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City of Banjul
Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Pee pom fireman

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With Latirr Carr

A nation that has little or no mineral resources to boast of must ensure that human capital is utilized to its utmost for national development. However, effective use of human resource depends a lot on the discipline of the people in every sector. It is this discipline that has led Asian nations to the prosperity that many of them now enjoy. Unfortunately, in the Smiling Coast, ego and pride is held at a much higher value than discipline.

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Driving to work a week ago, there was nothing new on the traffic. Everyone was going on as usual with the now heavy morning traffic from Brusubi to “traffic lights junction”. However, I realized something I should have figured out a long time ago; deka bi nju warra kham njor day jaiye doff dofflu. Even following my encounter with the police officers at KMC, I felt bad for traffic policemen across the country as people whose notion of power beats the imagination make it impossible for them to do their jobs.

I am sure it must have happened to you at least ten times on the traffic. It’s bumper to bumper traffic and you’re patiently (or impatiently depending on your situation) waiting for your turn to go through traffic when some fast paced, double-signalling, special plated vehicle drives past you on the side of the road or in the center. It has happened so many times that it actually feels normal. If for any reason, you were incensed by this, I believe you deserve to know that you have every right to be! Who are these people and where are they rushing to?

Most times, these cars are either GG, SG, GPF, special government vehicles, no number plate, or some private citizen that decides his face is too famous for him to line up like the rest of mankind. To call this nonsense would actually be an understatement of this serious show of power. It is wrong! It is ridiculous! It paints a very indiscipline image of this country. Lutakh deka bi ku am special authority rek buga yeffi hanju!?

I ranted on this issue whenever I had the chance. It really got to me that day. What urgent security business happens in this country on a daily or hourly basis that has everyone breaking traffic rules and running around like mad men in this country? Who died?

I remember once I had urgent business at the most important house in this country. In my town trip I rushed to Banjul knowing I was given short notice and was most likely going to run through trouble at the meeting if I got in late. There was a bit of traffic at the bridge but I waited. When I got to the check point at the bridge, I discovered it was not to be my day. The officer in charge decided it was his duty to delay me further. I looked like a Nigerian and I had to park to the side to provide documentation that pointed to the contrary. I could have called someone at Kerr Bu Makk to sort out this unnecessary delay (and no the word is not delayance) but I sat patiently and waited. If I ran late, it was not my fault and my host would have to understand the circumstances surrounding my lateness. I had a legitimate reason to beat traffic and turn on the double signal. However, I couldn’t take the gamble. Suma fit meyut ma kor.

Whenever these security vehicles in tinted glass zoom past me on heavy traffic days, my heart skips a beat. Those are things you expect to happen in highly unstable countries where gunmen roam free and shootouts are a regular occurrence. However, in our little, peaceful Gambia, how necessary is all of this showboating? At times the only person in the vehicle is actually the driver but sunj fit yaa nju raymba. The funniest part is watching the traffic policeman salute at these vehicles whilst they ask people like me to park to the side because we look foreign!

I always believed that these special privileges must be reserved for the very highest offices in government. The President, The Vice President, The Speaker of the National Assembly; these are the people that are permitted to drive past me whilst I patiently await my turn on heavy traffic. The only other vehicles I expect to behave in that way are emergency services. Only in extreme circumstances must a civilian vehicle be allowed to break the line; someone must be dying in that car!

I understand that sometimes there are security emergencies that we cannot be aware of. However, you and I both know that most of these cars that speed past us are only rushing to some lunch meeting or going to visit a friend. It is just that belief that people are above the law that allows them to take such luxuries and make them regular. As a citizen of this country, I expect even Ministers to join the queue. I know our high offices come with privileges but wouldn’t it be a great example and a beautiful thing to see if people in power joined the rest of the civilian population in applying patience?

That isn’t even my problem with all of this. I’ve seen diplomatic plates do the same thing and it is fast becoming a habit. I actually took a picture of the car as it sped past us on the highway but I’ll leave the details out of this equation. If we cannot lead by example then why do we complain when the citizenry decide to act ignorant? We cannot use one rule for some and another for the rest. Bobu du deff!

Knowing the system and how it operates, I also understand that sometimes our top civil servants are requested at the utmost urgency and they do not have a choice but to use the traffic privileges attached to their offices. However, it is important that discipline be attached to our traffic system to ensure that people feel equitable treatment at all times.

It must be clear who these privileges are given to. I believe that our security forces need to invest in sirens for all emergency vehicles that ply our roads. Dekka bi kham nenj siren bu baakh (a.k.a silence). If possible, our Ministers should request siren escorts for their emergencies. Thus begins the discipline that our traffic system lacks. I could go on about the vehicles without number plates in this country but duma muna wakh yeup…otherwise dinenj wakh neh suma fit bi daf ma raymba taayi. It is obvious that even where we are proud in showing that The Gambia is one of the most peaceful countries in the world, these occurrences paint a picture of panic. For most of us that have lived here for most of our lives, it is not so obvious. However, for the infrequent visitor, it is very alarming and scary.

When four different non-plated, tinted glass vehicles speed past you in traffic like Schumacher on the F1 track, it is cause for concern. I cannot advise on the system to be enforced to solve this debacle but the current system is unfitting for a country like ours. I can assure you, when you drive past me and others as we look hundreds of meters ahead at a ridiculous line of cars, I throw a fit in the car. Sometimes I hurl profanity your way even though you drive past too fast to hear it. Nyeupa len merreh nak ma wakh len kor. Hana yen yena nju genn? *chipu*

It is sad that our traffic was much more disciplined during the transition period from 1994 to 1996 than it is now. I know you’re gaping at that statement but it’s the truth I observed. As expected, military vehicle criss-crossed traffic because we were in a state that required it, but the rest of the population was soooo yaru on the highway.

These days everyone is a boss. Directors, famous faces, friends of security personnel, diplomatic representatives, drivers of diplomatic representatives, famous school principals, famous community leaders, senior taxi drivers, everyone needs to prove champion on our highways. Jiko, deye waaleh. Soon no one will wait to line up and if no one wants to line up, it means everyone is essentially lining up. You dig?

Teye suma wakh bi du barri. Russ naa torop purr nju jogay wutt fii nju kham ninj mel mortakh mai binda si olof. Bunj yaru wutt si li gena ndaww, dunj yaru si yum ak yi. Nenj maandu nju baiye ajj mbaga yi di jaiye nityi lu amut. Humility, Modesty, Displine; these are watchwords that any civilized society must embrace. Ku yakamti na tehla gena kerr. Ku tarrdeh nak, yaa fa jaiye panj.

Dega nak neehut. I have too many friends in high places but this is no way my attacking personalities. I hope my words today are well received and even where the police might not recommend a system that throws out this ridiculous occurrence, we as private citizens adjust our ways for the message of One Gambia we so proudly preach around the world and that my wonderful friends at our security forces (waaw waaw….neehal dot come) will see logic in this piece and adjust accordingly.

T.G.B.A

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