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Timely and inevitable Gambian showdown

The timing could not have been more appropriate and inevitable for Africa to demonstrate to the outside world that the days of political barbarism had ended on the continent and that, if there were still leaders around, blind and deaf to modern-day, civilised political conduct, they would be subjected to the only language they deserved.

That was the import of the recent showdown in the West African nation of the Gambia, where ex-President Yahya Jammeh steered the country on the course of civil war after reneging on his earlier acceptance of defeat in the 2016 presidential election. In an unprecedented move, the sub-regional ECOWAS bloc had to step in with planned military intervention tied to a clear-cut ultimatum to Jammeh, failing which anything unpleasant could be the lot of the ex-President.

Nothing could have excused the criminal misconduct of Jammeh, who came to power in a military coup in 1994 by overthrowing the democratically elected President Dauda Jawara. For over two decades, Jammeh ruled the Gambia with an iron fist.

During that period, Jammeh became unpopular on such a scale that he lost the 2016 election, which he conducted. At first, the ex-President seemed to covet honour by accepting the results, an unusual gesture on the continent, except that times have changed.

Apparently, still suffering from that illusion of the early years of post-Independence in Africa, Jammeh turned round and rejected the election results he had earlier accepted. In those days, he could have remained in office, even without holding new elections. And, of course, he would be a special guest of note at the next annual charade called the summit of the African Union. For what it is worth, it must be conceded that, after years as a military ruler, Jammeh dignified himself by pretending to embrace democracy, with tenured terms, only to perpetuate himself in office without end.

That was his frame of mind when he went for a new mandate in 2016. After suffering a shock defeat, Jammeh did not bargain for external intervention, especially from ECOWAS. Worse still, he least expected such intervention, be it diplomatic or military, to be led by Nigeria, owing to long-standing bi-lateral ties between the two countries. Nigeria seconds the army chief and head of the judiciary to the Gambia.

The intervention in the Gambia’s political crisis is a stark reminder of the warning in this column against any idea of plunging Nigeria into another civil war in the ignorance that, in this modern age, such civil war would be regarded as a country’s internal crisis, especially if crimes against humanity are committed and culprits can only expect their date at the International Criminal Court.

We are in an age in which the world resists injustice just as Nigeria led ECOWAS to pre-empt carnage in the Gambia. Indeed, in the dying minutes of the ultimatum set for Jammeh to quit as the defeated Gambian president, an ultimatum set by ECOWAS under Nigeria’s leadership, the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed a resolution supporting the ECOWAS contingency military action. The African Union had earlier endorsed the ECOWAS intervention.

The Gambian crisis was a kind of diplomatic gift to Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari. There were other tempting gifts in the crises in Burundi, Central Africa Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, all in which Nigeria could have been involved to enhance its foreign policy. Instead, the United Nations and the African Union intervened by imposing sanctions.

Still, there can be no underestimating the boost for Nigeria’s image in world and, especially, African politics. Of course, this was not the first time Nigeria would be militarily involved in political crises in West Africa. The first time was in the early 1990s, under the military regime of  President Ibrahim Babangida, when the ECOMOG intervention force was established to resolve the civil war in Liberia.

Despite the swiftness with which the Gambian crisis was solved, an inevitable question is: Would ECOWAS have intervened if the crisis occurred in Nigeria? Perhaps not. But with the ECOWAS intervention in the Gambia, even Nigeria, henceforth, would not escape, let alone resist external intervention in any major crisis like a repeat civil war. That precisely is the reality the Gambian crisis has created beyond any reasonable doubt.

Before the Gambian crisis, the United Nations and African Union intervened to stop the carnage in the defunct Sudan and defunct Ethiopia, leading to emergent nations, South Sudan and Eriteria from Sudan and Ethiopia, respectively. In fact, Nigeria served for many years on the United Nations military intervention force in Sudan. There is, therefore, no way Nigeria can enjoy preferential treatment of non-intervention. Instead, the onus now rests with each African nation not to degenerate into real or potential bloodshed by whatever name it is called, rejection of election results organised by a defeated incumbent or crimes against humanity as was in Sudan and Ethiopia.

While Nigeria adopted the nicety of negotiations/persuasion to solve the Gambian crisis, Botswana almost stole the show as the first country that withdrew recognition of Jammeh as the President of the Gambia. How much pressure such diplomatic move put on the former Gambian leader to eventually quit was not clear.

It was quite frightening to imagine the ramifications of the consequences of a total showdown in the Gambian crisis. What would have been the fate of a rag-tag battalion of poorly-equipped Gambian soldiers against well-equipped ECOWAS air and ground forces? Such was the mismatch that the Gambian soldiers would have deserted or been wiped out by the ECOWAS intervention forces.

On the other hand, if the Gambian forces had stood their ground and fired a single shot in defence of Jammeh stubbornly holding out at the presidential mansion, the place might have been reduced to a public cemetery.

That was the tragedy Nigeria’s Buhari, Ghana’s former President Dramani Mahama, Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Guinean President Alpha Conde and Mauritanean President succeeded in averting through many diplomatic shuttles.

Nigerians react

Your write-up predicting the American presidential election was well-written without bias. To many writers and commentators, predicting Hillary Clinton’s victory, they should discard prejudice.

– Bode Lawal, Ibadan, 08176979532

You have done it again! Wisdom-spiced, well-researched and laced with the spirit of circumspect. Thank you. But you forgot to mention the God factor. Till this modern century, God does rule in the affairs of men and allows power to come to the bosom “of whomsoever he will.”  The protesters: I suggest they be arrested and questioned if they ever went to the well-organised polling booths to vote. I dare say majority of them are from Africa and are replicating what we are used to: Demonstrating in the name of “we have been rigged,” whether or not they voted. What do they mean by “not my president” while still living in the United States?       – King KD., 08176898711

Nice write-up sir, Trump the triumph, be blessed.   – 08060486167

Your write-up was majestic, exotic and flavoured with experience. Donald Trump’s victory has shown the world that America is truly a free society.

– J. Gold Monye, 07058882573

Gbozaa, gbozaa, gbozza! You make me happy every Friday. Tell them. They don’t know marriage is not by force.

– Cele, Abakaliki, 08068442344

Your write-up on legitimacy of secession/break-up was wonderful. You have written like a noble Nigerian. You are, indeed. Tell them. They cannot subdue. Be blessed.   – 08039552537

May Almighty God continue to bless you for saying the truth and may you live long to see Biafra come to reality.

Ise, Ise, Ise. Amen.

Double Chief, you made my day with your piece. Some people should be educated. God bless you.

– Emma Okonkwo, 08036742467

The piece was second to none.

– 07031893202

“Legitimacy of secession, even break-up” was wonderful and your recommendations correct even though I do not support break-up. Rather, I support good leadership both at the Presidency and in the states. Let us move this country forward. We will all enjoy it bigger and better. But, if it is not possible, let’s go apart peacefully.

– Chris Chime, Enugu, 08039426054

I read everything on December 12, 2016. It was erudite, a masterpiece. Keep it up and do not be afraid. May God bless you.

– Barr. Arinze Obidozie Anambra State,  08066239893

Egbon, I hope they are listening.

– Ezemah Xtopher, Nsukka

07039542166

On legitimacy of secession/even break-up, your pen shall never go dry. God bless your family for life.

– Emma Chiadi, 09039195661

Thank you for your lucid, honest, engaging, courageous write-up on Biafra. God bless you for lecturing the ignorant Nigerian government and their devious collaborators from the South-East on why a nation of cheated people cannot afford to remain in servitude. Had Buhari and his gang of nattering nabobs of nepotism realised the futility of repressing the reverberating agitation, they would sooner address their minds to repairing the economy they damaged than wasting time and resources trying to stop the return of Biafra, whose time has clearly come. All hail Biafra!

– Chris Udenta, 08035813431

My name is Olusoji. I took my time to read your article, “Legitimacy of secession, even break-up.” Even now, I have just finished with “Pro and con of real politics in South-East.” I just want to pray that your wisdom will not decay. I am proud of you, and one day we will meet. Thanks for being a true Nigerian with an uncommon ability to speak the truth. You will live long sir.

– 09031103688

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