Written By: Mohammed Humaid Economist and journalist
Article Date: Feb 23, 2012 - 4:40:07 PM
It is difficult to imagine Yemen without president ali Abdulla saleh. Not that he was particularly good for the country, but simply because for the last 33 years the media have constantly barraged us with his images to the extent that he became a salad that comes with every menu.
Mohammed Humaid Yemeni
This was particularly true prior to the age of satellite stations that have invaded our airspace. When satellite first entered our airspace we were led to believe by those who feared for our morality that foreign media would spread indecency and obscenity. It turned out that those fears were at best misplaced and were in fact a pretext to shield our society from interacting with modern ideas.
The inordinate spotlight of the president and relative obscurity of all others reflected the injustice done to the 23 million plus people of this country and goes to show that that our culture is still tied to the middle ages where the leader is viewed as a superman who was born to rule, an omnipotent figure who knows all and knows best.
I remember writing an article marking the 25th anniversary since President Saleh took the reins of power. In that article I intended to give the audience a taste of the President’s past by alluding to his military background and the little political experience he possessed before becoming president and how, in spite of that, he managed to lead the country skillfully. One of my colleagues read the article that was prepared for the radio. I noticed a sudden change in his facial expression. “You can’t broadcast that.” He snapped . When I asked for the reason, he said “You can’t say the President had little political experience. You must say that he exceptionally talented and was destined to lead this country.” I got the point my colleague was making and decided to scrap the program.
One of the problems with long term dictators is that they diminish all possibilities of other leaders to appear no matter how talented they may be . Aspirations of gifted people are viewed as a potential challenge to their authority if they are not sponsored by them. No space for social mobility is allowed through the work process. The only possibility is through subordination and allegiance.
The Arab Spring has changed all that and have cracked the ceiling that used to limit peoples hopes and actions. Now people get a sensation out of expressing their new sense of worthiness , knowing that they won’t be punished any more by laws that were enacted to zip their mouths. This sensation has resulted in a flurry of expressive press articles, talk shows, protests, strikes etc. However, when it comes to constructive actions and taking stance people are still puzzled of what to make of the newly founded space and freedom. They know they have been empowered but are not sure how to put into good use. It’s like someone discovering a fortune but doesn’t know how to spend it Or having excessive energy energy that can either be constructive or destructive.
People have been used for too long of hearing about events that affect their lives but take no part in dictating their outcome. The February 21 elections are a good starting point for people to emphasize their will for change and assert their right to elect a new president. It may be argued that outcome of the elections is already known. This may be true but these elections will be the first time in the history of Yemen to lead to a genuine peaceful transition of power through the balloting box . A high turnout in the elections by the public will send a strong message to the whole world that Yemenis want a united, peaceful, secure and stable country.
mohammed Humaid Journalist/ economist
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