Jammeh, ECOWAS and misplaced honour
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.