By: Kalipha Jabbi
I don’t know if it is actually me outgrowing my numbers or everyone else but twelve months seem to be just a week for me because of how quickly it goes and come. Like the Battle of Bureng was just yesterday. The eve of year 2023; figuratively, was just yesterday. It was the night Muhammed Y Darboe and Buba Positive Gaye went head to head in a battle that could go at par with Muhammed Ali and George Foreman’s Rumble in the Jungle. Two great warriors at war with no ordinary guns. The only thing they had in their arsenal were piles of words while I was to be the usual arbiter. To Buba, I will always be partial anytime he goes to war with Darboe but not this case. I knew who the winner was but after twelve months, I do not know if my verdict will ever matter. If it were years back, when twelve months was actually a determinant for a year, I would have said it won’t stand the test of time. But now, twelve months just blink and vanish like a weekend.
Talking about each year coming with a growth, I used to be that curious kid, growing up. I would read everything that I could lay my hands. I would read every advertisement boards I pass by, flyers of event calendars, and old magazines used for wrapping loaves of bread. This was when I could even barely pronounce some words. Those were the days that I would do everything to memorise the words of the famous Dr. Old on Daily Observer, the controversies of a young Saikou Jammeh in his Kisi Kisi Mansa, Lamin Cham and Nanama Keita’s sports file and the Horomsi. Nothing that intrigued me to read everything I could at that age more than, the search for information. Despite being in a rural village, I had a rare opportunity to newspapers, courtesy of my stepfather who had returned home after many years as a retired civil servant. He was at the time of my early years, working as a manager at Janjang Bureh Camp. He would have daily delivery of his newspapers, even though, each newspaper would arrive days after its production. The timeline of the news articles never mattered to me. As long as I would have something to read, new words to add to my dictionary and the unending questions about everything I read on these papers. I can’t imagine myself answering all those questions for anyone at this age. Because the newspapers were coming from the Kombos, I thought he knew everything . I tried to create a picture of how Kombo might look. The place that I can still vividly remember with those mental pictures , is the crime scene of assassinated Gambian journalist, Deyda Hydara. My brother( Alaako) was also someone that I would bother with too many questions. They were my dictionaries as well. My curiosity at that time, was all about the need to know.
Over the years, my curiosity has taken a paradigm shift. I don’t read for information. I read only to become petty . When I didn’t even understand the meaning of certain words, I would read and understand. Now I can read a whole news article and can’t digest it. As I become aware of the usage and deep meaning of words, my curiosity takes me to how they should follow each other and which tense should they be written. The manner in which a news article is written matters to me more than why it is written. I become so much concern as to why letter I in certain sentences should have a dot on top and why the dot should be omitted in others. I look out for nothing in any write-up now, except grammatical issues. It is either word misplacements, wrong spellings, punctuations or subject verb agreements. My zeal to read takes another dimension. I become more concerned as to why and where do writers use “advise” instead of “advice”, “everyday” instead of “every day”, “it’s” and “its”, and many of such.
Because our UTG WhatsApp pages are always littered with all kinds of writings, I become pettier with every reading from students in our beloved school. At that level, we have different lexicon. Our every leader is a leader “per excellence” while the rest of the world has leaders “par excellence”. We don’t only give words a different meaning but worn them out in our everyday usage. I am sorry, “every day” as of our UTG argot. The pettiness take me to another level when I become so much particular about even WhatsApp captions than the pictures they carry. Post a bride and a bridegroom and my focus is what’s written; “Couples” or “Couple”. I become so meticulous in the usage of words and their placements, even though myself commit lots of such errors in my various writings. By the way, I belong to the School of thought that believe in Prescriptive Grammar. I do not follow or worship these grammar rules. Yet, two words I can’t help myself to use are, literally and shambles. These words have been abused and mutilated in the Gambia.
The other set of words that have been wrongly use even outside UTG is “Mentor” and “Mentee.” I don’t know how my good friend, Ebrima Boye came to use the former as his pen name but that word has its usage in Gambia being completely devalued. Sanaba just edited only of my poems and he claims to be my mentor. Karamo only spoke in a school during the EDUSA Nationwide Tour and he made mentees there. By the way, he never misses the chances to introduce those kids to me as his mentees. In Gambia, someone that you have never met can be your mentor because you like them. To me, we confuse inspiration and role model with mentors.
Growth sometimes comes with change of conviction. Not my views but from the works of psychologists. If that’s actually true, why can’t I change my pessimistic views about the Gambia. I have never for a second believe that the Gambia will one day rise from the ruins. I have for ever seen us as a failed state and nothing is changing that with age. The future is not only raped but we build a corrupt youthful mind-set with the Youth Minister of the kind we have as the face of this system. Most of the countries are depending on their youth for future developments but in Gambia, it is the opposite. The inconsistency of a mainstream Gambian youth is just sickened. Young politicians keep on jumping from one political party to another in pursuit of their selfish interests and we call that, freedom of association. Nobody wants to have a girlfriend or boyfriend that keeps on jumping from one relationship to another. We all have that friend we call ungrateful because of the manner they dumped us for our enemies after all sacrifices we have made for them. We despise them for their chameleon behaviours. If politics is all but only about individual interests, then why do we go to polls to elect someone when we can all go for our individual interests. Politics in Gambia is use as a scapegoat for all the sh*t. Scapegoating of politics as an entity for one to attain your personal interest is one of the reasons this country will never grow. A young vibrant politician who was once, viewed as the voice of the underprivileged masses decided to join a government that has neglected every spheres of development. He betrayed the voices of the common people. The old village women who had slaughtered countless number of goats in his name. A political movement that picked him from the ruins when everyone rejected him to make him a voice to reckon with in Gambian politics. The youngsters that had hope, he would be the commando to lead them to the war zone in usurping a dead regime. It became a national shock but for only those that cared about national development. Nothing is more insulting than celebrating this because it is perceived that his departure will weakening a certain political party. As long as Gambians continue to celebrate the downfall of opposition political parties in expense of the need for collective voice to effect changes, we will continue to suffer.
For the last eleven months, I have been so petty even if I learn to live by the famous Jose Mourinho catchphrase, but in late December I couldn’t be sparred. Someone who only attended one session of the TAF Leadership Academy graduating with the caption, “After twelve months of intensive training, I am now a full graduate of….” I can’t help but remain as usual because if I talk, I will be in big trouble.
For the countless breaths I have made from January to December, I say Glory Be To Him. See you in 2024.
Kalipha Jabbi is a social commentator, prolific poet and a literary critic.