Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, says his country will do everything possible to help The Gambia have a peaceful resolution to its political crisis.
Mr. Onyeama stated this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja.
The minister expressed optimism that the Gambian President Yahya Jammeh would listen to the voice of his people to resolve the political impasse in his country.
The Gambian leader had accused West African regional body, ECOWAS, of declaring war against his country, when he was asked to step down for a democratically elected president.
Mr. Jammeh spoke in reaction to a statement by the ECOWAS Commission President that the regional body had put forces on alert should the Gambian leader refuse to voluntarily quit after losing presidential elections.
Mr. Jammeh lost the December 1, 2016 election to rival Adama Barrow. He initially accepted the result and congratulated Mr. Barrow, but later recanted saying he would not step down.
The Gambian leader, who has been in power for 22 years, also promised to defend Gambia against any outside aggression in a New Year speech broadcast on state TV.
Mr. Onyeama expressed belief that in spite of the Gambian leader’s stance, Mr. Jammeh would honour the call of the ECOWAS leaders to bow out of office at the end of his mandate on January 19.
“We will like to believe that he will listen to the voice of his peers in the sub region ECOWAS.
“And that he will also listen to the voice of his people but above all he will follow the democratic path. So, we will do everything possible to bring that about.
“Essentially, we want a peaceful resolution to the issue, you know we have experienced conflict in our country and we know how far back in development conflict can take a country to.
“So we will do everything possible to help Gambia have a peaceful resolution to this political crisis,” the minister said.
President Muhammadu Buhari, who is heading a mediation committee on the Gambia’s political impasse, had led other West African leaders to meet with Messrs. Jammeh and Barrow on the issue.
Other leaders in the ECOWAS delegation were Presidents Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia, Ernest Koroma of Sierra Leone, and John Mahama of Ghana.
The leaders appealed to Mr. Jammeh to leave office and also reportedly sought a ‘honourable exit’ for him.
The exit would ensure that he is not tried for various human rights crimes he is alleged to have committed while in office.
However, in spite of the visit, Mr. Jammeh remained defiant.
Marcel de Souza, ECOWAS Commission President, said last week that the body had put standby forces on alert. Most of the forces would be Senegalese they be required, he said
In his speech on New Year Day, Mr. Jammeh decried the resolution of ECOWAS on the current situation to implement the results of December 1, 2016 presidential election by whatever means possible.
“It is in effect a declaration of war and an insult to our constitution.
“Let me make it very clear that we are ready to defend this country against any aggression,” he said.