Saul Saidykhan

On February 9th, 2018 I called an older brother in the morning to check on him only to learn he was taken to the hospital overnight and admitted. I immediately cancelled my other engagements, and crab-walked to the Kotu makeshift cab stand to get a ride to the former RVH. I was informed I’ll find him in the Private Ward. Now if you live in Gambia, the Private Ward at the RVH is seen as the best place to be in terms of quality healthcare in the public sector. However, if you’ve seen modern healthcare facilities elsewhere, you quickly realize the RVH Private Ward is grossly overrated. The look, smell, and feel of the place is way below modern standards. A Payment policy per day by “Order” pasted on the wall at the Reception window puts the unit outside the affordability range of most Gambians, though the fees are very reasonable by international standards. The problem is the overall quality of care. The Barrow administration should DECLARE an emergency in the health sector. But this is another topic for another day.

Anyhow, after about five hours at the Ward, I stepped out with another older brother who stopped by to talk. Through the windows, we could see the stairs leading to the second floor, and within five minutes, I saw a short lady with a handbag, and a black head tie followed by two young men climbing the stairs. As soon as she stepped on the landing, I recognized her, and as I turned to my Koto saying, “isn’t that Bensouda, the Tiger Lady,” she stepped onto the hallway and called out his name in greetings as they approached us. It turns out the two young men are her sons (the mayoral candidate wasn’t one of them.)

“So, you know her?” I asked my big brother. Of course, he does, and he quickly introduced us. She had come to see the same person as I.

“Good to meet you Tiger Lady. I’m your biggest fan!” I said as I extended my hand. “Tiger Lady? What is that?“ she said cracking up. She finds the title funny I suppose. But she’s the Gambia’s Tiger Lady as far as I’m concern. God knows I LOVE Amie Bensouda! And here is why:

First, in today’s Gambia, one of the Known Unsayable is the shameful attitude of us middle-age men and our obsession with light-skin women. We tell our women in subtle ways that they’re not beautiful or pretty enough unless they are fair in complexion. Of course, no one ever says this openly or wants to admit. But you know in your heart, this is the truth. Consequently, our women engage in this dangerous behavior of putting poisonous chemicals on their skin to make themselves attractive enough for us. Skin-bleaching chemicals are as bad for the skin as cigarette smoking is for the lungs. This is a scientific fact, and we all see the consequences. During my stay, I bumped into a woman I’ve known from the late 70s when she used to bleach her skin. In my juvenile mind, I used to think she looked good. However, when I met this same woman last month, I had to avert my eyes from her face because of how she looks now. Her face and hands look so disfigured I couldn’t bear to look at her. It totally ruined my day.

Well, a couple of days later, a schoolmate picked me up and took me home to meet his family. I lost my appetite as soon as I saw the madam with her yellow tomato face. On the way back, I couldn’t keep quiet.

“Why are you making your wife ruin her beauty with dangerous chemicals that could give her cancer?” I asked facing my friend.

“Boy – you starting your thing again. Who told you I’m the one who’s making her bleach her skin. Do you know how many times I told her to stop?” he replied.

“Really? That’s the best you can come up with? Why DO YOU think she’s bleaching her skin?” I asked.

Here is the background: on that ten miles journey, he stopped thrice. Once to introduce me to a “friend” half our age, once to tell a buxom young woman who waved at him on the road where we’re headed and to wait for next time, and third to wag his finger at another young woman for “what she’s done” to him. And the one thing ALL three have in common is they’re artificially light-skinned!

So I chuckled shaking my head. Just because I had brain surgery some years ago doesn’t mean I’m brain dead. I can still pick up some things I told him. Then I reminded him of the three notable stops he made on our way to his place and for what type of women. There are very few secrets in Gambia. The very belief that you can tango with several side-kicks in small urban Gambia secretly for long without your spouse’s knowledge is at best delusional. Long story short, I told him that by his action, he’s telling his wife that he prefers light-skin women. So the poor woman tries to imitate the look of those keeping her husband from going home or staying home by applying chemicals on her skin like they do. And no woman will listen to her man when she knows he’s a hypocrite. Don’t say this around some Gambians because you’ll be attacked, but this is what is in fashion in Gambia. It takes an extraordinarily strong woman to refrain from this shameful Heasal phenomenon. Amie Bensouda stands out because very few high-profile Gambian women are at peace with their natural look. Many not only see Heasal as a status symbol, it’s their way of announcing their good times: when they have a little bit of money, they look Toubab, when they’re broke, their skin reverses to its natural color. Don’t take my word for it, just go to Facebook. We should all be glad we mostly have dumb thieves in Gambia. Why? Because a smart thief will know who to target just by following Gambian women on Facebook. Each time, some get a new Toubab look, they’ll quickly take a picture and post on Facebook. Connecting the dots is easy. Anyhow, thank god we have women like Amie Bensouda to model our daughters after!

Second, Amie Bensouda’s competence is beyond dispute. Even those who hate her guts (I heard someone disparaging her while I was buying Phone Credits one day near Senegambia hotel,) can only complain about how thorough she is doing her job. ”That woman embarrasses people too much. She should relax so we can move on and reconcile.” I couldn’t resist laughing out loud! I just turned and slowly stumbled out after I confirmed my purchase. One needs a sense of humor to remain sane in our crazy little country.

Third, Amie Bensouda has grit. Who can forget the seating during which an incompetent, but arrogant lawyer tried to bully her into backing off because she was roasting the conflicted lawyer’s client on the coals? Very calmly, she made her know she’ll NOT be intimidated. That is an attitude we sorely need in the Gambia. Her combination of brains, modesty, and grit is the type of quality we need to get out of the mess we’re in. She deserves to be elevated to a more powerful role. If it means sending the brother to the diplomatic service to avoid conflict of interest or similar perceptions, so be it. It’s very easy to replace Habib Drammeh. On the contrary, Amie is the proverbial needle in the haystack. This is my recommendation to Barrow.

Too many of us Gambian professionals are too compromised or corrupt to effect the change our people deserve. But when you see the real deal, you know it. It’s refreshing to have a stand-out like Amie Bensouda. God bless my Tiger Lady!

Courtesy of www.mantankara.com

Ends

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