Editorial: Making sense of Nigerian President Jonathan’s visit to Yahya Jammeh?

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The Nigerian President Jonathan Goodluck’s looming visit to Banjul for a one day working visit scheduled for this Friday November 8th has a lot of buss to it. Nigeria, one time one of the most unstable governments in relation to military rule is now one of the strongest democracies in West Africa.  The country plays a critical role in Africa not only as an economic power but as a regional security leader sending security forces to help stabilize other regional nations such as Mali. The UN, AU and ECOWAS continue to rely heavily on Nigeria for its leadership in sub-regional matters.

President Jonathan who is on his second term is known to be a no nonsense man in his leadership standing firm in advocating for Democracy, rule of law and against corruption. In contrast to his host President Jammeh who is ruling the small West African State of the Gambia with iron fist Jonathan Goodluck is well respected in his country and across the world.

As a result of the clear contrast between these two Presidents and the directions their countries are heading, many people are puzzled on why President Jonathan will associate with President Jammeh to the extent of paying him a working visit. Apart from the fact that the Gambia is a home to several thousand Nigerians and a potential source of employment for Nigerian citizens, President Jonathan’s visit may have some significant dimensions and a possible blessing in disguise.

First, many close observers of world politics and diplomatic relationships are well aware of President Jammeh’s recent tirade against the West, the pulling of Gambia from the Commonwealth, disregard to ECOWAS court’s ruling on Gambia and his alleged meddling in Guinea Bissau and Casamance.  Jammeh’s relationship with the newly elected Senegalese President Macky Sall who is a close friend of President Jonathan has also soured as Jammeh continue to give President Sall a mix signal on his willingness to help resolve the Cassamance conflict which is a primary policy concern for Macky Sall.

Nigeria is reportedly willing to send peace keeping troops to the Southern region of Senegal to help President Sall bring political solution to the Senegal Cassamance conflict. President Jammeh is reportedly opposed to this idea and may be doing everything within his powers to stop this from happening. Nigeria being a powerful regional Democratic power is also a perfect envoy to send a strong diplomatic message to President Jammeh.

The United States, European Union, the UK government and other regional powers such as Ghana, Senegal, South Africa and Ivory Coast who currently hold the ECOWAS Chairmanship may be behind Jonathan Goodluck’s visit to Banjul. Many understand that diplomatic relationships comes in different ways. Since President Jammeh continue to serve as an elected Democratic President but acts more like a dictator defying all sorts of Gambia’s international obligations and constantly called out for his dismal Human Rights Records, it makes sense for the world to try to dialogue with the Gambia before taking any economic or political actions against the small West African Nation.

President Jonathan’s visit to Gambia may therefore look more like a brotherly reach to President Jammeh, but deep down could be a very significant diplomatic visit to try to put sense in President’s head before it is  too late. There is no better leader to communicate directly to President Jammeh and tell him straight up that the world is watching him and that he has great opportunity to improve his dialogue with the European Union. other sub-regional powers and his human rights records. It could be the ultimate final high level message to President Jammeh that the world is closely monitoring Gambia’s directions and it is time to take a different course.

However, President Jammeh and his government may see this visit as a moral booster despite all his gut wrenching diplomatic decisions of late. As a result of Jammeh’s arrogance and lack of diplomatic understanding he may overly look at President Goodluck’s visit as a sign of endorsement on his leadership. The diplomatic language coming from the two leaders during the visit may shed more light to Goodluck’s working visit to Banjul. For now we believe Gambians and International rights groups should sit back and closely watch President Goodluck’s visit to Jammeh.

 

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