By Alf Soninke
It is about the Former President’s Retirement Bill 2023, recently enacted by the National Assembly in Banjul.
Gambians have seen and heard a lot that is unconscionable over the past seven years of the Barrow Administration, but that it would stoop so low and do such a thing so blatantly self-serving is a shocker!
When we say the Barrow Administration, we include all – at the OP, Cabinet, Justice Ministry, the National Assembly – as well as the NPP party and allied political parties – all who serve Adama Barrow, knew about it and would have enabled the adoption of the bill or not advised him – and even protested as the opposition MPs did – that this is not proper.
It’s clearly unethical that one uses one’s position, that is, that Adama Barrow exploits the advantages of incumbency to get his government to enact such a bill.
We know that when the former president’s bill was passed under the Jammeh Administration, it was deemed absolutely necessary to do so.
Jammeh then had been adequately advised – by people close to him – that Gambia’s first and founding president and head of state, Sir Dawda Jawara, needed to be rescued from a situation close to destitution in the UK, where he lived in exile; and, that it would reflect poorly on the APRC government and the country’s image should Jawara be left to live an undignified life in exile.
Then the APRC-dominated parliament – in which current Speaker Fabakary Tombong Jatta was an influential member – passed that Yahya Jammeh bill to save Gambians from the shame of neglecting Jawara, who, going by reports at the time, was known to be suffering in exile in London.
Thus, It was out of genuine compassion and a sense of doing the right and proper thing under the circumstances that the Jammeh Administration enacted its bill. Subsequently, and consequently, Jawara was able to come home and move into his Atlantic Road residence at Fajara.
Obviously, Jammeh was not then thinking of being a beneficiary of such a law since, in his own thinking, he had accumulated so much wealth – in office – that even his grandchildren would never be poor on earth! Didn’t we all hear him say so?
Therefore, there cannot be any explanation for the Barrow Administration enacting such a bill except greed and abuse of incumbency.
Why the extraordinary session, and why the certificate of urgency? Indeed, what is the urgency of enacting this particular bill?
Could it be more urgent in today’s Gambia than a whole lot of reforms pending and expected since 2017 of the Barrow Administration – such as, for example, passing the draft Constitution 2020, revisiting the laws that affect the human rights and freedoms of Gambians such as the colonial-era Public Order Act, the law on sedition, Official Secrets Act, etc.?
Indeed, again, for example, what about reviewing the Act establishing the GRTS to stop the continuing abuse of power by whoever is the incumbent when you see how the present incumbent is misusing the tax-payer-funded public media?
Thus, it is our view that the only plausible explanation for introducing such a bill now is that Barrow intends to leave office and retire from active politics at the end of his current second term and that this is a signal that he does not intend to contest as a candidate in the 2026 presidential election.
Well, it’s his choice, but he would be well advised to beware of the wind of change now blowing in Africa and to stick to the trending two terms in office – after failing to honor the 3-years agreement with his 2016 Coalition partners – and leave office with some credibility at least.
However, such a plan – if it was contemplated or exists in his head – cannot justify bringing such a self-serving piece of legislation to the honorable National Assembly.
Yes! Contrary to the principle of not enacting a law to target someone or to suit the interest of a person, this is one law that every right-thinking person can see was designed for Barrow to enjoy in retirement when he ceases to occupy the State House in Banjul.
But do not lose sleep over this matter! For, as usual, shortsighted, conceited men motivated by greed and self-interest will inevitably tend to forget that men have their wishes, but ultimately, it’s Allah who decides.
And in this case, one must also remember that what a man does with his hand, another man can undo with his hand.