Sheikh Zayed: Man of Intelligence
It is important to remember that Sheikh Zayed took over the reins of the nation at a very critical time.
From scattered emirates to one strong federation, the great father of the nation planned wisely and built the nation in a way that transformed the deserts to a lavish greenland. The late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan's forward thinking and intelligence led to fast-paced developments in the UAE. It was his unique style of thinking and activism that helped him build a nation full of inspiration, peace and security.
It is important to remember that Sheikh Zayed took over the reins of the nation at a very critical time. The British government had decided to withdraw its protection from the Gulf in 1968 and the emirates had no alternative security measures. They had no army, no significant police forces; they had nothing to enable them to ensure their stability. UAE Minister of State Zaki Anwar Nusseibeh, who accompanied the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan since the sixties and witnessed the beginnings of the of the modern Emirates, said in one of his articles: "Sheikh Zayed is well-loved not only for his intelligence but as a modern leader who wanted to build modern institutions.
"All the oil reserves had just been discovered and they were being exported from a region that was very turbulent and full of dispute and armed conflict. So at this critical time, the late Sheikh Zayed had the vision to bring the seven emirates together to form a new, modern state that could take its rightful place regionally and internationally. In those days, no one believed his vision could be realised," writes Nusseibeh in his piece reminiscing about the great leader. Nusseibeh added:
"Nobody believed in it except for him, and it was his mission to convince everyone that this could be done. But one of the reasons he succeeded was his ability to use words to win people around him. It took an exceptional person to see through all the difficulties."
Sheikh Zayed wanted to bring the modern world into the region and invest in everything, from healthcare to education. His main concern was improving the basic lifestyle of citizens as quickly as possible. So apart from bringing electricity and water to all, the ruler realised that education could bring in a generation of innovative, intelligent youngsters who would be the future of the country. Education became the central concern for Sheikh Zayed for the next 30 years after 1971. In May 1971 - in addition to a massive programme of new school buildings announced by the Abu Dhabi government - the Ministry of Education revealed a programme that would provide 51 new primary and secondary schools, mainly in the Northern Emirates. Just in construction costs alone, this represented 6 per cent of the national budget.
"Our country's future will be built upon our youth. I will not accept a delay. In a year, I want a class place for every child of school age. Come to me personally whenever you encounter anything which will obstruct this, as I will come to you personally if we fail," Sheikh Zayed demanded during a meeting with senior officials of the Ministry of Education then.
The ruler also ordered that the Abu Dhabi government pay for scholarships whenever possible. By mid-1972, around 250 scholarships had been provided to students travelling to the US, the UK, Pakistan, Egypt, Bahrain and elsewhere.
Calling the late Sheikh Zayed a true legend, Nusseibeh said: "He had innate intelligence that allowed him to understand the people around him and be able to read characters just looking at a person's face. When you compare him with others, he would always stand out anywhere he went, because he was a traditional leader who understood the tribes. They loved him because he was keen to retain their heritage and traditions, but was also a modern leader who wanted to build modern institutions. That is why Sheikh Zayed has become a true legend."
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