By: Ahmed Ali Mire
Dear Mr. President, let me first extend my heartfelt congratulations to your historic victory. May Allah ease the responsibility you took and guide you throughout your journey. You might be exhausted and out of energy because of months of long campaigns for both the presidency and party’s nomination. however, without a pause and resting, you are starting a new long journey that bears both challenges and opportunities.
The people of Somaliland have spoken with their vote and elected you as the 5th president of this nation with an optimistic of hope and prosperity that manifested throughout your campaign. It’s time to lead the country and to live up the campaign promises with clear and communicable strategies that leaves no fellow Somalilanders behind. The history of your government has just started, everything you say, every step you take matters now and above all measured with the promises made during the campaign. While I am not a politician or have no experience to advise you, nonetheless, I felt the urge to give you my humble advice on issues that I feel are truly important and might want your urgent attention in early time of your tenure in the office. Mr. President here are my simple advices to you.
1) Unite the People
Understandably, people of Somaliland are divided after months of campaigning, some have supported your candidacy while others did not. But, despite their party affiliation, you are now the president for all. Unfortunately, there were issues of negative campaigning, against the will of all the parties, in many instance, damaging campaign messages that includes cliquishness have been used which has done more harm than good. its time to heal these wounds and I encourage you, in your first order of business to be uniting the people. Another major issue your administration can take forward is a campaign reform, especially setting policies, laws and guidelines that prevents negative, ethnic line provocative campaigning. This. I view this as a major disease that if not cured early will have unwanted consequences. Therefore, in collaboration with other parties, I feel the importance of finding a lasting solution to this widespread malady before next campaign nocks around.
2) Select adept and capable team
In most of the world’s democracies, the pieces of a newly elected government are already in place in the form of a shadow cabinet whose members have been serving as the campaign teams, contributors, advisors and all other people who helped put the new president in the office in one way or another. When a new leader takes office, members of the new cabinet are immediately available. I strongly advise you against this. Take your time, choose a capable team who will serve the people and have their interest in the heart. When selecting your team ask yourself, do they have what it takes to hold so and so office, what are their interests, do they believe in the nation and so forth. Don’t nominate based on he or she was with you all along, a Sultan or Aqil has recommended or simply he/she deserves the job. All should be selected on merit base.
You may be widely acquainted with the typical denizens of a cabinet but the new president’s first challenge, between election day and inauguration day, is to select his team to serve in his cabinet and as his top advisors and staff. The cabinet includes the ministers and an assortment of other top echelon jobs. At all cost, avoid to follow our traditional way of putting people together.
For those on the inside of the selection process, noted Martin Anderson in Revolution: The Reagan Legacy, the transition is a time of “delicious chaos.” You and your team may think you have really won and rub your eyes in wonderment. That feeling is natural but what is unnatural is if that feeling overtakes you and your team. For those on the outside, including other parties who lost the election, the press and the population will closely follow your first order of business and selection process. The selection process particularly, is a complicated business, largely conducted behind closed doors. Yet the selection of these individuals determines, in large measure, the initial success and lingering impression of each presidency. An orderly transition shows any presidency predisposed for success. But personnel mistakes, sometimes serious errors, can and have plagued presidents even before they took office.
Don’t assume I am only discoursing the cabinet and advisors’ positions. in fact, equal important positions usual given less attention are the governors. for unknown reasons, it seems previous administrations have not given adequate scrutiny to gubernatorial positions. I think they are as important as cabinet position if not more important. I strongly advise you to give equal attention as to that of your cabinet and nominate capable technocrats for they are your extended arm and representatives. Select them wisely and consider people with know-how, knowledge in the context and first-class leadership skills. Remember – governors are your reflection. Local people will see you based on how your governors are.
Another major challenge will be the influence of clan politics led by so called Aqils and Sultans which is solely used for individual gain or interest in contrast with national interest. This is major social problem and will continue to be so for I don’t know how long. How you deal with this problem could determine your success and failure partially. I don’t mean that our traditional leaders are evil on the contrary they are our strength but recently, changing environment have forged their role and derailed from important aspects of this country. For sure, you will feel their pressure and long list of their proposal of preferred individuals and posts. Every traditional leader will ask you for a position for his clan and sub clan for unqualified people. Remember a qualified person will submit his bio-data to you directly instead of his traditional leader. Be mindful of all lists from the traditional leaders, they might not be qualified and or have no confidence in their capacity.
3) Focus on Effective (Good) Governance
Had I written or contributed to your manifesto, I would have given all chapters the tittle “Good Governance”. I am saying this because of its importance to the people and the government. Many administrations might focus on how many roads, schools, hospitals, government edifices to construct or how many project to implement. In fact, many administrations end up doing nothing by focusing on projects that would make them look good rather than do good. Please don’t look good but do good. I encourage you to focus on system, focus on good governance or let me say “better governance” system in place, focus on transparency and accountability. I am recommending this because without better system in place none of your projects will do good. it is like a laptop taken to a place without power, it may run for few hours but eventually will shut down. In fact, I would advise not to build roads, schools or implement good projects without better system in place.
They would shut down at the end without proper system in place. Let your legacy be a reform of the current system. A construction will be repainted, a road will be rehabilitated but a system that benefits for generations to come will be there forever and could be your legacy.
A question deeply discussed by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson in their book titled Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty. Was “Nogales, Arizona” of the United States of America “and Nogales, Sonora” of Mexico “have the same people, culture, and geography. Why is one rich and one poor? How could the two halves of what is essentially the same city be so different? There is no difference in geography, climate, or the types of diseases prevalent in the area”. The answer as concluded by the writers of the book was simply. It is because of the system in place. One side of the city which is the US side has good governance system in place including political and economic institutions. While the other side the Mexican side have different system in place. The very system in place will determine whether one society prospers or falls into despair conditions. I am quoting this because I want to emphasis the importance of proper and good governance system in place.
4 )Communicate effectively and Regularly
Somali people are oral society. Communicate with them as much as you can through social and other traditional media infrastructures in place. Without regular communication confusion and rumor escalate and needless to say many evil doers will fill the void and use it for their agenda. Preempt all rumormonger and people with special agendas by connecting with the people and informing about your plans, your position of any situation and the progress you are making. I suggest you start regular communication to the people, a monthly address to the nation could be an ideal step and can connect you to the people. I also suggest a development of effective communication strategy which aim to inform, educate and inspire citizens. In today’s world there is huge opportunity available at your disposal, use them for your advantage.
5) Don’t do everything (Micromanage)
Have a well-organized staff. Don’t end up doing too much of the work you should have largely delegated to some discreet aides. When we think of manly leadership, thoughts of courage, resiliency, boldness and determination come to mind. We think of the man confidently in charge, steering the ship and leading the men. What we often do not think of is delegation. The ability to wisely and effectively delegate is a quality far more quiet than others, and yet one of the most crucial to a leader’s success. You will have list of people who want to meet you and only you, everybody wants you to handle his situation. It is in our nature as Somalis to go to the president for every issue or case and believe me you will have many issues/cases brought to you that one of your team could have handled.
Delegation will empower your team and make you trusted leader, frees you up to tackle the truly important aspects of your policies and most importantly give a chance to do good work on a daily basis. Don’t attend to everything, let your team deal with majority of the issues and update you regularly. Effective delegation is one of the keys to achieving your goals. A man who insists on maintaining all control and authority is insecure and actually fails to even meet the definition of a leader. A leader is an executive, a man who manages time, resources, and people.
A leader does not do everything by himself, rather he marshals all of these elements on the pathway to success. Let your team carryout their functions, give them space, advise them when needed and when you think they are not executing their functions properly but never overrule them. In fact, It is better to terminate than to overrule.
6) A Whole New Ball Game
Although you are Kulmiye same as the previous administration but that doesn’t mean you can make changes and come up with a completely new administration. We go for elections to make changes and this include not only the leader but also how government operates, policy issues, priorities etc. Have new teams, new priorities and govern differently. Policies and issues that were priority seven years ago are no longer relevant. Other parties have campaigned that change in Kulmiye is the change people need. Confute them, come up with real changes without disowning your party. I was listening to the presidential debate the other night and Faisal Ali Waraabe the candidate of UCID party said that other parties have the same people since 1991. While experience is essential equally important is the new blood which come with fresh ideas and energy. I believe we shouldn’t be confined to a list of few people who always fill ministerial positions. Have few ministers from the previous administration and bring new team to the political sphere and give priority to youth and women.
One of my favorite quote is noted in Seth Godin’s book ‘Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us’ and it says “how was your day? if your answer was “fine,” then I don’t think you were leading.” Get ready for tough and insomniac days ahead of you and may Allah make it easy for you.
All the best,
Ahmed Ali Mire
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