By Alagi Yorro Jallow
With few exceptions, freedom fighters rarely remain so after tasting power. In many cases, they turn to dictatorship and find comfort in corruption.
However, the worst are those who do not achieve power of their own but survive in its periphery. Three respected cabinet ministers, Agriculture Minister Omar Amadou Jallow, Finance Minister Amadou Sanneh, and the Vice President have in private intimations decided to remain silent in office without resigning, calling a press conference to repair the damages on their reputation, or file legal actions before the courts for libel or defamation to exonerate themselves and to restore honor and integrity to the Govt.
These alleged corruption, racketeering, and abuse of power allegations against them and the Govt; does not meet the highest standard of rectitude expected of a leader as reported in social media.
President Barrow’s cabinet ministers need to summon the integrity to resign. The Ministers’ indefensible actions and the embarrassment they continue to bring to the government are deeply harming our country.
For example, recently, Mame Mbaye Niang, the Senegalese Minister for Tourism and former youth leader of the Alliance for the Republic (APR), resigned to allow judicial procedures to restore his dignity. He was implicated based on the recommendations of the General Inspectorate of Finance (IGF) on the mismanagement of the Prodac project he once headed. Niang’s resignation was rejected by the President but the Minister wanted to be exonerated and have his reputation restored.
Whatever one may say of the Senegalese, their political conduct meets the highest standards of morality. Look at the Tourism Minister’s resignation and actions recently; it’s entirely about principles and not one word of bitterness, pettiness or egotism:
The impact of the regime’s plunder back then was to restructure society in ways reminiscent of what is happening today. While social media regularly posts headlines on the latest graft scandals, the Gambians have become numb to corruption and racketeering allegedly involving senior Govt. officials. Based on the shocking and unsettling alleged corruption scandals and racketeering of our cabinet Ministers, most Gambians have no faith in some of President Adama Barrow’s cabinet ministers. If they refuse to do the right thing, the National Assembly representatives should move forward with judicial sanctions.
I previously wrote about the root cause of corruption and racketeering in Gambia being conflict of interest and the blatant abuse of office. It might seem like President Adama Barrow’s cabinet ministers are simply trading in “tenderpreneurship,” abuse of office, and the marauding of government resources.
The Finance Minister Amadou Sanneh was involved in tender without due process for the National and International Gateway Measuring System, sidelining the Communication Minister, failed to discuss tender in cabinet meetings and awarded contracts to companies rather than to the most responsive bidder.
This is a deliberate aberration of due process and not in line with procurement policy. Then came the alleged corruption and fertilizer scandal concerning the Agriculture Minister Omar Amadou Jallow. It has been reported that the Agriculture ministry sold thousands of bags of fertilizer, which would amount to millions of dalasi. The report alleges that although the Office of the President was aware of the fertilizer scandal since August 2017, and the presidency did not act.
By the twilight of President Adama Barrow’s government, the effects of economic plunder will have massive repercussions on the country socio-economic developments. Almost two years, under President Barrow, corruption in the country is judicious. No senior govt. officials or cabinet minister have been purged except the former Interior Minister Mai Ahmed Fatty, who was fired for unexplained reasons. Much to many Gambian’s surprise, the ones who had been most vocal against the ‘Yahya Jammeh dictatorship’ and were activists for good governance, transparency, human rights, etc. degenerated into corruption and ethnic chauvinism. For millennials, the social and economic effects of moral collapse have profound personal consequences
For some, state power had always been about business; “reforms” were an afterthought. Many were former bureaucrats who had gone into politics. Some were old-school types: bright, well-educated, experienced, and systematic in the affairs of government.
At first, everyone tried to be at the important policy meetings. Among these were some of the key players around the President – the so-called “Banjul mafia, Terri-Kafo, Jokerre-Endam, Maraka Kabudu and the Lebanese-Syrian Cartels” and Yahya Jammeh’s enablers in thievery of the state treasury and his “economic hackers.” Within months though, they started to spin away. The amount of time dedicated to official business declined; they stopped picking up their phones, and they would eventually be tracked down at country clubs or meeting with bankers, architects, or lawyers – transacting.
There is still a vicious model of extortion that has become prevalent at top levels of the regime. Ultimately, the plunder of the government is constructed on a bed of conflict of interest that necessarily involves rotting the public services sector, acquiring publicly-owned bodies on the cheap via privatization exercises, foreign investors, and corporatizing the new private outfits through mergers and partnerships with global multinationals. This is best exemplified by the binge on foreign debt and the international cast of suspects that attend to it.
Just as the Arab Spring terrified authoritarians around the world, closer to home impatient millennials are pressuring politicians. They are at once cynical about change and desperate for it. Their university degrees are increasingly meaningless. They realize that you only get ahead if you are part of a racket or about one. However, the elite may realize that the game cannot continue forever.
The Gambian election of 2016 that saw Adama Barrow oust Yahya Jammeh was in part a revolt driven by these forces. Currently, the ongoing Janneh Commission is investigating the economic atrocities of former president Yahya Jammeh against the Gambian people, pillage and thievery of the State treasury, and corruption. A former head of state has been imprisoned for corruption in South Korea. Months ago, former South African president Jacob Zuma, was in the dock for corruption.
Recently the Malaysians, for the first time ever, voted the opposition into power, led by a 92-year-old former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed. Perhaps the million-dollar Malaysian scandal had something to do with these extraordinary political developments. Elites here too will have to duck and dive to stay ahead.
All Gambian Presidents, almost are articulate against graft – and the least successful in fighting it. Those hopes have been dashed into bitter disappointment. Because of their actions, and for no other reason, their capacity for leadership has drained away. I believe that they no longer have the moral authority to lead and can no longer effectively perform the duties of their offices.