The Loss of Three Giant Abdullahs [Archives:1999/36/Focus]

September 6 1999

Common Sense 
By: Hassan Al-Haifi 
Within the space of a week, Yemen lost three giants, who have completed their destinies and left a void that, is not easily refillable at this time. Paradoxically, all three were carrying the name Abdullah: Abdullah Sa’ad, Abdullah Al-Omeri and Abdullah Al-Baradouni. All three were unrelated, in blood, profession or cause of death. In at least two of the cases their death is still a mystery to some, with one being somewhat bizarre and obviously pre-meditated. The country could not have a loss as great as this, especially at this time when their respective fields, would not show that a replacement is readily available. All the three Abdullahs had been pioneers in their fields, political, economic and cultural. All three men, will undoubtedly, leave a lasting mark in their fields, even after their untimely death, but more important, they will leave a scar in the hearts of the many that dealt with them and knew them well. Their achievements were the source of recognition, not only nationally but also regionally and internationally as well. On the other hand, these men were the product of a different world Ð or rather three different worlds Ð that produce the kind of caliber that prides on taking the initiative and sticking to those initiatives that will have a marked popular appeal Ð a rare phenomenon these days. 
In the three cases the challenges that were before these men were the driving force that led them to where they got to be. Such a drive is also rare these days, because the challenges have become so great and so difficult to overcome that most people would not find the energy, or the recognition that would be deserved. In fact in most of the three cases, the challenges have become instituted in the society, because the leading institution in the society takes no pride in recognizing initiative and work that is good for the people. 
Moreover, people these days are bogged down in an endless struggle for sustenance and access to the minimal public services, which this leading institution Ð Government Ð is enable to provide efficiently and equitably. Moreover, initiative entails a certain degree of freedom, to enable the mind to float in the endless expanse of free thought and creativity, that produce the kind of caliber these three men, each in their respective fields could tread on to become Ð to a certain extent – masters of their own destinies. These days the criteria of success and achievement have become subject to illogical criteria and are gauged by standards that more or less fall under the illogical and incomprehensible. Popular appeal has no bearing on these criteria and standards, and men (and women) become marked only by their service to a system of rule that caters only to the interests of a few, who have found easy grounds to establish those interests as the only meaningful thing that matters: in government, economics and in culture. It is a faade that is created by men who, ignorantly, claim to be somewhere between humanity and the Divinity Ð God forbid. This kind of a society is unkind to achievement and success that matters most to the people at large, although it will surely not forget that when fate has taken its course and decides that even the greatest of men will find that their end is also a matter of time! It is when that end comes that at last, men will succumb to the question: just what did I leave behind; it is a question that will also be asked by the Lord, Al-Mighty! How many palaces and bank accounts did you leave behind to have people look at and then curse the very grounds you once walked upon? Where did you get all that real estate here and there and in the vacation resorts throughout the world, as you and your colleagues chewed up all the resources of the people that God has entrusted you with? These are questions, in the three cases, which will not be of great worry to the three Abdullahs. If one of them happened to be wealthy, it was not because of any evil plunder or illicit deeds. No! This wealth that he may have come under was the product of an enterprising spirit that God accepts, encourages and rewards! 
Let us now look at just how these three Abdullahs will have the right to place lasting impressions on our hearts, and will cause us to wonder, where is the replacement to come from in such an evil and mind stalling environment that we now live in? The order presented below does not signify any preference of one to the other, because the three men did not compete in the same field. It is a random placement, with equal respect dutifully meted to all three accordingly. 
Abdullah Al-Baradouni: It never ceases to amaze me how God, Al-Mighty surely compensates men for any handicap that men may be afflicted with, either from birth or by an ailment that strikes one, as life, with its unexpected, creep up to strike and take whatever it can from you, reducing your natural capacity, to bring upon one a challenge that is indeed awesome and bewildering. Our first Abdullah was afflicted with blindness at a very early stage in life that has passed the infancy stage, but not reached any significant stages where the mind can recall the details of life. At best, the only thing that may register in the minds of such an early affliction of blindness may be color. Yet, Mr. Al-Baradouni, went on to produce a mind that registered a great expanse of scholasticism: literature, both poetic and narrative; history, with his own anecdotes and viewpoints that may not agree with the thinking of many, but nevertheless were recognizable observations with a great respect for the human side of the lives of those who preceded us; and current events, not so the sensationalism that journalists would like to create, to reach front page, but really observations that involve highly critical judgements upon those who have taken on the helms of power and decided to put themselves above all those they profess to govern. 
He was a highly outspoken opponent of oppression, in both its royalist and republican manifestations. In fact he was later to give justice to the royalist past in Yemen, as he chronicled his life of intellectual development amidst a world of poverty and poor access to the tools for learning, by noting the good sides of that dark past and the many light moments that even such dark ages produced. Al least, he noted there was some respect for human decency and integrity. As for the present, this writer recalls an article in one of the official papers, in which he called the status quo as being the most “corrupt system that has ever existed in man’s history!” Of course he was careful to note that this was the observation of a French visitor! On the other hand this writer recalls the man’s great honesty and humility. His mark in literature is rarely challenged, but when, in one interview, he was asked about what another great literary genius of Yemen, Mr. Ahmed Al-Shami had said about him, criticizing Mr. Baradouni’s poetic structuring, etc., Mr. Baradouni just responded, that Mr. Al-Shami’s criticism are justified and well in order, in view of Mr. Al-Shami’s great grasp of the world of letters and poetry. These are truly the signs of greatness that never leave the heart. 
Abdullah Al-Omeri: Abdullah Omeri hails from a mercantile family that has made its head start, not in Yemen but as an emigrant family in Africa. Coming back in the Seventies, the family embarked on a poultry project, that was the first in Yemen and moreover introduced an enterprise that was not just good for its owners, but went on to open up an economic occupation that provided a vital nutritional input to the society and produce a livelihood for thousands of people to live on. Abdullah Omeri, even with the presence of his father was an important factor in getting the business going. He arranged the financing, then provided by Citibank (which then had an active branch in Yemen), which was basically a US$ 500,000 Term Loan. Mr. Abdurrahman El-Moassib arranged the financial package for them in Citibank (He was then AssiManager, along with this observer who, with the former, shared all the Credit Portfolios of the Bank then). The rest was history for the Omeri Poultry Farm, which remained as the number one producer of high quality poultry for some time to come. Most important about Mr. Omeri, was not so much his business acumen, but personal character and high standards of manners and politeness. The method of his untimely death at the City Center will remain a puzzle that shall become the subject of another Common Sense discussion to come. 
Mr. Abdullah Sa’ad Mohammed: Mr. Sa’ad came to prominence, as many of his fellow journalists of this decade, during the Transitionally Period after unification, just when freedom of the press let loose a number of pens that have been clamped down for some decades. Mr. Sa’ad was an outspoken critic of political oppression and never failed to attract the reader to his open and frank discussion of the deplorable state of affairs we have become subjected to. His death also still raises many questions about why this inescapable moment just had to come when he was needed the most. It was hoped that he would be able to return to Al-Wahdah Newspaper the open forum it used to be, which was the base from which many an outspoken journalist, whose fields have now taken them to leadership status in the trade (including this writer), thanks to the environment created by the its first Editor Ð In Ð Chief, Mr. Ahmed Al-Hubeishy, who unfortunately, for him and for us, got tied on the loosing side in the last Civil War. The kind of journalists, of Mr. Sa’ad’s caliber, is slowly being eradicated as the greats like Abdulhabib Salim Muqbil, Omar Al-Jawi and Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf have left us, and their replacements have yet to appear, if they exist at all!