The news that there is an Adama Barrow Foundation for Inclusive Development (ABFID) is a yet another incidence of political patronage that is seeking to derail this country once more. Not long ago we saw the emergence of Barrow Youth Movement. Well before that we saw Barrow receive 57 vehicles from an anonymous donor. In his very early days a Senegalese businessman gave Barrow some houses yet not declared.
Meanwhile, Barrow has refused to make public the declaration of assets by ministers while he himself has not yet declared his own assets as a president. Yet Barrow want us to believe that he is a man who will fight against corruption and ensure adherence to the rule of law? How is that possible when he continues to perpetuate political patronage by creating personal institutions when he is already a sitting president?
Let Barrow be informed that in a democracy sitting presidents do not create foundations or institutions in their name. This is because the objectives of such a foundation or institution are the same objectives that the State has – that is to promote the socio-economic development of the Gambia, of which Barrow is the head. Where then is the borderline between his foundation and movement with that of the State?
When we elected Barrow, the Gambia people are paying him hundreds of thousands of dalasi every month, tax-free! We are giving him a five-star hotel accommodation facility at State House. He enjoys excellent first class medial attention for himself and his family. These incentives, facilities and services are provided to the president so that he has no other business or issue to involve in or worry about other than focusing on the affairs of the nation. On top of all that we have a huge lifetime retirement package for him for life after the presidency. Hence to now create separate personal institutions to do what we are paying him to do already is a clear case of conflict of interest and an act of blatant corruption and disregard of the rule of law. What does Barrow want now?
Where will this foundation generate funds? Who will donate to this foundation? Who will appoint the board of directors and management of this foundation? How will they be appointed? Will this foundation be submitting itself to the laws of the Gambia such as paying its fair share of tax and abide by the necessary regulations in place? Will public funds be diverted to this foundation as we saw happened with the Jammeh Foundation for Peace? Any minute Barrow spends on this foundation means he is cheating that minute from the State for which he is already being paid fully. These are some of the conflict of interest issues surrounding such institutions when sitting president creates them.
It is clear that when there is a Barrow foundation many individuals, businesses and organizations will patronize the foundation, not because they believe it is a good initiative but because they wish to get favours from Barrow and, indirectly to be seen to in the good books of the Gambia Government. This is how individuals and companies get contracts from corrupt leaders and governments. In this way Barrow would therefore be encouraging corruption, bribery and abuse of office which is a violation of our constitution.
We have seen the controversy that surrounded the Bill Clinton Foundation when Hillary Clinton became the presidential candidate of the Democratic Party in the 2016 US elections. Immediately concerns were raised that the foundation got donations thanks to her former position as Secretary of State and the popularity of former Pres. Bill Clinton. Consequently they were forced to reduce their role in the management of the foundation. Yet this foundation was created well after Bill Clinton left the White House. But now Barrow is in the State House and he wants to set up a foundation; certainly that is a recipe for massive corruption.
Barrow must have legal and ethics advisers in State House to guide him. Let him stop following that Yaya Jammeh path which is the typical practice of bad and corrupt dictators in Africa. By creating a foundation as a sitting president it will lead to the dominance of that foundation over the Gambia Government. Public officials will be constrained to apply the full force of the law on his foundation, as they would do to other CSOs and private companies. This means his foundation will therefore get preferential treatment, which is illegal and criminal on the part of those public officers.
I am utterly shocked and scared that within 12 months Barrow has adopted so many malpractices of Yaya Jammeh and African dictators that I wonder how 24 or 36 or 48 or 60 months would look like with him. The incidences of political patronage are already too many. Political patronage is a cancer that provides the perfect fertile ground for corruption, dictatorship and bad governance. The evidence of that are the APRC Regime and many other regimes across Africa. Why therefore would Barrow repeat the same obnoxious acts of bad guys when he vowed to bring about system change?
All Gambians must stand up against Barrow Youth Movement and Adama Barrow Foundation for Inclusive Development. These are institutions of patronage and corruption that can only promote self-perpetuation in power, self-aggrandizement and tyranny at the expense of the people of the Gambia. They have no good use for our country in anyway. If Barrow truly loves the Gambia as he claims let him disband these corrupt institutions and wait until he leaves office to create his own foundation and movements in support of the Gambia.
For the Gambia, Our Homeland.
By Madi Jobarteh