Prince Naif: Legitimacy is his lasting legacy |
Asharq Al-Awsat - 20 June, 2012
Author: Adel Al-Toraifi
In the world of politics, events happen at a rapid pace. Political time may pause for a while, yet when it moves, there is no space for anyone to catch their breath.
A regime may last for decades until it seems that history has come to a complete standstill, only for a revolution or an unexpected uprising to occur and cause the regime to fall like a house of cards, and society to sink into an unknown abyss as a result. In some cases, prompt elections have been conducted and all secret, extremist and violent organizations have risen to the surface, making legitimate as well as illegitimate demands. As a result, legitimacy can remain absent for decades in the best of cases, or it may not come about at all.
It is sorrowful that, in the cases of some Arab republics, the entire regime has been linked to a sole individual whose passing can cause the country to turn upside-down, the government to collapse, and the army to become divided. In some instances, the social structure is ruptured and the country may descend into a civil war. What we observed in the "popular uprisings" across some Arab capitals reflects the difference between stability and security based on firmly established foundations and social harmony, and stability imposed by means of despotism and intimidation.
Regimes that once hatched violent plots and international and regional conspiracies have now gone; their intelligence apparatuses were of no assistance and did not help them escape their inevitable destiny of abuse and obstinacy. On the contrary, other states remained stable and showed greater readiness to deal with the gravest crisis the region has experienced since the second Gulf War in 1992.
There are objective reasons for some states enjoying relative stability in such a tensioned milieu. Some reasons relate to civil and economic development, and the government’s care for the state’s basic needs. However, what is even more important is the prevalence of the culture of human respect and social integration between the government and citizens, the endeavor to give precedence to the principles of reform and consultation, and the prioritization of citizens’ welfare and their future aspirations.
Anyone contemplating the passing of Prince Naif bin Abdul Aziz – may God rest his soul – would realize this. This Saudi official, who spent over five decades serving his country and ensuring the security and stability of its citizens, has now passed away without an adverse impact upon the institutions he once served, for he undertook their growth and development. However, his grief-stricken citizens have been greatly saddened by his death, since he was a statesman of such considerable standing.
Prince Naif transformed the Saudi Ministry of Interior over the past three decades into a modern institution. During his term in office, he faced great challenges; from the Grand Mosque seizure back in 1979 to the sabotage crisis and bombing campaigns carried out by extremist Iranian elements in the 1980s. Yet, his greatest achievement was his ability to transform Saudi Arabia from a state accused of religious extremism - in view of the involvement of some of its citizens in terrorist activities - into a counter-terrorism pioneer. Furthermore, during his term in office, Saudi Arabia was highly praised by international institutions for its role, not only in combating terrorism, but also in undertaking awareness and guidance programs to eradicate it.
Leaders, politicians and ministers pass away, but only a few of them depart amidst such appreciation and passion from their people, and only a few leave behind such a legacy of national accomplishments. Prince Naif protected his people’s security and ensured their stability, whilst also fulfilling their aspirations for a better future.
The most significant lesson we can learn from the death of this Saudi politician is that legitimacy can be achieved within a country by wining people's trust and working towards their well-being, rather than abusing power and denying popular rights.
Perhaps, the most notable of Prince Naif's achievements was the foundation of effective institutions that gave precedence to the citizens. In doing so, Prince Naif laid the foundations and reinforced one of the most important achievements of the late founder King Ibn Saud, may God rest his soul, namely strengthening internal legitimacy based on social harmony and national consensus. This has had a considerable impact that can last forever.