These days I read alot of personal memoirs by leaders who made a difference in the lives of their people and by extension made a huge mark in the world.
One such leader in our lifetime is Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
He has penned a new book titled “My Story” 50 memories From Fifty Years Of Service.
While his previous books My Vision and Flashes of Thought were equally good I found this to be very personal. In this new book he talks about his late mother and Dad and the tough childhood when they used to fetch water from the wells. How they sleep on roof tops in summer to cool down way back in the 50’s and 60’s when many in the world could not even have placed Dubai on the world map.
Why am I sharing this story?
Every time some of us challenge our leaders some system apologists will quickly tell us to take charge and make a difference. Folks there is a big difference between what I as an ordinary individual can do and what I as elected leader who has control of huge public resources can do.
I am sure virtually every county including many in national goverment have been to Dubai and myriad of places to benchmark , they have also been to many other cities and places to do the same. Then we always ask , how comes we ain’t seeing an iota of the stuff replicated locally from those places they went for benchmarking.
I finally found the answer in this book and Sheikh Mohammed has dedicated an entire chapter that is titled “A New Dubai in Africa”. He says many leaders have made contact with him with a goal to emulate what Dubai has been able to achive in less than 50 years.
He sums it by saying “There is a big difference between wishing for something and working to realise those dreams”. He then goes ahead to emphasize, we do not tolerate corruption, we do not undermine the rule of the law, nor are we lax in the implementation of the plans we launch. This is how we are building Dubai”.
Now back to my earlier statement, as elected leaders with acess to public resources you are in a position to do loads of things.
It takes leadership to get the population to believe in a cause. I have had the opportunity to see Dubai evolve in the last 30 years, Morocco is another country which was just average until the current King Mohammed VI took over from his late father King Hassan II and in less than 10 years tourists visiting Morocco jumped from 1M to 11M which means every single year they have been attracting 1 million extra visitors, Morocco is churning a half a million Renault cars every year, Morocco is busy producing parts for Airbus why? Because the King himself is leading the way .
I am currently in Turkey and in less than 10 years Tayyip Erdoğan managed to turn Turkey into one very serious country economically exploiting their God given location and large young population. President Erdoğan has been President of Turkey since 2014. He previously served as Prime Minister of Turkey from 2003 to 2014 and as Mayor of Istanbul from 1994 to 1998. He had positional leadership where he used resources to do the right things .
Turkey just retired yes get me right retired an airport that was handling 70 Million passengers a year because the vision of President Erdogan is to handle 200Million + passengers a year turning Istanbul to be one major hub that will even eclipse Schipol and Heathrow. It takes leadership to do that. We are still struggling to hit even 8Million mark.
The Asian tigers also jumped from desolation in under 50 years from Malaysia to Thailand and lately Cambodia to Laos to Vietnam once war torn countries.
Well closer home Tanzania under President John Pombe Magufuli aka JPM is walking in that path because he does not tolerate bad guys misbehaving. Collin Powell in his 18 rules of leadership says that you must confront the bad people who need to be confronted. Thanks to him Tanzania civil servants now use bio metrics to sign in at their place of work and as a public official President Magufuli will simply call you out in public and even fire you . Rwanda and Ethiopia are silently doing what needs to be done to catch up on lost time without drama and fixation on some election that is 3 years away .
Well I feel Retired President Kibaki almost gave us that feeling when he went to fix very many roads that were dilapidated including forgotten places like Isiolo Marsabit Moyale Addis highway and of course next door Voi to Taveta road. Can you imagine if Nairobi never constructed all the bypasses? And the many interchanges? Even Thika highway is now traffic gridlocked. Imagine for once if Thika road was left as it was .
We now have the Big 4 which is a great vision but I am afraid I don’t see that happening when we allow so many guys to get away with murder to a point where for the first time a diplomat Israeli Ambassador asked to be recalled from Kenya. He felt he was achieving nothing when a host nation was not keen to address issues and this was the failed noble idea of Galana Kulalu maize project. This was well captured in a candid interview with a local media house. We see bad guys undermine the Big 4 day in day out and they walk like they have done nothing wrong.
We have counties that receive billions every year but the people and entire county is worse off with dirty streets, broken infrastructure, collapsed health system that worked under national goverment. The said governors will be in the news for all the wrong reasons and thanks to our failed media who give them coverage. Some of these misbehaving “leaders” think clowning is cool. Tragedy is that these governors are local boys who rose through poverty and how we mistaken were we that they would love to lift their people out of poverty. Some of these governors manage funds to the tune of Kenya Shillings 10Billion to 15Billion which is $100M to $150M a year. Take it from me that is alot of money.
Devolution was to allow us to vote in leaders who understood the pain areas but what many counties got in return are leaders who behaved like small kings which Sheikh Mohamed in his book talked about the likes of King Shah in Iran and Kind Idris in Libya amongst many who were toppled. We got leaders who were only fixated on how many relatives and friends will occupy what office and what contracts they will bag.
Doing business with counties was also seen to be another way to help the economy at grass root level but it has turned out to be one way to kill your business. Even worse it qualifies as one of the 101 ways to die young since counties are just not in the habit to pay their bills unless you are one of those friends and relatives.
Kenya is not poor due to lack of resources but due to failed leadership at all fronts both at national and county levels. To those leaders with acess to all these funds , history will judge you very harshly. Keep in mind that you won’t live for 1000 years, we all have just a few years to make a difference . What do you want to be remember for? To the electorate keep thinking tribe and I promise you, the exit from that rat hole will never happen and please do not blame Almighty God. He gave you a working brain to think.
To our elected leaders holding various positions, I leave you with Henry Ford’s quote “You Can’t Build a Reputation On What You’re Going to Do.” It’s easy to be lured into a false sense of security based on what we intend to do” Nothing More Nothing less.
Despite all this I still choose to remain an optimist that one day we shall get serious as a country. To the system apologists I will for sure do my bit in my own small way but I won’t tolerate you when you want to pretend to allocate yourself the role of a gate keeper to censor and sanitise what we say. Sorry such a position doesn’t even exist.
Mohammed Hersi – A hotelier who is passionate about Tourism & Governance in Africa