Before Ali assumed his current post, he was leading a very basic life. With his extended family, they were all living in a small, over-crowded, two-roomed house. In the first month of his new assignment, he immediately moved to a much more spacious and furnished maisonette. The monthly rent of this new house is almost equal- if not greater- than his monthly income and that of staff with his grade. Yet, he lavishly spends and lives in such an expensive rented house. Distant and close relatives from rural areas, other towns and overseas countries, all permanently live together there – a sign showing he has become a big and powerful man. Indeed, there are rooms reserved for special guests. In it, there are salons specifically designed for Kat-chewing and like-minded fellows. Ali wasn’t among those regular Kat chewers until recently, but now he is of the opinion of making sound judgement over chewing sessions. Without it, time would have been so tight, as he often argues lately.

Now it is a little bit over one year since Ali has assumed the new position. The two-story building in which they presently live in, isn’t a rented one as was the case before. Rather, it is one of his newly-acquired properties. Last year, he was married to another wife (polygamy is common practice in this part of the world) and the new family equally live in a just-refurbished new villa. The personal wealth of this officer is increasingly growing, notably with an accelerated pace. In the North side of the town, where the city is vastly expanding to, he developed well-designed, concrete-built two-story flats. A Chinese company was awarded the contract through a single source and non-competitive bid. He equally developed same-size properties in other major towns in the country. As for entrepreneurship and business development, he isn’t a big fan of retailing transactions. Conversely, he has heavily invested in stocks in carefully selected and promising business entities. He bought sizeable shares from such thriving businesses. Stock selling and buying transactions of such companies is not transparently done, but for someone with his influence, it is easily arranged, often under dodgy deals. Ironically, all this upward social mobility is registered within the very short period he is enjoying the privileges of this position with modest earnings.

Ali’s influence in his constituency has equally witnessed unprecedented and positive improvement. In fact, he is now considered a very powerful and influential king maker. He calls community meetings, often through Kat chewing salons, where any issue is chaotically debated. His home, in fact became a center where clan politics is cooked. The Sultan and some other powerful elders, along with him, jointly set strategies for their community, often controversial but effectively serving their egos. It was Ali who played a pivotal role when his clansmen last month decided to grab a large unsettled land but reserved for grazing purposes during drought and unfavorable conditions. It was him who mobilized resources and made huge pledges. He was the one who single-handedly and generously funded excavation of water reservoirs and cutting off decades-old trees in the forest-turned dessert. He even recruited and armed unemployed young men from the area, mostly under-nourished and under-age, just in case they face any possible resistance from neighboring communities. Interestingly, many of the traditional elders were hitherto not aware even his existence, but not surprisingly now hold him high.

Still, such an energetic figure with controversial practices frequents to a local mosque. Unless he is out of the town, he never misses congregations. But many are puzzled with his uncompromising praying practices and discounted values which clearly can’t cohabit. While Ali is extremely obsessed with this weeks’ top agenda -land grabbing, an old acquaintance approaches him and seeks assistance. Halimo is a widower of a former and long-serving civil servant. She has been harshly and negatively touched by the deteriorating living conditions. Her son is ejected from high school due to accumulated school fees and she had no other option rather than pleading to this man. Her late husband, Abdi, was a principled civil servant who headed different departments and recruited many intakes including the man whose assistance she is seeking for. His former colleagues described him as a hard worker, honest and a man with integrity. Almost everyone who knew Abdi agreed that he was a very quiet, soft-spoken, and good-mannered man. It was even reported that he never used office-provided vehicle after official working hours, no matter how much he needed it. He rigorously ensured that all his income is from halal and acceptable sources. While alive, Abdi was on top of all his family affairs, even under trying circumstances. There was no a single case where he needed financial assistance, externally. He briefly fell sick last year and unfortunately passed away prematurely. Hence, today the family misses his wisdom, leadership and financial protection. He was a confident and proud officer and yet content with his financial position. He looked down such a people that his wife is now forced to plea her plight. In his books, they were simply recorded as inept and corrupt cartels. He always considered them as morally bankrupt and greedy. In short, to him, they were very mean and losers.

On the other hand, while he was alive, many of Abdi’s close friends and relatives disassociated with him as he was not ready to indulge and embezzle public goods. To some, his principled approach and degree of high integrity, was a sign of inability and a weakness. After he passed on, there was no established pension system in which his family could at least rely on to survive. His exceptional service to the nation for over fifty years did not yield any benefit for his survivors. A single recognition to his outstanding service could have been an asset to cash at trying moments. It could have also served multiplier effect an encouragement for men and women still on duty. The result of this institutional weakness only left Abdi’s wife and children at the mercy of the cartels in which he despised all along.

On the other hand, Ali continued to climb the success ladder quickly and steadily. But one thing that consistently remained the same is his religious performance. He still maintains praying regularly at the local mosque. In addition, he now travels to Mecca twice a year to perform Umra. This is, however, where the dilemma lies. This is where the knowledgeable people fail to reconcile, knowing being a good Muslim does not warrant indulge in immoral activities but conversely prevents one from fraud and misappropriation of public funds. For scholars, frequency to local mosque and doing deceitful acts are two extreme pieces that can’t cohabit in one’s heart. Such elements can’t and will not stay together in a religious and pious personality. Finally, there will be a day where such irony will be exposed, explained and clear picture is depicted. Sooner or later, such a day is surely inevitable.
Abdirahman Adan Mohamoud

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