Not more than three months ago, the ruling party selected Dr. Abiy Ahmed as the next Prime Minister. Ethiopians welcomed the newly minted Prime Minister with cautious optimism. The coming to power of a young, God-fearing, charismatic, humble, optimistic, caring, and down-to-earth leader sparked hope among Ethiopians back home and around the world. Regardless, for a while, many contained their apparent enthusiasm, deciding to wait and see before they offer public support.
Though the extraordinary circumstance brought him to power, Abiy realized that he doesn’t have lots of leverage over the military, security apparatus, and Federal Police. The self-aware Prime Minister was conscious of the depth of the challenges he would face, from his own party, especially those who resist lasting change, unless he gets broader public support. He also knew that he didn’t have a ‘legitimate’ right to lead Ethiopians. He was mindful of the fact that he was leading on borrowed time.
However, rather than waiting two years for the general election to get a stamp of the people’s approval by competing in the general election, instead, he quickly began taking some concrete actions to build trust. Instead of appeasing those few who control the key state apparatuses, he instantly stood by Ethiopians. Recognizing how much Ethiopians despise the ruling party, he immediately distanced himself from the status quo. Siding with the long-suffering people of Ethiopia, Abiy declared war against corruption and injustice risking his own life. By traveling around the country, he demonstrated his unwavering commitment to love, forgiveness, tolerance, and Ethiopians unity. By reaching out to neighboring countries, some of which were at odds with his predecessors, he established good relationships that may lead to enduring alliances.
What is fascinating is that the God-fearing, loving, and innocent people of Ethiopia, without waiting too long, they quickly reciprocated. Today, millions came out in mass to show support to the new Prime Minister. The proud people of Ethiopia, without reservation, went out to register their Vote of Confidence! They gave him the boost he desperately needs to continue fighting corruption, nepotism, poor governance, inefficiency, and injustice.
The millions’ voice of support on the streets of Addis anointed Abiy as the undisputed People’s Leader! This public display of love and affection puts the last nail in the coffin of anyone or group that hoped to thwart the genuine change process that began a couple of months ago. This powerful show of backing of millions sent a clear message to his own party and those who are attempting to maintain the status quo. If they have a sound mind, this is now high time to flow with the wind of righteousness that is blowing Abiy’s and his comrades’ side, not against it.
Let me quickly give you my observation, as a leadership expert, from Abiy’s public support acceptance speech. In this speech, he fully displayed his extraordinary self-awareness. Rather than patting himself on the back and enjoying the moment as a victory, he publicly acknowledged in the speech that he and his team haven’t yet deserved the overflowing praise. He humbled himself and appreciated the credit he was given to do more and lift up the nation and its great people from the bottomless pit they were thrown by unwise, shortsighted, egotistical, ruthless, corrupt, and selfish leaders.
What is more? The undisputed People’s Leader raised the bar high! He made it clear in the speech that he is a no-nonsense type leader. Like other great leaders and change agents, Abiy challenged his own people. Though he is a proud Ethiopian, he questioned many people’s contemporary notion of Ethiopianism. He argued that what is the use of being proud for having an ancient with more than three thousands of years history if we fight among ourselves based on ethnic lines, hate our neighbors, kill one another, remain poor, and so on.
In the speech, he vowed to restore our dignity and redefine Ethiopianism in the context of the new era! What I heard him vowing was, “Now or never” to shape the future of our country and its people!
He also challenged himself as a leader at this critical juncture in the history of this great nation. He made his intention clear that he is a restorer of the dignity of Ethiopia and her place in Africa. No wonder why he put on a t-shirt that displayed Mandela (the Father of Modern Africa) and the map of our beloved continent! It looks like to me that he made up his mind to redefine what Ethiopianism means in the 21st C- hard working, inclusive, democratic, inclusive, innovative, resilient, ethical, loving, caring, bounderless, and forward-looking!
These signs that I have been witnessing from this young leader within a short period of time tell me that he is here not to play the same old game. It seems we are here for a special treat. Who knows? We may be witnessing history in the making. It may be too early but are we looking at the Father of Modern Ethiopia?
Let me close my commentary by boldly saying: Ethiopia and its great people finally got a leader they TRULY deserve!
Ethiopians should be proud of ushering themselves into a new dawn era through their active participation, some by sacrificing their very lives, blood, and sweat.
New leader, new hope, and new dawn era for Ethiopia!!!
Dr. Assegid Habtewold is an organizational and leadership expert and author, and the founder of PRO Leadership Global (www.proleadership.org). Assegid can be reached at email@example.com