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Jammeh, ECOWAS and misplaced honour

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An image grab taken on December 3, 2016 from a video of the Gambia and Television Services (GRTS) broadcasted on December 2, 2016, in Banjul shows outgoing Gambian President Yahya Jammeh speaking during a press conference after being defeated during the presidential election. Jammeh conceded defeat to opposition leader Adama Barrow on December 2, 2016 accepting that Gambians had "decided that I should take the backseat". The Gambia's President-elect Adama Barrow was to hold talks with his coalition the day after to plot his transition to power, following a shock election victory that ended the 22-year rule of Yahya Jammeh. / AFP PHOTO / GRTS - Gambia Radio and Television Services / Handout

An image grab taken on December 3, 2016 from a video of the Gambia and Television Services (GRTS) broadcasted on December 2, 2016, in Banjul shows outgoing Gambian President Yahya Jammeh speaking during a press conference after being defeated during the presidential election.<br />Jammeh conceded defeat to opposition leader Adama Barrow on December 2, 2016 accepting that Gambians had “decided that I should take the backseat”. The Gambia’s President-elect Adama Barrow was to hold talks with his coalition the day after to plot his transition to power, following a shock election victory that ended the 22-year rule of Yahya Jammeh. / AFP PHOTO / GRTS – Gambia Radio and Television Services / Handout

The shuttles, last week, to The Gambia, by leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to plead to the defeated Gambian President, Yahya Jammeh, to accept the results of the recently concluded elections in that country was a misplaced honour. Jammeh did not deserve it. Jammeh is one of the bad boys of African leadership, who have brought opprobrium to the Gambia. He overstayed his presidential mandate of two consecutive terms of five years each as provided by the country’s constitution. Honour should not be given to whom honour is not due. Gambia is comparable to a local government area in Nigeria and should not make us lose sleep because of Jammeh.

I am, particularly, piqued that President Muhammadu Buhari, joined the fray to travel to Gambia to accord Jammeh an undeserved honour. Nigeria is a sub-regional power in West Africa and should act as such. At best, President Buhari should have delegated his foreign minister to put a phone call to Yahya Jammeh and advise him on Nigeria’s position and the fact that the only option left to him is to quit. Otherwise, he should be ready to meet force with force.

By abandoning more pressing issues in their various countries to go to meet a discredited ex-president, the ECOWAS leaders crowned this culture of impunity that is the bane of African leadership. Jammeh is one of those elements that have brought bad name to Africa. He should not be made to feel that he is important and that is why sub-regional leaders are begging him.

Imagine a local government chairman who is quarrelling with his wife and in an attempt to settle the matter, President Buhari, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Atiku Abubakar, Generals Ibrahim Babangida and Yakubu Gowon, among others, left everything to go to the local government chairman to beg him to settle with his wife! How would that local government chairman feel?

First, his head will swell. He will feel on top of the world. He will feel highly honoured beyond his imagination. He will feel that he is so important and that is why all the political leaders in the country are falling for him. And to crown it all, after the leaders had taken the pain to go and beg him, he still refused, which is an affront.

That is what the ECOWAS action amounted to in the case of Jammeh. I know they would adduce diplomacy and protocol as excuse. Jammeh shunned the ECOWAS leaders and did not care to reciprocate the undeserved gesture accorded to him. The leaders left totally disappointed. He maintained his position of calling for another election.

But that shouldn’t be the end of the story. My people say a stubborn grasshopper rests in the belly of a bird. Jammeh should be told, in clear terms, that he cannot have his way. Those who have tried the path he is now towing ended up in disgrace. He should remember Samuel Doe of Liberia and Laurent Gbagbo of Cote d’Ivoire. The days of unrestrained political rascality and impunity are over. The vestiges remaining in countries like Zimbabwe and Cameroun are waning. The sit tight syndrome, or what many call African disease, must be eradicated. Therefore, Gambia shall be free of despots and autocrats like Yahya Jammeh.

It would be recalled that Gambia held a presidential election on December 1, 2016 in which the opposition candidate, Adama Barrow, of the Independent Coalition of Parties (ICP) won. He garnered 227,708 votes to defeat the incumbent Yahya Jammeh of the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Reconstruction (SAPRC), who scored 208, 487 votes. That was a big surprise to Jammeh who has ruled Gambia for 22 years.

However, no sooner did the Independent Electoral Commission declare results that Jammeh conceded defeat, a move that endeared him to many. But a week later, he recanted and asked that a fresh poll be conducted by what he called “a God-fearing and independent electoral commission”, citing “unacceptable irregularities.” Does Jammeh fear God?

Jammeh’s volt-face sent ripples across West Africa and the world, with leaders asking him to respect the people’s choice. The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon and the United States asked Jammeh to accept his defeat and congratulate his opponent. They urged him to ensure a peaceful transition.

It was on that strength that ECOWAS leaders rallied last week to Banjul to douse what could become another Burundi, a killing field, if left untended. Those in attendance included President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia, the current Chairperson of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS, President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone and Ghana’s outgoing president, John Mahama. The leaders reportedly discussed the sanctity of the electoral process and the need for Jammeh to respect the wish of the people. Reports say the meeting ended in a deadlock as Jammeh refused to hid the advice of the ECOWAS leaders. They agreed to discuss the crisis later at an ECOWAS summit in Nigeria.

At a time when it was thought that Africa was weaning itself from the tyranny of sit-tight despots championed by some post-independence leaders, a few disgruntled blood-thirsty autocrats are rearing their ugly heads as witnessed recently in Burundi, and now The Gambia. There is no doubt that the gloom that pervades Africa is as a result of selfish and retrogressive leadership. This crop of leaders appears demented and destined to destroy their countries. They don’t care about the people. That is why no country in sub-Saharan Africa is making progress.

After ruling Gambia for 22 years, what could be said to be the achievements of Yahya Jammeh? His legacies include transforming Gambia into an Islamic state and pulling the country out of the Common Wealth. Has Jammeh been able to transform small Gambia into an oasis of development in Africa worthy of emulation? Has he eradicated poverty and improved the lot of the common people?

Jammeh, who came to power in a military coup in 1994, has been re-elected as president four terms of five years each. Over two decades, he has ruled as a true despot, autocrat and dictator. He has done little or nothing to improve the economy of Gambia. The country remains one of the poorest in the world depending mainly on foreign aid. The challenge is on the ECOWAS to stand against this bully and show him the way out.



3 Comments
  • ODOFIN, Lagos

    I support anything done to save lives of our neighboring countries’ p including the humble visit of Pres. Buhari to Gambia. It is better than having a full scale war or bloodletting similar to Laurent Gbagbo of Ivory Coast’s case. As such, I bet to disagree with your submission. Where is the success of Obama’s phone call on Syria early in the days of the war?

  • KWOY

    Prove there was no intention to help Mr Barrow!

  • Chukwu

    I wonder if this writer do prefer bloodletting to protect unnecessary egotism than avoid same through diplomacy and dialogue. To me, the latter is the best option in this circumstance.

    It’s also too early to conclude that that Mr Jammeh has remained adamant with his decision not to honour his earlier concession of defeat to Mr Barrow. I see Jammeh as a willy craftsman who just wanted to play games with the collective intelligence of both his people and the world. He’s not a fool to tow the bitter lines of his contemporaries like Doe, Gbagbo and Taylor which has turn them into aberrations.

    I believe he will do the needful before the hand over date.