Speculators like me on what caused the failure of President Adama Gambia to get the kind of military assistance he needed from his Nigerian counterpart President Muhammadu Nigeria ostensibly got it all wrong. Is now confirmed beyond any doubt that the Gambia government in October, sent two highly-trusted ministers, Foreign Affairs Minister Dr. Mamadou Tangara and Defense Minister Sheikh Omar Faye to Nigeria to explore the possibility of soliciting a possible MOU aimed at securing a special military assistance from the Nigerian government to the Gambia, which was reported to have been a success. They both returned to assure President Adama that the mission was indeed accomplished and that the Nigerian government was all willing to render the help Gambia needs. Consequently, President Adama last week visited Nigeria to finalize the ratification of that MOU, but surprisingly his host President Muhammadu after the meeting came out expressing his disinterest to assist him militarily outside any ECOWAS agreement, essentially a denial of Adama’s request. What changed since Tangara and Faye left Nigeria in October seemed very likely to have happened during the tete-a-tete meeting the two heads of state held together in Abuja.
Was it Adama’s style of presentation that turned his host off? Or was it as a result of the substandard English language he exhibited in delivering his message against the advice of all his advisers that actually blew the deal?
So in my naughty satirical imagination, I believe it was both, setting me in this motion of visualizing President Adama at the State House reassuring his Secretary General, Permanent Secretaries, Protocol Officers, Press Crew and even Gambia’s black Shakespeare, my friend and government Spokesman Mr. Ebrima Sankara to sit tight and let him handle this one in his own grand design and language. He wouldn’t read from any script and promised to go toe to with President Muhammadu if it has to come to that.
President Adama: Don’t worry my people, I get this one; you just have to trust me this time.
Press Secretary Amie, more concerned than anyone that the president may think that he could conduct business with Muhammadu like he does with President Macky Senegal whom he always communicates with in the Fulani dialect tries frantically to stop her boss.
Amie: Your Excellency, I don’t think the Fula language they speak in Nigeria and by President Muhammadu is the same as the one we speak in the SeneGambia area and by President Macky.
President Adama: Auntie Amie ‘Eteh Fanang’, who tell you that I am going to spoke Fula to President Muhammadu? I am going to spoke English to him and it will be a miracle. Just watch me!
In Amie’s mind she was groaning, ‘Mbaa koe koe’, whom can I call to counsel my Adama to abort his ‘adventure’? For a while no name struck her mind considering the fact that he even turned down a well-scripted speech from Spokesman Sankareh, Gambia’s Shakespeare, in high demand for his impeccable English. She thought of Information Minister Ebrima Sillah but recognizing that his buddy Sanks couldn’t do it, she instead decided to call presidential adviser Dou Sanno to see whether he knew a marabout who could help as a last resort. Sanno is reputed for knowing the best and all the marabous in and out of the country, from Gambia to Mali, Guinea Bissau to Mauritania.
He forwarded Amie the Qcell telephone number of a soothsayer/marabout in Serekunda, one Algae Arfang Kodonaati. She called the man right away but didn’t disclose her identity first neither her line of work nor her locations but only asked him whether he could do the job.
Kodonaati: Very well, I can do anything. If you bring me D5000.00 I’ll do it.
Amie : It has to happen by tonight or latest, early tomorrow morning.
Kodonaati: (sensed the urgency in Amie’s voice and raised the price by 50%) If you want it that fast, I am sorry but that kind of work costs D10,000.00.
AMIE: I will pay any price to get this done, as long as it is possible. (she then identified herself and further told the man how she wanted him to change the mind of President Adama before he leaves to Nigeria tomorrow). If you are sure of doing it without fail, I have my police bodyguard and driver to bring you the money right now. Where is your house in Serekunda?
For quite a while Alagie Kodonaati said nothing until Amie thought the line was disconnected.
Amie: Hello Alagie!
Kodonaati: Am here, uhhhh, did you say that you have a bodyguard who is a policeman?
Amie: Yes, I told you who I am and whom I work for, the president. Is there a problem?
Kodonaati: Wait a moment. (he started remembering his bad experience with the NIA in 2008 that consequently shot down his business because an immigration officer he had sold a bulletproof charm reported him for the “useless juju” he had said failed when tested. The officer had claimed to have tested it on a banana tree but the whole trunk was shredded by the pellets of the fired shotgun; hence he demanded a refund. He tried in vain to convince the officer that the juju only works when tested on a living person, in a battlefield or in a real fight but he regretted saying that when he faced “Bombardeh” at the NIA. He lost two of his front tooth, from a merciless beating and still paid back the whole D6000.00. No consideration for his staggering medical bills before fully recovering and was banned from ever practicing as a soothsayer or marabou. He was since out of business, selling ‘kaba-ndombo’ and ‘solom-solom’ until 2017 after the change of government. Business in back booming but he sure didn’t want to do any business with any officer again-be it a police officer, immigration officer, army officer or custom officer-especially with someone who will quickly prove his work fraudulent, and never with someone working for the president at the statehouse that perhaps will, this time, get him deported to Mali.
Amie: Alagie, are you sure you can do this?
Kodonaati: Of course I can do it. I was just checking with my cowries again and realized that uhh I will uhh need a live white female frog with twin red-babies to finish the work.
Amie: But Alagie, where do those things exist?
Kodonaati: Don’t know where in the Gambia; but are plentiful in Mali and I think somewhere in Casamance.
Amie irritatingly hung up, called Dou Sanno to find out what kind of marabout Alagie was.
Dou Sanno: I hardly go to this man anymore although during Yahya Jammeh’s ungovernable government he used to be very good before he was arrested, tortured and banned.
That was the dead end for Amie.
The direst flight from Banjul to Abuja Airport was smooth and turbulent free. One meal of fish and gravy was served just before landing. Upon arrival at Abuja Airport, President Muhammadu received and escorted his guest through a nicely-performed Guard of Honor, mounted by the Nigerian Ceremonial Guards Battalion before they drove together to his office for the tete-a-tete meeting Adama had insisted on having alone with him. The space and comfort of the office was beyond description in a softly carpeted room with glowing walls reflecting brightly lit Victoria Chandeliers at a room temperature not too cold or hot but pleasantly warm.
Adama felt he could easily fall asleep but decided to fight any drowsiness by doing all the talking, at every opportunity. He was not going to getting bored before this sickly-looking old man.
Muhammadu, has recently been suffering from a serious illness concealed from his people and the world which has transformed him from a once very vibrant and energetic retired General to a clinical invalid virtually living on life-supporting doctors and medications that should have long ago compelled him into compulsory retirement. But we are talking about post-colonial African leaders hoping to wither and drop dead in their offices.
The last persons to leave the room for the commencement of the meeting were two female protocol officers who served the duo assorted snacks with fruits and nuts on a silver tray. Water and non-alcoholic beverage were simultaneously offered.
Medically, President Muhammadu in the past year or more was restricted by doctors to refrain from sugar, starch, meat, fish, eggs, butter and everything considered ‘good food’ by his guest, President Adama. He now literally lives a vegan life, eating vegetables, fruits, nuts, oath meal and drinks plain water only; the cocktail of drugs he takes from sunrise to sunset is mind boggling. He briefly explained to Adama some of the health hazards he has been suffering since 2016 but wouldn’t elaborate on what exactly seem to be killing him slowly. Looks like he is in constant pain even when smiling.
Conversely, Adama appears genuinely happy all the time and has pitifully looked at his host and sincerely wished he could go on retirement.
He then turned and as if mocking his host for his poor appetite, to select two croissant with jam and butter, two tuna-fish sandwiches, two slices of chocolate cake, two bananas and the only pear on the silver tray. He asked the servers whether they had oranges and pineapple but there were none. He accepted a can of orange and pineapple juice but said he would have preferred fresh oranges or pineapple after having his bananas. He was all smiles, happy with the service and even asked the two female protocol officers serving their names. One was Aisha and the other Adaego. They majestically marched out through the main entrance, quietly secured by the ADC.
PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU: They both have bachelors degree in entertainment and catering (referring to Aisha and Adaego).
PRESIDENT ADAMA: Are they married?
President Muhammadu: Not yet! (he smiles with pain and tried to joke about the question). But Mr. President I thought you already have two wives; do you want a third from Nigeria?
President Adama: Oh no, if you have Fatoumata and Sarjo you will not want no wife again. I am just wondering Uncle, if you are not married how you can get bachelors degree?
Muhammadu at that moment felt like calling off the meeting but also felt like going through the event, regardless of the nagging pain on a spot below his navel. He also feels baffled by the quantity calories his guest was unnecessarily stuffing in his sizable tummy. He only took some bitter cola-nuts, an apple and a glass of water.
Barrow could clearly read from the looks of his host a sense of nausea over what he thinks, were the delicious snacks he selected and believed were provided to be enjoyed. He defended himself.
President Adama: Uncle Muhammadu, I am different from most presidents when it come to food and feeding; I believe that a president have to eat well and sleep well because Allah bring us in this world to enjoy our luck before we die. What else are we working and living for? Do you know how much is my budget for feeding in 2021?
(Muhammdu remained patiently listening while Adama elucidated on the size and purpose of his feeding budget)
Fifty-two million dalasis, that is D142,000.00 a day. The cold-room in my kitchen have everything: Every kind of meat you can imagine; cow meat, goat meat, sheep meat and plenty of hen meat (chicken). When it come to fish they bring it fresh from Tanjay, every morning; the best“chorf”, “kujalli”, “chekem”, “yaboye” and all kinds of fish swimming in the Gambian Ocean. Albert Market, in Banjul is a walking distance from the Statehouse, they sell the best “Kong” there. I used to went there myself to chose the best for Saturday “Super Kanja”. But Fatoumata and Sarjo have suppliers now.
People think Indonesia produce the best Basmati rice but the truth is India have the best just like Guinea Bissau have the best palm-oil. By the way, do you know that my feeding budget have nothing to do with my salary and allowances? That go straight to my bank account. If you ask me, being a president is the best job Allah have created.
President Muhammdu: I understand, maintaining presidential palaces is not cheap.
President Adama: Looking at the size of your palace, you must have the biggest feeding budget, maybe 10 times more than me. But if I ask my parliament to increase what they approve for next year, Uncle Halifa Sallah and Uncle Seedia Jatta will give me sleepless nights. For the UDP members, they will say let us impeach him to make him go back to selling land at Wulingkama and collecting rents for Sarahuleh hustlers in Congo and New York. Is all jealousy.
I wish I am the president of Nigeria. I will have my own hens, cows, sheeps and goats.
Oh, this banana is good, taste like honey.
President Muhammadu: Do you want more?
President Adama: It’s okay for now. Maybe when going home I will take a bunch. The bananas in Mankamang Kunda don’t taste this yummy.
President Muhammadu: Where is Mangkama what?
President Adama: Oh, I say Mankamang Kunda; that’s my home village. Did I told that Yahya Jammeh for 22 years will not do nothing for my village? He take everything to Kanilai, his village in the deep deep bush. Everything for kanilai; borehole, Kanilai, rice and meat Kanilai, good houses Kanilai, good roads Kanilai and even “kurango” Kanilai. Mankamang Kunda nothing.
President Muhammadu: What is “kurango”.
President Adama: Oh sorry Uncle, ‘kurango’ is electric in Mandinka language.
Presidenent Muhammadu: You mean electricity?
President Adama: Yes that is what I say. But Yahya Jammeh never think that a son of Mangkama kunda will one day became president and build my village too. In less than three year I build two very very big houses for my family there, very very expensive. Over ten million dalasis each. Borehole, I dig two for the villagers; I make the roads better; I build a very very big mosque behind the Imam’s compound; I build many many classrooms in the school; and I will soon give them free electric in all homes and in the streets like Yahya Jammeh do in Kanilai. That will be a miracle. I want better legacy than Yahya Jammeh. That man, arrest, kill, arrest kill only. I don’t arrest nobody even if you steal the whole money in the central bank or take open bribes.
It is the new democracy. After 22 years we did it. A very very big miracle!
My only problem now is land stealing. People steal other people lands and sell it; when they catch them and they go to the courts, the judges always pass judgement; but the people will still refused to accept the judgement. That’s the problem with democracy. I cannot do nothing about that? But my team is planning a very very good land policy soon.
President Muhammadu was clearly stunned by both the caliber of his guest and his incoherency while quietly brooding over what the Gambian people did to the Gods that select presidents for nations.
The croissant, chocolate cake, banana and soda all consumed, President Adama now got into the actual dialogue that brought him to Abuja.
To be continued.