The people of Banjul were never educated about what can and can’t go into the new sewage system, so they threw almost everything in it, including solid objects. This was one of the main causes of the frequent blockage and subsequent overflows. Another mistake the government made at the time was not having a provision in their contract with SOBEA for them to restore the roads to their previous condition or better after they were done. In hindsight, it is my opinion that the government had a grand plan of building a conventional sewage system in Banjul, but the actual materials that were used by SOBEA are for a Simplified sewage system. Was the government scammed by SOBEA or were the people overseeing the project in cahoots? When a government takes a loan to fund such a massive project, the construction contract should have all the appropriate provisions.
Dilapidated roads need to be cared for too. And who was there to do that? Public Works Department (PWD). PWD never really did a good job of maintaining the roads before they were butchered by SOBEA in the first place, but something is better than nothing. A PWD road maintenance session involved a bucket or wheelbarrow full of tar patch, a shovel, couple of guys and a piece of metal equipment to pound the patch into the potholes. These repairs were obviously temporary and would begin to come apart after a few months of use, but their worst enemy was the rains. They were mostly all rinsed away by the first heavy rain, so it was never a good idea for such repairs to be done right before the rainy season. I wonder what the guaranteed workmanship period was? With the roads worse than before SOBEA matched into town, a mediocre sewage system that was constantly choking, and a public that was never sensitise about the project, Banjul’s environmental problems multiplied.
With the population shift now to the Kombos, the need to construct a sewage system there is inevitable. Even though some of the homes in the Kombos do have private septic tanks, the need for a sewage system is still there, in order to support the accelerating population growth we are now seeing in the Kombos. It is my hope that when the time comes (in the next 10 or 15 years), lessons would have been learned from the Banjul experience and that proper planning and tight policies will be in place to avoid the mistakes that were made when the sewage system in Banjul was being constructed. Proper planning and tight policies will always save the day!
The mosquitoes’ story (fiction)
As more and more gutters became stagnant in Banjul, “The Banjul Mosquitoes” found themselves with more real estate to breed and keep multiplying. Then they decided to take it a step further by organising and selecting a leader. They had been learning from the “Banjul Ndongos” (street boys) and it was now time for them to put that knowledge into use. After it was all said and done, a young and flamboyant mosquito by the name of Baba Jow emerged as their new leader. He was nicknamed “cheeky boy”, for his penchant for biting Waa Banjul on the cheeks. I would describe him as “an audacious in your face” type mosquito that always dare you to slap him and see what’s going to happen. He controlled Banjul; from Half Die to Soldier Town, and all the way to the more recent Tobacco Road settlement. Baba was “The Man”, buzzing around town like there was no tomorrow. He trained his army very well and had much confidence in their ability to strike on Waa Banjul at any given moment. Soon, waiting for night fall became a thing of the past for them. Come 5 o’clock in the afternoon (takusan), invasion orders went out.
Multiplying is fun, and I guess “The Banjul Mosquitoes” got carried away. The population colossally grew so rapidly for Baba Jow to effectively manage and command, so he had no choice but to recruit an assistant. Soldier Town had a blind mosquito by the name of Njol Macca, who was making a name for himself in the community. They called him “The Drone”. Did “The Banjul Mosquitoes” know about drones even before the technology was perfected? Despite his handicap, Njol knew Banjul inside out, and was able to impeccably carry out any mission. He was also highly disciplined and that made him a natural pick for Baba Jow. Njol Macca was named assistant commander of the “Banjul Mosquito Forces” (aka BMF) on July 4th 1986. Maybe Baba Jow needed an assistant that would help balance his flamboyant lifestyle. If he did, he definitely found that in his new assistant. Njol Macca was humble and treated every member of the forces with dignity and respect, and he was well liked and respected in return. Baba Jow handed Njol Macca a section of Banjul to command (from Llewellyn Street all the way down to the Tobacco Road settlement), and he ran it without a hitch. He was initially giving Baba Jow weekly briefings and that soon turned to monthly, then quarterly. Njol Macca truly did live up to Baba Jow’s expectation!
Most mosquito species have an average flight range of 1-3 miles. Scientific research has shown that mosquitoes bite some people more than others for several reasons, including the smells that those people give off, the chemicals on those people’s skin and even how much carbon dioxide they emit while breathing. Experts estimate that mosquitoes are highly attracted to about 10 percent of all people, with those people’s genetics accounting for 85 percent of their attractiveness to mosquitoes. I don’t believe this research would apply in Banjul’s case because it seemed like 100 percent of Waa Banjul were attractive to mosquitoes!
It was during the rainy season in 1987 that a mosquito from Sukuta by the name of Lamino made the 12 miles flight to Banjul, setting a record. Such flight prowess was unheard of. Everywhere he went in Banjul, he was always surrounded by a crowd of admirers who were impressed by his record breaking travel. He was also the first known “rural mosquito migrant” in the history of Banjul. Lamino was a true undisputed champion indeed! His journey alone made him a household name among “The Banjul Mosquitoes”. Back in Sukuta, he was better known as Bala Kenseng (Naked) because he specialised in attacking Sukuta residents while they were taking a shower. His decision to make the 12 mile journey to Banjul was because life in Sukuta had gotten stale and boredom had started creeping in. He wanted new challenges or a fresh start at least. Banjul was a place he heard a lot about, especially in the evenings when Sukuta residents who worked in Banjul returned home for the day. He overheard them several times talking about the stagnant gutters in Banjul and how ideal they were for mosquitoes to breed throughout the year. Sukuta on the other hand, was only ideal for breeding during the rainy season. So every time Lamino hears a conversation about Banjul he would get excited. For him, making the journey to Banjul was just a matter of time. He didn’t just want to live, he wanted to thrive.
Lamino’s transition to life in Banjul was practically seamless, he adapted promptly. The story of his journey carried so much weight that he was quickly elevated up the command chain. By Christmas that year, Lamino had made it up there on Baba Jow’s list of trusted soldiers and was rewarded with a position of commander. He was now third in command. Baba Jow then decided to divide Njol Macca’s territory and gave part of it to Lamino. He was now responsible for Boxbar Road area (from Gambia High School all the way to Campama) and the entire Tobacco Road settlement. Life in Banjul was excellent for him, but he still felt incomplete. The following month he sent word to his long time rumoured girlfriend in Sukuta, Nyancho aka Bumblebee (because of her big butt). If you know anything about Bumble Bees, you will know that, according to 20th century folklore, the laws of aerodynamic prove that the bumblebee should be incapable of flight, as it does not have the capacity (in terms of wing size or beats per second) to achieve flight with the degree of wing loading necessary (that’s Nyancho for you!). However, the origin of this claim has been difficult to pin down with any certainty. Nyancho was voluptuous, had a very ebullient personality and flies like an angel. During his first Sukuta visit after migrating to Banjul, Lamino asked Nyancho to come and join him in Banjul so they can finally make their relationship public and live the life they had always dreamed of. Nyancho initially had reservations because she wasn’t very keen about city life; nonetheless, she left for Banjul a couple of weeks after Lamino’s visit.
Nyancho’s resume was even more impressive. Not only was she known to single-handedly infect half of the population in Sukuta with malaria during her time there, but she had also stopped for a weekend layover at Mile 2 Prisons (Gambia’s notorious prisons) on her way to Banjul and feasted on some of the prisoners. It was also during her Mile 2 weekend layover that Gaindeh Njie (The Gambia’s most famous death row inmate at the time) contracted malaria and died a week later at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Banjul. Nyancho’s involvement in Gaindeh Njie’s death was never ascertained, but rumour has it that she actually delivered the lethal injection. She was known for tearing mosquito nets into pieces too! A force that should be reckoned with. Within a week of Nyancho’s arrival in Banjul, Baba Jow requested a meeting with her and immediately promoted her to commander status and decorated her with a “warrior’s badge of honour”. She was now in charge of Banjul’s Dingareh district, which was previously part of Baba Jow command area. “The Banjul Mosquitoes” spared no one, including the President. The State House was rumored to have been on lockdown on a few occasions, after guards sounded the alarm signaling a Nyancho lead invasion. If Baba Jow was “The Man”, then it is fair to say that Nyancho was “The Woman.” Things had really worked out for Lamino and Nyancho. Their decision to make the move to Banjul paid-off handsomely for them.
In the early to late 1970s, the “Banjul Ndongos” ran the city and terrorised the residents, even the police were intimidated by them. They roamed the streets and fearlessly chose their targets. They were bullies and thieves. Waa Banjul avoided certain street corners, especially when they saw a congregation of “Ndongos” standing there. Folks would rather cancel their errands than cross paths with the “Ndongos”. Fast forward 10 years, there was now a new sheriff in town and his name was Baba Jow. Baba and his commanders had done a good job dividing Banjul, and they conquered it well too. With the addition of Lamino and Nyancho, the “Banjul Ndongos” were now weary about congregating in the streets corners after a certain hour. The student had beaten the master!
Cities have always been place that attract those seeking opportunity and a chance to attain upward social mobility, and Lamino and Nyancho were no different. With just the wings on their backs and a dream, they were now part of Banjul’s elite and very well respected and admired. Their hard work and sacrifice has been rewarded, and they lived happily ever after. So whatever you do in life, never give up on your dreams and always stay focused. Go where opportunity calls you and make the best of it. Life is a journey and the possibilities are endless.