Dear Mr. President:
Congratulations! Egyptians have elected you as their next leader. I, and all Egyptians, have high hopes that you will help Egypt return to the path of stability and progress.
I see you as a strong man, politically correct, soft spoken, with integrity, and with respect for Egypt and Egyptians. I see you as a wise thinker consulting with many advisors before making a decision. I see you as working ever so hard to bring the poverty stricken up to the decent level they deserve. I see you as loving Egypt more than anything else. A vision? Yes, but who knows? You may prove me right after all.
After 18 months of precarious standoffs, twists and turns, erroneous decisions, and demolished hopes, you have arrived. And you have promised to stand on guard for Egypt.
I thought I would pass my two cents’ worth on to you, and I hope you will accept what I am about to say, not as words of wisdom, but as words from the heart. I am by no means a politician, but I, too, am an Egyptian who loves her country deeply, and would like to see it prospering. Then again, don’t listen to only me. Listen to all Egyptians—some actually have very smart ideas.
Below are some elementary suggestions that would make your years in power productive and stable.
Decisions made behind closed door are a way of the past. Today, decisions and why they are made must be presented to the people prior to being confirmed and accepted. And to leave Egyptians fumbling for a reason, and coming up with their own rationale, which will mostly be the wrong one, will, disappointingly, make you look devious and pretentious.
I suggest a press secretary similar to that of the White House. On a set day of the week, at the same time, every week, the official press secretary meets—in public—with journalists to answer their queries and questions.
This will lead to transparency and it will clear ambiguity between the leader and his people. This will actually become an even more watched program than all the talk shows that have emerged in the last little while.
The important matter is to avoid having people make up their own conclusions. Believe me being proactive beats being reactive.
Egyptians chose you knowing your inclination be it liberal or Islamist. However, if you lean towards one group against the other, Egypt will be greatly disappointed in you. Now that you have been elected, you serve all Egyptians—all Egyptians.
Be fair and just to all members of the society. Help minorities and those marginalized. Balance between those who have and those who don’t have. Remember: you now serve all Egyptians not one party: not the Islamists, the liberals, the capitalists, and definitely not your followers. It will backfire if a group of Egyptians realizes that they are being marginalized.
One of the reasons that SCAF and all the appointed governments lost miserably is because they came up with decisions but soon afterwards revoked these decisions either under pressure or because they realized that their decisions were not all too good.
I suggest studying a change ever so carefully before going ahead with it. However, once it is made, and you are sure—having consulted with so many advisors—that it is for the benefit of Egypt, I wouldn’t change my mind. The wishy washy ways of the last 18 months have left Egyptian with a sour taste. They know that the unattainable decisions will not be followed through; hence, they will become indifferent and apathetic.
Stand behind your words so that Egyptians take you seriously.
Keep it simple and down to earth
Egyptians have an ability to create tyrants. They often turn the ordinary man into a pharaoh because they glorify him. It is easy to fall victim to the ways of the past, not because you demand it but because your staff and Egyptians in general think that way.
The examples of how to remain humble and down to earth are many. Egyptians disliked road blocks when Mubarak was travelling on a certain route, hated the zooming in on Gamal and Alaa during a football match, were disgusted by the size of Mubarak’s photograph in offices, those photographs that kept getting larger and larger until they were twice the size of Mubarak himself.
Egyptians disliked the phrases, “Mama Suzanne, and Egyptian First Lady,” and the many titles bestowed on Mubarak himself.
I don’t believe that the Mubaraks chose these titles themselves, but they didn’t mind them nonetheless. I would highly recommend becoming aware of what your associates suggest and what the media will comply with and lead Egyptians to accept.
Though many Egyptians looked upon Mubarak as a father figure, many others disliked the connotation, and they felt used. Avoid nuances and be yourself. You are no one’s father; you are the leader, serving all Egyptians.
In other words, remain an ordinary Egyptian.
Assist the “first lady” in becoming a model for Egyptian women
In the six previous decades, Egypt had three presidents’ wives. Nasser’s wife, Tahia, had no role whatsoever, but when Jehan El Sadat came along, Egyptians were flabbergasted by her opinionated self and western look. Suzanne started meek but then changed. Though Suzanne did much, all her efforts are overlooked because of the dominating presence she seemed to emit.
This one is a tough one. It is not easy to satisfy Egyptians. They neither want a docile and complacent president’s wife, nor do they want an opinionated, self centered interfering person. Balance is of the essence here.
Get the first lady to listen to the people and not her associates. Her backers will tell her what she wants to hear, but if she reads and watches the media, she will get a better picture of her status in the eyes of Egyptians.
Remain in contact with Egyptians—avoid the ivy tower
If you live in an ivy tower in Sharm El Sheikh, you will be unaware of what Egyptians are going through. Keep in contact with them—talk to them, associate with them, and come down from the pedestal. Your advisors may misguide you, so beware.
Today, Egyptians flare up because they are not listened to. The only way they can get their demands is by blocking a road or dismantling a blockage. They resort to force to be listened to.
Avoid reaching that state. Listen carefully; however, I am not saying you should relent and give in to unusual demands. Listen, see what is right, and then decide without reneging on your previous decisions, which you know were right for Egypt as a whole.
The road to prosperity is steep; it is indeed an uphill battle. I wish you the best, so you can give Egypt what Egyptians want.
Azza Radwan Sedky