The Gambia, The Political Mess And Some Lessons

Thousands of Gambians queued to vote in the December 1 elections.

(JollofNews) – After December 2, 2016 when the presidential election in The Gambia was announced, different countries and regions of the world have been following the development in the country because of two reasons.

By Dr. Bayo Omolola

First, the acceptance of the loss of the election by the popular and controversial out-going president and his offer of a congratulatory message to the winner gave a positive impression of The Gambia to the global community.

Second, the U-turn of President Yahya Jammeh has been raising a serious concern locally, regionally and internationally. His return to the public glare to reject or annul the result of the election which he once declared free and fair has been making many Gambians, Gambian friends and regional and global powers to ask questions about the situation in the country.

Definitely, the country now faces its unprecedented challenge, and the impasse, if it is allowed to degenerate, will spell a doom for the country.

The Gambia now appears as a country on the path to self-inflicted danger. Each of President Yahya Jammeh and the In-coming President, Adama Barrow, believes strongly he should be the rightful operator of the presidential ship and the occupant of the presidential palace in Banjul starting from January 19, 2017, the day the whole world expects The Gambia to have new hands on its national deck. Instead of speaking with a positive voice to raise the hope of all Gambians, the horoscope of The Gambia seems to be telling the world there will be an interruption to the age-long peace of the country.

Two rams, an African proverb says, cannot drink water in a gourd at a time; they will break the gourd into pieces. The Gambia, in this case, is the gourd holding the liquid, a metaphor for power, and the rams are the metaphors for the two strong power- seekers, the in-coming president and the out-going president.

Isn’t it an absurd drama? The Gambia is now a country with two presidents or power contenders at a time when only one is supposed to be recognised and accepted whole heartedly by all and sundry while the other should wait for another day or a chance in the future. Many great Gambians and decent global community expect normalcy this time.

The clock of a chaotic situation seems to be jingling for and dandling on the country. Blood-letting, casualties, agonies, and regret are in offing the way the issue stands now; unfortunately, those are the markers of the identity of any place which shuns peace and ignores the truth, but embraces the boom of guns and other means of fighting. May God help The Gambia now and forever!

The Gambia political issue is somehow similar to the one in Nigeria after the annulment of the 1993 election, which Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (IBB), the then self-styled president who was a military leader as well as a political invader, presided over. IBB, under a serious political pressure and disguise, stepped aside for Ernest Shonekan, an educated civilian and professional.

Six months after the setting up of a transitional government, Shonekan was overpowered and made to relinquish presidential power; Sanni Abacha, a military officer, power usurper, dictator, and master-minder of indecent killing, forced him out and took the political landscape of Nigeria.

Mashood Kasimaawoo Abiola, the winner of the June 1993 election declared himself the winner of the election. Sanni Abacha ran after Chief M. K. O. Abiola. Abacha, who amassed wealth at the expense of the country, felt that he was the almighty ruler of the country because he succeeded in seizing power from Chief Shonekan. With his military might, Abacha captured Abiola, and the latter never regained his freedom. Unfortunately, instead of returning home alive, M. K. O. died in captivity, and his corpse arrived in his family home!

People protested, but the drama, somehow, ended. Many innocent and vocal people lost their lives in the process which should help Abiola to get his mandate. Hired assassins became a weapon of the government of the day, and the use of it was to frighten the protesters or campaigners against the injustice or the evil which the military perpetrated.

Abacha and his henchmen made all attempts to silence vocal and honest Nigerians on crucial issues of the nation. In the end Abacha answered the call of the god as nemesis caught up with him; he died mysteriously just Abiola died suddenly at the time when he was expected to get his freedom and possibly find a path or an alternative to his target presidency.

The account above and the one below may sound frightening to all Gambians who do not expect The Gambia to explode or end in a disaster. Rather than being frightened, all Gambians should prevent the evil that dangles its feather on the political space of the country and grows silently, hoping to make it its home. In Cote D’Ivoire, former president Robert Guei and former president Gbagbo became causalities due to the political imbroglio which resulted in a serious internal war in the country.

Today, Laurent Gbagbo, former president of Cote D’Ivoire and his wife are not enjoying their freedom of movement. Odumegwu Odjukwu lived in exile in Cote_D’Ivoire, the same country in which Blaise Compaore, the former president of Burkina-Fasso, now resides as an Ivorien! Both delved into ventures which could not fetch for them their desired results; they embarked on ambitious, selfish ventures that would create problems for them, their countries and people.

In Liberia, Sergeant Samuel Doe, the president of Liberia, lost his life in the hand of Johnson, a person whom he considered to be his friend. It happened during a struggle for power. Charles Taylor, the former president of Liberia, is cooling his feet in a prison today.

What led to that? Power struggle! Sierra-Leoneans have their bitter stories to tell about a personal pursuit of power by their greedy leaders whose actions shattered the dreams of many strong and resourceful Sierra-Leoneans who later became asylees and residents of other countries such as The Gambia. Many Sierra-Leoneans were killed during the civil war, and many got maimed then.

The information system in The Gambia should display the record to the public and Gambian leaders so that Gambian leaders can think twice before taking a wrong action which can destablise the peace of this smiling coast of Africa.

Will The Gambia learn some lessons? Will President Jammeh take some lessons? He has made some accomplishments, but will he learn some lessons by respecting the will of the public to avoid seeing all he has done for the country in ruin? He has a choice to make, and it will do him and the Gambia good if he can image what fighting can cause. The catalogue is long; The Gambian leader should learn from the errors of other countries and help to peace as a stylus of the country.

After the election result was announced, President Yahya Jammeh did not chose the wrong path, the kind which Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (IBB), the former tyrant and military ruler of Nigeria took – annulling the most free and fair presidential election in June 1993. Jammeh just changed suddenly. What happened to IBB after annulling the 1993 election in Nigeria? With his wrong action, IBB threw Nigeria, the giant of Africa, in a tense political drama which led to big protests, local and global condemnation, political cessation, military power inheritance or shift, brutality, Abiola’s death, and other unholy episodic and catastrophic occurrences in the country. The problems that IBB inflicted on Nigeria still hunt the country today.

In spite of numerous sponsored public relations strategies which IBB and his henchmen have been using to clear the Minna-based ex-Nigerian military ruler of his dented image since he left power, the big public in Nigeria and the international community have not detached his name from his conception and perpetration of injustice in the Nigerian political landscape. Even though IBB did not contest, his action indicated to most honest, sincere, well-informed Nigerians that he just wanted to remain in power, so the public frowned and hurled unprintable words at him for annulling the most clean, clear, fair, and decent election in the history of the country.

Jammeh of The Gambia congratulated Adam Barrow like IBB, the presiding ruler in Nigeria, congratulated MKO. Even the loser of the election congratulated MKO. There was no issue of rejection by the two political parties that took part in the election in Nigeria. Only the military-led government changed the scenario later! It was an open robbery on democracy! It can happen only in the jungle of idiots. Nigeria has always had numerous clever, smart, highly-intelligent people, but a military cult, as an oppressive and suppressive power, lacked the kind of professional civil-rule reasoning expected to run a civil a society;

In Nigeria, it just subdued the angry public by force. Due to this experience, Nigeria has been entangled in more calamitous economic mess, moral decadence, and political indecency and other vices which have been retarding its development and creating international and local embarrassment for it and its citizens. Nigerians now ask those who forced themselves on the country a lot of questions which they cannot answer satisfactorily, or have no answers to at all, and ordinary Nigerians, fed up, know how dangerous it is for a country to tolerate leaders who are not ready to respect the will of the public.

Here is the main issue again: In The Gambia, the whole international community saluted the courage of President Yahya Jammeh for living above board. However, his sudden reverse or rejection of the result of the presidential election now portends danger for the country.

The out-going president, few days ago, declared the result of the presidential election null and void before his political party shifted the attention of the Gambian public and the international community to a legal process, a way to divert attention from president’s unilateral harsh pronouncement of “annulled” to the soft expression “court case.” The Smiling Coast of Africa is now pictured as a nation displaying a grinning face with a body gaining weight on a fragile chair filled with a ballooning keg of powder which may explode any second and consume the whole country or a substantial part of it.

For anyone with a good nose and can read between the lines, the Gambia stinks now because an unusual incident has happened and its wings are growing, and the global eyes now set on the country as it now breathes out deadly flies which will soon take over its streets and homes just as it happened in, Liberia, Sierra-Leone, Nigeria, and similar places in which abnormality became the order of the day. Accepting the result of an election yesterday and rejecting it today creates an embarrassment for the country.

The mess is piling up, and its stink may subject the entire country to a doom. Where will Gambians go? Exile? What will they be doing? Can all that can survive at home find it easy to survive in other countries before finding their bearing? How will they live in other countries when a political trouble degenerates and forces them out of their own country because of their leaders’ refusal to listen to a popular voice and pleasant advice?

Gambians should ask foreigners who know the implication of what is happening in their today. The story will never sound great for Gambians to tell about their country tomorrow if effort at making peace is not promoted and accepted by their leaders and those who follow them now.

ECOWAS is ready to act militarily. Children, women, parents, aged people and peace lovers are worried in The Gambia. While the normal life and business activities seem to be going on as usual in many places, surprise is expected by all watchers. Some foreigners in the country have started parking their stuffs so as to escape from the looming danger; those with experience envisage that fighting may start and may get bloody. Yahya Jammeh seems adamant; he wants to cling to power because he believes there was an electoral fraud. His military has taken over the office of the electoral agency. Suspicion now looms large.

Adama Barrow and his henchmen prepare to take over the reign of government on January 19; Barrow believes he won, and his supporters home and abroad believe that he won, and he speaks strongly that there is no alternative way other than being sworn in as the president of The Gambia when the day comes.

What will the countries which have their citizens in The Gambia do? Will they fold their arms? They will not mind to protect their citizens at all cost if there is fighting. They are wiser, and some of them have helped The Gambia in some ways, contributed funds and skills. Nigeria is one, Ghana is another. Others include Sierra-Leone and Senegal. May fighting not erupt at all in The Gambia! That’s my prayer. The result may be disastrous.

The controversial supreme court of The Gambia is set to listen to the presidential election case on January 10, 2017 if it forms a quorum. Chief Justice Emmanuel Fagbenle, the Supreme Court boss, and his other judges, mostly foreigners, may be, are expected to form a quorum. If they do, they will stand between the two powerful men whose swords are sharp and are under the watch of the whole world.

Will the coalition parties show up? Will President Yahya Jammeh bow to the law? Who is going to win? Will Barrow and his coalition group forgo the result if the unexpected happens at the end of the judicial process it ever takes place? What will the independent electoral agency or commission say in the court after staff could not gain access to its office due to the military invasion and “get out order?. Although only speculations can be made now, one thing is certain –illegal resistance always has severe implications.

Any attempt to reject the genuine result of the presidential election will endanger the lives of Gambians and foreigners and may lead to the destruction of “public infrastructure and personal property, and in the end when the chaos or trouble is over, The Gambia will look back and regret its wrong actions. Any country which allows such a trouble to descend on it will live for decades with an alarming rate of armed robberies, rape cases, and other overwhelming and unprecedented atrocities.

This writing is not to instill fear in the citizens of The Gambia and the foreigners in the country. It is intended to make Gambians learn some lessons from the histories of countries with incidents that are similar to what is happening in The Gambia today; The Gambia should avoid falling into a trap which will suffocate its life or make it gasp for air to breathe.

As The Gambia faces this serious political challenge, Gambia leaders and citizens should learn from the expensive mistakes of Burkina-Faso, Cote D’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra-Leone, Burkina-Faso, Chad, Somali, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria and other countries characterized by troublous histories. Under a normal circumstance, none of those countries will wish their enemies the terrible experience they got as a result of their political and/or military recklessness or the foolishness of their crazy leaders who traded the peace of their countries for their personal pursuits.

To avoid explosion, The Gambia should straighten-up, clear its political mess, avoid disaster, accept the truth, respect its presidential election result, and preserve its peace. It is only in an atmosphere of peace that the lives of citizens and residents can be normal and governance can be effective. There is no leader who rules successfully without followers to consent, and there are no followers who smile genuinely or sincerely when a leader does not listen to the genuine concern of the public or masses.

President Yahya Jammeh and President-elect Adama Barrow, The Gambia watches. The public watches as it looks forward to filling its presidential space peacefully and legally on January 19, 2017, and the international community watches with keen interest, too. If this current political impasse results in physical fighting, death, maiming, property damage, and asylum seeking, the country will suffer. If there is no peaceful transition, each of you, especially President Jammeh, will have questions to answer. Present and future generations of the country will never forgive anyone who intentionally plunges the country into turmoil and blocks its progress.

The author is a former resident of The Gambia, teaches in the Department of World Languages and Cultures, Howard University, Washington, DC, United States. E-mail: