Mr Gassama who walked into the offices of The Standard yesterday for the exclusive interview, said: “Jawara loves peace. He’s unlike other African heads of state; those who create instability in their country, killing innocent people. So, the former president is a good statesman. He is not hungry for power. He declared in 1992 at the Mansa Bengno [Chief’s Conference in Mansa Konko] that he wanted to give up power. But some people there were crying for their own selfish interests. [He stayed on] until the 1994 coup found him in power.”
But Mr Gassama who describes himself as “a political realist”, said Jawara should take blame for the malpractices of his regime, noting that the former president’s leniency created a fertile ground for corruption and nepotism.
“Jawara’s regime was full of corruption. He must take the blame. That’s why President Jammeh never compromises. People always say Jammeh rules with an iron fist. But if you don’t do anything wrong, nothing will happen to you. If you do something wrong; you must answer questions and dance to the music.”
Bass, as he’s widely known in his native Bakau, served as a state intelligence agent during the former regime. He was dismissed shortly before the coup that brought Jammeh to power and quickly threw his weight behind the AFPRC during the military interregnum and its successor APRC in the second republic.
“I left the barracks with my family on February 30, 1994,” Gassama said. “I informed them about the imminent coup – the vice president Saikou Sabally, all the NIA [then NSS] directorates and even Fatoumatta Jawara, the daughter of the former president. They said a coup could not happen here. They said that I was mad. I was not mad. A madman cannot have a family. A madman will not be given a certificate. Even recently, I was certificated by KMC for my good work in politics. President Jammeh has given me a national order in 2005. I did my quota. When I informed them [Jawara’s people], I think they were all sleeping, otherwise they would have assessed the information I had given them.”
However, Mr Gassama said he regarded President Jammeh’s rise to power as a divine will and that nothing would have been able to thwart it.
“I tried to stop the coup but I could not,” he added. “Then, I know President Jammeh was chosen by Allah. Jawara too knows this and has accepted it. Have you ever heard Jawara talking anything bad about President Jammeh’s government? This is the will of God. This is a message to the entire world. I know how the country was going. Not everyone was happy. There was too much corruption, embezzlement of public funds and divide-and-rule system. But my political philosophy is: I support any regime in power as it is the will of God. Sir Dawda has come and gone.”
Although Bass has argued that the former president had overstayed in power, he defended President Jammeh whose rule clocks 20 years in July.
He enthused: “President Jammeh is my life president. How he’s handling the country is fine. It’ll be very difficult to have someone like him. We know African leaders, how they are. But he’s a leader with a difference. I am praying to God for President Jammeh to be in power for 100 years. In ten years, The Gambia will be a Silicon Valley.”
Asked about his take on a presidential term limit, he said: “A presidency is given by God.”
Asked whether that means that even if a rival party leader, Ousainou Darboe of UDP comes to power, he’ll support him, Mr Gassama responded: “Even if you the journalist becomes president, I won’t be jealous of you. You must give support to any leader chosen by God but how a leader ends up is left to his own doing.”
By Saikou Jammeh]]>