I received with joy, the exit of His Excellency, Sheik Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Abdul-Aziz Awal Jemus Junkung (AJJ) Jammeh Nassiru Deen Babili Mansa, (former) President of the Republic of The Gambia (as with African leaders where the ebullience of titles and names is metaphor to the emptiness of such rulers who regal in them), from power into exile. My joy though was tempered because it had a sad tinge to it, for the fact that it had required strong arm tactics to have that man leave power, when he could’ve become a hero, showing the world that transition from one civilian to another is a culture that’s becoming entrenched in Africa, a day before the Americans celebrated democracy at its best with handover of power from Obama to Donald Trump. I’m of the opinion that Jammeh would’ve been forgiven of his many sins if only he’d opted to tow that path of honour.
Unfortunately, there are more like Jammeh in Africa, even amongst the West African nations that collaboratively scared him into exile. I could never understand the need for elections in African countries when the incumbent cannot fathom losing, even despite his/her good works (like late British Prime Minister Winston Churchill). Same for those who midway into the game tamper with the rules of the game (like Democratic Republic of Congo’s Joseph Kabila, and Burundi’s Pierre Nkurunziza, just to name a few) by having the parliament amend the constitution to allow for a third or no term limits, with the aim of their remaining in power seeing as it was never their intention that the opposition benefits from such constitutional amendments.
When I remember the role that Senegal played in the ouster of Jammeh, I smile because that country is gradually establishing itself as the beacon of hope for democracy in Africa. Besides the fact that it’s one of the few African countries that have never had the military takeover power, it had peacefully transited power from one civilian regime to another, till Abdoulaye Wade attempted to thwart democratic progress by seeking to extend his tenure with constitutional amendment (consistent with the spirit of many an African rulers train of thought, together with a pliant parliament), to which the people responded by voting the strong and untied opposition instead. Interestingly, his successor Macky Sall not only successfully navigated the country through the excision of an arm of the bicameral legislature to cut costs, while on the other hand encouraging discuss about the possibility of a one term limit for the presidency. That it had to be neighbour Senegal that was saddled with the main responsibility of acting as gateway and access to The Gambia, in conjunction with the military might of other western African states, chief of which is Nigeria is testament to the exemplary role the former can play in the development of Africa’s democracy.
As regards the soft landing Jammeh got, of that I’m not in the least elated. In my estimation, there should’ve been some form of punishment for his attempting to truncate democracy, especially seeing as he wasn’t and couldn’t have been negotiating from a position of strength in his last days in office, yet he was allowed enough time to move loot and proceeds of loot, via jets and cargo planes into exile, with those who negotiated his exit applauding themselves for doing the tiny West African country, nay Africa a favour. You could guess they allowed that because even such African rulers and other powerful personalities involved (including those whose private jets were used to ferry Jammeh into exile), and those consulted or kept out of it, are well known kleptomaniacs currently with their hands soaked into the till of state without let. They couldn’t see anything wrong in Jammeh leaving the country with those choice vehicles, property, raw cash as well as the much that’s already been transferred to offshore accounts in his name, or on his behalf. I wouldn’t be surprised if the next set of fraudulent (419) mails from Nigeria will be of a so called “son”, “daughter” or “wife” of Jammeh, seeking help of gullible people in the western world to help lodge the “loot” in their account for some handsome kickbacks, and of course getting duped in the process.
It’s sad that a Jammeh won’t be brought before the International Criminal Court, ICC for acts of Human Rights violation committed under his rulership of the Gambia. It’s very unfortunate that he won’t be made to account for the looting of the common patrimony of the Gambian people. Most importantly, the fact that in getting a soft landing, no strong message has been sent to rulers of African states playing similar cards presently, that Africa has come of age, and such shenanigans will no longer be tolerated. Uganda’s Museveni, who’s grooming his son to takeover from him has no reason to be scared now, definitely not DRC’s Joseph Kabila, who just managed to knick a one year extension of his presidency, after a third term bid failed. Sasso Ngueso of the Republic Of Congo, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Paul Biya of Cameroon, and their likes will either not conduct presidential elections, or put in place measures that’ll ensure that elections are skewed in such a way that the outcomes returns them only to power, to avoid the possibility of the fate of Jammeh befalling them.
In the choice of an Adama Barrow as president of Gambia, I am glad. In the fact that he had wide support amongst opposition parties, I am also happy, because that’s the only way to go in unseating not only sit-tight African rulers, but also incumbents who have performed below par, but can win reelection into power because of disunity amongst opposition parties. I am however disappointed at his choice of Vice President, who was health minister under Jammeh. If it was important that a woman be made VP, I’m certain that many other women would’ve been found in Gambia more than capable to fill that position. I dislike having same old faces in governments that came to power on the platform of change, like the shame that’s currently on display in Nigeria, with a change that’s more of the same.
I have elected to rejoice with Gambians for the little mercies that have come to them now. Those who have proceeded to exile thinking that Jammeh planned to sink the country with him can now return. The country has yet another opportunity to make a fresh and respectable start, and in so doing avoid the mistake of the past, notably by building (most especially democratically) strong institutions, and stop relying on strong men to dish out paltry favours at their discretion, when it’s their duty to do even more. This isn’t time to relent, as there’s a Jammeh in every Barrow, if opportunities (when the people become complacent and fail to guard their hard won democracy) for such presents itself. We as Africans cannot stop being a headache to the world if we can’t get leadership, especially via democracy right, because with that comes other dividends that will set us at par with the progressive comity of nations. Gambia, and Gambians must exploit this opportunity, with the massive goodwill that has accompanied incoming President Adama Barrow’s rise to power, to set forth their light out of obscurity to the limelight, as they can still be one of Africa’s beacon of hope. The time is now.