Father of the Nation

Father of the Nation
Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan

Sheikh Zayed was a statesman of exceptional qualities and strong willpower


Ishtiaq Ali Mehkri

Published: Sun 2 Dec 2018, 11:35 AM

Last updated: Tue 4 Dec 2018, 1:47 PM

There are very few people who are born statesmen, and Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan was one of them. The Federation of seven unitary states that form the UAE are lucky, indeed, to be blessed with a selfless soul such as the Founding Father of the Nation. He strived from scratch and built a republic that is now a power to be reckoned with. This was possible as he believed in the ideals of humanity, compassion and was benevolent to the core. Despite limited resources and a jaundiced international environment then, he eulogised a future for all, and embraced people from all nationalities to build a dynamic and robust nation. The UAE is an outcome of his sincerity, steadfast faith and the commitment to rise, come what may.
He was a legend and led from the front. He was an inspiring personality at home and abroad. His art of making friends was with a personal touch, as there are plenty of tales as to how he befriended, encouraged and helped leaders of several countries, as they looked up to him. He created an organic chemistry in the region, and rallied Arab and non-Arab states around the UAE, articulately making his new country the centre-stage for businesses and transit. He believed in erecting a fool-proof infrastructure and worked for the emancipation of mankind, irrespective of race, caste and religion. His priority was healthcare, education and logistics. His acumen worked wonders, and today, the UAE is one of the world's undisputed financial and business hubs.
Born in 1918 in an underdeveloped emirate of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Zayed inherited the mantle of courage, decency and loyalty towards his tribe from his ancestors. Having lived and brought up in an environment where fishing and agriculture were the prime sources of income, Zayed excelled in a unique way of his own, and exhibited his personality by frequently interacting with the chieftains of other Bedouin tribesmen and communities across the region. He had a deep sense of communal harmony, and respected the traditions and culture of everyone he came across with. This aspect moulded his character, as he devoted his life to serving the people among whom he dwelled. His unique trait was generosity, and he made friends by showering tender love and concern for them. His considered opinion was to be good to others, and work for a society that is pluralistic, compassionate and welfare-oriented.
He was destined to lead, as he had virtues of leadership. His first litmus test came when oil was discovered in the 1930s. He was closely associated with the industry and learnt the inside-out of the reserves beneath the earth. He had a vision as to how that could be transformed into an asset for his people. The first crude from Abu Dhabi was exported in 1962, four years before he succeeded as Ruler of Abu Dhabi. Since then, it was his leadership era, as he focused on community development, massive constructions, and had a great eye on micro-management of the emirate. He was one of the rare leaders of those times who invested oil wealth into building the nation, which was evident from the increase in revenue allocations to the Trucial States Development Fund. This is why he used to say, "The Ruler should not have any barrier that separates him from his people".
Sheikh Zayed was an ardent believer in the power of negotiations, and had a lion's heart. His decisions and opinions were highly valued by his contemporaries, as they trusted his wisdom and impartiality. The successful emergence of the federation is a case in point. He marshalled the talks among the clans and tribes of Trucial states as the British made public their decision to depart from the region. It was not an easy task, but Sheikh Zayed did it convincingly well. He had dreamt of a federation with all the emirates in the region. He had orchestrated a grand consensus, and the seven emirates backed his concept of a Union. Thus, the UAE emerged on the map of the world on December 2, 1971.
Sheikh Zayed was the obvious choice to lead the federation, and he became the first President of the UAE in 1971. He led from the front as he tactfully addressed the territorial crisis that had emerged owing to foreign aggression and intrusion. At the same time, he worked day and night to set in good governance and equitable distribution of resources, accompanied by a short and long-term plan for development. This put the poorer regions of the UAE on par with other developed areas, ushering in nationalism and self-confidence within the young nation.
Equality for all Emiratis was his motto. He built institutions and believed in their autonomy and professionalism. The rule of law and consultation among the powers-that-be was his modus operandi. This aspect projected the UAE as a principled player on the world stage, and is widely respected. Today, the UAE stands tall and proud owing to his dedicated services, and the passionate vision to build a nation that is impregnable and prosperous. He has taught a great lesson, as he said: "No matter how many buildings, foundations, schools and hospitals we build, or how many bridges we raise, all these are material entities. The real spirit behind progress is the human spirit, the able man with his intellect and capabilities".
This is more than enough to inspire Emiratis and the UAE to scale new heights of glory.

- mehkri@khaleejtimes.com

No matter how many buildings, foundations, schools and hospitals we build, or how many bridges we raise, all these are material entities. The real spirit behind progress is the human spirit, the able man with his intellect and capabilities. - Sheikh Zayed

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Scintillating exhibition - Expo 2020
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