By Williams Anuku, Abuja
President of The Gambia, Adama Barrow has said he would remain eternally grateful to the Nigerian government for helping to redirect his country back to democratic rule.
Barrow who paid a one-day state visit to Nigeria to thank President Muhammadu Buhari, on Tuesday, went down memory lane, saying Buhari simply played on the intelligence of the former President, Yahaya Jammeh, forcing him into exile last year.
According to The Gambian President, things turned out for his favour after Buhari challenged Jammeh to a military contest from member countries making up the sub-region.
He said that challenge made Jammeh have a rethink and forced him into exile.
He words, “When we met in Mali, he (Buhari) took a decision as a leader in a closed door meeting, he made one statement that changed everything, he asked if the then Gambian President wants to challenge the sub-region, he is welcomed. This was his words and that made a big difference as a leader.
“That leadership role was very important not just for The Gambia but for Africa because the problem was an Africa problem with an Africa solution”.
Buhari however corroborated Barrow, saying he got the ECOWAS community involved, including the UNDP and the international community to drive the process of restoring normalcy to the troubled country.
“Nigeria was involved and Liberia as the chair was involved, the Guinean President and the Mauritanian President were also involved. The Guinean President and the Mauritanian President were physically on the ground to persuade him (Jammeh) to accept the will of the people, exit to allow us assume office. That was the deal, he accepted to go on exile which we couldn’t guarantee his security. That was the deal,” Buhari said.
The Nigerian President said Nigeria both countries would continue to strengthen partnership on development programmes that would be mutually beneficial.
Recall that the presidential elections held in Gambia on December 1 2016 which produced Adama Barrow as President had generated a lot of tension within the sub-region.
Initially Jammeh surprised his critics by accepting defeat after 22 years in power, but then backtracked by announcing he would contest the result, only to backtrack again and leave the country.
Jammeh departed his country on 21 January 2017 surrounded by cheering supporters and accompanying ceremonial music.
He walked down a long red carpet surrounded by dignitaries before climbing the steps to the plane, waving to his admirers and saluting them with a Koran.
Some soldiers, supporters and dignitaries who had gathered to witness his departure were in despair, while many others in The Gambia were glad to see the end of what they considered a dictatorship, where there was little respect for human rights or freedom of speech.
He may go down history as the first President to peacefully hand over power in The Gambia since independence from Britain in 1965.
Barrow said his visit to Nigeria was strategic going by the support received from the government during the period of political impasse.
“My visit is very important to us. We have always wanted to say thank you when Nigeria gave us all the support during and after the impasse.
“Nigeria has been supporting The Gambia for a long time in different areas like technical assistance in the area of education, judiciary. We are really happy to come.
“We are very grateful and that was why we wanted to come and say thank you. There is a saying in my country that if you want to thank a farmer for a good job, you have to visit him at his farm and that is why we are here,”he said.