The immediate past president of the Nigerian Community in The Gambia has praised President Jammeh for his leadership virtues and Pan Africanist leaning.
Sir Chief Paul Odimmegwa, who recently handed over the baton of leadership of the Nigeria Community in The Gambia to a new executive after accomplishing his three-year term in office, was speaking during a recent interview with the Daily Observer.
He credited His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Jammeh for the successes he [Odimmegwa] registered during his tenure, saying this was made possible by the conducive environment provided for them in The Gambia.
Why the award to President Jammeh
"Nigerians in The Gambia are about ten thousand and look at us in the other businesses, we are so free that there is no discrimination on our businesses. President Jammeh made all these things possible for us. His leadership is something so outstanding in Africa; in fact we call him Pan Africanist of our time. There is no president in Africa that can boast of standing in the world assembly and claim the rights of the African nation. He is the only president who challenges the highest authority on this earth and tells them if Africa is not given a chance in the Security Council then let them know that whatever decision is taken at that level Africa should not be binding to that and he is the only African leader who stood out and made this pronouncement. So that is what gives us that confidence and trust in his leadership," he said.
Chief Odimmegwa also recalled the evacuation of Gambians and non-Gambians from Libya at the start of the uprising in that country.
"When it started he did not only evacuate Gambians but also other nationals including Nigerians, Senegalese, Bissau-Guineans as well as Guineans and Sierra Leoneans. This goes to show that he is a leader by example," he added.
He continued: "He entrusted us Nigerians with very sensitive positions in his government not to talk of the business environment. He has created a conducive business environment for all legitimate business, thus enabling the influx of Nigerian banks into the country. Look at us in the other businesses, we are so free that there is no discrimination on our businesses, what the citizens business is what we Nigerians also business. He made all these things open, so you will realise that there is no discrimination on any Nigerian in The Gambia. So that is what gives us that confidence and trust in his leadership, so that is why I decided that before the end of my tenure, I must award him a merit award."
Membership of the Nigerian community in The Gambia, according to its former president, is about ten thousand. "They came together periodically and meet to know each other and advise each other on how they should behave, especially to be law abiding. We come together, socialise with each other," he said.
Chief Paul Odimmegwa stressed that his executive achieved a lot within the past three years. "With the cooperation of my executive, we were able to make sure that Nigerians come together, sensitise them on drugs, murder and other related crimes. We make sure that we sensitise them on these heinous crimes. We also tried to fish out those Nigerians who were not registered with us to do so and advise them that Gambia is never a place for any nonsense. It is a small place and is like one family, there is no hiding place. So you either stop that kind of activity or you leave the country. So we keep hammering on that all the time so that brought rapid reduction of Nigerians committing crime in The Gambia during my tenure.
"I made sure that the relationship between The Gambia and Nigeria is strengthened that was why we visited the Inspector General's office and the office of the director general of Immigration to collaborate with them to make sure that there is a mutual understanding between Nigerians in The Gambia and the Gambian people."
Chief Odimmegwa also intimated that it was during his tenure that the Nigerian International School acquired a permanent site where construction commenced. He said the place will soon be commissioned.
"I made sure that we gave maximum support to that school, because it is just like a monument for Nigerians here. I also bought a 25-seater bus and hired it to the school to help them in their daily operations. These are part of the things we achieved within the three years of my tenure," he further remarked.
Commenting on the challenges his executive faced during his tenure, Chief Paul Odimmegwa said they were many.
His words: "As Christians we believe that in every twelve, there must be a Judas. So you can imagine if there were thousands how many Judas will be there? What I am trying to say here is that the Nigerian community in The Gambia is a very big one so being the case our problems must be enormous. So I am advising the incoming [executive] to continue from where I stopped, so that gradually we would still attain that goal of creating a very strong Nigerian Community in The Gambia free of crime."
He also advised his compatriots to be law abiding and continue on their small businesses, saying, "slow and steady wins the race. There are some Nigerians who are great here today and if they tell you how they started the journey you wouldn't believe it. The Gambia has a very conducive atmosphere to operate or to work as long as you are into legitimate business. So then be law abiding".