It beats one’s imagination that people refuse to learn from history. And it should not be seen as a peculiarity of the African or of any race for that matter. It simply is a human weakness, a great flaw in human character to ignore history or to choose to repeat history and suffer consequences that are imminent.
There is a character in The Gambia who goes by the name Jammeh. He seized power by way of a coup d’état in his tiny country about 22 years ago when he was barely 29. Since then he has ridden that country roughshod and subjected her 2 million citizens to all manners of servitude imaginable. At a point in time he thought of himself as God and believed that his word was law and every pronouncement that came out his mouth a command.
A few weeks ago he reluctantly agreed to hold a presidential election which he lost. His opponent Barrow registered a convincing victory and strangely, because it was out of character, Jammeh congratulated him and conceded defeat.
All of a sudden like all people possessed by power, Gambler Jammeh changed his song and headed to the Supreme Court challenging the very victory he had earlier praised. Now he has by that singular act thrown his country into tumult and put the rest of West Africa into a measure of unease.
To make matters worse the Gambia’s army chief two Wednesdays ago reaffirmed his loyalty to the defeated President Yahya Jammeh despite the threat of a regional military intervention if the gambler President refused to step down.
It was reported that Lt General Ousman Badjie used a New Year message published in the pro-government Daily Observer newspaper to “renew to Your Excellency [Jammeh] the assurance of the unflinching loyalty and support of The Gambia Armed Forces”.
The statement coming from the country’s military chief would of course not surprise anyone familiar with the way dictators have always commandeered their country’s security personnel and turned them into personal Mai-Guard!
One is concerned that Jammeh chose to tread the same path which his erstwhile neighbour in Ivory Coast Laurent Gbagbo chose a few years ago and cost his wife the greatest public humiliation of her life before he along with his wife was dragged to the World court. Disgraced Gbagbo was charged with ‘unspeakable crimes’!
But why on earth do people foolishly hang on to power? I am not unaware of the sweet perquisites of office and all the glamour, glory and perhaps gluttony that go with power. Power is very sweet and could be intoxicating. And in young economies where government competes for power with God it is almost taken for granted that rulers have the power of life and death over their ‘subjects’.
After 22 years of stolen power and absolute authority Jammeh still wants to continue to enjoy the largesse which unlimited access to his nation’s treasury had given him. And in that wrong-headed gamble he does not care how many lives that would be lost, how many homes that would be destroyed and what sad fate would envelope his tiny country.
Jammeh is old enough to know what happened in Liberia under Sergeant Doe and Charles Taylor, what happened in Sierra-Leone of Foday Sankoh and Johnny Koroma era and the calamity that befell Gbagbo’s Ivory Coast. It is strange that any sane person would want his country go through those gory routes.
Gambler Jammeh is advised to seek audience with former President Ebele Jonathan who said several times that his ambition was not worth the blood of any Nigerian. It is to Jonathan’s eternal credit that the lives that would have been lost in the aftermath of Nigeria’s presidential election in 2015 were saved by his political maturity and selflessness. Jonathan demonstrated unusual magnanimity in defeat.
West African states should appoint ex-President Goodluck Jonathan to lead a delegation to The Gambia to drill some sense into the skull of power intoxicated Jammeh.
No country in West Africa sub region can afford a civil war now or any time soon. The region has suffered a lot in the past 25 years in the hands of crazy individuals who just wanted power- for- power- sake.
We, the citizens of West Africa are becoming an embarrassment to the rest of humanity. We have led the rest of the world to conclude that something must be wrong with our heads as a people. It is not that other races or peoples do not love power or seek power; the difference is that other people know when to call it quits. They also allow their laws to govern their respective societies.
Jammeh should not be allowed to gamble with the lives of his people. Whatever he wanted or still wants from The Gambia we think he has had enough. He should simply go. And let The Gambia have peace.
And if Jammeh wishes to die the way Samuel Doe died, he should simply hang himself without going through the shameful trauma that Doe subjected himself to.