by Nonye Obi-Egbe
Someone talked to me recently about a book written by the ruler of Dubai, Prime Minister and Vice-President of the UAE, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. His name and title alone puts to shame our claims to fame or recognition in this part of the world. He doesn’t have to try too hard, he was just born a prince and naturally, his titles go with the name. Many of us were not born princes or princesses, so our only recourse is an education degree and a fanciful traditional sounding title; sometimes we even resort to religion for grand-sounding names. Who can blame us? Well, thankfully, that is not the gist of the matter.
Sheikh Al Maktoum wrote a book you see, titled, My Vision: Challenges in the Race for Excellence, and published in 2006. You probably won’t find it on any top ten bestseller lists save maybe those originating from that part of the world.
It is not a popular book for many reasons. Two most prominent ones are that it was recently translated from Arabic and the man is just a ruler, not another Jack Welch or Robert Kiyosaki. Still, when the oldest man in the village tells a story, everyone gathers to listen, so it should be in this case. When the ruler of one of the most ‘transformed’ states says something, we better perk up and listen.
I confess, I haven’t read the book myself, but I was intrigued. Here’s what Amazon says about it
My Vision: Challenges in the Race for Excellence is a unique book in which His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum examines aspects of the UAE’s unique development experience. This young country is making every effort to achieve excellence and upgrade its status from a regional economic centre into an international hub. It is striving to excel in services, tourism, the knowledge economy, and creative human resources in order to reach its ambitious development goals… The advice and model presented in this valuable work will be useful not only to the leaders of nations, but also all those who yearn for success.
It may be difficult to imagine what kind of life this man had growing up, what with having a lion as a household pet, being told that you can do anything you want, having unlimited resources at your disposal, the list goes on. Yet one thing he didn’t have to do, he did, he transformed that small emirate, demanding from it what he knew it could give. He must have spent time and energy working at the details, poring over designs, listening to plans, and approving expenses. He didn’t have to work at changing things, they were just fine the way they were, but he did. Because he did, he not only changed the lives of his people and opened the doors of his country to investment, but he also enriched his family’s purse. Simple basic mathematics, if the economy prospers, everyone, especially the ones in power will benefit.
What’s the merit of this long discourse? It won’t take too much to change things here in Nigeria. We have not asked for a Dubai, we only want things to be better. If every government would decide to change a little here and there, we will have an unbroken chain of little changes that will sum up to much.
In another few months, we will begin preparation for another election, the sweet talkers will come to us with their agendas, they will tell us they want to reconstruct roads and build us schools. They will hoodwink us into believing they can change the way our public system works, they will convince us that our health care system will be better. And without asking them how, we will believe them. We will believe because we know deep down that we don’t have a choice, because even though we know they lie, we have no say. We have no say because the powers that be will have already decided who’ll rule and everything we will see would be just shadows.
Many of us won’t go out to vote because we know our votes won’t count. Those of us who choose to hope for a good government disappointed, because even though we have braved the elements to put our thumb prints on that piece of paper, our efforts will be in vain. And when it starts to go bad, we will complain, to our spouses and our children, to our colleagues and friend; we will complain to ourselves. We will complain because we know that if only we had one Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, if only we had one visionary, then things could, would change.