. Beyond the structured response, I rend my emotion loose and blew up the compartments in the privacy of my dormitory, by allowing myself to write. The more I wrote, the more I plucked from the surface of my mind, the ease with which to revise my life and get back to my happy place, where there is calm, understanding and most of all, peace.
Our minds are very busy places when we choose to visit them!
In my imagination, there is just no room for wishful thinking. I will myself to overcome and condemn what I dislike about a situation. I dole out the things I know are true, assailing whoever is at the receiving end of my diatribe with the universal truths that seem to pour forth more and more when I reach the point of blind rage. There is no greater truth than the truth of the offended soul. Little wonder that in Islam, it is plainly cited that the prayer of the offended goes straight to God without passing through an intermediary source/space…
Oh yes. I write better when I am angry. Ok, I write very well when I am happy. Not so well when I am sad…and so on and so forth. But really, rebuke is the redress for provocation. Especially provocation that is unwarranted, unnecessary and biased, which is perpetrated behind closed doors from public scrutiny.
Worrying nowadays, is the titular authority of positions used by institutions’ heads to establish clans based on patronage by people they perceive to be loyal to them. The neutral administration of justice is being threatened overall as a result of cronyism, favouritism and jingoism by the leadership in positions of authority. This is cause for concern in new Gambia.
I am more than glad to observe, as all Gambians, the on-going scuffle to revoke the president’s decision to remove nominated member Ya Kumba Jaiteh of the UDP from the National Assembly. I have read Ya Kumba’s forthright open letter addressed to the secretary general and head of the civil service, as well as the press statement by the Gambia Bar Association signed by it’s president Salieu Taal.
Gambians must continue to address the growing strength of people in positions of authority to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. No individual should be powerful enough to terminate the service of another without following due process of law and without outlining candid reasons for doing so. I endorse Ya Kumba’s bravery and the GBA’s resolve. Whatever the outcome, let the constitution of the land remain supreme. Gambians have been bullied and tormented enough by former president Jammeh…we say collectively, No more!
Again, the gendered roles of society is all but putting a spanner to the works of feminists like the late Satang Jorbarteh, who I followed religiously on the defunct Daily Observer for her ideals, when I was in high school. While women remain to be women’s worst enemies in the workplace, the centrifugal force of societal neglect and the narrow perception of women’s roles, continue to be handed down over the generations with lip service dominating the debate about gender mainstreaming, gender equality and equity and so forth.
Men continue to use women, usually far less competent and administratively green, as deputies to sell the story of women inclusion at the workplace. This, I find to be a chimeless streak for dominance that limits the professional advancement of meritorious women. What do these deputies actually do? So far as I am concerned, green women deputies would not give a fitting fight over ideas or values, which threaten their elected positions. They are the harmless subordinate, who is not an equal. Never an equal because of their gender! Thus the perpetuation of inequality…
To the ardent followers of this column, the ones who come over to say a nice word, a critique or to express a peeve, when we meet in the supermarkets, at your respective workplaces, along the streets and at the restaurants I frequent, I say thank you for your support over the years. When other people acknowledge my work as worthy of mention, it spins the dross of my subconsciousness into gold. Thank you for reading as I blather on, my ego unchecked.
So the buzzwords have changed over the period of writing but the subjects not so much.
Subconsciously, implicitly, and or both, the universe conspires, at our own behest to work to our favour, when we put our minds to a specific endeavour, wish or even hope. Self-determination is a ritual that wills us towards success in spite of our haters’ most villain efforts to see us fail. The contrasts of characters, the unpredictability of life are early influencers that broadened my understanding and acceptance of human foibles and perhaps makes me so good at processing perceived slights or disappointments.
But more than that, my faith in a loving and just God, has warded off all the superstitious nonsense that makes people to despair and beseech lesser beings than the Almighty God. I find it fascinating that a section of people imparted by such gibberish, would resort to anything and implore anybody and everybody to define the paths of their lives for them in this fame-obsessed society. Fame is not a sign of anyone’s intrinsic value or character. It is just what it is.
May God help us all! Farewell for now…