To work to earn a living or to make a living? A conversation between colleagues at work Part 2

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By Rohey Samba

Kumba am Ndey
(After her major outburst, she regarded her colleague for a while before slowly stating) I have heard all you have said and I am impressed for the most part by what you have said. But still, I am surprised by your incandescence. What has provoked your ire?

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Kumba amut Ndey
(She pauses to think for a moment before choosing her words carefully) I am perplexed by your surprise Kumba. Institutions are important places in which a romantic nationalism constructs a national identity, and in our case, a Gambian identity for that matter. Effective institutions make prosperous, well-respected nations. Needless to say, I am a nationalist. I believe only Gambians can develop The Gambia. All these foreigners who have been around here well before independence did nothing for our development. What have they done for Little Gambia, apart from exploit its meager resources to develop their own ancestral homes and countries?

(Again she pauses for effect and continues…)

We remain a languishing nation more than 50 years after our country gained its independence. Our capital city is an eyesore, our economy a bad rash, our people a despondent lot who lobby for everything, including access to their own rights. Our institutions lack direction, competent leaders and have become resting places where personnel spend a third of their time on frivolous gossip, another third on loitering around and the rest of the time just waiting for work to find them on their well-polished office desks. There is no initiative, no spurn, no zest for hard work. This of course is a vestige of the Jammeh era. Yet still we refuse to learn from the past. A new Gambia makes for diverse and competing claims to these nationalistic sentiments. Suddenly we are given a new lease of life by society writ large. For me, it’s a matter of practicing what you preach. Allowing the old system of poor leadership and inefficiency to be perpetuated all over again, is a wound…a deep gash in our collective consciences as a nation (she pauses to allow the import of her words to sink).
(Continues slowly) That’s why I wrote at the DG’s behest, not on my own initiative, to assist in what I know best how to do for our common good. And when they treated me like a piece of s***, I got angry. Really angry. I don’t get angry easily… unless I am treated like s***. You get me?

Kumba am Ndey
(Chuckles and mutters under her breath)
Well, aren’t you wooing power by your impertinence especially with the new political dispensation and all that? Because that’s exactly what they made the DG to make out of your endeavours. (She very well knows that she is pulling her colleague’s leg, but she cannot help herself. She wants her to feel cornered and by the twitch of her face, she knows she would succeed in her mission. Thus she adds quietly…) Really, what makes you different from the very people you criticize and direct your anger at?

Kumba amut Ndey
(Understands her friend’s mission to make her upset. She wants to get angry, but knows it would be of no use to do so. Shrugs instead and says steadily….) For a start, I have never brought fruits to cater to his erstwhile trophy wife’s cold. (Referring to an instance where one senior staff member bought fruits for the youngest and favourite wife of a head of institution in order to gain his favour). Or ever visited the almighty godfather of this Institution to be in his good books, when he had absolute power to make and unmake anyone in this institution. (Rolls her eyes in feigned annoyance). Should I continue?
I am not so insecure that training and treating my staff equally based on their job description, becomes a problem to the extent that I ostensibly groom one person only, to inherit my seat, giving him rapid promotions on an annual basis at the expense of the one next to me. That is sick. My friend, before you get me wrong, I do not envy anyone their seat, but I demand to be given my due. I am willing to bet that if I were a man, I needn’t have gone through this trouble. Half-witted men and even other women of ill-reputation are given top positions everyday to the detriment of our institutions. Look at that devil who is recently promoted. The sick old hog would smile at you while seeking your destruction behind closed doors. I know everything. I know what she says when I am not around. I hear her derision of me and Fatmata Kassama behind closed doors. We are not her age or her class. So I never respond. I don’t need to. But from secretary to manager in less than five years? My God! This is a flagrant form of discrimination in our patriarchal society. It demonstrates that either you have to comply with the order or be an outsider. Come to think of it, I don’t have to be a lapdog for a rude, assuming lot just to stay relevant! (hisses).

Kumba am Ndey
Why didn’t you complain before? I mean, they accuse you of using the current dispensation to achieve your ends.

Kumba amut Ndey
I dared not complain in the former dispensation because I would have suffered the treachery you subjected me to recently, and no doubt end up in Babili Monkey’s luxurious suites at Mile 2 Prison on charges of false information. Who turns to a mad man when in need? Look, I just acted on what I had been advised to do and I was snitched on, not given the platform to defend myself and left hanging. What kind of institution treats it staff like that? (She sets her piercing gaze on her colleague who stubbornly refused to make eye contact. Feeling sorry for her, she regales a deep sigh, and adds). Yes, the spirit of my resistance is spurred by the new political dispensation and the nationalism, which brought change to The Gambia after all these years of pent-up anger with the old system that has turned many educated Gambians into beggars, dogo-dogocats and people with no principles, who are led my fear. From the look of things, this trend is not going to change anytime soon unfortunately…

(shifting a bit on her seat, she continues) When I returned to my office after my long leave, what greeted me at my doorstep was the shoved letter of complaint and it’s rejoinder. Who knows what else they have poured at that doorstep? But it’s their problem. Plainly, they were telling me they did not give a damn. They initiated the battle, not me. Nothing has changed since then, apart from their snobbery of my person, which doesn’t bother me the least bit. Their willful denial of my incentives persist. But what did I expect after all, when the dude went around telling my peers, “Did you read what your ndawsi wrote on the papers, calling us hogs, snakes et cetera?” (laughs out loud this time, clearly enjoying herself).

Kumba am Ndey
Have you no fear? I mean, aren’t you afraid for your own sake?

Kumba amut Ndey
(Mutters under her breath. Wanted to call out her colleague’s cowardice but refrains from getting personal). You mean about the jujus and offerings at sea and so on? And the 20 litre libations poured in the corridors of the DG’s office over the weekends in recent times? Kumba, she that fears Allah, is afraid of no one; she that fears people, is afraid of everything. My life, my death, my livelihood and my sustenance are with Him. No one else. After all, nothing lasts forever. It is amazing what fear can do to people. To date, we experience a hope that does not extend in parallelism to allow relevant persons in positions of responsibility an equivalent human significance as the people who foisted and wheedled themselves to be on top, whether deserving or not. You must certainly know that a job description without leadership is as good as a piece of toilet paper; but an institution based on arbitrary decisions and/or a boss’s discretion, operating without a scheme of service for the past eight years is a dumbass dustbin in ether. These were just the words of weaklings, meant to placate themselves. As long as I have a boss, he must give me work to do. That’s his job! That’s why he is paid so much better than I who works under him. But really what have these ‘overqualified’ people done for the institution all these years?

Kumba am Ndey
You call it a dustbin, our institution? Isn’t that too strong a word?

Kumba amut Ndey
(Thinks for a moment and throws back). Isn’t it, just that? You enlighten me. Enlighten me, my friend. Fee defar doiye warr! Without the authority of close observation and without the response to immediacy of our institution’s plight, I bet you in three years time, there will be no one left in this specific unit of ours, who is worth his price of salt. The dialogue they initiated in response to your letter as opposed to mine, was simply a euphemism for coercion to mask their humiliation over their forte abuse of power over the years that you highlighted. Suddenly, the bullies were given a taste of their own medicine. Yet, this does not respond to the unequal balance of emotions, the least of which calls to their fear, their angst and the stridency of polemic. Fear is a dangerous thing. It turns the sage into a cruel master. It has caused strife, division and has broiled over into hatred that has outlived generations. Fear, my friend, will ruin this institution. The fear to right a wrong. The fear to take necessary decisions with authority. The fear to effect change. For the fear of change is the root of all evil. One cannot watch while his house is on fire expecting that the fire will douse itself out of fear. The house will burn to the ground and fear will remain a flagrant potion. For now, it would be doubled with grief and regret for not taking action when one had the chance to…

Kumba am Ndey
(Thinks for a moment and asks)
If you had the power, what would you change here?

To be continued

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