I knew he was quite a bit of a buffoon, from his erratic pronouncements, but not enough of a cretin to go the way of the zany likes of Messrs. Muamar El Gaddhafy and Saddam Hussein. These two Arab cowards, like Mr. Yahya Jammeh, greatly desired to live. But they had so comfortably and imperiously lorded it over their fellow citizens for so long and been able to suavely privatize the public purse, literally, as their own that they could not fathom how to live a normal life anywhere around the globe without being in charge. And so having adamantly refused to gallop peacefully into the sunset, as it were, Mr. Hussein would be smoked out of his fox hole and sentenced to death by hanging, in much the same way that he had done to his enemies, both real and perceived, for as long as he had ruled as a tyrant, for quite a considerable while, with the strategic complicity and support of some hardnosed and cynical American leaders.
It was the same Western leaders who would call for the head of the vanquished and disgraced former Iraqi dictator on a diamond platter, when they found Mr. Hussein to have exhausted himself of his usefulness to them. In the case of the Libyan dictator, Mr. Gaddhafy would begin his “revolutionary” political career by deposing that country’s monarch and end up creating a dynastic regime of his own. Bluster and all, he would be dragged out of a duct, or gas pipeline, of some sort, by a man-child young enough to be his own grandson and literally slaughtered like the monster into which he had virtually morphed himself. In the Gambia, Yahya Jammeh appeared to be fast morphing into a veritable monster. He had also long figured out that his people, like their counterparts of Ghana, were a docile pack of craven cowards who would rather eke out the undignified existence of serfs and modern-day slaves than allow a few noggins among their fold to be immolated on the chopping block, in order to be able to rid themselves of that half-Scottish bastard who had upended their otherwise prosperous lives and destiny.
The half-Scottish waif would keep thumbing his nose at them and literally calling them cowards in both plain and metaphorical language. Actually, Mr. Jammeh had earlier on espied the proverbial handwriting on the wall and suavely chameleonized himself into a faux democratically elected dictator, like his Ghanaian role model. He had simply found it a bit harder to exit the scene when it became obvious that his game was up. You see, the problem with the politics of The Gambia, like the political history of most of the countries of the West African sub-region, is that the first democratically elected president of that strip-mall country, the Ghanaian-educated Mr. David (later Dauda) Jawara, had not realized it when it became obvious that he had outlived his popularity and welcome. He had to be forced off the scene by the then-Lieutenant Yahya Jammeh.
And so in a quite striking sense, Mr. Jammeh is a tragicomic political figure. I read his very poorly composed departure speech, which he haltingly read on radio and television at Banjul Airport, in which he lamely claimed that his decision to stand down and hand over power to Mr. Adama Barrow, the man who defeated him in last December’s poll, was based on his avid desire to have peace reign in both The Gambia and the rest of the African continent. This was quite refreshing as well as enlightening for a man whose stranglehold on power had been widely attributed to his remarkable thirst for blood, including the blood of some 44, or so, Ghanaians summarily executed by the recently exiled Gambian leader who claimed at the time that the slain Ghanaian residents of his country had been involved in a conspiracy to overthrow his government. Well, as of this writing, Mr. Jammeh was reported to be emplaned to Guinea-Conakry and en-route to Equitorial Guinea, where he had been granted political asylum as part of his exit deal with the ECOWAS leaders who brokered the same.
Those who have been regularly reading my columns may recall that exactly two years ago, to the month and nearly to the day, as well, I predicted the beginning of the end of the “Jammefication” of the Gambia. I actually called it “De-Jammefication” of The Gambia. My one concern here, though, is that with the departure of Mr. Jammeh from The Gambia, that the country’s new leader, Mr. Adama Barrow, does not lapse into the odious Jawara-Jammeh mold. For that would not only be tantamount to having unpardonably let the Gambian people down, immensely, it would also be a humongous letdown for the brokers of the transition deal that enabled Mr. Barrow to auspiciously assume the democratic reins of governance – and here, of course, the reference is to the ECOWAS, the African Union (AU) and the United Nations.
In agreeing to step down and go into exile, Mr. Jammeh had also reportedly negotiated his right to return to his native land at some point in time. It would be quite in order to allow him to return at the proper time, which means a time when Gambians can rest assured that this pathological megalomaniac would not be up to his old tricks and antics again. It would also be quite in order to have Mr. Jammeh return at some point in the not-too-distant future, just as he had allowed a deposed, aging and an ailing President Jawara to return home and find eternal rest from where it all began for the postcolonial political pioneer.
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