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Buhari, Jonathan and The Gambian debacle

A few weeks ago, when someone tried to trivalise the surrender of power by ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, I could not help but be amused. He had stated that the former president never handed over power voluntarily but was forced to do so, in an attempt to reduce the nobleness of the man from Otuoke, Bayelsa State. And when some other people joined to say that Jonathan did not have a choice in the matter, as he was bound to relinquish power, I remember the prayer of Jesus Christ on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Yes, those who refuse to give Jonathan the deserved credit for surrendering power, after the results of the 2015 presidential election were declared, sure need some forgiveness. This is so because they do not know or have failed to understand the favour and sacrifice the former president made for the peace and stability of Nigeria. Jonathan, who had, before then, repeatedly declared that his ambition was not worth the blood of any Nigerian, had the option of rejecting the results and daring everybody. He had the option to have stopped the announcement of the presidential election results. He had the option to stay put in power and watch, as violence would rock some parts of the country and innocent people killed. He had the option to have looked Nigerians and the world in the face and tell them to do their worst. He had many options.

Jonathan, no doubt, looked at the options and took the path of honour. He had called President Muhammadu Buhari, even before the full results were announced, conceded defeat and congratulated him for his victory. Even when there were issues about the results in some parts of the country, even when there was evidence of underage people voting, which was a violation of the law, even when some people wanted him to fight, he elected to do the right thing: Accept defeat, surrender power and retire to his house. Today, Nigeria is at peace, even if it is the peace of the graveyard. There is no riot or trouble over election results.

Looking at what is happening in The Gambia, one would certainly praise Jonathan for what he did. In The Gambia, “things have fallen apart and the centre no longer holds.” The vaunting ambition and obstinate disposition of one man have put the country in trouble, that, at present, the West African region, African and the world are running around to find a solution to a political impasse, which is absolutely unnecessary. By yesterday, The Gambian President, Yahya Jammeh, was supposed to have left office, having lost a presidential election to Adama Barrow. He refused to go, using all manner of shenanigan. He had, first, accepted defeat and gave notice of his desire to leave office. However, he made a volte-face, rejecting the results and going to court. All the persuasions and entreaties from West African leaders, on the platform of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), have fallen on deaf ear. Now, there is a problem in The Gambia. And Jammeh gives no damn.

It is true that the ECOWAS had declared that Jammeh must go. It is true that nations across the world have condemned Jammeh’s refusal to handover power. It is true that military action against Jammeh from outside has started, as Senegalese troops stormed the country and Nigerian fighter jet hovering. It is true that Jammeh would not survive the amalgam of opposition and forces against him. However, what is clear now is that the president of this tiny West African nation has proved that a man with political power, a president of a country, could actually do anything, even if he does not get away with it. He has proved that a sitting president could make other leaders sweat, even if he is on suicide mission. He has proved that common sense is actually not common.

I love the efforts ECOWAS leaders are making to ensure that Barrow reaps the benefit of his electoral victory by assuming office as president. This shows that the West African region is resolved that outcomes of elections must be respected, even when the candidates have misgivings or reservations about them. It is a message for some people, like President Muhammadu Buhari, to the effect that outcome of elections must be respected, no matter the loser or the winner. This is man, who never accepted any presidential election results, except the one he was declared winner.

To be sure, President Buhari, who is now in the forefront of the call for Jammeh to respect the outcome of The Gambian presidential election, rejected all the previous presidential elections he lost. Against former President Olusegun Obasanjo, in 2003, Buhari did not accept defeat. He went to the tribunal, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court. He lost the court cases. Against the late President Umar Musa Yar’Adua, in 2007, he lost and rejected the election result. He also went to the tribunal, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court challenging the results. He again, lost the court cases. Against Jonathan, in 2011, he rejected the result, made provocative comments  and there was violence in the North, which caused the death of innocent Nigerians, including young Nigerians, who were serving their country, in the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme. The case went to the tribunal, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.

Buhari’s perchance for rejecting elections he lost did not stop at that. While the cases were in court, he never recognised those who won as presidents. He refused to attend National Council of States meeting, which all previous presidents and Heads of State are supposed to. He was angry throughout, with those who defeated him at elections, with the system and with everybody. He was aloof and made no contribution towards the socio-economic development of the country.

Isn’t it interesting that Buhari, the man who rejected election results, Buhari, who refused to recognise presidents that defeated him in elections until the cases were dispensed with in court, Buhari, who shunned National Council of States meeting, as a protest to presidential election results, is now the person leading a group of ECOWAS leaders, persuading Jammeh to accept the outcome of The Gambian presidential election, surrender power and leave office? This is interesting. For Jammeh’s folly,  we have seen that our president does know what to do and could actually do it.

Let us assume that President Buhari now knows that losing election and accepting the results are not a mark of weakness. Let us assume that he now knows that doing so is rather a sign of patriotism, knowing that such gesture helps the system and a country. Let us then give thanksgiving for the change of position of  this new “democrat.” Let us rejoice that our president has learnt some lessons that accepting defeat is a sign of valour.

It is said that those who come to equity should do so with clean hands. President Buhari has come to equity, as he wants Jammeh to accept The Gambian presidential election results, the pertinent question remains: Are his hands clean? Whatever be your answer, one thing that is for sure is this: Never again will Nigerians take our president serious if he rejects election results that do not favour him. Also, never will God allow any inept president to manipulate elections in Nigeria to perpetuate himself in power.

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2 Comments

  1. Nwagu K V 20th January 2017 at 9:29 am

    So, if in 2019 he loses as he is bound to given his ruinous policies, and barring hanky panky, rigging and coercion, he should accept and slink away with his hate and hateful policies, his tribalism.

  2. Frank Ikemba 21st January 2017 at 12:19 am

    Beautiful write up there and a fine analysis, Mr Ukeh. But let us realise that resort to court process is never an undemocratic step. It is in line with the rule of law which is a cardinal principle of democracy. Though Jammeh accepted the results of the presidential elections initially but later made a U turn, the West African leaders aught have allowed the Gambian judicial process to run its full course. By their forceful eviction of Jammeh, they have deprived Gambian judiciary the opportunity to prove its mettle and to defend the course of democracy. This intervention has scuttled the judicial process which is tantamount to breach of the rule of law. You cannot cure a headache by cutting off the head. It has set a dangerous precedent that may lead to serious crisis in the West African sub region in the nearest future. Recourse to the use of force in any circumstance should be the last resort after every other means have failed. In this instance, the judicial process of Gambia has not been exhausted. This intervention is preemptive, and preemptive actions have a way of burying the truth and diverting attention. We must learn how to respect the rule of law to the fullest to avoid chaos. Thank you.

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