As we were having our three-party meeting between the ex-chief Hajie Kule Camara, the aide of my name sake the grand marabout of Gambissara and my self, it started raining heavily. I told the ex-chief, it was great that we had this rain. The next day will be free. I also told him this rain will cleanse the nation of evil deeds and irresponsible people. It will wash away all persons and entities that have bad intentions. I also told him, I was happy President Jammeh would be entering a cleansed Jimara and URR. The chief looked surprised but just said I was right. When the ex-chief was fired, my mind went to the symbolic rain.In the morning of Wednesday June 12, the ex-chief came to our village. He told me a vehicle would come to pick me. Some of his people came but no free vehicle. My people volunteered to provide me a vehicle that will take me to the CRR-URR border, Gambissara and to Basse before I re-join the presidential convoy for the Kombos. He should just add up the fuel. Hagie Kule insisted that he arranged a vehicle for me and that he would only buy fuel for the motorbikes.
When the vehicle he claimed to have arranged failed to come, he told me to join his own vehicle and we drove to the URR-CRR border. There I met the URR Governor Omar Khan. I greeted and told him I was in the company of the ex-Jimara chief.
When the President’s convoy was approaching, all the top people in Jimara and URR lined up for the ceremonial a handshake with the President. I am also a prominent son of Jimara and URR and I should be on the line but the ex-chief said I should stand behind. My view was blocked by his district police and the paramilitary. I obeyed. My own concern was the Presidential Security. I did put on my African headgear. All the security personnel, unformed and uniformed, saw it on my head and did not tell me to remove it. No one asked me to leave.
I stood peacefully behind as President Jammeh was talking and shaking hands. His close protection soldiers passed by me but one of them disturbed me. I later ran towards chief vehicle so that we could be at Gambissara on time.
On our way past the various Jimara villages people were sitting down. Only some kids were standing. The ex-chief was discouraged. He was shouting in Fula and Mandinka out of his car that people should get up and come out as the President was coming.
When we reached my Community of Sotuma Sere, there was no need for that. I did my mobilization homework. Those who were to go to their farms took a break to welcome the presidential convoy. On the road from URR-CRR border to Gambissara there were more people out at Sotume Sere than all the other places. I called one of the local APRC people in my village and told him in Sarahulleh, “you took first!” The ex-chief did not like that!
When we passed by the junction to the ex-chief’s village of Numuyel only some school kids came out.
FED TO THE SHARKS AT GAMBISSARA
Once we reached Gambissara, the ex-chief became another person. He told me straight on my face, “stop following me! Go find your own place to seat!” I was shocked but I respected him and thus obyed just as he told me to stay away from the President’s eye sight at the URR boundary and when he sabotaged my meeting with my namesake the grand marabout of Gambissara.
As I was walking towards the shaded area, people were calling my name. It is almost 17 years since I last visited Gambissara but I was easily recognized and became an instant celebrity.
I passed by the team of ministers and APRC people who took their seats and were waiting for the President. I waved them but the ministers were frowning like pampered kids forced into the tour against their will.
I decided to go behind them were the atmosphere was livelier. I met tour delegates who had breakfast with me at Farafenni. All of a sudden, an NIA (National Intelligence Agency) official came and spoil our fun. He told us to keep the place free. He recognized my face and called my name “SANKANU!” I explained myself that I was in the company of the ex-Jimara chief Hagie Kule Camara. The URR Governor is also aware. The ex-chief said I should look for a place on my own. The NIA officer then told me to look for another place.
While obeying, I met the Sarahulleh man who would do the interpretation; I told him I was supposed to speak for my community and the Sarahulleh youths. My speech would be dotted with quotations from the Quran. I wanted to prepare him for that. He said no problem; I should not stand far away so that when I am called, I can be near the microphones on time.
I stood near some urban APRC women leaders who recognized me from our last Kanilai meeting. We exchanged pleasantries and I told them, should the Chief of Protocol not put be in a dedicated vehicle from Basse through the rest of tour, I will join their vehicle so they should reserve a place.
Again, the NIA man came to trouble me. He said I should take him to the ex- Jimara chief. I followed him. People were looking at me like a superstar being escorted by security. On the way I met that APRC man who refused to put me in vehicle from Barra against the advice of a State House official. He was surprised to see me at Gambiassara though. I just greeted him but he frowned. We met the ex-chief and he refused to be clear. He told the NIA, that I am an International Journalist here to cover the tour. He refused to say that I was there to also speak for my community. He did not give the clear information to the NIA to help me get a good place. When NIA asked if should speak, he did not come straight. He said my name is on big paper for the speakers.
The NIA guy told me to follow him to a quite area. Another NIA officer saw us. He wanted to join us but once he recognized my face, he called me “SANKANU” and told the other guy in Mandinka, to go with me. He disappeared. At the quite area, NIA started questioning me. No one gave him the order to do that. He wanted to know that how I was there to cover the tour. I shook my head in disbelief. Even if I am out to cover the tour for the media, the government should celebrate. There is nothing criminal or illegal about out. I told the NIA, my primary objective at Gambiassara was to speak for my marginalized community of Sotuma Sere and the Sarahulleh Youths who made me Ambassador. Covering the tour is secondary. I would write a commentary on it later. The NIA officer then left me saying he would come back.
I tried to get good standing position but no chance. I found myself in the midst of madrassa students some of whom recognized me and were calling my name. All of sudden, the ex-chief passed by. I shouted to stop him. I told him that I was in a very bad location and he should do something. When my turn to speak comes, I wont make it from the place I found myself. He declined to help.
A little while later, President Jammeh arrived. As he was passing by the madrassa kid, they rushed to greet him and the presidential security guys were sweating to let some through to shake the President’s had. I was pushed along till I fall towards the front. A soldier sho saw me falling grabbed me. I told him I was pushed. He should help meget my mobile phone and spectacles. The soldier said he could not and he handed me over to the paramilitary (Police Intervention Unit) guys. I was then left a lone. As the commotion subsided, I looked around but could not see my phone and eyeshade but I recovered my African headgear and stuffed it into my pocket.
ARREST HIM, HE IS A CRAYZ MAN!
As I was taking my position and cleaning my clothes, I heard some one shouting arrest him….. A team of paramilitary officers then fell over me and started abusing me verbally. They have a bad record in URR as they killed human being in Numuyel extra-judicially. I told them there was misunderstanding. I am a responsible citizen. I was selected by my community to speak at Gambissara. The paramilitary said I should keep quite. I did not. When they said A, I said B. I was not afraid. I was arrested together an ustass from the madrassa for no reason. The ustass was full of fear and he was begging me to calm down. I told him, I have not done anything wrong. One parliamentary officer started searching me. I told him, he was wasting his time as he would never find anything incriminating on me. He told me to keep quite and I refused. He later pushed into to their vehicle. He wanted to close the door to make it a temporal prison cell without court order. I protested that it was too hot and very inhuman to lock me up in a vehicle that was not moving. I put my leg before the door to keep it open. Realizing that they would have to beat me or break my legs to close the door, another paramilitary officer told me he would not close the door. I did not trust him and kept my leg were it was. I requested him to contact the URR Governor and the ex-Jemara chief. He left. I started dehydrating due to the heat and the fact that I was just recovering from illness.
Later two police men came to take me from the paramilitary. They told he they got instruction to take me along. The officers were surprised. They called their senior that there were told arrest a crazy man but there was no crazy person atround. When the officers were told I Prince Bubacarr Aminata Sankanu was supposed to be the crazy person, their moods changed. The transferred me into a police vehicle. I told them my folder was inside the vehicle of the ex Jimara chief and they should help me get it. I have powerful documents in there to set me free.
They calmed me and told me to just follow them. As my villagers and APRC members were arriving at Gambissara, I shouted for them. I told them in Sarahulleh “we have been betrayed.” All the people from my Sotuma Sere community who came to Gambissara quickly gathered at one place and returned to the village immediately.
As the police vehicle drive, we passed by the new wife of the ex-chief who served me dinner before. She was surprised to see me in a vehicle. I told her in Sarahulleh, “I am arrested for no reason” and she should tell her husband. She later told my people she could not reach her husband that day.
AT BAKADAJI WITH RESPECT
Once we reached the Bakadji Police Station, the senior officer to his colleague to book our arrival. I was called to confirm my names. My diary and German passport were seized.
I sat with the police men and women under a mango tree opposite the police station. They invited me for lunch. It was very balanced and well-cooked but I had no appetite. Later we sat and they served attaya. I also gave money for more attaya. They told me they bought more already but I told them keep the money I contributed for later.
The police offciers were laughing when they were told that I am was crazy. They said if I were mad, not one can see it. They have been detaining all kinds of people and they have the street credibility to say who is mentally sound or sick.
When my community members came to visit me, the first thing I told them was that the order to arrest and detain me DID NOT come from President Jammeh. No one should blame it. They should still come out in full force when the President would be returning to the Kombos on Friday. They also connected me to my mother and I calmed her through the phone.
All of a sudden the news of my detention reached the four corners of the world. Concerned family members relatives, fans and colleagues were calling me from the numbers of the people who visited me.
Later that same day, A CID (Criminal Investigation Department) officer came to interview me. I explained everything and told him why the people were very angry.
At night, Freedom Newspaper Editor MBai called me through the phone of someone who came to visit me and he interviewed me. He got the interview of the decade!
The police served me dinner and brewed more attaya. I was relaxing on the platform or bantaba with the police chief. Before bedtime, he called his senior to know my fate but he said he got no orders to release me so I had to spend the night with them.
Later my people came again and our Jimara NAM Habibou Jawo also came to visit me. He regretted the unfortunate incident. I thanked NAM for taking time to visit me even though he could not do much. I was surprised that the ex chief refused to come and visit me. He asked to be connected via phone to the police station chief. He said I could be released when President Jammeh leaves URR because the order to detain me came from above. My people went home with that message.
They later told me the chief was not straight forward. He would tell his confidents and friends “that young man was to be arrested, I will tell you more later.” When my people confronted him, he would say my detention was authorized from within the presidential inner circle.
But the next day, after lunch, we were brewing attaya and all of a sudden a phone call came in that I should be released immediately. The police returned my German passport and diary without delay. They wanted to give me fare to my village but I told them I go some cash with me to cover the trip.
A BREAK FROM THE TOUR …CRAZINESS IS NO CRIME, AFTER ALL!
After my movie-like experience, I decided to voluntarily withdraw from the tour to relax at my pollution-free village of Sotuma Sere.
I also took time to address key issues with my community and the surrounding ones of Jimara. Everybody is hoping that since President Jammeh is a listening president, I will be given the chance to deliver the important message I could not at Gambissara. I found myself doing political damage control.
When I posted on face book social media that I planned to rejoin the dialogue with the peoples tour, my critics questioned it. I said I joined the tour to analyze it in a balance commentary and to also deliver a message on behalf of my community and the youths who made me ambassador. I should therefore conclude the tour if not in Serekunda then at Banjul when am included in the updated delegates list. I do not look like a coward who easily gives up. They said I am certainly not a coward but may be crazy.
I am super smart, super intelligent and too brave for most people hence I am often labeled crazy. All the great thinkers and innovators of human development from Leonardo Da Vince, Mahtma Gandi, Martin Lurther King Junior, Wole Soyinka, Albert Einstein, Kwame Nrumah, Sering Bamba, Titina Sylla, Steve Jobs, you count the rest, were at different stages of their respective lives insulted as crazy. I therefore feel honoured for being induced into the same hall of fame for intellectual craziness.
I made history as the first Gambian public intellectual to be arrested and detained for supposed craziness! Even I were truly crazy according to standard mental health definition, there is no section of The Gambian penal code that makes craziness a punishable crime. Don’t laugh!
Since my access to President Jammeh have been repeated blocked without the knowledge or order of the President, I maintained my discipline and avoided forcing myself onto the Presidential inner circle. This is why during the Presidential dialogue with the people tour I chose to be near the advance party.
But from the little I could observe, I can say President Jammeh is a listening President and a Servant Leader. He takes the problems of the common people, especially the farmers personally. The problem lies in the implementation deficit.
Some Government officials spend most of their time fighting each other through marabouts rather than performing their duties. At the end of the day, the blame for government or project failure would go to Presdient Jammeh. At times it is understandable when he starts firing people left and right. The fired officers who perform well and were innocent get public sympathy and a second chance. The ones who abuse their offices, get no public support.
The interpretation I gave to the heavy rains of June 11 as water for cleansing and purifying the nation is indeed proving right. Heads are rolling out of the various public offices and the monitored reactions from the public are those of relief and joy. Before when President Jammeh starts firing people, he got the blame but now what I gathered is that sacked officials often “deserve what they get due to their arrogance and gross abuse of office when they are enjoying.” The tax budrden is also making the public less sympathetic and most people would tell me their taxes are being wasted by public officials through expensive vehicles travel allowances, unnecessary conference tourism, lethargy, nepotism and leisure.
As I endorse President Jammeh and his Government out of principles and the quest for a reasonable state, I share the moral responsibilities for the successes and failures of the Jammeh Government. Though I am being blocked on all angels-my film project and assistance request, my GRTS interview and TV programme proposals, my audience request with the President, official participation request for the dialogue with the people tour and unauthorized harassment by plain clothed NIAs and the like – I feel justified that I am here to do the right thing and contribute my quota towards national development.
I have been encouraged not to give up and I will not. Even if should travel out of the country, “I will be back” to quote Arnold Schwarzegger. Nothing good comes easily. When Youssou Ndour wanted to set up his own TV station in Senegal, he faced blockade, character assassination, lies, envy, ridicule, insults and frustrations but he prevailed. Those who used their offices or societal influences to waste his time have long lost their relevance in Senegalese national decision making process. Who am I to expect an easy ride in a Gambia were destruction of talent is common sports? For sure I have alternatives worldwide and I can afford to lead the life of a global trotting modern nomad for the rest of my lifetime without setting foot into the Gambia but The Gambia is my home of origin too and I have the god-dammed right to participate actively in the development of the country. Those who don’t like it should just fight to have my Gambian citizenship nullified.
I am a living testimony and an unofficial ambassador of President Jammeh magnanimity. Contrary to claims, I have been jetting in and out of the Gambia without official order to arrest, prosecute, kill, torture or humiliate me. Those NIAs and other security people harassing me are acting without order from President Jammeh. The civilian officials blocking me are acting out of envy and sheer malice.
Anyway, the swift, viral, synchronized and heated global reactions to my arrest and detention have once again confirm that I am still relevant. They have proven once more that the world is indeed closely watching and feeling The Gambian temperature with public intellectuals and social critics like me serving as living barometres.
I am signing off by dedicating my movie-like experience and this commentary to all my fans and sympathizers at home and abroad and to President Jammeh. It was through his Presidential Dialogue With The People’s Tour that I got this enviable adventure that my grandchildren will enjoy hearing.
PRINCE BUBACARR AMINATA SANKANU, “THE GAMBIA’S BRAIN”
THE PRINCE OF SANKANURA-KAGORTA
TEL/ SMS +2209353430 or 6774620 (reactivation of the second lost number in progress)
SOTUMA SERE VILLAGE,360 KM FROM BANJUL, IN JIMARA, URR
Forgive the typos