The Godfather of Renovation Dies
Dr. Ghazi Al-Gosaibi
The life of a great man has reached its completion. This was the realization of Arabs frrm the ocean to the Gulf, including the thousands who went out in the summer heat of the fifth day of Ramadan in Riyadh to the funeral of Dr Ghazi Al-Gosaibi, the Arab writer and the Saudi Minister of Labor.
“Today we have lost a team of men represented in one man, Ghazi Al-Gosaibi,” mourned his colleague the Saudi Minister of Culture and Information Abdul-Aziz Khoja on his facebook profile, referring to a long journey that characterized Al-Gosaibi’s careers and personal growth. “Ghazi as a man, Ghazi as a manager, Ghazi as a diplomat, Ghazi as a writer. Inside Ghazi the writer, there was a poet, an author, a novelist, and a satirist.” The minister could not complete his sentence. He, as everybody, was surprised by Ghazi’s departure, despite his two year battle with cancer.
Al-Gosaibi passed away quietly, leaving behind his great works to narrate to the coming generations stories of a talented writer, a successful diplomat, and a unique manager. His 70-year journey is one rarely made by a single person; in addition to being appointed minister four times and ambassador twice, Al-Gosaibi left a distinguished literary legacy. He explained his ability to excel in various contexts when he told one interviewer “I’ve found that I have been emotionally attached to every job I was assigned to.”
Ghazi Al-Gosaibi’s was born in March 1940. After losing his mother 9 months after birth, he spent his youth swinging between his father’s strictness and his grandmother’s excessive kindness. In this way he learned to achieve balance along his life without swinging by internalizing a principle equivalent to the golden rule: “Authority without firmness leads to dangerous irresponsibility, and merciless firmness leads to more dangerous oppression.” The principle he experienced as a child, he would later apply as a manager, minister, and ambassador . Apparently, it was one of the reasons behind his continuous success in the field of management. Indeed, Al-Gosaibi used to consider afflictions as hidden gifts, and he always passed through the darkest moments while learning principles that helped him and others.
After recovering from the ordeal of orphanhood, he crossed the border to Bahrain, where Ghazi finished his secondary education. Then, he left for studying in the Faculty of Law in Cairo University, which was a rich experience reflected in his novel Shaqat Al-Hurryah (The Apartment of Freedom). After a short return to Saudi Arabia, Al-Gosaibi travelled to the west to obtain the Masters Degree in international relations from the University of South California. After working as an instructor in the University of King Saud, he traveled again to London to study for the PhD. On his return, Dr Ghazi proved outstanding and was appointed the dean of the Faculty of Commerce, but he requested not to exceed two years in office. In fact, he achieved huge reforms which revealed he was a successful manager inside a distinguished academic professional. Following academia he moved to a career in public service.
It was strange that Al-Gosaibi rejected important offers, and only accepted the administration of the Saudi Railways Organization, because it “whets the appetite of the manager inside the academic,” according to his own words. He had passion for trains, and his success in dealing with them had landed him the first ministerial position, when he was appointed as Minister of Industry and Electricity in 1975, before becoming the Minister of Health in 1981.
Despite many successes, he aslo had his fare share of trials. He lost a ministerial position because of a poem and became the Saudi ambassador to Bahrain for eight years. Upon his success there, he was sent as the Saudi ambassador to Britain for 11 years before returning back because of a poem on Palestine which provoked Britain. Once again, he moved from the diplomatic career to ministry by carrying the portfolio of the Ministry of Water and Electricity, then the Ministry of Labor which he held until his death.
Al-Gosaibi never cared for obstacles of criticism and went on his way as a liberal who loved his nation. Dr. Ghazi once commented, “I’ve learnt and never forgot that if the cost of failure is dear, the cost of success will be high too… I attribute criticism to an innate disposition in human souls, which alienate man from different men, who do not behave as he does.”
Some of Al-Gosaibi’s works have stirred controversy once published. Many of them were banned from circulation in Saudi Arabia, especially his novels. However, a few days before his death, the Saudi Minister of Culture and Information ordered to make all his works available, noting that Al-Gosaibi has greatly contributed to the nation and it was not appropriate to ban his work in the Saudi bookstores.
Al-Gosaibi wrote about 20 books and novels, in addition to a huge number of contributions in books, lectures and articles. Some of his poems are: Sawt Min Al-Khaleej (A Voice from the Gulf), Al-Ashajj, Al-lawn ‘An Al-Awrad, Ash’aar Min Jaza’er Al-lo’lo’, and Lil-Shohada’. Some of his novels are: Shaqat Al-Hurryah, Al-Asfooryah, Saba’ah, Sa’adat Al-Safir, Denesco, Salma, Abu-Shlakh Al-Barma’i, and Al-Jeneyyah. In the field of thought, he wrote: Al-Tanmyah (The Development), Al-As’ila Al-Kobra (The Major Questions), Al-Ghazwo Al-Thaqafi (The Cultural Invasion), America and Saudi Arabia, Thawra fil- Sunnah An-Nabawoyyah (A Revolution in the Tradition of the Prophet), and Hayah fil Idarah (Life in Administration).
His first novel, Shaqat Al-Hurryah, which was published in 1994, narrates the reality of the Arab youth from 1948 to 1967, where its characters live in an apartment in Cairo amidst stormy intellectual and political atmosphere with each having his own intellectual direction. Throughout the events, each one of them has his own heroic story. This novel was banned in Saudi Arabia until recently.
His novel Saba’ah (2003) gives a satirical portrayal of the Arab reality, represented in seven characters who have different ideas and works, but are similarly running after a lady working as a TV presenter. Eventually, all characters fall as victims to her.
Al-Gosaibi had special passion for Bahrain. This was evident in his poem which he wrote after the establishment of a causeway connecting it to Saudi Arabia by the end of 1986. He says in this poem, “A kind of love, not a way of sand, leads the oases to the island.”
Al-Gosaibi’s life was so influential in the Arab world, that a sadness has overshadowed Arab countries upon his death. It is not limited to places, but also reaches out to different generations, as seen in the Arab youth’s keenness to write obituaries on their blogs and profiles. In his book Hayah fil Idarah, Al-Gosaibi says, “I’ve tried my best in every post I was assigned to for the service of my nationals. I’ve served this generation, but the next generations which I’ll not have the honor to see or serve, I can only offer the story of this service with much love and much more prayers.”
Everywhere, Al-Gosaibi’s life has left an unforgettable trace and shared memories with others. The godfather of renovation was skillful in balancing between his official position and his popular standing.