The Lives of Political Despots; The Case of Yayah Jammeh

All weeklong, citizens and residents of the Gambia and the whole West African sub-region had to sit on tenterhooks waiting for the aftermath of mid-night of the 19th of January to see whether President Sheik Professor Doctor Alhaji Yayah Jammeh was going to step down and allow the elected president Adama Barrow to take over according to the will of majority of the Gambians or not.

That was not going to be because the world was dealing with a despot and someone who was drunk with power and had had his way for 22 years. With a few hours to the expiry of his mandate, the man was still clutching at straw even after the exit of his Vice President and most of his cabinet. He claimed to have dissolved the remaining cabinet with the announcement that he would form a new one. For what looked like a legal fortification, his ruling party’s MPs in parliament gave him a two-thirds backing to extend his mandate by 90 more days and he declared a state of emergency.

The world has seen leaders of the ilk of President Jammeh who for some reasons believed that they are demi-gods who can have their way to execute any kind of agenda without questioning. Unfortunately,most of them happen to lead African nations. In the past that was very possible to have such leaders not just stealing from the national coffers but terminating the lives of their opponents. We had the Iddi Amins, Hussein Habres etc. It was the era of the Strongmen. Thank God, now most nations are embracing democracy.

But, we still have some around who think they are above the constitutions they have collectively accepted to guide their Governance systems. With impunity, some of them set aside their constitutions and continue in power damn what their people say or do. Some of them have ruled for decades but are not tired and want to continue ad infinitum, till death do them part!

One character trait in these leaders is their recalcitrance even when they have long overstayed their welcome and the entire world says they must exit. In most cases like that of Yayah Jammeh, they risk their lives and everyone around them and that of the entire citizens. Trying to sound more patriotic than everyone else, they use such language as ‘I won’t leave my mother/fatherland and ready to die’. But if you want to die, why must others die unwillingly with you?

In the heat of the Gambian brouhaha, I have asked myself what happened to our African culture of the elderly and senior family members proffering advice to members of the family whose actions are inimical to their own lives and the entire community. Normally, elderly and influential family members would call such deviant members and caution them against their actions by citing other people’s examples to draw home their advice.

Such examples abound in Africa now to have made people like Yayah Jammeh to reflect deeply on their actions. I believe from hindsight, Laurent Gbagbo would have thrown in the towel to walk in freedom than fight till captured like a rat and thrown into a cold jail in Europe.

The list is long with Charles Taylor who is also languishing in jail. Others like Muamar Ghadafi didn’t live to see what happened after their exit.

Blaise Campaore of Burkina Faso was wise and fled when the heat got hot with citizens charged at him after being around for several decades. He now lives peacefully in La Cote D’Ivoire and will surely be thankful to God and whoever advised him to make a clean pair of heels instead of staying on to fight to his grave or disgrace.

William Shakesheare said the world is a stage, where we all as actors come and play our parts and leave the stage for others to come and continue. Why is it difficult for people like Yayah Jammeh and all of us who are mere mortals to accept this?

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