OBAIDUL QUADER: A STATESMAN IN OFFING IN ASIAN PERSPECTIVE
Dr. Sinha M. A. Sayeed
For many reasons unfolding reality is that Asia has what’s more become a fertile soil to produce promising leaders and statesmen who should rather be called ‘leaders/statesmen in Asian perspectives’ or ‘leaders/statesmen Asian model’. Encouragingly enough, under the very able leadership and statesmanship of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh, a state of fast-growing area, is not outlying from such currents and trends. Herself being a matured leader and statesman of global stature and dimension Sheikh Hasina, under the circumstances, compelling or not, appears to be determined to give birth to such promising leaders and statesmen from the soil of Bangladesh. Fairly she sticks to the belief that to meet with the challenges of the 21st century in determined moods and modes, there remains no alternative to it.
From such standpoints, Mr. Obaidul Quader is a highly focused personality in the sheikh Hasina’s Council of Ministers in todays Bangladesh. Question is why does it happen? What the magic has he in hand? Is he a statesman in the true sense of the term in our perspective? It is also in the air that Padma Bridge, Hasina’s dream, shall be put into operation in full because Obaidul Quader is there as minister for communications, now named roads, highways and bridges. Is it really so? Reply is simple and straightforward. For a politician, leadership and statesmanship are not a day-dream at all. Rather they are part and parcel for a politician.
What is important is that a politician, whether in a ruling party/alliance or in the opposition party/alliance, must and should strive for practicing leadership and statesmanship under all the circumstances, favorable not. Reality unfolds the truth that when a politician/leader is inducted as a member of the Council of Ministers, his ambit for widening leadership and statesmanship increases manifolds provided she/he is determined to do so evocatively.
History tells us pointedly that a politician fails to acquire the essential qualities of a leader and statesman in positive mood and mode if she/he fails to keep distance from lust, temptation, corruption, philistinism, sycophancy, cronyism and misuse of power. Nowadays both ‘Politics in the Developing Areas’ and ‘Politics in the Developed Areas’ are victims of such off-putting political landscapes and thus political activists, leaders and statesmen, willingly or unwillingly, can rarely stay away from such blasts, velocity and vehemence. Few dare face and stand, despite limitations and challenges, with the head(s) high in pride. Real challenges arise when a party/alliance runs a government because power, constitutionally or not, originates from and revolves around government. Long before, political scientist Herman Finer noted that ‘power corrupts a man, absolute power corrupts absolutely’.
What makes a politician a leader/statesman is not a mere matter of definition and interpretation under the compulsion of whims, caprices and sycophancy. Leader(s) or statesman (men) can hardly be made or tailored. Recent theories and models on leadership/statesmanship tell us again and over that to face the challenges and dilemmas of the 21th century there remains no undulation to go for giving birth to leaders and statesmen through series of lessons and trainings both operational and theoretical. That’s why, perhaps, the moot point asks for manifestation and application of the determination for setting example organizationally from the seats of the position as well as the opposition.
A politician, I believe, has easy access to the golden door to leadership and statesmanship and simple mathematics and summation bear the testimony that this can be reached at by going above the so-called boundary of respective partisan approaches and personal/vested interests for the sake of greater national interests, peace and progress. Therefore, let us feel free to wrap up that Bangladesh–although burdened with so many knots and issues–is not far away from such reality and viability.
In fact, statesmanship/statecrafts in a broad sense denotes art of administration and management and it includes a vast area of activities, ranging from micro to macro levels, involving commercial, financial, academic institutions and executive, legislative and judicial branches of government and so forth and the person or persons who is or are skilled, efficient and receptive in such art is or are called statesman or statesmen.
In its narrow compact, statesman is linked to the art of administration related to the affairs of state. Here our concern is the latter that is affairs of state.
In a nutshell, it can safely be concluded that statesmanship is the final and highest degree of excellence of a political leader. A political activist makes attempts to become a political leader, a political leader strives for becoming a statesman and all collectively come to be known as politicians. There are also grades of political activists, political leaders and politicians resting on their organizational stations and political acumen. If politics remains solely in the hands of activists and political leaders must it suffer from limitations within and to overcome such borders injection and infusion of statesmanship into their veins and brains appear to be possible route to success. That’s why it is said that no political leader is a great leader without at the same time being a statesman.
A member of the council of ministers in a state is blessed in two ways. One is political and other is governmental. Political implies that he first acquires the qualities of leadership and statesmanship through her/his working at various stages in the party and, secondly, she/he gets chance to acquire more on leadership and statesmanship if he is inducted as a member of the council of minister after the party has been voted to power/ is voted to power. Here following the relevant provisions of the constitution, markedly she/he has to read out an oath of office, which itself is a kind of syllabus to practice leadership and statesmanship in a broader scale. For example, in Bangladesh Article 148(2) in the Third Schedule reads:
The [Prime Minister and other Ministers, Ministers of State] −Oaths (or affirmation) in the following forms shall be administered by the President –
a) Oath (or affirmation) of office:
“I… do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of Prime Minister (or as the case may be) according to law: That I will bear true faith and allegiance to Bangladesh:
That I will preserve, protect and defend the Constitution:
And that I will do right to all manner of people according to law, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will.”
Yes, in line with all these, there is hardly a difference of opinion that our minister for roads, highways and bridges( former communications) Mr. Obaidul Quader has meanwhile drawn attention of all for his onward journey as one of the most successful members of Sheikh Hasina’s council of Ministers for the reasons, which, inter alia, entail (a) he has at the outset starting showing determination to the oath of the office (he has taken as a minister) in the face of the Himalayan changes and limitations inside and outside the government and the ruling Awami League (b) he has meanwhile showed and proved his excellence in handling the affairs of the ministry most pragmatically without being subservient to any pressure and vested groups, near or remote. His strong academic background and excellence, love for knowledge and respects for others all together played positively for making him what he is today i.e. a statesman in Bangladesh perspective in his limited scale and barometer. In tune with his old style of politics before becoming a minister, he is in this day and age also showing courage to say what is right or what is wrong. He does not fell shy of taking a bold stand to confess and recognize his follies and mistakes without putting forward so-called defensive ambiguous terms and sentences that are usually being practiced by his colleagues mostly. He has been able to set before the nation in action that politics or ministerial portfolio is a responsibility, not an opportunity merely.
Following the principles of statesmanship of the 21st century, he is relentlessly making all under him understand that a minister has two chairs one fixed in the ministry and other moves along with him all the time (c) he has, to our utter surprise, been able to maintain and uphold honesty, dedication, sincerity and integrity while performing the assigned responsibilities. In particular his ‘being financially transparent and away from corruption’ are really appreciable from which suffer more or less most of his predecessors (d)his dealing with respective donor and foreign counterparts and agencies are very much just, see-through, diplomatic and encouraging on all counts (e) his unwavering allegiance to Sheikh Hasina under all the circumstances is exemplary indeed since he never suffers from any sense of dubious policy and standard related to the matters of Awami League and its president Sheikh Hasina, sitting Prime Minister and (f) he is out and out a man of organization with all possible moods and modes and his organizational capacity and capability coupled with befitting determinations and arrogance are well-recorded under various state of affairs. From these standpoints, he remarkably laid a far-reaching effect on Awami League. His acceptance to workers, the ranks and files of Awami League is well-recognized. More interesting is that he has widely been welcomed and accommodated by the oppositions for his statesmanlike statements and non-pugnacious words, phrases and sentences This is, truly speaking, one of the rarest addition to the ongoing confrontational politics in Bangladesh.
Nothing of these aims at attaching credence, emotional or purposive, to Mr. Obaidul Quader Fairly enough, it’s a kind of honest attempts to make others understand and realize that lot of Obaidul Quaders may be born in Bangladesh if there are necessary will and determination even under the current state of affairs and standing. Man is born to die and Obaidul Quader knows it very well that he shall have to die. What is not known to him is that he does not know exactly on which date and time he will die. It may be during or after his ministership. So, to go ahead of time, following the oath of office Minister Obaidul Quader has to move and work in an accelerated rate of knots. Time and tide wait for one. In life the most important time is now, the most important person(s) is she/he who with you and the most important business s to do good to her/him. From this standpoint, to Obaidul Quader the most important task is to run the ministry effectively putting all plans and programs into practice within the stipulated period of time.
To set herself/himself in line with the very spirit of the words of the above poem is not at all beside the point and unbecoming for a statesman-cum-minister in a developing country. Let us locate also the seat of a statesman-cum-minister as one of the possible areas of trust and means of operations. Passionately I ask Obaidul Quader to continue cultivating and cementing statesmanship demonstrating necessary courage, will and determination. No doubt, Bangladesh and its people are generous enough to reciprocate aptly. Also I solicit to Sheikh Hasina for encouraging and standing by him so that he may have as much as necessary opportunities and supports to blossom accordingly. Yes, it is Sheikh Hasina who can enlighten Obaidul Quader as his leader and mentor or can make him muffled otherwise.
There is no denying the fact that this very article may be a source of inspiration also for those who are in politics and statecrafts in Asia, Africa and Latin America at large and who are determined to exercise leadership and statesmanship to set them befittingly in the political firmaments therein.
Dr. Sinha M. A. Sayeed, Chairman of Leadership Studies Foundation, writer and Columnist.
DECEMBER 07, 2014