FIRST HYPOCRITE: (In concert with other hypocrites at hand clapping) Barrow! The zenith of our hope! The druid of Mankaman Kunda! The vertex of the round table! The diaspora is spent–and now with incessant venom swell with indignation.
SECOND HYPOCRITE: From New York to Seattle, Berlin to Hamburg, and London to Madrid– the indispensable have become quite dispensable for thee and the once charitable too uncharitable. With a demon’s smirk, be selfish and diabolical. Or like an unthinking builder, kick thy ladder away with brisk upon reaching the top of the building.
THIRD HYPOCRITE: Like a puff adder defanged, their bite is with bare gum. For a serpent is dreaded only for its poison and teeth without which it is, but biology’s another specimen.
(Enter a team of youths with drums, pomp and fanfare. First Lady leads them to the President who idles in a white Kaftan with a bloated belly as Soothsayer settles to his right. First Lady dances briefly in front of the group)
FIRST LADY: (She sprinkles some holy water from a keg on each head of each youth gestured to the floor on knees. Money is thrown in the air as on-lookers scramble for their luck) O champions of the cause! Hearken to Gambia’s most intelligent leader.
BARROW: (With a grin as he points to a line he draws on the floor) Youths of Kambia! On your mark! Set! Go! Now go build sixty mosques across the country. That’s the best Gambia needs right now according to my beautiful brain.
(The youths spring from the ground and sprint out of the State House as Barrow continues to smile triumphantly)
FIRST LADY: Great Soothsayer! What sayeth the seers of the unseen? Didst thou chanceth upon any missives of what glory sixty mosques could beckon?
SOOTHSAYER: (Clears his throat) Perchance only a fulfillment of some Marabout’s prescription. Thinketh thou sixty mosques are exigent to Gambia’s clarion call, and not food on tables, roofs over abodes, jobs on hands of ailing and penniless youth? Of late the rains did come and flooded many a home.
BARROW: I came for only two things–my pocket and Mankaman Kunda. That is why thou seest not a prosperous venture my lease invites. Many could easily rise president in a jiffy, but few change the lives of their people. I shall let you decide, of these two, where I belong.
SOOTHSAYER: But from whence the money for sixty houses of worship? And art thou thoroughly religious? Tell the soothsayer, who doth thou taketh as a disposer of thy affairs–God or Marabouts?
SOOTHSAYER: An antithesis to the God who created this universe and His solid injunctions–God the inventor of existence, the custodian of time, and the author of destiny! Thou shall not build mosques to beguile the pious while thou consult oracles and Marabouts.
BARROW: Thou admonish too often these days and prognosticate less.
SOOTHSAYER: I call for a honest Gambia. Will thou permit my call for a ‘Witches’ Drum call’ to fight corruption in thy government? Such drums will purge all those with ill-gotten wealth to dance in thy own eyes. Grant it–if thou deemeth thy hands cleanest!
BARROW: (Somewhat angered) I stole nothing. I built Mankamang Kunda with honest earnings.
SOOTHSAYER: Then permit it! Permit ‘Buwaa Tantango’ here at State House. All will answer that tasted ill-gotten wealth.
BARROW: Permitted! And thy head on the guillotine if none answered once the drums go off!
SOOTHSAYER: (Softly) Agreed!
(Drummers in very scary outfits, masks, ostrich feathers, lion skins and heads, crocodile heads, rhino teeth, barge in with a musical frenzy. A tall, dark and lean man sings atop his voice in Mandinka)
TALL MAN: “MINGMANG KUU KEH, KUU TAYMAH,” meaning nothing shall touch he who did nothing wrong! (As the drumming gets intense, Amadou Sanneh enters)
SANNEH: (Dancing wild and shouting) Behold! I was only finance minister! (He dances again and collapses. Isatou Touray enters next).
TOURAY: (Spreading and swinging arms in a whirlwind) Oi! Oi! This Buwaa Tantango! Oi this Buwaa Tantango! (She dances like a crazy woman and collapses.
Next enter Ba Tambedou and Henry Gomez. They both dance and collapse. The crowd watches Amie and Talib Bensouda enter. They both perform to the delight of the drummers and collapse. A sweaty and very unsteady messenger enters with news).
MESSENGER: Great Ousainou seeks admittance!
BARROW: Admit him that has sired me–of days gone yet refuse to go! Flute man, drummers, fiddlers, can we sweeten our ears with music that is more vehement?
(Enter Darboe with guards and attendants as traditional music is played)
DARBOE: Yo listen up! Y’all garra listen! Who said Ousainou still listens to the classicals?
CROWD: What doth thou listen to since thou became vice president?
DARBOE: Rap! Hip-pop! Yo, put in some Drake and Rihanna or Lil Wayne. If not I’ll pull all my supporters away! Remember I broke the coalition. I’m capable of breaking y’all.
BARROW: Play some gangster rap of the dirty South for my sire. He is too charged for the classicals this hour.
SOOTHSAYER: Not fair! Not fair! He has to hear what everyone else heard!
TALL MAN: No need! The first sound is what matters. He’s too loose now and without inhibitions. My portions spare none that came close to ill-wealth.
BARROW: Hey drummers, I warn you! If you’re not too careful, I myself will jump in! (With that, the President throws himself into the crowd and dances wild)
TALL MAN: What did I say?
(As rap music is played, a thug-looking fellow in some dirty bandana with big beards, tattoos and dark shades suddenly emerges among the Vice President’s attendants. He stuns everyone with his hip-pop moves as more ministers join him in the dance frenzy)
FIRST LADY: Oh my God! He’s awesome! (She approaches the man who grabs her hands and dances with her as the crowd cheers. More civil servants from the boisterous crowd take turns to dance with both ‘thug’ and First Lady. At some point, Amie Bensouda accidentally hits the dark shades of the ‘thug’, dropping it on the floor. His big beards fall apart as he struggles to pick the glasses. His masked face is apparent)
FIRST LADY: (On top of her tonsils) It’s Mai Fatty!
ACT 4 SCENE 2
(Gambians gather over newspapers the following morning, gawking at headlines that flash: “From Minister to Party Crasher– Former Interior Minister Was Show-Stopper at State House.” People share Whatsapp messages of a long-bearded stranger dancing with Gambia’s First Lady as Darboe asks for more Lil Wayne and Drake songs)
FIRST GAMBIAN: But this wasn’t a party. It was ‘Buwaa Tangtango.’ Where was Fatoumata Tambajang.
SECOND GAMBIAN: I heard she was dancing too wild at home.
THIRD GAMBIAN: She should be the first to dance and collapse.
To be Continued, Insha Allaah!
“Great leaders of great nations rise to make history; African leaders rise to make money.” Gambiano.
By Ebrima Papa Colley