GAMBIAN VERY VERY PRESIDENT ALHAGIE ADAMA BARROW RETURNS FROM NIGERIA
Gambian President, His Excellency Alhagie Adama Barrow on December 4, 2020 returned home from a one-day official visit to Nigeria where he held a special meeting with his counterpart President Muhammadu Buhari.
For not publicly announcing the reason for his trip before his departure, the journey triggered widespread speculations from journalists and interested parties keen to know why.
I am indeed among those interested speculators convinced of the visit having something to do with a peculiar revelation in October about the prospect of the Barrow government seeking bilateral military assistance from Nigeria for the deployment of only their troops to replace ECOMIG forces due for withdrawal in 2021.
It was confirmed in early October that Gambia’s Foreign Minister Dr. Mamadou Tangara and Defense Minister Sheikh Omar Faye visited Nigerian in an official mission to draft such an MOU that if ratified will translate into a defense pact between the two nations. Present as negotiators during the drafting were senior Nigerian government officials and their Gambian counterparts including our two ministers, the Gambian ambassador in Nigeria Taal and the Gambia’s Defense attache in Nigeria, Sarr.
Nevertheless in the foreign ministry’s press release published by the Gambia Standard Newspaper on October 9 2020, they explained their trip as an exploration of the possibility of increasing trade activities between the Gambia and Nigeria that accordingly had never existed in the first place.
It is therefore fair to conclude that the two ministers were actually in Nigeria more to seek military assistance than anything else compelling then to even fabricate a story about late General Abubacar Dada of NATAG being the most important figure in the establishment and development of the Gambia Armed Forces into its current professional standard and proceeded to decorate him posthumously. I have in my last paper featured that event and its false narrative aimed at misleading the Nigerians who perhaps out of diplomatic curtesy pretended to fall for it while being aware of the whole fallacy. After going through all that trouble, one would expect President Barrow to have at least mentioned it in Nigeria or immediately upon returning home.
But upon his arrival at Yundum International Airport, the president in his own words narrowed his reasons for the trip to Abuja as going there to thank the Nigerians for their multifarious assistance, adding that their support has been unflinching since he was elected into office in 2017.
Speaking in his typical style of English, Barrow at the airport said, “Personally, Buhari have been very very supportive to Gambia and I deemed it fit to go there and update him about the state of affairs in the Gambia here”.
He acknowledged with satisfaction the help Nigeria has been rendering the Gambia in its departments of education and justice and went on to identify the presence of his Minister of Justice as a member of his delegation but said nothing about his Foreign and Defense ministers Tangara and Faye respectively. As for Tangara, I just can’t recall when Barrow had ever travelled abroad without him.
Hence I thought Gambians deserved further clarification over what happened to the two ministers’ October 6th mission to Nigeria that they said was about trade and defense where a defense MOU was conceived. Or did the Senegalese President Mackey Sall and Guinea Bissau President Umaro Sissoco Embalo reported to have flown to Abuja for a special meeting with President Buhari soon after the departure of our two ministers caused Nigeria’s nullification of the MOU? And was Barrow invited by Buhari to let him know that the drafted MOU, contrary to the assurance his defense minister uttered that Nigeria would ratify was after all not going to happen?
It was of course reported in certain Nigerian newspapers that before leaving Abuja following their insincere eulogy and decoration of NATAG commander, late General Abubacar Dada, Nigeria’s Defense Minister retired General Bashir Salihi Magashi had assured Foreign Minister Tangara and Defense Minister Faye that the Buhari government will ratify the drafted MOU. Barrow’s failure to mention the trade and security deal to Buhari and his decision not to tell the Gambians anything about it amounts to two probabilities; that, one, Buhari showed no interest in them or that two, our two ministers misinformed us about what they had exactly visited Nigeria for. Hello Tangara and Faye, can we hear a word on this?
However going by the statements of Buhari reported in Nigerian’s BUSINESS DAY and VANGUARD Newspapers, Nigeria’s impassivity over Gambia’s request on trade and defense matters seem more palpable especially on the latter.
For I find it rather odd for Barrow to fly all the way to Nigeria to “update” or “thank” Buhari about Nigerian’s assistance toward the Gambia’s transitional endeavors following the 2017 political impasse to occasion such a terse warning from the Nigerian president about Barrow, stating that like him “…we are expected to respect our people”. A mere thank-you statement on anything to anybody wouldn’t trigger such a blunt counsel, adding that “the future of our countries lies in our hands”.
Buhari’s emphasis on his government’s assistance to Barrow’s government since its inception was to support him within the framework of an ECOWAS agreement or saying that “we are dealing with our own troubles here but will continue to support you bilaterally and through ECOWAS” was a clear manifestation of Nigeria’s unwillingness to sign any defense MOU with Gambia outside ECOWAS agreements.
The Nigerians since time immemorial and not after Barrow came to power in 2017 have been rendering the Gambia uninterrupted and unrestricted bilateral support to the departments of education and justice which couldn’t be a logical reason behind Buhari’s tough warning to Barrow. I think the Nigerian President’s response was about Barrow’s request for military assistance in the upcoming 2021 presidential election..
The Gambia government could conceal from the Gambian people the reason(s) for the president’s trip; but international protocol would always oblige them to forward such details to the host nation or government well before his departure. Buhari was therefore aware of Barrow’s reason(s) for visiting him, perhaps days before and waited for him with his candid welcoming admonition.
Doesn’t it sound rather odd for President Buhari to complain to Barrow about Nigeria having its own set of problems from a simple thank you gesture by the Gambian president and a mere plea for technical assistance?
I hope my readers will now agree with me that it was either about Mamadou Tangara’s and Sheikh Omar Faye’s MOU to beef up the security shortfall of the Gambia in the wake of a premature withdrawal of ECOMIG forces next year, a force mainly under the command and control of Senegal since deployed in 2017 or in an attempt by Adama Barrow to act alone by directly discussing his problem with Buhari off script and in the process turned him off. It is my strong believe that Barrow speaking the English he speaks in the Gambia to President Buhari could easily irritated the veteran politician and former military officer into turning down any request from him on especially defense matters to keep him in power for 15 years.
So in my naughty satirical imagination, I can visualize President Barrow going solo by first assuring his Secretary General, Permanent Secretaries, Protocol Officers, Press Crew and even Gambia’s black Shakespeare, my friend and government Spokesman Mr. Ebrima Sankara to sit tight and let him handle this one off script.
BARROW: Don’t worry folks, I got this one; you just have to trust me this time.
Press Secretary Mrs. Amie Bojang Sissoho, concerned that the president would be talking in the Fula dialect as he always does with President Mackey Sall, tries to discourage the unimaginable ‘adventure’
In my Tuesday article, expect to enjoy the tete-a-tete meeting Barrow had in Buhari’s office all alone by themselves. It will be real fun to read.
Thanks for reading.
BANJUL, THE GAMBIA