As the saying goes from the movie ‘The Dark Nights’, “you either die a hero or live long enough to become the villain”. This quote explains Gambian President Yahya Jammeh’s predicaments and accidental rise to power in Gambia. When he came into power 20 years ago he was welcomed by a nation on cross roads. He said every right word a nation desperate for change was yearning for. If he had lived up to those vivid pronouncements of transparency, accountability and probity and manage to put the country on the right path for democracy, rule of law and good governance he would have lived to be a hero. He would have been an inspirational story of a young under privileged boy defying all odds to rise onto power and build upon where our nation’s founding fathers left off.
But Yahya Jammeh’s story of becoming President of the small West African State of the Gambia is one filled with sadness and despicable human tendencies of power drunkenness and abuse. From the moment he rose onto power past his two year supposed transition from military to civilian rule, he became the most arrogant and clueless leader Africa has ever seen. He saw an opportunity to divide and conquer a nation with weak institutions and fragile social fabric. He began to unleash the might of the State Machinery on to citizens starting with his closest allies. He systematically got rid of any one who appears to measure to his power or show signs of honesty, integrity and will to stand up for country. He scouts for successful decent citizens bring them closer to him and catapult them as far as possible or send them behind bars to rod in jail. Countless number of decent Gambian citizens fell into this trap.
As he never fails to amaze his critics, President Jammeh this week while swearing in his newly appointed cabinet ministers and in an angry hypothetical explanation of his sudden dismissal of young Momodou Sabally not only as Secretary General and head of the civil service, but as Secretary General of the APRC party, took a stab at Sabally on what he called “arrogant” cabinet ministers. He literally pointed a finger at Sabally and other cabinet ministers accusing them of arrogance towards their fellow ministers.
These statements by President Jammeh came across to the nation as a shock wave from a mad professor preaching about evolution. Jammeh of all people who stood up and threatened to bury citizens six feet deep dare accuse anyone of arrogance. Was it not President Jammeh who said “the whole world can go to hell for all he cares” for executing nine Prisoners in cold blood? Was it not President Jammeh who told critics to go asked Deyda Hydara (RIP) – a slain innocent journalist in his grave who killed him? How arrogant is too arrogant for a leader of a nation to stand in front of the whole world and ask a deceased citizen to explain his own brutal murder? How many times did President Jammeh call cabinet meetings and threaten to jail or deal with anybody who does not follow his commands? What world does President Jammeh live in? Isn’t this a case of “do as I say and Not as I do”?
On corruption and abuse of office, the angels of good will must be outraged at a man who lived every moment of his Presidency corrupting, looting and amassing the nation’s coffers for his own personal wealth and extravagance. How President Yahya Jammeh accuse anyone of corruption and abuse of office is incomprehensible. A man who came into power without owning a single personal property but became a multimillionaire within a decade or so defies common logic. Yahya Jammeh has no moral audacity to accuse anyone of corruption, abuse of office or arrogance. He has only himself to blame for his ignorance of his moral responsibilities as a leader. How he preaches morality and leaders being servants to the people is simply beyond imagination. Guest when a leader believes no one can be “as president as the president” then all hope is lost in salvaging that person. President Jammeh’s rise to the Presidency in Gambia is the biggest historical accident our nation would ever witness. Seeing his own arrogant image in the people he hires and eventually fires is consuming what is left of this man.