Stella Dimoko Korkus.com: Once Upon A Time in Gambia The Presidential Entourage Was Poisoned!

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Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Once Upon A Time in Gambia The Presidential Entourage Was Poisoned!

What!!!...Former President Jonathan's entourage was poisoned in The Gambia under Jammeh?..oh WOW;This is a juicy must read!





I have very vivid memories of my last visit to The Gambia. This was in 2013 when President Goodluck Jonathan paid a two-day visit to the country. In the course of that visit, President Jonathan commissioned the new Chancery of the Nigerian Embassy in Banjul, and also met with the Nigerian community, in addition to the usual bilateral meetings. Nigeria and The Gambia have very strong cultural and diplomatic relations.

We were quartered at a very nice, hospitable sea-side hotel, the Coco Ocean Resort. One of the first things I noticed was the large population of female tourists, lounging by the pool-side and the sea-side, with biceps-wielding, six-packs-flaunting young dark-skinned men on the prowl, with gigolo-ish gait and mien. A female member of our entourage who had gone to the restaurant alone, later returned - visibly shaken and alarmed and what was her problem: one of the male ushers in the hotel had asked her if she would need a man to keep her company so she could have a real taste of Gambian hospitality.

We laughed over it later, but you could not but wonder whether this was one of the reasons why The Gambia holds a special attraction for middle-aged ladies from Europe. There was no time to conduct further research into that aspect of our encounter with The Gambia. I was far too busy for that. But there was no doubt that The Gambia under President Yahya Jammeh took the country’s tourism endowments seriously: a beautiful seaside, good weather, low crime rate, good hotels, beautiful women, adventurous young men, and a meek populace.

President Yahya Jammeh was determined to give President Jonathan and his delegation a good reception. From the airport to the hotel, you would think a festival was afoot. A public holiday was declared and our visit was aired live on radio and television. When we got to the hotel, President Jonathan’s vehicle was immediately serenaded by a cavalcade of horse-riders and a full band of drummers, singers and bag-pipers in colourful costume. They led our convoy to the Presidential suite, where security had been heavily deployed in fitting recognition of the importance of the visitor. President Jammeh like virtually every other West African President took a special liking to President Jonathan- the only one who was aloof and liked to act like the father of everyone was that one in Cameroon, although I must say when we went there for a security summit, he received us excellently well too. 


We felt very much at home in The Gambia. We were kept in rooms that were a bit far away from the President. And whenever that happened, the aides were always excited. It meant we could have a little more freedom away from the searching eyes of the security people around the President.


 And those ones, I will tell their story someday because they were fond of disturbing other matters of state and personal interest by suddenly interrupting with calls: “Oga dey call you, Oga says you must come now, now” only to get to the big man and he tells you, “No, I didn’t ask after you.” By the time you hang around for a while, just in case the big man would change his mind, whatever plan you were pursuing would have been aborted, or seeing you, the boss would find an assignment for you or drag you into a meeting. Angry, deflated, you went to the security man who made the phone call: “But you said Oga sent for me.” Those guys always managed a poker face: “But you know it is always good to stay around Oga in case he needs you.”



I was impressed by Jammeh’s hospitality and respectful disposition towards President Jonathan. I recall that in 2012, when President Jammeh tried to succeed President Jonathan as Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority, his own colleagues, including President Jonathan, opposed him. He rarely attended ECOWAS meetings. His then Vice President, the motherly, regal and polite Isatou Njie-Saidy always occupied The Gambian seat. But he usually showed up when a new Chairman was to be elected. Seniority is something that is taken seriously within the club of African Presidents.

They refer to themselves as “my brother, my brother”, but they are always very mindful of seniority and that is one of the reasons why the likes of Paul Biya, Robert Mugabe, Yoweri Museveni, Teodoro Obiang Mbasogo behave and speak as if they are God in human form. Each time Jammeh wanted the ECOWAS Chairmanship position, he behaved as if it was his birthright, but in 2012, and again in 2014, he was bypassed for junior Presidents as had been the case since he first expressed interest in the position in 2001. He was the only long-serving President who was never allowed to chair ECOWAS. He must have been aware of President Jonathan and Nigeria’s stand on the question of his Chairmanship, but he never held it against both. In fact, Nigeria and Nigerians were so influential in The Gambia under Jammeh, ordinary Gambians complained openly about the overwhelming influence of Nigerians in their country.



Everything went well during our state visit until it was time to meet with President Jammeh in the State House. It was part of my duty to introduce the Nigerian President’s delegation, except someone else seized the microphone and I stepped down. In The Gambia, mere protocol recognition of the President of the country ended up being a major problem. His full titles had to be mentioned, and in a correct order in order not to upset him. The pre-meeting briefing by my Gambian counterpart dwelt too heavily on the titles: His Excellency, Sheik Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Abdul-Aziz Awal Jemus Junkung (AJJ) Jammeh Nassiru Deen Babili Mansa, President of the Republic of The Gambia. It was something like that. 



The security guards were also rough and menacing. Security men often do not understand the language of diplomacy. We went to many countries where we were treated roughly and our own security men often threatened to retaliate if the affected country ever visited Nigeria. I don’t think we ever got a chance to retaliate because our protocol system proved to be more orderly.

The State House in The Gambia when we eventually went in, however, was quite modest. It looked like the guest house section of Aso Villa. The meetings went well too. And Jammeh, to my surprise, spoke very well. He didn’t sound like the fool he was portrayed to be in the Western press. He was articulate, debonair, well-composed and mentally sharp. I guess these are required qualities for dictatorship and crookedness. And I admired Jammeh. He is afterall, my age-mate. He sat there, in his royalty, running a country, and I was there, switching between a microphone and a notebook, documenting his history. But something else happened that gave a true picture of Jammeh’s Gambia.



Our official photographer, Callistus Ewelike (he took over from Kola Osiyemi– God bless his soul) had issues with Jammeh’s security men. Security men at State Houses around the world are unfriendly towards journalists. They seek to control access. They consider journalists busybodies, looking for negative news. Accreditation and the use of tags should ordinarily take care of this, still, the security people just prefer to misbehave, and I witnessed that even in the United States where we were treated as if the visiting media was a team of terrorists. There was no violence in the US, but in The Gambia, they seized Callistus Ewelike’s camera and smashed it. Callistus is an aggressive, stubborn photo-journalist. He would fight if you try to stop him from doing his job.



He was a staff of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) handed over to me by Ima Niboro when Kola took ill. Callistus must have resisted the Gambia goons, claiming his right as President Jonathan’s Official Photographer. In The Gambia under Jammeh, the President and the security agencies ruled as if there would be no tomorrow. They trampled on everyone else’s rights. Anyone who tried to act like a free man was brutalised and dumped in prison. For 22 years, Jammeh sat on his country and his people with the help of marabouts and security enforcers. He kissed the Koran everyday, but he did not act according to its dictates. He wore a trademark white garment, but his true garment was of a black colour from the kingdom of Satan.


Ewelike’s travails eventually became a full-fledged story on the second day of our visit when President Jammeh’s spokesperson and the rest of his media team started looking for me at the Coco Resort. We were to be treated to a luncheon before departure. The luncheon had started but I got cornered. Jammeh’s spokesman brought a brand new camera to replace the one the Gambian security people had destroyed. Callistus was with me. The Gambians apologized. Apology was taken and accepted. They said they didn’t want the two Presidents to hear about the incident. I gave them my word that I would not mention it to President Jonathan. Then, they pleaded that we should accept the replacement camera they brought.


I told them not to bother - as far as we were concerned, whatever happened was occupational hazard and Nigeria would replace its own damaged equipment. I looked at Callistus. He was eyeing the new camera greedily. At a point, he called me aside and whispered: “Oga, this camera they are giving us is better than the one they smashed oh. This one na better camera. Oga, abi make we take am?” I stood my ground. 


I also consulted Ambassadors Hassan Tukur and Daniel Hart who said accepting a replacement would amount to a diplomatic tit-for-tat. I thanked The Gambians for their good sense and assured them that we were fine with the photographic coverage of the visit so far, despite the damaged camera. I always had a back-up photographer and cameraman, in any case.

That encounter was a blessing in disguise. It saved me from the first course at the Presidential luncheon, which had started while we were outside the hall discussing the damaged camera. When we got back to Nigeria, close to eight persons on the Presidential delegation ended up in hospital due to food poisoning!


 They all took that first course. Nobody died but somehow the information got back to The Gambia and the chef was arrested and charged to court. Jammeh’s rulership of The Gambia was jinxed in many ways. The biggest jinx was his volte-face over the last Presidential election. Gambians deserve a new place in the sun and a new Gambia. But so much depends on new President Adama Barrow. He should look beyond the past and face the future. If he spends his time facing the past, he will disappoint his people and exhaust the enormous goodwill that has brought him to power.

BY REUBEN ABATI:



WOW so it was this bad with Jammeh?Does that man have any love inside of him at all?





64 comments:

Yori Yori Princess Loveme Jeje said...

Hmmmmmm Abati, i tried reading but could not finish. Thank God for our Jona.

Anonymous said...

I noticed this part of the write up "And Jammeh, to my surprise, spoke very well. He didn’t sound like the fool he was portrayed to be in the Western press. He was articulate, debonair, well-composed and mentally sharp. I guess these are required qualities for dictatorship and crookedness."

The man himself is different from what the western press had portrayed him to be!

Also, he recognized that his own principal didn't have this qualities. Lol

Anonymous said...

At least he fucked two dumb actresses with no condoms it shows how stupid and wicked he is, I spit on Angela okorie, Mimi ojekwe and totolus the pimp

Zitel Coconut oil Onitsha 08081725441 said...

What's de purpose of the poising? Who was the prime target? What was the motive? Nawah

Anonymous said...

Another riveting read, great insider perspective about Gambia as well.
Gambia is the home of male gigolos no be today.
White middle aged women come to pick up sugar boys, this has been the practice since the mid 90's and the girls i hear are buxom beauties who have no qualms about following you home and losing your number afterwards.
For the girls it is sex, no frills, no payment, no relationship- just sex

Anonymous said...

Reuben, Rueben, u sabi book. U get first class please make it shorter for us. Thanks

Intelligentsia princess said...

Akuko brother Reuben

Anonymous said...

well guess what I didn't bother reading just scroll down and I was not wrong.

Anonymous said...

Interesting read is an understatement. God bless Reuben for updating us.

Anonymous said...

Oga Reuben u promised to tell their story. Please do. My ears are itching.

Chidinma Grace said...

Hmmm! This is bad

mynak*ed picture G Wagon said...

"If he spends his time facing the past he will disappoint his people"this statement is an indirect shade at Buhari.Oga you should have allowed that man Calistus take the new camera nau i felt pity for him when you said he was eyeing the camera greedily. So these people play pranks aswell?" Oga dey call you"lol confirm tinko tinko.From this write-up it is safe to say that Jammeh is/was mean and a dictatorate whom his cabinet see and fear like a small god,and also they did things with serious caution and calculation so as not to step on Jam's foot.Ermmm Oga writer you didn't tell us if they arranged girl for you all oh or they didn't ehn? By the way thank heavens from saving you and that heavens none if them died i won't be suprised if it was the president that commanded that the food be poisoned or maybe some one else did the to spite Jam and The Nigerian visitor.Who knows?

Bluntly blunt said...

Too long biko, I know it's Reuben

Lizzy Berry Weds Atheist 2017 said...

Wow good writer...well detailed narrative,,, the real story came towards the end. Oga Rueben more ink to your pen

Anonymous said...

Quite expository...
Forget the glamour, there is so much 'hazards' in most of these jobs.


...Miss TLC...

rukyodoguagogbuo said...

I always take my time to read any article written by Reuben Abati. Lovely write up.

marriedchick said...

thank God no one died... had to read this one cos i saw Jonathan ... kikikikiki

Chinny Baby said...

Ruben Abati is a good writer. I enjoyed it all

Keesha said...

Abati i knew it

Can't believe I read this till the end

Quite intresting....
This jammeh ehnnn
Only evil things associated with him
Good thing gambia will experience a breath of fresh air now

KIDJO said...

I took time to read this and Im highly impressed by bros Reuben'style of writing.πŸ˜†πŸ˜†πŸ˜†

Stella Asemota said...

Hello Dr. Abati.
Happy New year!
I like this story.

charitybino said...

If this is true, then Jammeh's government was bad baje baje

SANDY NEKY said...

When I saw the heading, had to quickly scroll down and was not disappointed!😁 Will read when relaxed at home abeg.

nina chocomile said...

No he doesn't. Can't you see how black he is? Like midnight itself. Ekewensu.

Akwanwa said...

"His Excellency, Sheik Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Abdul-Aziz Awal Jemus Junkung (AJJ) Jammeh Nassiru Deen Babili Mansa, President of the Republic of The Gambia. It was something like that"
Reminds me of my igbo brothers πŸ˜ƒπŸ˜ƒπŸ˜ƒπŸ˜ƒπŸ˜ƒπŸ˜ƒπŸ˜ƒ

Anonymous said...

Even Moyo lawal three of them

missylynn said...

Chai
Reuben Abati is back with long epistle
Jammeh is so wicked and am glad he's off the presidential seat

Moncoeur's behbeh said...

Wow, hope the camera wasn't bugged though. Poison ke? Jameh shaaaa.

IVORY said...

I actually read abatis write up till the end? Today is a really good day. Interesting read!

OmoBee said...

Reuben writes well.
Interesting read.

usani osim said...

I have always blamed GEJ for underusing an asset like reuben abati! That's man is brilliant with the pen than a mic

Iphie dearie said...

Wow!
I love Abati's insider stories.
It gives me an idea about what goes on behind closed doors.
LMAO@ It was part of my duty to introduce the Nigerian President’s delegation, except someone else seized the microphone and I stepped down'

Rhoda Rex said...

His Excellency, Sheik Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Abdul-Aziz Awal Jemus Junkung (AJJ) Jammeh Nassiru Deen Babili Mansa: all these for one person?

Starjoy said...

This kind long episode can only come from Ruben Abati, nice and interesting and thank God none of them died of the poison.

Anonymous said...

Ruben's articles are a must read.always an eye opener.i can't find myself ignoring them.

Rhoda Rex said...

In other news, Jammeh was a tyrant.

Rhoda Rex said...

U missed mehn...

Anonymous said...

Food poisoning is very different from poisoning...this comment is for the discerning...if your cook is careless, you ll get food poisoning

Beth said...

Stella , I love you from time but sometimes your 'sensational journalism' past shows up too much. They had food poisoning doesn't mean they were poisoned and you know that, so why try to play that card?

Smh

Anonymous said...

This Reuben is a born writer..jonathan was indeed surrounded be learned men.i love

Anonymous said...

This Reuben is a born writer..jonathan was indeed surrounded be learned men.i love

St.FranKooL.... said...

#Never waste your time caring too much about someone who cares much too little for you*

Eddiez said...

Ruben is one good writer i really like. Long epistles though. But always very captivating. Jemmah is where he should be right now.

Chief Anonymous said...

i love reading mR reuben's articles, it's like you are there. He brings life into his writing.

Anonymous said...

Ruben must say something to remain relevant in our face. I have not forgiven you for not telling Jonathan the truth. See where una greed keep us today. Tueh to you

Anonymous said...

And you were part of the fickle party. It takes a thief to know one.

Anonymous said...

Just bad food, simple. It's food poisoning maybe from fish or salad.

Ify Lovie Lovie said...

Loooooooooovely piece as always.
Oga Reuben, you're Master of words. You don't ever disappoint.
Tuale to you Sir!

Just Glamour said...

First time I read Reuben's write up till the end,very interesting.

Lilly simple said...

That's why u'r on anno mode
Cos u lack reading ability

Jennah said...

So ogs Jonathan also landed in hospital. I have always known that Gambia ex president Is a mean man.

Anonymous said...

Interesting write-up, first time I am reading Reuben's epistle to the end.

SWAG LAFRESH said...

Beth thank you.

Anonymous said...

is it just me or why do i think that that last paragraph is directly shading Buhari

Blossom said...

Reuben Abati, long may you live. I got so glued to reading this interesting piece that I had to read it again.

I sincerely hope this new president doesn't focus on the past like his Nigerian counterpart does that always complain about what his predecessors did and didn't do instead of looking for a solution.

Anonymous said...

"He should look beyond the past and face the future. If he spends his time facing the past, he will disappoint his people and exhaust the enormous goodwill that has brought him to power." - this statement speaks volumes particularly, about your so called Sai Baba... the part I loved most in the write up.

reemah said...

Oh, Abati, how pleasurable it is to read your writeupπŸ˜€

rukyodoguagogbuo said...

Yes anon, it was all I saw. Hope Gambia won't end up like libya, this new president doesn't look sharp and his diction is a write off, honestly I wasn't so impressed.

rukyodoguagogbuo said...

Pls food poisoning is different, its as a result of poor hygiene in food preparation not babalawo type .

rukyodoguagogbuo said...

That's just the word.

becky naka said...

I love this write up....
The love I have. For reuben is like copied assignment, I can't explain it.

Anonymous said...

Can somebody give Mr. Abati a job. These epistles are quite unecessary ooo. Haba!!!

Amunidara said...

So u used Nigeria's money to buy a new camera for Callistus when he was actually offered a replacement...well done o

Amunidara said...

So u used Nigeria's money to buy a new camera for Callistus when he was actually offered a replacement...well done o

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