By Garba Shehu, Senior Special Adviser to the President, Media & Publicity
President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday in Abuja expressed disappointment that he and other leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had to use strong-arm tactics to get Yahya Jammeh, the former Gambian president out of office after failing to win re-election.
“We had to go through those actions because it was the only option for Nigeria and ECOWAS,” President Buhari told Mr. Adama Barrow, the President of the Gambia who succeeded Jammeh.
President Buhari recalled that in spite of all entreaties, the former President refused to accept the outcome of the election he superintended which was widely accepted as credible.
“We thank God for the role He allowed us to play in the Gambia. We believe in multi-party democracy. In Africa, it is absolutely necessary but for the system to work and one to come out of it clean, there is need for patience.
‘‘Patience on the part of leaders is also necessary in view of ethnic and religious diversities that prevail. Leaders must be patient, hardworking and resourceful,” he said.
President Buhari counselled that if African countries can get the institutional structures of democracy working properly, the continent will emerge from the process of development successfully.
He urged the Gambian leader to uphold the legacy of free and fair elections which he described as the biggest guarantee for democracy.
Comparing experiences with the new leader of the Gambia, the Nigerian leader said one of the biggest challenges facing Nigeria is unemployment.
“Sixty percent of the 180 million people are under 25 years. They all wish for a secure future. Those of them who are educated feel they are more qualified for employment.
“We have studied the problem and are doing our best to stabilize the situation.
‘‘We took over from a party that had been in power for 16 years. During those years, the country earned an unprecedented amount of money as revenue, never seen at any time before. It is noteworthy that, no matter how grudgingly, the people are accepting that we are doing our best,” he said.
At the end of the meeting, the President announced that representatives of both countries will deliberate and advise the leaders on how best to strengthen the existing level of cooperation between the two states.
President Barrow said he came to thank Nigeria and its leader in person for ensuring the completion of the democratic process in his country which had stalled back then following the refusal of Jammeh to accept the election results.
The Gambian leader said his country received the support of Nigeria in many spheres, citing education, administration, justice and security sectors and requested President Buhari to continue to be of assistance.
“We will never forget Nigeria for the help it has rendered to us since independence,” the visiting Gambian leader said.