Alagi Saidy-Barrow: “I Come From A Good Family”

Alagie Saidy-Barrow

In this colonial space we call Gambia, “everyone” comes from a “good” family. There are no “bad” people in The Gambia if you ask us because we all come from “good” families.

Often, you hear people bragging about their family lineage (it’s mostly only the paternal side since “most” of is only identify through our fathers) and how honorable their ancestors or parents are/were. “I am the grandson of so and so or the granddaughter of so and so.” ” “My grandmother was so and so.” “My ancestors did this great thing and that wonderful thing.”

I am yet to meet anyone who thinks they come from a terrible lineage or from a family that is not somehow “good” or even “great.” I would hazard to say that even Jean-Marie Loret (alleged to be Hitler’s son) thought his father was great even if he dared not say it aloud.

Wasn’t it recently that we were feted to a Senegalese man who said he comes from a family of thieves and was very proud of his lineage. He insists the “authorities” should open a training school for thieves because stealing is a trade.

While some of us found the man humorous, many were disgusted by his admission even if we don’t hate thieving and corruption as much as we pretend to do. You would think we don’t live in a thieving society but I digress.

Sometimes, to express themselves, people even go to the extent of exclaiming “Man dormi diw sangam”, or “Nteh Karri dingno”, as in, “I have to maintain the honor of my forebears through how I act”.

This is all well and good. We are supposed to emulate good values such as honor, integrity, honesty, respect, kindness etc, from our parents. But learning these values from our parents does not mean that because your father or mother had certain values, you automatically inherit those values.

I am not aware of any DNA strand that represents honesty or integrity or hard work or respect that is passed down from a mother or father to their offsprings. Some of the laziest men and women sitting in government offices today have the hardest working parents. But some of the most “religious” families also have the most spineless, opportunistic, corrupt and biggest hypocrites within their ranks as family members. And these cowards and hypocrites will quote the Quran at every giving moment.

Being from a religious family does not make you a saint; and claiming royal ancestry does not make you any more special than the son of a thief especially when you survive on the backs of people you claim to be serving.

The old adage goes that “the apple does not fall far from the tree”; but if the tree is on Mount Kiutu, that apple rolls down to the very bottom of Kiutu and very far away from the tree. So we can agree that “the apple does not fall far from the tree” is conditional. No one gets a ticket to heaven simply because your father or mother got one. You have to work for yours too.

Your parents may leave you with wealth and properties and whatnot, but the values they exhibited/lived in their lifetime must be something you learn, internalize and exhibit.

So, for some of us Gambians to claim some unearned status just because we come from some prominent family, or because our forebears are scholars, does not hold any water.

The greatness of your foremothers and forefathers does not necessarily transfer to you just because you carry their name. You must earn yours. For all we know, your father or mother may have been the proverbial apple high atop Mount Meru and you ended up in the gutters of Arusha as flotsam and jetsam!

I am not saying no one should brag about their ancestors and their bravery or greatness or what have you; hell if saying how great your father or grandfather was tickles your fancy, then by all means knock yourself out. Personally, I would rather you stand on your own merit and not what others achieved but to each his own.

I prefer that you showcase the values you profess in your parents rather than yap on about how your ancestors were honorable and so you deserve some freaking Kebba-Dampha candy from Badibu. I prefer that you pave your own path rather than expect automatic tickets of acceptance just because your grandpa was so and so.

In this colonial space within which we call each other Senegalese and Gambians just because some abusive Europeans told us that is who we are, it is often assumed that because one’s family is prominent, that individual is to be revered in some way! Kon mu yormbah di!

Having said that, for all the Badibunkas, when I become parliamentarian and get free land and start living large on your backs as many are angling to do, or I become imam in Su as a religious hustler of sorts, you can all go to King Kaif for Hajj and all you have to say is: We are the great sons and daughters of the erudite Imam Mmajiki Numoll la Juffengba Saidy-Barrow Mannassi!

They may just give you a place in the front row! Just don’t ask me for your money back if they refuse you entrance even after you mention my honored and revered name!

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