With the death of Crown Prince Naif Bin Abdulaziz – may he rest in peace – Saudi Arabia has lost a statesman and one of the pillars of governance over the past decades, during which time he served his country in all areas. Prince Naif would boast that he was “one of the King’s soldiers”, and he would say this proudly. He enjoyed the trust of Saudi’s departed Kings – may they rest in peace – as well as the trust of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz.
Prince Naif was not just the man in charge of national security; he was also an experienced and patient politician, as well as a well-informed media figure. Most important of all, he was well aware of his own importance and gravity. Over the years of my work and dealings with the departed crown prince – may he rest in peace – he was never concerned about the details of the news about him or his media profile, or how this was being dealt with, rather his only concern was that the truth be published. Therefore Prince Naif did not enjoy the just media coverage that he deserved, whether in the Arab world or the West. He was not just in charge of security, he was a statesman who was in charge of numerous files, and anybody who was lucky enough to listen to his points of view would see his clear-thinking and clarity of vision, with regards to all difficult issues and files. He was a man who believed in stability, reform, education and openness based on national interests, not slogans; he was always looking at the bigger picture.
Prince Naif was a statesman of a different category, he accepted debate, and would listen to other viewpoints. He would accept the invitations of people – from all different backgrounds and classes – and attend their majlises. Prince Naif invited me to attend a number of his majlises in Jeddah, and I saw him listen, discuss and debate with others, without appearing unreceptive or passive. As for my journalistic experience, since I was a junior reporter, I have been honored to conduct a number of interviews with Prince Naif – may he rest in peace – and he never objected to any question or discussion or observation, but he would always listen with a degree of concentration that amazed me. One day, after I became Editor-in-Chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, I went to pay my respects to him at his office in Mecca. This was during the second half of Ramadan. Prince Naif – may he rest in peace – began by welcoming me, and then he told me “you have published an investigative report in your newspaper that I read; this was a good report, but I have a small observation about the information that was included in the report, for I am paying attention to this issue, and the correction information is such and such.”
I was shocked, for whilst I was going to pay my respects to the Interior Minister and hear the latest security news, I never expected that he would correct information published in the newspaper, however he continued calmly and said “this is a small observation, but it is important historically, and I notice that in your newspaper there is a section for corrections, and I hope that you publish this [information] here because I fear that somebody who is interested in history will read this report and this wrong information will be repeated, therefore serious researchers will be able to take this correction into account.”
This shows his knowledge of the media, and his appreciation of the importance of words. This also shows his kindness and charm, and much more than this. May Prince Naif Bin Abdulaziz rest in peace, and may God have mercy on him. Amen.