The maverick Somaliland Interior Minister, Ismail Adan Osman, is not a man who is known for his sagacity and quick wits that are necessary in avoiding gaffes and political embarrassments. More often than not, his fatuity and shortsightedness coupled with his pomposity and sheer arrogance propels him at the centre of every political storm and scandal in Somaliland. Whether he is covertly or overtly spraying bullets at Kulmiye’s offices in Burao or Erigavo or frantically searching for a miniature radio, which is located 7000 miles away from Somaliland, under the desks, above the roof decks and inside the laptops of Kulmiye’s offices or whether he is having a fun rounding up innocent school kids in Gebiley and flinging them into jails or launching a tirade of obscenities over the airwaves, he is bound to get into a mischief at some point in almost everyday of his political life. In a nutshell, it is hard to imagine in a world without Ismail being involved in a gaffe or embroiled in a heated religious or tribal controversy. Whenever he opens his mouth, he takes leave of his senses and speaks in tongues as if his soul is possessed by a devil. One afternoon on Wednesday, 14 February 2006, Radio Horyaal was on the air as usual and no one knew what depressing news the day will bring from home. But this is time around it was not bad news as such but the kind of news that makes your jaws drop.
The news item was about the interior Minister who has just answered probing questions from the Security and Internal Affairs Sub-committee headed by Saeed Elmi Robleh. The Horyaal reporter asked the Minister in what appeared to be an off-the cuff question, “Mr. Minister, what is your expectation of the likelihood that you might retain your post as Minister of Interior in the coming reshuffle?” The minister unnecessarily dwelt at length about the constitutional right of the president to shuffle around ministers as he deems it necessary.
The Minister could have ended his statement there and walked away but he chose to continue in a typical macho bravado. Then his reply came like a thunderbolt out of the blue, “You asked me a question relating to my expectations with regard to the reshuffle. As far as I am concerned, I will be exempted from the reshuffle and will retain my current post,” he said in a calm, confident and determined voice. Those who of us are familiar with the minister were hardly surprised with his bombastic response. However, what many people were very surprised was why the president gave this man an assurance that he would be exempted from the reshuffle?
In the past Ismail counted on Rayale’s blessings whatever he did or uttered and have taken this for granted. It was therefore quite understandable, albeit undiplomatically, for the minister to confidently assert that he will retain his post. For so long, Ismail remained a loyal and obedient servant to Rayale. He was being used as a bulwark against the opposition, mainly KULMIYE. It is therefore fair to presuppose that Ismail has secured in advance the president’s backing although, for the first time, sources say that the president was unhappy about the way the minister publicly undressed himself before the media.
The reshuffle was the president’s best-kept secret, by all accounts. However, if the president’s idea was to keep everyone guessing, then a crucial element of surprise has already been lost. And if Ismail’s statement is anything to go by, it makes a mockery of the whole notion of the president’s reshuffle.
The benchmark by which many people will measure or gauge the president’s seriousness and wholeheartedness to form a lean and effective government is whether Rayale has the guts and audacity to replace men like Ismail and Awil- the administration’s darlings.
Rayale must not duck the task of telling his favourite henchman the harsh truth that his position is untenable. Nor should he continue backing a maverick minister whose foolhardiness has reached to dizzy heights, hoping that the public will simply forget the minister’s past misdemeanours and political blunders.
If Rayale really wants to survive, then he must muster the courage to look his most favourite cabinet colleague right in the eye and tell him the unpalatable truth that the public he was supposed to serve want his head to roll.
In a thinly veiled threat on Hargeisa TV, former minister, Ahmed Jama Botan, famouly known as Daaniye, said that everyone would turn against the president if he touched Ismail and Awil. This is not only tantamount to blackmail but also a load of rubbish. On the contrary, if Rayale gives the loathed duo their marching papers, the public will celebrate tumultuously and this will win more friends than enemies for the president at a time his poll ratings in the public opinion is in its lowest ebb.
Furthermore, such a move, if realised, will demonstrate that the president is in control of his office and has the confidence and the courage to shuffle around his ministers without fear of favour in the way he thinks suits the national interest.
The message from Rayale to Ismael should be this:
- You are not Al Capone and will not slit my throat for telling you the brutal truth nor are you a demagogue who has the ability to summon thousands of armed men out of a thin air.
- You are a man reviled by everyone from Suldan to Shoe-shiner because of a conduct unbecoming for a minister. You are the one who shoots himself in the mouth every time. You have no one to blame but yourself and I thank you for the good services you have rendered to me personally in the past.
In spite of public outcry about the verbally incontinent minister, it is a painful decision for the president to sever the umbilical cord with his wayward child. The president’s position had always been that there was no better henchman than Ismail so much so that he has given Ismael a breathtaking license to act with impunity. But now the moment of truth has come.
It’s high time for the president to make a clear choice between his most valued henchman in the cabinet and the public who elected him. The message from the public is unmistakeably clear: don’t dither and waver, Mr. President, sack this man and save what little honour, if any, left in your discredited regime.