THE UGLY SIDE OF MY GAMBIAN VISIT: A ROBBER SNATCHED MY WALLET WITH CASH, CREDIT CARD & CO.
By Prince Bubacarr Aminata Sankanu, currently in The Gambia
History never ends and I am here again writing on my Gambian visit. Actually Friday November 07, 2012 started very well. I was excited that I would be clocking 30 days in The Gambia during the weekend without facing serious problems be it personal, social or national.
I got my official recognition as bona fide film producer from the National Center for Arts and Culture, the statutory institution responsible for the preservation, development and promotion of Gambian arts and culture, filmmaking inclusive. I thanked the officials before leaving for other appointments.
On my way from a meeting with the theatre group of the Youth Ambassadors for Peace opposite the National Environment Agency (NEA) in Kanifing as part of my ongoing informal interactive sessions with creative talents in the country, I decided to make another experience by joining a bus towards the Coastal Road area for dinner. Yes am being pampered with various dinner invitations. The bus was filled beyond capacity as the apprentices squeezed in as many passengers as possible. I was lucky to get a seat as I boarded in Kanifing when it was nearly empty. It was a unique experience. The last time I joined a bus in The Gambia was when the Gambia Public Transport Corporation (GPTC) was alive and doing well.
As I learned more about the Gambia from the common travelling men and women, I was shocked about the high rate of petty thefts and crimes being meted on unsuspecting passengers. Some bad people join the buses and commercial vans not to commute but to rob unsuspecting passengers who would be distracted by either phone calls, payment of fares, family issues or destination worries.
Friday December 07 turned out to be field day for pick-pockets and petty thieves. A lady got out of the bus and wanted to use her mobile phone but it was gone. She quickly jumped back into the vehicle and requested people to call her number to help locate the phone. Interestingly the mobile phone ranged inside the pocket of a guy who was all the time gluing himself onto the bus door. He tried to give an excuse that the picked the phone on the ground but no one believed him. He was forced to handover the lady’s phone. Though people were angry they let him go without resorting to mob justice as in other African countries where he could have been beaten to death before someone thinks of calling the police. Gambians are indeed peace-loving.
As the buses proceeds, I started hearing harrowing stories how people get robbed in in commercial vehicles round the clock. I wonder why people are taking it in good faith without requesting the authorities to do something about this silent injustice on commuters.
Little did I realize that I would become a victim of theft that same night. I had a dinner in the neighborhood around the Coastal Road. On my way back home I boarded a commercial minivan towards Serrekunda with the plan to alight at Latrikunda Sabiji or Tallinding. When the apprentice asked for the fares, I took out my wallet, removed a 25 Dalasi note and placed the wallet on top of the folder on my laps. As I was concentrating with the apprentice, a co-passenger snatched the wallet and quickly shouted “driver mayima fi, mayima fi.” I adjusted myself to give him leg space to step out of the van. As the van drove off, the distracted apprentice closed the door and then gave me my change. I wanted to put the change back into my wallet and it was nowhere to be found. I told the driver about it. He stopped the van immediately and put on the interior lights of the van but we found nothing on the entire floor and corners of the vehicle. The guy who rushed out took it. It was late to locate him as he disappeared into the darkness of the side streets. The apprentice revealed that guy to him he was originally going up to Serrekunda but his suspicious change of mind to drop off in the middle of his journey meant he did something illegal.
It was the first time I felt sad since arriving in The Gambia on November 09, 2012. I did not feel the loss of my German ID card that much as the German Consulate assured me that I will get a replacement when I am back there. It was also a normal loss in a taxi but this case with the wallet was robbery. The theft of sensitive smart cards would naturally affect my mood. I had to call the banks in Germany to block all card and online banking functions of my accounts with immediate effect and this will have serious effects on the financial aspects of my working visit in The Gambia as I do not want to be a burden on people. Some of the people I could approach for refundable tentative bailout to cover the waiting period for new bank cards could blackmail or scandalize my name in due course. You know our society’s affinity for character assassination and idle gossip.
I was however impressed when my mother and other immediate family members called me to say that they felt something was wrong with me and could not wait to call. I told them yes my mood with morale is low following a shocking theft case last Friday evening. They tried to cheer me up and prayed for me. They said I should return to Germany quick as I am wasting my time in the country. My “patriotism, patience and sacrifice will neither be appreciated nor reciprocated. For many people would see” me “as a threat rather than a productive human asset out to play a part in national development.” I told them, though I planned and budgeted for just 12 working days, the realities on the grown blew it up to 30 plus days with huge expenses. I would need to wait till my next planned departure date to asses whether my working visit is failure or a success. Rushing back to Germany on impulse would be a waste. I have lost a lot already.
Besides, I overstayed the 21 days the immigration officers stamped on my passport at the airport and I am now staying “illegally” in The Gambia, my country of birth; funny indeed. The only Gambian document I have is my birth certificate and I never renounced my Gambian citizenship though. The other day I passed by the Bundung Police Station to get advice from the immigration officers there. They said I have to pay for an extension since am travelling on my German passport if not I could face problems during departure at either the Banjul International Airport or any of the various land border posts. I promised to come back and settle the matter. For now I can’t as the credit card I can use to withdraw money and pay for the official extension and removal of “illegal” residency status is in the hands of a thief.
The main contents of my snatched wallet I can vividly remember include:
a) Branded credit card of Master Card
b) German social insurance certificate
c) German/EU medical insurance card. Just hope I would not fall ill while in the Gambia.
d) Western Union gold card
e) Bank card of the Sparkasse KoelnBonn Bank, Germany
f) Membership card of the German Pirate Party
g) Alumni ID Card from my former film school in Cologne, Germany
h) Authenticity card for my eyeshades (spectacles)
i) Various business cards
j) Cash in Gambian Dalasis. I did not count the exact amount.
k) Various folded papers with notes, phone numbers or personal messages.
The person can please keep all the cash he found in my wallet as I would consider it charity for it was stolen on a Friday. He should just be considerate by returning at least the credit card. I need it to withdraw money from Gambian ATMs and pay for the inevitable local expenses of my film project and personal maintenance for this working visit. Otherwise I will have to suspend everything and stay home till my flight date back to Germany when a relative could drive me to the airport.
If the thief is afraid of going to the nearest police station, he can drop the wallet and all its non-cash contents at the Gamtel/Gamcel tele-centre near the Latrikunda Sabiji market. He can tell the staff to kindly call my number 6774620 so I can collect it. I use the telephone booths there for my intensive fixed international calls as I am yet to have my own office with fixed lines.
That said, am grateful to all those who reaffirm their assurances by telling that they will NOT judge me by what some losers, liars and jealous folks spread about me on line and offline but by my real personality, intellect, exuberance, talent, productivity and compassionate heart. THANK YOU.
Those who are jealous of my entry into our homeland of The Gambia and wishing to see me in trouble in the hands of the Jammeh System will fail. I am progressing despite the challenges. I understand my “Foroyaa.gm” interview, which one of many I had since landing, has been syndicated by “Allafrica.com” and other global media outlets. I am getting the requisite global exposure despite the hate tirades against me.
Le them talk. I know my disciplinary commentary titled “Regime Change Without Attitudinal Change In The Gambia Is Meaningless” is still burning the asses of some of my detractors in the anti-Jammeh camp like hell-fire so they are desperately trying to drag my names through the mud and they will not rest. I demystified and blew the charm off their egocentric agenda of usurping the Yahya AJJ Jammeh government through the violent means of spilling the blood of innocent Gambians.
They also hate my beautiful names “Prince Bubacarr Aminata Sankanu”. Even if they spend the rest of their lives on negative campaigns against me, I will not change them. I do not need their blessings to take pride in my Noble Heritage. I do NOT also need the prior anointment of any human being to add Prince to my names and I made it a zillion times clear that people are free to call me whatever they are comfortable with as I am not a titles-addict. But the frustrated detractors like biting on it just to attract cheap attention. I am grateful that the German authorities approved and recognized the names “Prince Bubacarr Aminata Sankanu” for ALL my official documents. This is enough for me. Germany is not a banana republic and its documents carry global weight. I am equally grateful that the Secretary General, Office of the Gambian President, also used “…Prince Bubacarr Aminata Sankanu” in his letter referenced OP 353/457/01/TEMP/ (56) sent to me. Do I need more endorsements for my nice names? NO!
My intentions for our country are peaceful, productive, genuine, responsible and serious and I have nothing to fear or lose. I vowed to contribute my quota towards the development of our own world standard Gambian film industry. Now that I am keeping my vow and proving to be a MAN OF MY WORDS, I am shocked to know that even some of the people who were once encouraging me when I was in Germany are now joining the jealous detractors to bash me and try to raise unnecessary suspicion in the minds of the Gambia decision makers and above, all SABOTAGE ME. They thought am an empty barrel that would just be making noise like them but would not have the courage to come and implement my patriotic vow. Chei Adunna! This back-stabbing is for me is the real ugly side of my Gambian visit. The slow decision making process, the lack of respect for time and work ethics and, the theft of my high-valued wallet are harmless in comparison.
Prince Bubacarr Aminata Sankanu
Currently in The Gambia