The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) contingent deployed on the ‘Operation Restore Democracy in Gambia’ finally returned home in Nigeria from Dakar, Senegal.
The 200 officers of the air wing contingent joined the ECOWAS forces that were deployed to remove former President Yahya Jammeh who lost the December Presidential election to President Adama Barrow but refused to step down after graciously conceded defeat even before the final results were announced.
Receiving the contingent on arrival at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Air Vice Marshall James Gbum, Chief of Policy and Planning of the Nigerian Air Force on behalf of the Chief of Staff and top command relayed Nigeria’s goodwill message to the troops, and applauded the gallantry of the personnel.
“Your cooperation and coordination with sister services as well as other friendly forces from other nations that constituted the ECOWAS mission in the Gambia is highly commendable. We are glad that democratic order has been preserved in The Gambia and stability of the country has been sustained. On behalf of the Chief of Air staff and the entire Nigerian armed forces, I want to thank you all for a job well done.
The leader of the contingent, Air Commander Tajudeen Yusuf said the troops have played its role and it is now left to political leaders to ensure its sustenance.
“As we arrived, we went to the state house of former President Yahya Jammeh. I think he was actually very prepared for the war but the air power show scared him and he doubt he could control and contain everything.
Jammeh, a former military officer and the second President of the Gambia ruled the tiny West African nation for 22 years after toppling the democratically elected government of first post-independence President Alhaji Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara.
After a transition, he was later elected as President in 1996. He was re-elected in 2001, 2006 and 2011 elections.
The 2016 election took a U-turn as he was defeated and graciously conceded defeat on December 2nd, 2016. However, a week after, he reversed his decision and announced he was rejecting the results and called for a new election. This sparked a constitutional crisis and immediate mediation deployed by the sub-regional body ECOWAS.
After several failed attempts to convince him to hand over power, ECOWAS had no option but to deploy troops to forcefully remove him and restore democracy.
As the troops – air, sea and ground forces where surrounding The Gambia, Jammeh on January 21st was scared and agreed to hand over power peacefully and left the Gambia for an ECOWAS-arranged exile, allowing the transition of power to take place. He now lives in exile in Equatorial Guinea.