Opinion:- “What I have done in the past is history, what I am going to do in the future is a mystery.”− Mike Tyson.
The great Somali poet Abdullahi Suldan Timacadde said, “Clannism provides no shelter; it only causes destruction.” That is only partially true. What is left unsaid is that members of one clan can go out of their way to help each other, and their common bond can bring some good things to the table.
Like a nice free meal in a top-rated eatery.
Did you hear that?
OK, let me first indulge in an exercise of name-dropping.
You know Attorney Abdurahman Hosh Jibril, former Somali Minister of Constitution, Federal Affairs, and Reconciliation? He is a longtime friend, but this Hosh guy told me in 2010, after reading my Mogadishu Memoir, that he always thought I was Shiikhaal. Hosh was not the only one who believed that; many of my friends thought so even though I never claimed to be Shiikhaal.
How did it happen that so many people thought I was Shiikhaal when they never heard me say so?
That is simple—not through Facebook or Twitter but through the old fashioned way: word of mouth.
I miss those good old days though because I innocently and unwittingly received certain tangible benefits. I was received well in certain Shiikhaal corners and was even well-fed under the impression I was one of them. Unfortunately, the truth has an unceremonious way of exposing itself.
Get that imposter. He is Digil. He was born in Afgooye. Get him.
Now that many of my friends know who I am, I get no free meals.
Once, a young wife of Warlord Hussein Mohamed Farah Aidid extolled my virtues and gave my colleague (Habar Gidir-Cayr) and me a powerful motivational speech. My colleague and I were running a nonprofit foundation that received government grants to serve Somali refugees. “Keep on the good job, boys,” she told us. My colleague, who did not correct her, kept on doing what he was doing. He was probably basking in her praise and forgot about me and my Shiikhaal-ness. For me, my jaw dropped. I did not, oddly, correct her. Of course, someone must have told the young woman that I was Shiikhaal.
At any rate, let me go back to my days as a ‘Shiikhaal.’
The first time I realized I was suspected as a Shiikhaal was in 1979 while in Cairo. I was working for Somali Airlines. A young Shiikhaal man whom I barely knew invited me to lunch. He took me to a fancy restaurant in downtown Cairo that tourists frequented. The meal was elaborate and delicious, and it lasted about an hour and half. Dessert and tea followed.
Then, my host started talking seriously as though he were preparing to make an official announcement.
“OK, Hassan, so what is your sub-clan?”
“Sub-clan of what?”
“You are a Shiikhaal, aren’t you?”
I rolled my eyes in bewilderment searching for words, but unfortunately none was forthcoming. I had no escape! It was not the time to weave and wind around the truth. I immediately figured the source of the problem. It was my turn to become serious and address the issue head-on.
I told the young man that I had good news and bad news.
“The good news is; I really enjoyed and loved the food. It is, in my humble opinion, one of the best meals I ever had,” I said.
The young man nodded in approval.
“But the bad news is—are you ready for this? − I am not Shiikhaal.”
“No, I am not.”
Then, the young man raised a resonant, logical question.
“OK, but aren’t you the brother-in-law of so and so [he mentioned the name of a government official in the Barre regime]? “
“Yes, I am,” I replied.
“So, what is the problem? “, he asked.
“What problem?” I retorted.
Then, I had to clarify the matter.
“Again, I have good news and bad news.”
“Now, what is it?”
“Well, yes, I am indeed the in-law of that official all right, but the bad news, to you my friend, is I am the brother of the “Bahda Yar” (“the younger wife”).
The first wife is incidentally Shiikhaal. The couple has since divorced.
Initially, I thought the man took the ‘bad’ news in stride, but I was wrong. He appeared perplexed, and then he mumbled something inaudibly. I thought he was secretly wailing a string of expletives in my direction. Perhaps, what he really wanted to say was, “You miserable creature, you wasted all the money I had spent on this sumptuous lunch, and you are not even freaking Shiikhaal. Just go.”
To alleviate the financial toll I had inflicted on this good-natured man, I offered to give him money to defray the cost of the meal, but he politely declined.
Somehow, I realized the futility of placing too much emphasis on clan affiliation. Look at this tortured soul. Minutes earlier, he had been happy, gregarious, and engaging and now he was huffing and puffing.
I hate clannism and its pernicious ways!
This kind of story could have had a bad ending in which the two people concerned would go to their separate ways when they found they were from different clans. But, the story had a happy ending. Oddly, after that incident, the young man and I became good friends. Both of us, in a way, felt guilty in using the concept of clan as a convenience to produce an elusive favorable outcome. To him, it was an alluring prospect having a fellow “Shiikhaal” in the branch of Somali Airlines in Egypt. I could help him transmit news and packages from his family in Somalia without going through aviation red tape. At the restaurant, I was unaware of his good intentions and, shall I say, his grand design. But still I willing benefited from his largesse.
Now that I have been fully exposed, can I still get another cup of tea, please? My throat is parched.
On one trip to Mogadishu, the young man asked me to meet his father and retrieve for him all his educational documents. I did. Both the father and the young man were grateful for this small favor.
Afterward, the young man and I realized that our newfound friendship was more important and stronger than our supposedly ‘mutual’ clan membership. It was a small emotional victory that we savored, but a victory nonetheless.
Then, one day, the young man added a twist to our friendship when he introduced me in front of his kith and kin as his brother.
Now, that was touching.
I guess Poet Timacadde rested his case.
Hassan M. Abukar