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Dossier on dozing Turkey president

Two of my grandchildren — one nicknamed Nancy (12) and another baptized David (8), born of the same mother and father — have something in common when it comes to saying our evening prayers. Normally after dinner. 

Every other day, one of them is responsible for calling us to prayer and leading the exercise. Soon after the prayers start, Nancy yawns, even if she is the one leading the family through. Halfway, Dave falls asleep. If he is the one leading us, there comes a time when he ceases to connect the just ended prayer with the next. He will have gone to sleep. Anyone of us takes over. Sometimes he recovers. Other times he doesn’t. The problem with both is that they take a nap for a punishment – an encroachment on their play time right.

This is all to the dismay of their great grandmother, Consolata   Cyril, a retired teacher now in her mid-80s and, unlike me, a very staunch Catholic.  Consolata still leads a close-to-Monastery lifestyle, waking up at the same time in the morning and performing all prayer and make-ready cores of her day. At her age, she still finds time to read something from our home library.

I remembered this family experience during the just ended Muslim faith observation of Eid al-Adha, after reading in the news about 67-year-old Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan dozing when sending the Eid greetings. My brain did a lot of wandering.  Erdogan is far from the age of Algeria’s Abdelaziz Bouteflika or British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill when they were still active in power. I’m older than him by a decade, minimum. I’m yet to doze when addressing anybody.  I don’t know what I would do if I were a politician like him.

But as a media man, I know how sensitive such messages can be. And this is where anybody responsible has to be extra careful. This where it is said: “A comma killed a man”.  I ask myself: “How did people at the respective Media House fail to cut out that portion of the video clip to avoid showing the Head of State fall asleep while addressing members of his ruling party?  This was pre-recorded. Not live.”

Immediately I remembered the problem with dictatorships. Erdogan has put the media under his foot. Turkish journalists who have survived going to jail must live under fear. They have to reproduce what comes from the presidency verbatim – even if they see something professionally wrong.  Of course this is not right.

In our part of the world, there have been similar cases, leading to professionally embarrassing situations. During an upsurge of deaths due to an outbreak of the Cholera disease, the president’s office directed state radio and TV stations to halve the number of deaths to avoid scaring the people.  So, when 50 people died, the stations announced 25. In the event of 40, the number came down to twenty.

The problem arose when the deaths dropped to fifteen. Reporters straight away used the presidential directive/equation and wrote seven-and-half people – 50% of fifteen. Simple. Editors had left. TV anchors and radio announcers had nothing to lose. It was prime time. The public was shocked. Seven-and- half people dying? Heads rolled of course.  It was a shame.

Let’s wait and see if nothing like it doesn’t happen to TV editors in Turkey.  Along the Erdogan ruling style, there is nothing that can stop the government from taking them for having links with Gulen or other perceived anti-Erdogan and AKP forces.  And a   charge against them is automatic. This could very easily be tagged a “national security issue” in respect of which an escape from the already lame laws is practically difficult.

A shop around does not slot Erdogan into a set of the oldest leaders around the world. Expert opinion assigns this situation to causes like “extreme fatigue, an illness or something else entirely”. But he is tired. And he knows what tired leaders should do. He is on record for having called on a former Democratic Left Party Prime Minister to resign arguing: “ He is seriously ill.” This was way back in 2002. Could this be his turn?

Records have it that he has had some medical disorders leading him to theatres. But one cannot ignore the amount of tension that he is currently going through. I am not a medical doctor. But the sum total of family, social, political, economic, good governance, faith, domestic and foreign policy issues lying squarely on his shoulders are enough to make him doze at a public function.  

President Erdogan must be having a thick skin and big heart, the size of an elephant. He has a high resistance. But its level of tensile strength is decreasing with rising overloads. For survival, he needs a wide range of referrals.

Referral number one, I bet, is how to address the people’s fatigue about his coup narrative. He just can’t find a way out of it. The person he holds responsible, Fethullah Gulen, is ready to face trial subject to an impartial inquiry. Is Erdogan ready for this?

This year’s anniversary of the ‘coup’ almost coincided with the Islamic faith annual practice of Eid al-Adha.  Likened to a religious ritual, the day reflects Abraham’s 100% submission to the will of God by accepting to sacrifice his own son, Isaac. Scriptures say, in appreciation of Abraham’s faith, God provided the animal of sacrifice instead of Isaac. 

If Erdogan still remembers that  bit of the holy scriptures, can’t the memory of the so-called martyrs’ monument he has erected for the people who died in the ‘coup’ make him doze? The Quran says killing one man is killing the whole humanity.

How about reports that people were denied chance to visit their loved ones whom he has isolated from public life and are currently held in prisons serving jail terms for concocted crimes?  What is the meaning of his message? Isn’t that enough to make him doze?

According to political surveys, Erdogan’s public support is at the lowest ebb ever.  With elections at the corner, is the headache created by this stark fact not enough to make him collapse –dozing aside?

Erdogan has bones (a bone is not enough) to pick with the United Nations Security Council, the European Council and the European Court for Human Rights. As chairman of the committee that plans the current overseas kidnapping operations of the Turkish Intelligence Organization (MiT) how can his conscience give him time not to dose?

In a way, Erdogan is bad news for his own people at home and in many places. He is a thorn in the neck of NATO and allied forces.  A headache for the EU. He has been at the base of conflicts in Libya, Syria, Armenia and Azerbaijan, Cyprus. East or West. He is there. Dozing for him is something really not worth his trouble load.  

Now we are told by political experts and analysts that cracks are growing in the Erdogan’s regime. Likened to a wall this is not good news. If cracks are too big, what this means to a wall is collapsing. Is the Erdogan regime destined to a collapse?

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Felix Kaiza is a Tanzanian journalist with more than 50 years of experience currently working as an independent media consultant. Learned in agriculture, journalism, political science and international relations, his main fields of consultancy, besides the media, are good governance, nature conservation, tourism and investment. He was the first Tanzanian Chief Sub-Editor of an English daily newspaper in 1970, he has been behind the establishment and growth of the national independent media since the early 1990s. He is UNFAO Fellow Journalist since 1975 and has wide experience on regional integration. He worked on the Information Directorate of the original East African Community on whose ashes survive the current one. His ambition is to brand Tanzania in the inbound market with made-in-Tanzania brands, including information, almost all of which is currently foreign brewed.

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