By Abdiweli M. Ali
Monday, June 11, 2007
President Adan Abdulle Osman – founding father of the Somali nation
We all heard the shocking news and the death of the former and the first president of Somalia. Even though I was somehow aware of his old age and ill-health, it really caught me by surprise. We are all mortal and death is unavoidable. Like a sand spilling out of an hourglass, our life will end the day our lord calls us to come home. The death of the former president may have relieved him of the debilitating effects of an old age and he might be in a better place today, however, I have a mixed feeling of what to make of the sad the news from Nairobi. Should we mourn his death or rejoice the good memory of a great leader? Should we celebrate his life and leadership or should we grieve the loss of an eminent statesman? Should we commemorate a life well-lived or bemoan its sudden and unexpected departure? Should we thank Allah for the providence of giving us this great political icon that guided us through a difficult period of our political history, or should we lament the unexpected passing of a beloved man who through his remarkable leadership became near and dear to all of us? How we feel or deem his death is a true testament of how he lived his life.
One of the amazing characteristics of President Aden Abdulle as relayed to us by those who knew him well is his aura of grace and his unpretentious personality. While some political leaders would relish their time in the lime light, Aden led a new nation and never sought fame, fortune, or a notoriety of any kind. Although there has always been a certain virtue in vagueness when it comes to presidential piety, Aden’s extraordinary leadership would always be remembered not because we sang the never-fading songs of praise (guulwadow —-) but out of an admiration of a simple man who led us with absolute resolve; a man who assumed leadership without fanfare, and relinquished it with dignity; a man of reason who aimed high and reached the pinnacle of his political career, not through the barrel of the gun but through the fairness of the paper ballot.
I am sure a tiny minority of my countrymen would not share my feeling for President Aden, but I have yet to encounter anyone with any ill-feeling toward him except of course few misguided souls whose their none-too-veiled attack of his presidency is born out of barely hidden bias but not based on an objective evaluation of his presidential tenure. Aden understood the ebb and the flow of power, but never abused it or used it improperly. His humble beginning from Belet-Wein and the lack of the superfluities of a formal education never handicapped him but allowed him to avoid the pitfalls of the presidential powers.
From what I can garner from his contemporaries, Aden was a man of conviction who was tough as nails (remember his Iisho remarks) yet courtly in his courtesy. His unbending principles defined his presidency and his courage and inner grace shaped his character and individuality. Even though the rudeness of some of his political opponents turned the political dialogue into a veritable concerto of below-the-belt attacks, Aden was always gracious, cordial and polite. He never transgressed in exercising his democratic and presidential prerogatives and was never tempted to abuse his custodial duty. President Aden Abdulle was such a rarity and the real face that goes with the picture of a good leader. He was a quintessential, and very simply, a Somali hero and a great example to follow. I sometimes wonder of whether today’s Somalia was ever deserving of his leadership. There is never a good way to die, but Aden Adde taught us a grand way to live. May Allah bless his soul?
By Abdiweli M. Ali, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Economics
College of Business Administration
Niagara University, NY 14109