Bosnia is a complicated country: three religions, three nations and those ‘others’. Nationalism is strong in all three nations; in two of them there are a lot of racism, chauvinism, separatism; and now we are supposed to make a state out of that -Alija Izerbegovic.
As we edged towards a celebration of our 50th Independence Anniversary, I was privileged to find myself in the African Union Commission in Addis. It was there that I searched frantically through the colours flying atop the yard for my colours; the Red, White, Blue and Green. It took me a whole five minutes to notice them. This was not the first time I had encountered the problem of ‘colour identification’, and funnily enough I am far from colour blind (but maybe like the magic internet dress that looks blue and black to some, gold and hawma lan’ to others, our colours are magical!). Stunned by a rare moment of genius, I immediately posted on my facebook wall the dullness of our colours. I even suggested we spice them up a little. I think I suggested some sky blue and some rather fancy green.
Not so ironically, I was the same one moments later who complained about the lack of sight on even the basic necessities of love and respect for country in our people. We stand reluctantly to the sound of our National Anthem. We do not know the words to our National Pledge. I must however say that a new generation seems to have fallen deeply in love with our colours; the same colours I called dull.
I’ll have to agree with my facebook friend who suggested that our system of education doesn’t allow for such a love for country to feel relevant. If our educational system is not foreign, then is it not fair to say that the guardians of it are? I mean, it is not a bad thing but still it is! It is not the fault of our Nigerian, Sierra Leonean and Ghanaian teachers that the system is built around them. That has been one of our failures as a nation. Even if our country has invested heavily since Independence on creating a system of education that revolves around Gambian teachers, we have failed woefully in filling the capacity gaps that make them a majority. In essence, we have been taught by teachers (great educationists I must add) who know little about our culture, our traditions, our history, our battles and our identity. I must add that the suggestion on the reason for the lack of love for country actually came from a brother of mine whose father is also first generation Gambian, a fine teacher who found solace (and sadness in the loss of his other son) in The Smiling Coast. So this is not an attack on the many foreign teachers we have all gone through in school. In fact I would be the most hypocritical to do that. This however is an identification of a long-term problem with long-term consequences.
I listened attentively as The President of The Republic gave his Independence Anniversary address at the stadium last month and I smiled when it ended. At a very low moment for me, the address made me smile because of one thing. It was an address that acknowledged our past with a focus on the future. It did not dwell on the harsh realities of colonial rule, the failures of the 1st Republic or the shortcomings of our people. It was an address that spoke of the road forward. It spoke of the fact (even if not directly) that the road ahead is wrought with potholes and roadblocks. Like my high school English teacher Mr. Quinton Cummings would repeat the words of the late Tai Solarin “May Your Road Be Rough”. He would go further to explain the context of such an awful prayer so we would understand it is a good prayer. I would later on lay hands on the entire article and it was an eye opener on the many realities of this world.
“When my sisters and I were young and we slept on our small mats round our mother, she always woke up at 6a.m. for morning prayers. She always said prayers on our behalf but always ended with something like this: ‘May we not enter into any dangers or get into any difficulties this day.’ It took me almost thirty years to dislodge the canker-worm in our mother’s sentiments. I found, by hard experience, that all that is noble and laudable was to be achieved only through difficulties and trials and tears and dangers. There are no other roads.”- Tai Solarin (excerpt)
However, we have chosen a version of national devotion that seeks more to give an easy road to success than the reality. For us, the canker-worm is in the refusal to acknowledge that we have grown since Independence dependent on a foreign labour force. So when His Excellency refused to dwell on the past whilst still acknowledging our progress and looking forward to an objective on a road of many troubles I smiled. It was the hope that a leader’s message provided more food for thought than a writer of Red Black Nonsense that created the inspiration.
Our country as beautiful and wonderful as it is, carries with it a huge burden; a sort of slow poison. The Gambia kills you ever so slowly as you smile your time away on the beach. It does not come with a knife to the throat or a gun to the head. It is the fumes of tobacco slowly filling up your lungs, smoking them dead. To truly look ahead must we not look at ourselves properly? Must we not ask ourselves why we have become this…thing? Oh and It is not a good thing!
There’s no better place to see The Gambian than on the internet. For those of you too old (or too busy) to spend time online, you haven’t missed much in 2015. I’ll give you a quick summary. In 2015, online, our country’s first ever President Sir Dawda was FALSELY pronounced dead; I was rumoured to have quit my column on the standard due to a feud with Honourable Sheriff Bojang, young girls continue business as usual with their selfies (oh and young guys too). But then again, a young Gambian man launched his “My Loomo” app to give Gambians an easy way of buying and selling online. All hope is not lost, right?
So there is plenty to celebrate but quite a lot to be sad about. Jiko Yii Funj Jogay? I had an interesting conversation a few weeks ago about the Banjul of old. This was the place where a household of different families would share a kitchen and commodities without a squabble. This new Jollof aka barri xol yu tilim…barri nit yu anjaan…barri non yu nuru xarit…
In ancient days, many cultures solved disputes between men by having them jump at each other’s throats until they were tired enough to make peace. In other more brutal cultures, one of them had to die….you know…literally. In the Wild Wild West they called it a ‘duel’ or ‘code duello’. Two men, two guns and only one survivor. To settle disputes, pirate code (whether proven or not) required the party in need of peace to seek a ‘parley’ derived from the French word of the same pronunciation.
Must we ‘parley’ or is the swifter ‘code duello’ better serving of the purpose? I think the latter would save us the time needed to record necessary growth this year and the coming years. Maybe it is time we announce all those with these ‘beefs’ meet at the Independence Stadium (including my friends in the struggle *winks*…guns provided…bullets at the ready. You know…let the better man win just so we can get back to nation building.
Sunj deka bi nityi bugunj ku lehn wakh dega. Whilst people are working for their development and the development of our country, there seems to always be a council of hateful, sad and deprived men and women waiting to take a dump on progress. We have celebrated 50 years with all of you. I believe it is time we cut the cord. The people that desire progress and have no time for petty talk and ridiculous nonsense have met and decided you will no longer exist. Sure you will believe you exist. You will even believe you’re important until 20 years down the line you’ll start wondering why you’re stuck on self hate and depression. Maybe 20 years down the line won’t be too late. Who knows?
The Gambia has waited for us for too long. It cannot wait for us to ‘parley’ our problems before it can truly grow. Dekka bi mor amatut sunj jot.
For too long we have allowed a country of 1.8 million people to sound like a Bosnia – complicated. We have allowed the intricate yet untrue details of who we are to cloud our judgment and to poison the kids that look up to us. If we cannot invest time and money into creating a future that can be passed on to them with a clear conscience then it is time we either join the train of development or take a back seat and watch the rest do just that.
Red Black Nonsense is starting soft in 2015. The Most High has been good to me so I am in very good spirits. Gambia dina demm…wai am na nju dut demm fen!