By Sarjo Bayang
In the Gambia, the pet name for parrots is chackoo. Some keepers of parrot as pet grow fond of the fine colour bird and train them how to whistle. Does that make parrots talk sense? Yet people enjoy the melody of whistling by pet parrots. Humans who seek to entertain others with deceptive talks are near parrots. Yaya jammeh who presides over entire national resources for 20 years is no parrot. He is capable of talking with no risk of speech defect. One question that all sensible people in Gambia keep asking is about how the president of Gambia stands tall as person richer than the state. This question has never been answered correct. Jammeh said to Gambians that he acquired his wealth from God’s World Bank. In his words, he calls it “Allah’s World Bank” It emerged later that slain Libyan leader Qaddafi was one of those chief cashiers at Jammeh Allah’s World Bank. Then the Taiwanese and other sources pumped in. Everything else is on top of what the coup makers found in government coffers. Jammeh promised transparency, accountability, and probity. More than 20 years, there is no public statement of account to trace and chase the unlimited wealth of a president whose net worth was below a Dollar. So confident about his wealth, Jammeh said over national radio and television that even in next world generations of his family will stay rich. Mr President, will you tell the nation how you became so rich while Gambian nation sinks deeper down the ditch of poverty.
Moment of truth has come
People of Gambia and development partners cannot stay trading on deception. President Jammeh preaches as the most upright person on the surface of planet earth. He is quick at hiring and firing on claims that public office holders fail to deliver. What exactly is wrong? Jammeh blamed deposed president Jawara for overstay as head of state. Now he (Jammeh) wants to cling on power till death doth part him. While enjoying the sweetness of being president for life, Gambians on their part had enough of him. To most Gambians Jammeh has long overstayed his welcome if he was ever welcome as coup maker imposing forced rule by barrel of the gun. During 20 years since his forceful invasion of Gambia Mr Jammeh now lays claim over money and material wealth larger than entire government of Gambia in resource value accounting terms. The public wants to know how Jammeh gets richer as people and government of Gambia get poorer.
Diverting attention from real issues
To keep everyone busy talking about something else Jammeh comes up with situations of trivial nature. Let Yaya Jammeh stop the chackoo talk and say how he managed getting richer than the nation whose resources the presidency keeps custody of. As if casting a spell over everyone, Jammeh plays deception like no magician ever does. He does not talk about his wealth and sources of it. Lot of it is certainly illicit. Some of it is by way of commercial enterprises set up to milk the people, finance, and economy of Gambia at cut-throat exploitative scheme of trading. He creates all avenues of money making tracks for personal gains using the platform of presidency to exploit and corrupt without remorse.
Separation of public and personal belongings
Even before he made it in a public speech recently that Gambia belongs to him, the ways that Jammeh handles state resources invites reason for scrutiny. Since coming to power, Jammeh assumes that position of president is not accountable to the people. His notion of political power is that it opens gateway to take undue advantage over public resources; material and money possessions particularly. With that mentality nobody dares ask about line of demarcation between public resources and what belongs to the immediate occupier of Gambian presidency as chief custodian, being primary decision maker for distribution. Very unfortunately, Yaya Jammeh does not believe in sharing out what belongs to everyone. He takes everything for building personal wealth at highest expense of state and people. With prospects of regime change looming, part of the rectification process will not be complete without putting in place structures and systematic dispensation that prevents occupier of the presidency taking public resources as personal belonging. In Jammeh’s Gambia even void space belongs to him. Relying on such powers that he owns Gambia and everything inside it including people and their ways of life, Jammeh declared a ban on prayers. At least for one whole day Muslims have been banned from praying otherwise risked arrest and detention. Those who defied Jammeh’s orders have been arrested with possible consequences facing stiff penalties. Entire landmass of Gambia is now claimed by Yaya Jammeh as his personal belonging. He decides who lives or those to die.
Public statement of account on presidential pay pack
High public position as the presidency attracts considerable remuneration and incentive package. That is because much is expected from any legitimate and genuine occupier of such a position as rightful custodian of resources. The occupier is required to be honest, fair, and just. Corrupt, greedy, and unjust persons are not right choices for this high public position. This is not about Yaya Jammeh. People of Gambia reserve all rights and the power to choose most suitable person to occupy the presidency on account of merit. Since Yaya Jammeh came to the political high post without lawful occasion, it is possible that is how he feels above all rules and regulations. By that notion, he does not feel accountable or simply answerable to the people. It is therefore no democracy but monopoly over government, finance, and the economy combined. A public statement of account is required. This will help Gambians to know about sources and uses of public funds. A balance sheet of what government owns and owes will reveal the net worth, assets, and liabilities clearly accounted for. In the absence of truly clean sheet of public accounts, the real state of affairs will stay in dark chambers of government secrecy.
True source of President Jammeh’s wealth
Apart from his venture in various commercial enterprises the amount of personal wealth that Jammeh banks on has other sources. Drugs, arms dealings, money laundering, diversion of government funds are some of the illicit sources of wealth creation avenues exploited by Yaya Jammeh all because he is president and not accountable. Basic principles of accounting and proper audit carried out will render bare the true source of Jammeh’s wealth. This is no tricky task beyond execution.
Transparency, Accountability and Probity
At the time of seizing power by force of guns, it was Yaya who lamented about lack of transparency, accountability, and probity in government dealings. He promised to step up efforts in curbing corruption. To do so, he erupted with the slogan, “transparency, accountability, and probity”. Talking about that promise made 20 years is now crime. To ask Jammeh about what happened to that claim will now constitute treasonable offence. Everything belongs to Jammeh. Therefore he does not require rendering account of what he does with public funds and other state resources. Beyond financial and material value, any person serving in public office is also accountable to the electorate. That is how the public is able to ensure that scrutiny is carried out to the letter. That aspect of accountability, transparency, and probity are expired products in Gambia under Jammeh since last 20 years. Transparency in the occupation of public office could not be sustained on lip service. It has to be practical with proper structures, systems, and orderly dispensation. Rectifying the scale of structural and systems failure leading to breakdown in orderly dispensation is not an impossible task. After the perpetrators and their contaminated environment wraps up genuine good hands will take on. The question remains, when will Jammeh render true account of his wealth accumulated since coming to power 20 years? Even those who pretend loyalty to him gossip about this in their private talks with trusted ones. There is no better time to come public about what has been a subject of tongue biting gossip all the years under scrutiny. Yaya Jammeh has to stop “chackoo” talk about tell Gambians he became richer than the state in 20 years occupation of highest public office.