Round 2 – Goodluck Jonathan Leaves Clock Ticking On Barrow And Opposition
Former Nigerian President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has on Monday concluded his second round of mediation efforts to building a national consensus around the stalled constitutional review process in The Gambia.
Upon leaving Banjul on Monday afternoon, Goodluck Jonathan said he thanked “The Government, political party leaders, parliamentarians, civil society leaders and other stakeholders in The Gambia for the confidence” reposed in him and “The cooperation that ensured healthy consultations and positive outcomes“.
The former Nigerian leader did not say more on the details of his one and one discussions with the Gambian political actors and members of the Civil society. But The Chronicle has gathered that a little more progresses have been made by the Nigerian mediator in his efforts to explain the basis of his involvement and trying to revive the dead constitutional process.
Our sources have it that Goodluck Jonathan has had frank conversations with political representatives, the civil society and some religious leaders. He has also obtained that they continue to discuss staggering issues like the presidential term limit, the diaspora vote, secularism, the threshold for an impeachment of the president, the confirmation of nominations to government portfolios by the National Assembly, the concept of citizenship and citizens’ recourse to courts to affirm their economic rights.
Gambian lawmakers’ rejection in September of the draft constitution, crafted to replace the 1997 Constitution, triggered a shockwave of disapproval by citizens and the international community. President Adama Barrow then resorted to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) and Goodluck Jonathan to help save the soaring political atmosphere in The Gambia.
Jonathan’s mediation also criticized in The Gambia
Though almost all political leaders gave a chance to President Jonathan’s first mediation attempt, the People’s Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS) did not attend the consultative meeting in December.
Gambian critics of Goodluck Jonathan’s mediation, like PDOIS’ Halifa Sall, have insisted that the constitutional deadlock is a parliamentary matter and that the constitution bill be brought to the National Assembly to be decided by a three-quarter majority before one could proceed to the next stage, and even to a referendum. Others went further to question the relevance of the former Nigerian leader’s involvement in what they believe to be none of his business.
After meeting President Adama Barrow at State House, Goodluck Jonathan said he understands the concerns of his Gambian critics as he explains that “In politics people have differences, sometimes it difficult to reconcile but if you have a third party that help to reconcile it will be easier. The document is produced by the people of The Gambia and whatever little adjustment will be done, will be done by the people of the Gambia. So our duty will be to midwife that process where we will make people to sit down and talk and agree on what is best for the people of The Gambia. The Constitution of The Gambia must come from the people of The Gambia. Not from me or the technical team“, said Jonathan.
A race against time
As it is, time is the worst enemy in overcoming the hurdles along the ongoing Gambian transition in its aspect of adopting a new constitution which has to be passed by the National Assembly before being submitted to a national referendum.
The challenge is also a concern to Goodluck Jonathan who said he hopes to see Gambians achieve tangible results by end of January: “When you are developing such a document, i.e, the constitution, there’s always different interests. So we are just midwifing those interests. And I believe with the conversations I have with Mr President that a least he will go through very quickly because we need to finish this January. It is going on very well.”
Despite the ticking clock of the 2021 electoral calendar, what matters, according to the former Nigerian president is that Gambians come up with a constitutional document that will stand the test of time. “It’s always good to get documents not only for us but for our children and grandchildren. A document that will be regarded as a good constitution internationally and a document that will be all inclusive, that all Gambians will be please with as the ground norm to control the affairs of their country.”
Though his flight landed in Bamako, the Malian capital where he is the Economic Community of West African States(ECOWAS) mediator after the military coup d’état, Goodluck Jonathan is expected to give a full and detailed account of his three-day Banjul stay to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari as he did in December.
The need for The Gambia to break the deadlock on the constitutional review process is of keen interest to President Buhari to whom Adama Barrow has sought help in his post ECOMIG strategy.
Other institutions are also eager to see the Gambia revive the constitutional process. This include ECOWAS, IDEA, the African Union Department of Political Affairs and other global organizations like the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) but also the International Republican Institute (IRI), who have all supported the transitional process in the Gambia, by providing technical support to the TRRC, political parties, the National Assembly and the Constitution Review Commission among others.