By Saul Saidykhan
‘You see, exactly a year ago this week, I woke from a five weeks coma, that was initially medically-induced, but later morphed into the real thing. After six brain surgeries, my prognosis was very bad. I had tubes plucked into my throat, nose and stomach. Half of my skull was removed to allow the swelling in my brain to deflate. For all practical purposes, I was dead. I wasn’t even given a ten percent chance of making it. My doctors didn’t think I’ll be normal again if I survive at all. They were going by their machines which per my neuro-surgeon, was telling them that my “numbers are incompatible with life.” A year hence, I think I have survived and I’m becoming normal again because I’m doing things I used to do which they said I’ll never be able to do again. I can walk. I can talk. I can read. I can write a bit. I can help my kids with school work. I can even drink and taste my favorite drink – Malta. (For four weeks after I woke up from the coma, they won’t let me drink water because it could kill me. This is a story for another day.’
I originally published this article over thirteen years ago. Some of the characters I cited to make my point then are no longer with us though the disappointment generated by their behavior is etched indelibly in the minds of some of us. Regrettably, the unseemly behavior among Gambian seniors that I was decrying back then seem to have become an incurable and permanent sore feature of our national life. Given the current bizarre Devil’s Dance featuring yet another group of Gambian seniors apparently bereft of any sense of shame and motivated by nothing but their individual self-interests, I searched my archives to refresh my memory on what my sentiments were back then.
It breaks my heart to admit that the needed update to this sad picture will only serve to add to the despair among conscientious Gambian youth yearning for upright elderly exemplars. In an update, one will have to highlight the disgraceful behavior of many Gambian imams in the tragi-comedy that is today’s Gambia. Gambian Muslims are in a particularly sorry state- to put it mildly. To drive home this fact, consider this: when murderous tyrant Yaya Jammeh killed nine prisoners to satisfy his Jalang gods a couple of years ago, every single Christian priest in urban Gambia denounced the cruel crime in very strong and plain terms. Not one of them was arrested. Doubters can check with folks back home.
But the one Muslim imam who condemned the crime tangentially was arrested and held without cause for five months! More damning, almost all his fellow imams found better things to do than show their religious colleague solidarity during his captivity. What kind of Allah are Gambian imams worshipping that tells them to shy away from telling the truth? So, they’re willing to appease a loony half-baboon from Cassamance and offend the Almighty? Talk about a bunch of hypocrites mouthing Allah’s name and Arabic texts without themselves believing anything they preach! No one can serve two gods! You either fear or worship the true god or fear a charlatan like Yaya Jammeh pretending to be god. The choices are clear.
Sometimes it shames me to hear what Islam has become in Gambia today: imams turning themselves into pimps for the powers that be; celebrating people with deep pockets even when it’s obvious the pockets of those powerful ones are filled with illicit public-purse derived wealth; Alhagis and Adjas everywhere, yet the country is slowly but frighteningly becoming a Must Stop destination on the West Africa coast for all manner of deviants – from pedophiles to aging sex-starved European women to amateur porn producers. Again, anyone who doubts this should google Gambia and follow some of the discussion boards we feature in. Some comments suggest the country is something of a whorehouse. Poor dear little Gambia. With a lunatic tyrant and his pseudo religious cheerleaders, what chance does the country have?
Sorry for the little digression.
Anyhow, Gambians generally live very short lives especially the males. The average Gambian male dies in his 40s. So it would be really good and heartening to see those lucky enough to make it to sixty and beyond be good role models for the young who form the overwhelming majority of the Gambian population. Character matters! Integrity matters! Truth matters!
Gambian youth of today, more than at any other time in the history of that micro country need genuine teachers with such virtues. Sadly, one has to have such virtues to be able to teach the young. A characterless, narcissistic, or morally-bankrupt geriatric is no better than a prepubescent lad desperately eking out a living off the streets in some modern mega city. How anyone can live so long, yet defy their conscience so blatantly is itself a lesson to the rest of us to pray to avoid. May god help all young people avoid the kind of desperation or depravity that would make someone stoop so low at sixty and above!
The Gambian situation is as pathetic as it is shocking: hypocritical imams more shameless than the misguided young women they routinely attack in their mosques; fathers pimping their daughters for Ndawal or high-sounding public titles without any substance or authority; old men who don’t know a thing about being an elder, the reason we have many old men but only a few elders in the whole country; forked-tongued personalities who say Sing-Sing in private, and Leng-Leng in public on the same issue!
It’s one thing for grown men to have a sincere change of heart and behave accordingly in private. It’s quite a different thing altogether for such men to boisterously engage in shameless vomit-swallowing at our modern day Bantaba- cyberspace, while loudly claiming to have discovered an elixir to getting along with everyone and never being angry at anyone anymore. What poppycock! What hypocrisy!
Let’s set some things straight:
- Anyone who believes in everything believes in nothing.
- Anyone who isn’t angered by cross injustice and wickedness meted out to innocent and defenseless people does not have a soul worth the name.
- Anyone who’s every action or utterance is motivated purely by his or her individual self–interest is morally bankrupt;
- Anyone who gets along with everyone needs to pray for a soul for there is such a thing as evil and wicked people; and to associate with such people is to mortgage one’s soul to the devil;
The problem with Yaya Jammeh’s Gambia is not that things are bad, it’s that it keeps getting worse – consistently! So if this pathetic group of shameless opportunists want to line their pockets with money stolen from our common weal by Yaya Jammeh, let them go ahead and see how much luckier than their ilk before them were. If history is anything to go by, they’ll all be used and discarded by Yaya Jammeh when he’s done with them. I’ll suggest that they ask Njogu Bah if he still wants Yaya Jammeh to rule for 900 years.
However, for the sake of the common planet we share, let them spare us the insult on our collective intelligence. This on-going charade has nothing to do with sanitizing our toxic polity. If it were, the self-appointed peace-makers will begin their project with finding a way to cleanse the Gambian polity of its main pollutant: Yaya Jammeh! How can you cleanse a house of poison when you not only leave the poison that make it inhospitable smack in the middle of the house but also attempt to build a fortress around it? It’s Yaya Jammeh who has declared a war on Gambians by sending us into exile, or forcing us to remain in exile by making the country unlivable; and even abrogating to himself the power to determine which dead Gambian deserves to be buried among his people and who doesn’t! Notice I left out deplorable things that have now become commonplace in Gambia today: kidnapping and raping people’s wives and daughters; seizing their properties willy-nilly. Arresting and detaining citizens indefinitely. If not criticizing Yaya Jammeh would make him presidential and amenable to divergent views, he would by now be an angelic democrat because very few Gambians have actually dared to criticize Jammeh even online in the past twenty years. Yet despite us Gambians being generally meek and submissive to Yaya Jammeh, we haven’t gotten anything in return but sorrow, pain, and wickedness. I’ve heard some serious people say they believe Jammeh has mental issues. At this point, I’m incline to believe the man is the product of an incestuous relationship between an alpha baboon male and a human female. And here is why I believe this:
1. Every Gambian I know has at least one real friend who when he or she gets mad, people would plead with to talk sense to them and calm them down. It’s common to hear neighbors say “if Abdu gets upset, call his Boy X or Pa B in the neighborhood to talk to him.” And it always works! Even those with serious schizophrenia have someone that could calm them down. Yet for twenty years, we haven’t seen a single real friend of Yaya Jammeh. Every single one of the people who have been believed by Gambians to be Yaya Jammeh’s bosom friend at one time or another have ended up dead, imprisoned, or exiled. Those that doubt this can tell us the identity of another Gambian they know who behaves like Yaya Jammeh. And the man actually brags about not having a friend!
2. Except for the ostentatious borrowed clothes that he wears, there is very little about Yaya Jammeh’s behavior that would reassure anyone of his membership in the human community. On the contrary, his tendency to frequently engage in irrational viciousness without provocation, and the joy he seems to derive in inflicting horrible pain on others without remorse and his tendency to be jealous and envious of others needlessly are similar to some of the observations made by Dr. Jane Goodall in her study of big monkeys (baboons and gorillas) in central Africa. And as an FYI, baboons and gorillas raping human females isn’t so uncommon in forest regions of West and Central Africa. If you’ve never heard of this, ask around or do some research.
Until I see stronger evidence, I’ll believe this theory as much as anything else I’ve heard so far about Yaya Jammeh’s wickedness and lack of character. The one thing I’m sure of is there is very little quintessentially Gambian about Yaya Jammeh.
Anyhow, on the phony excuses being bandied about as justification for surrendering to Yaya Jammeh, Who’s fooling who here? If I can see through this, anyone with eyes for the truth or basic mental discipline can.
You see, exactly a year ago this week, I woke from a five weeks coma, that was initially medically-induced, but later morphed into the real thing. After six brain surgeries, my prognosis was very bad. I had tubes plucked into my throat, nose and stomach. Half of my skull was removed to allow the swelling in my brain to deflate. For all practical purposes, I was dead. I wasn’t even given a ten percent chance of making it. My doctors didn’t think I’ll be normal again if I survive at all. They were going by their machines which per my neuro-surgeon, was telling them that my “numbers are incompatible with life.” A year hence, I think I have survived and I’m becoming normal again because I’m doing things I used to do which they said I’ll never be able to do again. I can walk. I can talk. I can read. I can write a bit. I can help my kids with school work. I can even drink and taste my favorite drink – Malta. (For four weeks after I woke up from the coma, they won’t let me drink water because it could kill me. This is a story for another day.
My point here is: Yaya Jammeh is nothing but a criminal and a fraud! Those who are calling people to abandon their principles and the TRUTH to run to this barbaric brute call Yaya Jammeh to kiss his feet and beg for forgiveness for following their conscience in the past don’t know the power of faith and the god that grants it! I now know firsthand how only god determines a person’s fate. Trust me, I would not be alive if humans determine such things. My doctors and their machines said I was done. God decided differently. So, if for nothing else, I now know a little more about how a real god works. Because I do, I recognize a fake one when I see him. For the life of brigandage he lives, and the wanton cruelty he visits on innocent people needlessly, Yaya Jammeh’s day will surely come! I have no doubt about that. My near-death experience has only strengthened my resolve to do everything possible to help rid our country of Yaya Jammeh and his murderous regime! Yaya Jammeh is a scourge and a blight on our country’s conscience.
I’m not surprise or bothered by some of the characters parading themselves as born-again peace lovers. That, because being able to spell words like honor, integrity, shame, and character doesn’t mean one actually knows what the words stand for. Some people have no idea what these words mean in terms of behavior and comportment. This Peace Loving bullcrap is nothing but an elaborate ruse being used by these vultures to butter their bread in this horrible dispensation foisted on Gambians by vermin Yaya Jammeh. Which is precisely why they’re attacking the front liners against the Jammeh tyranny. That’s their way of upping their value to Yaya Jammeh. What a disgrace.
But I’m bothered by Mr. Falai Baldeh. I recall talking to uncle Falai, Buba Baldeh and Brother Cheriffula Diop while Falai was visiting Dakar, Senegal several years ago. The same Falai called and left me a message when a senior opposition figure came to the US last year. What Falai was saying then, and what I’m hearing now truly saddens me. A man’s word and honor ought to be worth more to him than any material or pecuniary inducements, especially where it is plain that such inducements are ill-gotten. Ankadi Mawdo! Your emigrant life is that bad? You actually think ringing bells at Walmart in dignity is lower than getting on all fours to kiss up to scumbag Yaya Jammeh? What a pity.
No amount of money, title, or other inducement is worth associating oneself with an acknowledged murderer, rapist, and kleptocrat destroying a peaceful, mainly nice, and generous people who have always been better than their earthly poor circumstances.
If anyone is in a begging mood, beg the real god, not a dirty criminal. In any sane political space, Yaya Jammeh would be the one begging Gambians for forgiveness! Why would any honorable person beg another human being for telling the truth about them? How are people with this deformed moral view raised?
Here is my original opinion from 2001:
As Gambians, we place extraordinary importance on old age. I don’t know of any people who value longevity more than we do. It signifies divine blessing to us -something almost sacred. It symbolizes wisdom, foresight, shunning of worldly things, the realization that ephemeral things are unimportant, and the whole nine yards, as some would say. Time was you could count on that trait when you bump into an old Gambian anywhere –it doesn’t matter where he hails from, or what language he speaks. For their conduct and comportment, we accord them great respect.
In return, we expect them to be truthful, righteous and shepherd-like in words and actions towards society. A sort of “noblesse oblige.” Note that I said “time was” because unless I’m misreading things, something is really amiss somewhere. The rot in Gambian society today clearly begins at the top – and I’m not just referring to politics here.
And No, I do not intend to “insult” our elders. It’s a case of feeling betrayed. Betrayed by the likes of Alh. Banta Camara, former House Speaker Wada, “IEC” Chairman Gabriel Roberts, and NCP leader Sheriff Dibba. I don’t think one need go any further than these four to unearth the anomaly in Gambian society. Let’s take a peek.
My introduction to Alh Banta Camara was through the (video) tape of the 2000 July 22nd Movement meeting with Yaya Jammeh. I was totally shocked. It was a very rude awakening to a Gambia I was simply unfamiliar with. The first thing that struck me was the man’s age –grey beard and all. Healthy looking, but clearly a man in his seventies. Men his age normally take a back seat in politics, and let the younger ones do the talking and active canvassing. But, it wasn’t his prominent role at that meeting that shocked me, it was what he was saying. In Gambian society, old people are the wheelers and dealers –the peace brokers, the advisers, the “guardians” of social justice and integrity, and the glue that hold our society together. When tempers flare, they are the ones who step in to caution restraint on both sides. When it breaks, they step in to try and fix it. They perpetually work for an amicable solution to society’s problems. Not old Banta Camara! (Alkalo of some Basse village.)
This old man was not only inciting his cohorts to violence and retribution against members of the opposition, but he was in fact querying why a number of civil servants who he had personally “reported as opposition sympathizers,” were not dismissed from their government jobs! I thought I had misheard what he said. But I didn’t. He elaborated, telling his audience and the Gambian nation through national TV what traitors and unpatriotic individuals opposition sympathizers are. To hear him speak, you’d think anyone that opposes his beloved APRC government is guilty of violating some religious edict. He’s an Ayatollah Khomeini so to speak, but with a different passion. How times have changed!
And there is the “gentle” Mr. Wada, the former Speaker of the National Assembly. Mr. Wada’s position was political –thanks to the APRC regime. Therefore in fairness to him, much as he’s expected to be impartial, it’s only human that he has a soft spot for his employers. I can’t hold that against him. But like any thing else, an elderly man like Wada does, safe guarding his honor and integrity should be of concern to him. Certain positions in the public domain require a demonstration of principled leadership. That test for Mr. Wada came when the two opposition MPs Gassama and Samura were killed in a car accident in late 2000. Mr. Wada, following protocol began making arrangements for a State Funeral, but when Yaya Jammeh heard of it, he told Wada not to even think about it –thus denying two sitting MPs what they’ve rightfully earned. But like an obedient lap dog, uncle Wada complied without a whimper! The honorable thing would have been to resign instead of being used by an unenlightened boss whose idea of multi-dimensional politics is at best antediluvian. Yaya Jammeh would have denied the two men their dues anyway, but uncle Wada need not have been a part of it. It’s another example of how elderly Gambians are failing to carry on the baton of integrity. The ball has been dropped.
And there is Mr. Gabriel Roberts. What can I say, but wonder how an old fellow like Roberts could let a little boy like Yaya Jammeh use him the way he is using him? He gave Yaya the 1996 elections after which Yaya just woke up one day and decided to fire him without cause. Roberts went completely mute. Then when Yaya felt threatened by Bishop Telewa Johnson’s independence, he fired Johnson and summoned Roberts again. Now, one would think Roberts would muster some dignity and courage, and demand a public apology for how he was treated the last time –before talking any business with Jammeh again. Fat chance! Roberts instead eagerly took up the Electoral Commission job telling himself and fools dumb enough to believe him that he’s “serving the nation.” If he is, I am a brain surgeon. Another dropped ball folks.
Then comes Sheriff Dibba. To call Dibba a disappointment would be an understatement. For twenty years, Dibba told the world how much a Gambia under his watch would fare better than under Jawara in terms of democracy and development. Dibba also led us to believe that he is a fearless warrior who would die for Gambia if needs be. And some of us swallowed it hook, line and sinker as they say. I was a true believer in Sheriff Dibba. Or maybe it was an infatuation. Even when I began to drift away from him towards PDOIS ideologically, I still had more respect for him than any other Gambian politician. I agonized with Dibba in spirit when he was wrongly arrested, detained and tried for treason in 1981. I believe then as I do now that Dibba had nothing to do with Kukoi’s coup attempt, and was persecuted for his political opinion, and it’s a shame that the PPP government did not compensate him for his illegal incarceration. But it’s precisely because of that experience that Dibba’s behavior in the past sixteen months has been so disgraceful.
First, until July of 2001, Dibba kept mute about everything that has happened to Gambians since the advent of the Jammeh clique: blatant civic rights violations, wanton murder of Gambians, uncountable arrests and detention of perceived “enemies of the State,” arrests and torture of journalists, the student massacre, so on. When Dibba finally spoke, he shattered every single impression most of us had of him. What has emerged is a bitter, arrogant, ungrateful, and completely out of touch old man.
One can forgive Dibba for being angry at the PPP for what they’ve put him through. But at some point, one has to be rational and objective. There’s no comparison between the PPP and APRC. If one would set aside personal issues, it won’t be too hard to decipher where Gambia’s interest lies. However, when the pursuit of blind personal vendetta is the objective, things simply go awry. No one pounded the PPP as hard as Dibba did, or as loudly.