The original plan was to write a two part essay on my involvement (or non-involvement more like it) in our local partisan politics in The Gambia and to express my distaste for The Nderry, his methods and the people that seemingly believe his methods to be a handbook for success but I was forced to decide on penning a third. We do not always get what we wish for though…
After I penned my second of the two essays, I was at peace with myself and had decided to take a break from things political yet again. Unfortunately, I received a message informing me I was being “gaaruwale’d” by someone I would expect to do just that. It reminded me of primary school. I honestly believe the lady in question to be a fan of funny moustaches, weird afros and spicy conversation. She called me ‘Halifa Sallah Jr’ or was it ‘Junior Halifa Sallah’. For supporters of the learned men at PDOIS, I hate to disappoint you but her name calling wasn’t by any chance a referral to Mr Sallah’s brilliance or awesome looks. They were rather an attempt to not only ridicule my apparently not so modern looks and to make fun of Mr Sallah’s taste. I haven’t met Mr Halifa Sallah in over a decade but I imagine he must have lost his afro. I lost my afro years ago!!! I now have a personal celebrity barber who charges in the hundreds and applies chemicals on my hair to make it look like silk. My hairstyle is not to be mistaken for Didier’s. I find the Chelsea striker’s hairstyle to be too feminine for a man of my stature and standing and I am aware of the ‘anti-gay laws’. I honestly do not want to get into the details of our ‘relationship gone bad’; this female ‘hateress’ and I. Like I said however, her opinion of me is well known in these quarters and I would actually expect much less of an opinion from her. We came to a mutual understanding not to communicate with each other and I have stayed clear of her ‘area of operation’. There are over __ billion people in the world today and we’re both better off getting to know new people. I actually forgot my ‘Fulani’ friend existed until she screamed ‘Hitler’ and aimed for my head. I guess she hasn’t had enough of my cute afro and mediocre musings. I promise to grow my hair back – just for her.
Searching for inspiration for this essay, I visited The Standard newspaper online to read through my past work and noticed a certain comment on part 2 of ‘Political Camouflage’ from a ‘Karamba Touray’. I will assume for the purposes of this essay that the name is his real one. I must say his comment read like Shakespeare – as insulting as it was intended to be, I must say I read it more than five times. Touray here writes like a true lit-grit! I respect a man who knows his vocabulary. If I knew who he really was, I would have sent him a message to make his acquaintance. Unfortunately, I am unsure if my approach will be trusted considering I just penned two essays declaring my attachment to the system and my reluctance to accept the struggle. Mr Touray hates my writing! Apparently, I am the devil-incarnate. He just fell short of calling me a bigot. All other emotions in place, I can say Touray’s description of me made me hate myself for a second! He called my piece the ‘longest, vane (I assume he meant vain) and haughtiest piece of commentary’ he’d ever read. I guess we will all agree that he hates my writing style. I wish I could convince Mr Touray that as writers we are not our words. I am certainly not the most humble person in The Gambia but pride, I disdain! With every ounce of my breath I hate it!! I sometimes secretly wish all proud people would be hung by the neck whilst stray, rabid dogs lick and bite on their privates – I hope he doesn’t call me a sadist. My essay was just a sincere, honest depiction of my journey and my reasons for not ‘falling madly in love’ with ‘The Struggle’. That my words would make such a well written gentleman refuse to read ANY of my work unless someone somewhere vouches on my repentance and my over-dosing on humility is sad even for me. I do not wish to lose a reader. I am an extremely ambitious man and losing one reader is equivalent to me losing EVERY reader. I hope his decision is rescinded .If however, he continues to refuse my haughty musings, I hope I find another reader who finds my writing humble enough for taste. One certainly does equal one!
My intention like I said earlier was to pen a third essay on ‘Political Camouflage’ but things changed. I joined the #EbolaFreeGambia team as a Global Shaper and got so engaged in the cause under some wonderful leadership that I realized my time was better spent joining hands with all those for whom this cause was a serious thing in making a difference. In this battle against Ebola, we have found that even though the virus is a big enemy, the even bigger enemy is ignorance. The virus has spread across West Africa this fast simply because the ‘need-to-know’ has not been present. Those to whom the responsibility has been shed in our sub-region (either by divine power or by the people’s will) have decided to sit on their laurels and await another Western occupation! We are lucky that Gambian authorities have seen the urgency of the cause and have fast-forwarded efforts to sensitise and prepare the populace for any imminent spread of the virus into The Gambia.
However, efforts from Government, NGOs, parastatals (I must give PURA a thumbs-up), Epidemiology and Disease Control (EDC), the #EbolaFreeGambia Team and other stakeholders should not be sabotaged by others that have the power to effect even greater awareness. Even as freedom of speech must be encouraged, free speech comes with an even greater responsibility of sharing information that can only benefit the cause and the greater good.
That a religious leader would preach to his congregation at a time like this blaming Ebola on our sins as West Africans is not only reckless but a sin in itself! The Imam’s proclamation was a big blow to the campaign and carried with it no ounce of responsibility. It is proclamations like those that create the disdain that many people have for religion. Where we have been given the opportunity to lead our people spiritually, we have been the very ones misguiding the innocent and not giving them the tools to protect themselves better. What exactly is God/Allah punishing us for that He has singled us out of the billions of people around the world that fornicate, murder, rape and oppress the innocent. Are we so special? Why blame it all on the Most High when we can take responsibility for our shortcomings. We know our problems! We should solve them! We need better health care; better living habits; better, African controlled research and funding; better border control; better infrastructure. Africa basically needs to own up to its responsibilities.
How quick are we to blame God for everything. The Great one who looks over us ought to slap us silly for pointing our crooked fingers whenever the chance shows up. He has given us all the tools we would need to make our lives different; to make our living better. However, like the story of the man who prayed to God for help as he waited stranded in the ocean, God keeps sending us rescue but we keep waiting for him to show himself as we picture him before we believe.
We have allowed ‘lazy religion’ to take us back instead of moving us forward. Our religious and community leaders must understand the dynamics. They must be given the opportunity to travel the world and see what it has become. They must understand that they are part of a whole and not islands unto themselves. The fight against Ebola is one which must be an all-inclusive one.
I understand the many who doubt the presence of the disease. I actually entertain questions from those who believe it to be a ‘lab-created’ disease. I have no concern for where it came from. That is an equation we will have to solve with time. However, as it stands, our very way of life is under attack and the enemy is not a familiar one. We cannot allow the usual shenanigans of our leaders to cloud the realities. Our messages to our congregations must be researched both in religion and in life. We cannot divorce religion from everyday life. We must endeavour to ask questions regardless of how much knowledge we believe we have. We can stop all our sinful ways. We can become a nation of Saints but the world is a global village. People get sick! Is malaria a punishment from God? Is HIV a punishment from God? Is Pneumonia a punishment from God. Every disease on its onset created panic. It took the collective responsibility to cure the masses and to free them from the burden of ailment. As people of religion we SHOULD believe in miracles; but isn’t it a miracle in itself that God/Allah would give us the power to find cures for our many diseases. Isn’t it a miracle that he would give us the know-how to figure out the possibilities of survival increase with rehydration? Nenj wahanteh dega nak!
The message is simple. Ebola is real (man-made or not). Let’s avoid eating bush meat. Let’s keep our hands and bodies sanitised. Frequent washing of hands with soap or high alcohol percentage sanitisers will do a lot of good. Let’s avoid sharing cups (my attaya people) and other apparatus especially with sick people. If we have any emergencies we suspect to be related to Ebola, the toll-free number to call is 1025 for all GSM networks. Let’s clean our surfaces especially at public places with bleach (Au de Javel / Oh-doe-Zawel ).
Ebola is real but The Gambia is prepared! The Gambia is Ebola free and we can all help keep it that way. Spread the RIGHT message, not the fear!