By Ebrima Baldeh
I write this letter with a heavy heart, as I recollect the past and wonder what is going to happen the next day. I know it’s not easy to write about the past because so many things are naturally forgotten and sometimes omitted deliberately. As I write, I assume that you are busy preparing to face the mammoth challenges of a noble profession you are being enrolled into. The legal fraternity is an elite establishment that has a cherished legacy of defending the poor and the less privileged. I know you know more than I do that your enrolment as a lawyer in the Gambia Legal Council is as a result of several years of hard work, perseverance and astuteness.
Lawyer Mballow, as a native of Fula Bantang, I’m kindly urging you to muster courage and always defend the rights of minorities, just as you would like to help a helpless child crossing the road at a busy intersection. Lawyer Mballow, don’t forget that you from a village that embraced Western education since the 1940s, and has produced a thoroughbred English grammarian in the person of Fodeh Baldeh of Fulladu publishers. Remember, the pieces of advice mum gave you, even though, she left us very early for the land of the silent ones, you should always stick to what she had confided in you as you prepare to practice as a lawyer.
Lawyer Mballow, remember that to whom much is given, much is expected; therefore you are expected to plough back to your family, the society and the nation by extension, what was given to you during the embryonic stages of your development. The task may not be completed in one day, weeks, months and years, however, it is a sacred responsibility you must undertake by means available. As you were busy studying law, you know full well that there are procedural laws and everything is done according to the way it is supposed to be done. As a matter of fact, your upbringing and family background, the fact that your father, Ba Bora, Mballow of (blessed memory) was renowned for initiating innocent boys to the world of secret society of manhood in the dense forest of Chekeyel koyang. Therefore the past should be a guide, a mirror on which you should navigate into the realm of law. I need not repeat myself, as you are quite conversant with the history of the land, you know lawyers are highly revered in society because of the nature of their profession, but above all, it is the power they have on their hands.
Lawyer Mballow, you may have come from Fula Bantang or Sinchu Dembel, but that does not mean that you are only going to be a lawyer for these settlements. If someone from Nguduro approach you on a very serious matter, you have to act with due diligence to defend all reasonable cases. Again, take note that you are the first native of Fula Bantang to emerge as a lawyer; you are therefore expected to continue to be a shining model not only in your new profession but in all matters. Listen very well to what I’m saying, your critics or those who were once hostile towards you may approach you for legal matters, don’t disappoint them, and help them if you can. And always make yourself available to the people who were with you from the onset and even those who had abandoned you when you needed them. Don’t be vindictive, you need not to, for those whom the gods had chosen, the gods surely open their hearts to become so soft and tender.
Momodou Dumbuya Mballow, you have strived so hard to go to school in an extended family; remember dad used to tell you his baptismal name was Steven, in the heydays of the mission school in Fula Bantang. Remember, Lawyer Mballow, there are so many things are not supposed to be said, but for the sake of historical records, posterity and for the bond that binds us, I cannot sit idly and fold my hands and not ink this piece.
I’m writing this on behalf of my dear ‘small’ father, Abdoulie Wadda Baldeh, of blessed memory who left us very early for the land where we will ultimately go by force, natives of Fula Bantang and the association we founded in 2002. I want to end with a famous Latin maxim: Abundans cautela non nocet (abundant caution does no harm).
Ebrima Baldeh is a native of Fula Bantang village in the Central River Region of The Gambia.