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On the right person, a rooftop donkey and hanging

Ahmed Al-Jarallah Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times

WHEN an unqualified person occupies a particular position, the responsibility and repercussions of the mess caused by such a person do not fall only on him, but also on the one who appointed him.

Every tale has its own moral lesson, and the following Iraqi folktale demonstrates how detrimental it is when an unqualified person is appointed to hold a public office:

A man bought a donkey. Out of the joy of owning a new ride, he decided to introduce the donkey to the environment that he will live in and also show him the path that he will be taking back and forth.

To do so, the new donkey owner took his donkey to the wooden rooftop of his humble house and started showing the surroundings from an aerial position for the donkey to see.

In general, donkeys are bound in a stable, but this donkey got special treatment and was pampered almost the entire day.

At sunset, the owner decided it was time for the donkey to return to his stable. The donkey refused and started kicking and jumping in protest, to such an extent that the owner felt the roof would cave in on top of his family. He rushed down and evacuated his family out of the house. Not long after, the roof caved in and the donkey fell and died.

Our friend stood next to the lifeless body of his donkey and said, “It was not your mistake. Your place was in the stable. My mistake was that I placed you on the rooftop.”

There are “donkeys” in the Arab world who were placed in positions that they are not qualified for. They did what they did; however, the blame does not fall on them but on those who enabled them to reach and attain such positions, which is a recipe for disaster.

Indeed, when an unqualified person is put in a decision-making position, it should not come as a surprise when things start to fall apart and collapse – things like education, industry, agriculture, security, economy and even values.

Similarly, we shouldn’t be shocked when our countries become inflicted with terrorism and violence after allowing preachers to leave mosques and giving them decision-making positions.

Notably in the Gulf states, the number of “donkeys on rooftops” is high due to those who failed to put the right person in the right place, and the use of “wasta”, favoritism, partisan, factional, tribal, sectarian, and even social prestige. Since such people know they are untouchable, they went on to wreck state institutions and breed corruption in them.

Contrary to that, in the Western world, a person is not appointed for a certain position until he or she undergoes a series of qualification and moral vetting. If such a person happens to have tainted integrity, he/she is disqualified and removed from the list of applicants.

Evidences of the lack of right people in the right places are many to count in the Arab and Gulf countries. Just the reports being published daily concerning bribery, wrecking of institutions and mismanagement are enough for us. The fact that the state’s structure is weakened, and its problems are increasing not longer comes as a surprise to us. This is because those who ascend to the rooftop are not willing to descend without protest to the extent of bringing down the house.

What the Arab world particularly the Gulf states really need is a miracle that can cause the corrupt and unqualified ones to fall, put them where they deserve, and then place the right people in the right positions.

Once that happens, the law becomes the standard and the merit of everything, not “wasta”, ensuring that accountability principles are adhered to accordingly, not the smokescreens and beating around the bush.

There is also another Arab folklore tale about a donkey.

In the 19th century, the Ottoman Empire appointed an official in one of the towns. The residents of that town visited to congratulate him. While people were congratulating him, the official heard a donkey braying in the courtyard of his headquarters.

“Who owns that donkey”, the new chief in town asked. No one claimed ownership, which prompted the new chief to order his men to hang the donkey for ruining his party.

People became terrified by this ruthless official. Since then, the phrase “hang the donkey” became popular to use every time a person is found to be slacking and messing up his duties without being held accountable by anyone.

By Ahmed Al-Jarallah

Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times

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