The political destiny of the Gambian is expected to be determined today (Thursday) following whether or not the swearing in of Mr. Adama Barrow as the new President of that West African country holds.
As Africa and indeed the global community anxiously await the transition from the incumbent to the opposition amidst political tension, it is expected that the wishes of the people of the Gambia would be respected.
But with the approval of the parliament for extension of President Yahya Jammeh’s administration by ninety days, there is the fear that this might deepen the political crisis or create confusion.
Analysts say the wind of political change currently blowing across Africa seems to be threatened by the political crisis in the Gambia.
They insist that the sit tight syndrome of most political leaders has been a major challenge to the development of democracy on the continent, especially when it comes to relinquishing power to an opposition. This jinx was however broken in Nigeria in 2015 when former President Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP conceded defeat and handed over power to President Mohammadu Buhari of the APC. Ghana also toed the same line as former President John Mahama handed over power to the opposition candidate, Mr. Nana Akufo-Addo. There were also peaceful transitions in South Africa, Senegal and Gabon.
With the development, it appears as if democracy has begun to take firm root in Africa when Gambian’s President, Mr. Yahya Jammeh also accepted defeat in the December 2016 election in the country congratulated his rival, Mr. Adama Barrow. However few days after, he rescinded his decision claiming there were irregularities in the electoral process. Following intervention by some African leaders who asked him to step down for the President elect, President Jammeh accused the West African regional body, ECOWAS of declaring war against his country.
He vowed not to step down until after the Supreme Court judgment on the case. Against all odds, some political commentators believe that Mr. Jammeh has no other choice than to accept the election result adjudged to be free and fair and to respect the wishes of his people.
Lending his voice to the people’s expectations, a senior lecturer, Department of Political Science, Enugu State University of Science and Technology, ESUT, Dr. Ifeanyi Odoziobodo is expectant that something positive might still come out of the whole scenario.
Dr. Odoziobodo who noted that the sit tight habit of most African leaders is a major cause of political instability in the continent, commended President Muhammadu Buhari for his efforts so far in containing the crises.
“Once a leader decides to sit tight, it means he has become autocratic, governance will no longer be accountable, good governance will be in abeyance. Nigeria has always helped in solving the problem of many other African countries.”
That the political crisis is generating a lot of tension with people both citizens and foreigners fleeing in groups seeking refuge in neighbouring countries is not longer news.
Some ministers in the Gambia have also resigned their appointment disassociating themselves from the political malaise while a state of emergency has been declared by President Jammeh.
Meanwhile, African Union’s Peace Security Council has vowed not to recognize Mr. Yahaya James as President of Gambia after the 19th of this month, the expected inauguration day and to take necessary actions to enforce the will of the Gambian citizens.
Already Nigeria is said to have moved a war ship have to the Gambian borders.
The Director General, Enugu Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, ECCIMA, Mr. Emeka Okereke implored the African leaders to thread caution and employ sanctions instead of military intervention if Jammeh failed to step down.
“The swearing of Mr. Barrow can be delayed, it wouldn’t cost so much than costing lives of citizens of the Gambia for him to be in power. I am not for military intervention to oust Jammeh, especially at this stage because Gambians will suffer and it will affect West African economy.”
A Political Analyst and Acting Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities, Enugu State University of Science and Technology, ESUT Branch, Dr. Chinedu Aguba, he foresees a situation where military forces will be deployed to force the Gambian President out of office.
Dr. Aguba opposes the call for political asylum for Jammeh in Nigeria, demanding that he be made to face the law to serve as a deterrent to others.
“He should be brought to book after arrest and after making sure that the normal succession is put in place, for breaching the constitution of the government of Gambia. One of the hallmarks of any democracy is the supremacy of the constitution.”
In a telephone interview, a senior lecturer in the faculty of Law ESUT, Dr. Charles Aduaka maintained that the swearing in date was not sacrosanct and that the leaders should continue with their negotiation.
According to Dr. Aduaka, employing military force would amount to violation of human rights and the sovereignty of that country.
The respondent described the crisis in the Gambia as an aberration to democratic process and called on African leaders to always hearken to the voice of reasoning and leave the stage when the ovation is loudest.
BY NNEKA UGWUANYI