By Chukwudi Enekwechi
Once again, Nigeria is returning to the era when our leaders played pivotal leadership roles in resolving knotty political issues within the ECOWAS sub-region.
Firstly, Nigeria’s foreign policy is hinged on Africa as being the core or centrepiece of our foreign policy.
Expectedly, on assumption of office, President Muhammadu Buhari did not depart from this path; rather he has elevated Nigeria’s leadership, both in West Africa and the entire continent to higher levels.
With the political debacle arising from the recent presidential election in the Gambia where the incumbent leader, Mr. Yahya Jammeh lost, President Buhari in league with other ECOWAS leaders is leading the way towards finding a diplomatic solution to the problem.
It is important to state here that Yahya Jammeh has been in the saddle for 22 years until the December 1, 2016 presidential election in which Mr. Adama Barrow challenged and won him convincingly.
Initially, Mr. Yahya Jammeh had conceded defeat, but surprisingly he later reneged and this is at the root of what is presently unfolding, not only as a threat to Gambia’s democracy, but also the peace of the entire country.
Gladly, Buhari with benefit of hindsight and experience has seen through the likely conflagration the impasse can cause, hence he decided to rally other ECOWAS leaders in resolving the impasse.
The need to intervene in The Gambia political logjam by an ECOWAS team led by Buhari is laudable considering the dire consequences that may likely emanate from the impasse. Already, the government of President Jammeh has started a clampdown on the media with the closure of some media houses.
For example, the communiqué issued at the end of the meeting of ECOWAS leaders in Abuja on January 9th 2017 had condemned the arbitrary closure of three radio stations.
President Buhari, acting in a proactive manner, had summoned a meeting of ECOWAS leaders and in attendance were chair of the ECOWAS authority, Mrs Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Senegalese President Macky Sall, and the immediate past President of Ghana, John Mahama among others.
It is also reassuring that the leaders decided to ensure that the Gambia constitution is respected under the present circumstances.
There is no doubt that the decision of Yahya Jammeh to reject the result of the elections is an afterthought and has put the country on edge, and presently citizens of the country are leaving in droves to neighbouring countries and to the hinterlands.
It is also worthy of note that the United States State Department has alerted their citizens to leave The Gambia, in view of the palpable fear of violence that may likely erupt.
With President Muhammadu Buhari’s leadership role in resolving the impasse demonstrates his passion, love and support for democracy not only in The Gambia, but across the ECOWAS sub-region.
Gradually, he is emerging as a champion of democracy, rule of law and consensus in addressing issues affecting nations.
Apart from the direct consequences of a total breakdown of law and order in The Gambia, there is also the possibility it may spiral into neighbouring countries. Even the humanitarian impact on neighbouring countries following the influx of Gambian citizens can be very devastating and unsettling.
On the whole, the dire consequences are real and foreseeable, and all hands must be on deck to forestall an avoidable calamity.
In truth, the unfolding crisis in The Gambia is a needless distraction for the growth of democracy, not only in the country, but across the whole ECOWAS sub-region.
Therefore, all well-meaning people should rise and applaud President Muhammadu Buhari for his visionary leadership towards ensuring that the situation in The Gambia does not escalate. His statesmanship and towering personality in the region has guaranteed the full participation and commitment of other sister heads of states and government in the sub-region and beyond to the peace process.
Time has also come for all well meaning people to implore President Yahya Jammeh to give up power and save his people and country from the needless catastrophe his actions may likely bring to his country.
It will be a mark of patriotism for him to step down from power after staying for 22 years and more so as he has been defeated in a free and fair electoral process. It will amount to ingratitude for him to plant violence and upheaval in a country that has done so much and invested heavily on him.
The trust of The Gambia people on President Yahya Jammeh must not be betrayed or their confidence taken for granted. The Gambian people deserve peace, freedom and development and not upheaval.
As it stands now, the whole world reposes faith for a peaceful resolution of the impasse on Nigeria’s visionary leader, President Muhammadu Buhari and from all indications he has shown immense capacity to solve what many may consider intractable problem.
So far, the engagement of the ECOWAS sub regional leaders led by President Buhari is heart-warming, and there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel. It is hoped that President Yahya Jammeh will abide by the resolutions of the ECOWAS leaders, so that once more calm will return to the restive country.
Equally commendable is the decision of the country’s Supreme Court to stand down any decision in respect of the presidential election until the body is fully constituted. More importantly is their advice to the parties in the electoral dispute to abide by the decision of the ECOWAS leaders.
It was the late Winston Churchill who posited that ‘’jaw jaw is better than war war’’, and in the case of the The Gambia political logjam, it is expected that President Jammeh should allow dialogue and reason to prevail. The current tough stance of President Jammeh by threatening hell and brimstone in the event that he is forced to vacate office does not augur well for a peaceful resolution of the impasse.
With President Buhari leadership role in the Gambia political debacle, Nigeria has once more assumed its preeminent position in the sub region, and the honour and prestige the country was associated with by providing leadership in Africa have been restored.
It is instructive that the whole world is lending their support to the initiative of ECOWAS leaders under President Buhari to ensure a peaceful and orderly transition of power in The Gambia. The era of clinging to power by despots is over, and the earlier this lesson is imbibed by all aspirants to power the better. In our world of today, democracy is the vogue and taking root in all nooks and crannies of the world and Africa will not be an exception.
Enekwechi, journalist and politician writes from Abuja and can be reached via email@example.com