Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
For the first time since he was helped to power early last year, The Gambian President, Adama Barrow, paid a thank you visit to President Muhammadu Buhari in the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Tuesday.
Nigeria, Ghana and Liberia, among other West African countries, were at the forefront of the struggle which forced out Barrow’s predecessor, Yahya Jammel, who had vowed to hold on to power after losing to Barrow in the presidential poll.
Speaking at the event, Buhari who said the best effort was deployed during the time to end the political quagmire, suggested the need for both Nigeria and The Gambia to raise separate teams that will come up with a programme meant to complement the development agenda of both West African countries.
“We did our best in the most critical time. Hopefully now, the president will raise his team and we will raise a corresponding team and we will sit together and see how we can draw a political programme that will complement each other’s effort on development. So, this is the next thing we are going to do,” Buhari said.
Answering questions from State House correspondents during the visit, Barrow said the visit became compelling in view of the huge support Nigeria gave to The Gambian during the political impasse which forced Jammel into exile as well as other supports the country had given to The Gambia in other areas such as education and judiciary.
According to Barrow, at the heat of the crisis, Buhari made a statement which he said spoke volume during the battle to unseat Jammel and made a big difference during the struggle.
He said: “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.
“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, that if The Gambian President (former) wants to challenge the sub-region, he is welcome. This was his word and that made a big difference as a leader. And that leadership role was very important not just for The Gambia but for Africa because the problem was an African problem with an African solution.
“So, 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 recalled how the deal he struck with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the international community became the bedrock on which his eventual victory was predicated.
“Basically, the deal was: ECOWAS was involved, UNDP and the international community were involved to mediate, and in this mediation, 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 ground, for him to accept the will of the people, exit to allow us assume office. This was the deal. He accepted to go on exile which we couldn’t guarantee his security. This was the deal,” he said.