Yahya Jammeh vs ‘the will of the people’

I’m trying to figure out how Yahya Jammeh is doing these days. He only has two weeks left in State House. Here is a man who has built an incredible life around leadership. He loves the position of president. Now that he’s leaving makes it excruciatingly painful for him.

Of course, Jammeh had all along assumed he was going to win last month’s election. It never crossed his mind that a not-so-known Adama Barrow had what Piers Morgan would call a ‘cat-in-hell’s chance’ of beating him. Then Barrow sensationally triumphed. It was going to be a beautiful 39-day transition period, it first appeared.

But in his most dramatic action – after just five days of the transition – Jammeh claimed the electoral commission swung the election Barrow’s way. He first conceded defeat and then flipped. He has since insisted on us holding fresh elections. How so ridiculous!

It’s a political circus of sorts that’s been playing out. Jammeh’s deluded, defiant, sore loser fury has known no bounds. It has now escalated in its intensity and desperation. There has been a lot of local and international effort to make him behave. He’s being told to hand over power to President-elect Adama Barrow.

Barrow didn’t win the presidency because of fraud, as Jammeh claims. He won because a new consciousness for change had swept Gambia. The people had had enough of him. They saw him to have gone past his sell-by date.

Being a leader is about serving. It’s sometimes about having a good time. Yahya Jammeh achieved both. I have to say he worked toward improving lives. It’s also Jammeh who junketed around the world, rode in the best cars, ate the best food and slept on the best beds. After 22 years in power, life really couldn’t have been more fulfilling.

Nothing lasts forever, they say. Half the country’s population were either not born or very young when he ascended. It’s in daring fashion. Coups were just illegal but Jammeh – a junior 29-year-old army officer then – managed to grab his luck unscathed. Indeed he should be grateful to God that He’s been on his side this long.  And so I see no reason why stepping down should be this hard.

I’m just disgusted. Anyone who’s good at profiling will tell you he’s becoming a threat to national security. The last time out, he cut a completely defiant figure. As he addressed the nation on the eve of the New Year, he reiterated his call for a fresh election. He also vowed to defend Gambia against external aggression. But what Gambia is there to defend? The people do not want him. That’s why they voted him out.

Unfortunately, Jammeh just isn’t listening. He’s amplified his weeping and wailing. Some mandarins and cronies have joined him.

They’re now taking different approaches. Knowing that it was remotely possible for a mere candidate to annul an election, they’ve directed their grievance to the Supreme Court. The apex court is expected to rule on their petition sooner or later.

I think Jammeh has been exposed as a man fighting a foolish battle. It’s a battle against the entire world. Countries and institutions, even in far-off places of the world are recognising Adama Barrow as the president-elect of Gambia. The level of solidarity that he’s received is impressive, if not overwhelming. He’s getting ready to swear to the oaths of office as president, commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Gambia come January 19.

Meanwhile, it’s the Red Sea that Gambia has to sail across first. A pervasive fear of the untoward continues to grip town. No one knows if Yahya Jammeh means what he says or not: that he will not step down. If he stays true to this his preposterous stand by January 19 we may not like the outcome.

Lamin Njie is the former editor-in-chief of The Standard newspaper. You can email him at njiel@ymail.com