By Asfaw Regasa
As we all heard in the media, at a recent fundraising event for his “Prosperity Party”, Abiy Ahmed made an outrageous statement about African political scientists and economists that denigrates and insults not only those professionals but also the professions themselves. Abiy had the audacity to claim that African political scientists never administered even a small district. He further stated that economists get their PhD’s by studying and writing how some of those affluent individuals at the event accumulated wealth; however, they don’t even own a decent car to drive!!! What a childish claim!!! What an empty barrel noise!!! First, while I am neither a political scientist nor an economist, I know for a fact that being a political scientist is NOT about becoming a district administrator. Similarly, being an economist is NOT about becoming wealthy or driving a car! As I believe most agree, these two professions are greatly valued disciplines that undertake deep societal political, economic, and social studies and inform policy making in a country. One does not major political science to become a district administrator; nor an economist to drive a “decent car” or become wealthy. Period.
One ponders, why are we here and where are we heading? What does to have a leader at the pinnacle of power who makes such outrageous statements mean to us as a people? In my view, this is a result of a growing spirit of dictatorship in a person in whom the highest government authority ended up in his pocket as a matter simply of historical accident. It is also a result of our indifference to the numerous misdeeds and misstatements that he has been making over the past couple of years and our failure to call a sped a sped and nip them in the bud!
Abiy Ahmed deceived a significant majority of our people as being a promising leader mainly because he spoke about the glorious past of our country and he mentioned Ethiopia numerous times during his inaugural speech when he ascended to power, which was considered a taboo for over a quarter of a century past. Some of the measures his government took in subsequent weeks and months drove his popularity so high so much so that our people began to believe that he was God sent, including by eminent figures such as Professor Mesfin Wolde Mariam. Other prominent figures including Lt. Col. Goshu Wolde, Dr. Yacob Haile Mariam, and many others touted him as a promising leader that the Ethiopian people should follow. These citizens have been opinion leaders in our society and their public effusive praise of Abiy undoubtedly contributed for his popularity to soar in a short period of time.
Other opportunistic elements such as Professor Alemayehu Gebre Mariam and journalist Sisay Agena quickly sought refuge in his camp and began blindly defending Abiy’s actions and inactions as a Prime Minister without merit to a level of worshipping him and they have been doing the same to this day. To his credit, Abiy also played a big role in putting such personalities in his camp, prominent in their own rights for their contributions during the struggle against the ruthless and despotic TPLF/EPRDF regime, by making public commendations about those individuals during his visit to the U.S., one of his cheap tactics he has been using to this day to win the hearts and minds of the Ethiopian people. Political party leaders such as Professor Berhanu Nega, on whom the majority of Ethiopians put a significant trust unfortunately betrayed that trust and turned a blind eye on the atrocities of Abiy’s government (the shooting in broad day light of Addis Ababa’s youth and subsequent detention of more than a thousand in dire conditions, the eviction of hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens in different parts of the country, etc.) but instead have been defending it in public.
For a keen rational observer, it didn’t take long before figuring out that Abiy’s speeches and actions were more of populist than based on principles, myopic than farsighted, a publicity stunt than based on a result of thoughtful deliberation. This began to be noticed in his speeches during his visits to different parts of our country soon after he came to power and further actions since then. That grew over time to presenting himself as all-knowledgeable as he lectured different groups of our society, including artists, generals, diplomats, medical doctors and other health professionals, teachers, members of parliament, etc., a typical characteristic of a dictator. By any stretch, a leader is not expected to know everything. A good leader of a country is one who surrounds themselves with people who have the right qualification, experience, knowledge, wisdom, foresight, and genuine interest in serving their country and people. Such a leader would consult with and listens to his/her advisors in charting plans and making policy decisions that best serve the interest of the nation and its people. Presenting oneself as all-knowledgeable is simply preposterous!
Abiy’s arrogance got worse as he made different sometimes contradictory statements when he addressed our people in different languages. A turning point was when the once pastor-like speaker turned a monster when he addressed ‘Balderas’ that he would wage an open war should they challenge his premiership. He publicly and arrogantly claimed Ethiopia has only one Prime Minister and that was JUST HIM! To many, that was a complete drop of his mask that uncovered who he really is.
I believe that Abiy’s recent remark at the fundraising event must have shocked those who have been conforming to his actions and inactions blindly, as well as those who already recognize his shallow personality. One notices that, ironically, Professor Al-Mariam, a political scientist and Professor Berhanu Nega, an economist were the latest victims of Abiy’s ignorance and arrogance.
It was also interesting to see the reaction of Jawar Mohammed, whose narrow ‘nationalism’ aka tribalism fits only the stone age and is now at loggerheads with Abiy Ahmed in a power beauty contest to win the hearts and minds of our Oromo fellow citizens, making a noise proving once again his little-mindedness and arrogance and claiming to be a political scientist who advised other governments and admonishing Abiy saying he would be better off if he listened to him. As many have satirically remarked governments that Jawar claims to have advised should have been none other than the Syrian, Yemeni and Libyan governments!
As I was writing this article, Abiy appeared on television to apologize for his outrageous statement at the fundraising event. However, the apology did not seem genuine as he tried to equivocate and tried to differentiate between those professionals who produced societal benefit and those who didn’t and appeared to advise the latter in becoming useful to the society. Time will tell whether he was genuine in his apology and we just have to wait and see.
It is depressing to know that our beloved Ethiopia, once a country of great leaders and professionals in various fields has ended up in the hands of myopic parochial thinkers of the 21st century. We have been victims of dictators over the past few decades and we can’t afford to see another dictator unfolding under our eyes! We should say enough is enough and resolve to continue the struggle until all our people (Oromo, Tigre, Amhara, Guraghe, Somali, Kafa, Wolaita, Kembata, Dorze, Gambella, etc.) are free from the yoke of dictatorship! Let’s also call a sped a sped, not doing so will only nurture the bad behaviors of those who incidentally happen to be at the apex of power!