By Saikou Jammeh
TIME Magazine in the lands of Mansa Abubakari II, once raved: Our nation calls for leadership. Is there any leader at home?
Things have fallen apart. The drums of war are ‘brrrumbling’. This is no rub-a-dub, this is war dance. A combat is imminent. Mansa Moussa, the Great Saviour and Protector of the lands and waters muddied by Mansa Appai, is accused of committing Judas. The wardens of the jihad are mobilised and organised. Their leader, Mansa Sankaranka, short, but standing on the shoulders of giants, has been speaking in tongues to his congregation. The long-gone secessionists have receded to their Temple, reciting the sacred words of our Old Testament. DingDing Mansa, once banished from the Temple, has returned to join Mansa Moussa with the fiery anger of the red goddess.
Twice beaten, twice shy, the heir apparent of Kaira Mansa, the Prince of Dumbuto IS NOT OKAY. What in the world! The jalangnolou of Dumbutu, burning with anger since ’92, have not been appeased and Demba has been outfoxed by the grey-haired Burr of Sayerr Jobe Kunda. The Burr of Saloum is loyal to Mansa Moussa. Very loyal! For now! The generous Mansa Mo Bèyèbalou has for the past many moons been away, in a hair salon and he’ll leave afterwards for pedicure. The Queen of the Union is busy looking for a medicine to cure the malaria of differences in sex. Good luck to her!
I have a word, revealed upon me on the one* of the moon of January. I have no word of my own. Like prophets, I received revelation from the gods. The Word is to tell Mansa Moussa to control his hands when talking. The air he punches and knocks on the sides is fragile and doesn’t belong to him. He’s a servant, of the gods and man, and needs both his hands and the air to serve dutifully. Has he noticed that he now clenches his jaws a lot and grinds his teeth a lot and his heart rate has increased rapidly? He is angry and angry leaders do not lead, they mislead.
I have a Word because forst of forst*, I have a houmann* right to do so. The Word is to tell Mansa Moussa to tear not the wrapper that was used to tie him, tender him and protect him from falling as a baby. Like Lincoln advised, do not change horses midstream. The words of togetherness have been replaced with those of Ding’kurun’go. Bring the Union together, talk to Mansa Ngarri. The sky isn’t clear about whether he’d make a Great King but the Word is that he can make a king greatest ever.
I have a word because, unlike the Doctor of Political Science, I was here, as a Raven with the Word, when Mansa Appai was spitting fire, and where were you. Mansa Appai is Borom Jasé but he didn’t put my head on the spike, for he knew in my head was my tongue and on my tongue was the Word, which was from God, was of God’s and is God Himself. Yet, he didn’t listen to the Word when I narrated to him the history of our lands as follows: “The Word then arrived from the gods for Kaira Mansa to respect the code of the Ark. But, he refused, dancing to the songs of Eagle and sympathising crying crocodiles. The gods removed him in peace to protect the peace. The eagles and crocodiles that clapped when he defied the gods were the first to slap him. Appai was a member of Kaira Mansa’s guard, and as knight, the gods made him witness and live through the lessons of Mansa Kairaba’s fame and fall.
Like Mansa Appai before him, and like Mansa Diko before Appai, Mansa Moussa is seeing a crowd where there’s none, love where there’s none, and loyalty where there’s none. The crowd behind him is rented, a mass beast, manipulated by ‘politrikcians’ whose loyalty has a shallow breaking point. I know this because I am the Word. I was here* when #DembaIsOkay jumped out of Kaira Mansa’s sinking political boat, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, to join Mansa Appai. And, I was here* when even the trees Mansa Appai thought were hanging green leaves all suddenly turned yellow.
I see, among them, a cousin of Mansa Moussa, lost in difficult times and found in times of milk and honey. I saw him, I was with him, at the Bulundala Baa, when Appai appointed him Minister for Words. He sat down, struggling to occupy a chair of few-inches wide, but he barely had his first month’s salary and was too rusty and lean. He looked up, eyes gazing, from corners to empty stares, wanting to intimate and charm but, oh no, he’s not of Nyanjan N’jie and doesn’t command the aura of the legend. So, flies gathered around his face and all that was there to see was fear and ignorance. He spoke to me, wanting to say to the Word, but oh no, he’s not Sheriffo the Bard, he doesn’t have the Word, he doesn’t know the Word and he instead filled the air with noise of Konsututions*.
I have a Word because, unlike the Almamo without a pulpit, I have no muscle, either of the book or of the body, to wrestle with even a bee. The Word is to tell Mansa Moussa that the cake of our union belongs to all, traitors and jihadists. The Imp of House Lannister of Casterly Rock might have said a leader who sends away those devoted to him doesn’t inspire devotion. But, also, a leader who listens to men who worship the two-faced god, of power and pay, often fall victim deception and treachery.
I have a Word and the Word is that, like good intentions, energy of the youth alone cannot develop a country. Needful is wisdom, that of the elders of Kocc Barma Fall, not those jean-wearing old boys who have forgotten their date of birth because they are suffering from severe memory losses and will certainly forget to have ever met Mansa Moussa because their memory loss is not a natural sickness, it is a sickness of lack of shame.
I have a Word because, like Mansa Appai, I also wish to repeat for the purpose of clarity. And I am happy and privileged to repeat at this august Assembly, marking the seventy-two* anniversary of the birth of the Father of the Word. Yes, Appai isn’t around. Yes, I can play. Yes, I no longer have to keep my short tongue in my short head any shorter. I have the Word and the Word is that Mansa Moussa was not born Moussa, he’s named Moussa. If he accepted to be Moussa, he should drink Moussa, eat Moussa, behave Moussa and accept the destiny of Moussa. He cannot be Solomon the wise, nor can he be King David the builder. He’s not Muhammed the seal. He can only be Moussa, and like Moussa, he’s a saviour who delivered us from the Pharaoh. His task is to take us to the Mountain Top and put us on the straight, cleared path. But he’s not the one chosen by the gods to take us to the Promised Land.
I have a Word, and the Word is that a Mansa doesn’t see beyond the tip of his nose. He climbs on the giant eyes of the Counsel of the Wise to see what’s beneath the earth. The Word is that Mansa Moussa’s Council of the Wise see no further than the tip of their own nose. Bring the Union together, talk to the Burr of Saloum, tell him to you the truth of the milk, not of the cow, for the cow sins but the milk she produces is pure. And, the truth of the milk of that a king that doesn’t honour his word angers the gods, for the kings are the representatives of the gods. Mansa Moussa promised to spend three rains with farmers.
He reneged and instead goes for five rains. Now, he’s reneging on that too and want more rains and promised bridges and roads and broadband. I am worried. As Mansa Moussa failed to give the mono he promised for breakfast, the domoda he promised for lunch, can he be trusted to deliver the futo he promised for dinner?
I have a word, and the Word is to tell Mansa Sankaranka the words of Kufo of Gold Coast, to Kaira Mansa, when Appai granted his return, that he cannot be president where there’s a president. Mansa Sankaranka gave birth to a son whose palms are bigger than his. If he accepted to be his assistant, he should serve him with devotion. Disperse the jihadists and tell them that our nation is safe.
I have a Word and the Word is to tell Mansa Ngare that the gods are happy with him for his works at the Bantaba. But he sometimes raises his voice, which may offend the gods. The gods like decorum and love to enjoy their rare sleep. Tell him also to eat and drink with the children of gods at the Bantaba. He’s not a god and he who is not god must be seen eating and drinking.
Saikou Jammeh is the executive secretary of the Gambia Press Union. Satirist and political/social commentator, he was the editor of The Daily News and The Standard before it was shut down by the Jammeh government