Ibrahim Nasir, the second president of the Maldives was a man of vision and didn't hanker after attention like Gayoom. Much of the wealth achieved by this country, that Gayoom takes credit for, was in fact due to Nasir's far-thinking economic policies and implementation.
Unlike Gayoom, Nasir knew when he had outlived people's support and exited gracefully, paving the way for the Egypt-educated young(er) man. When Gayoom gleefully assumed power, illegally it seems, if his own admissions of having carried a firearm to the swearing in are to be believed, he inherited, amongst other things, an international airport, a tourism industry, and a high-quality fish processing plant that were already earning huge foreign revenues.
The narcissistic Gayoom, on the other hand, was more interested in showing off his supposed intellectual abilities to his ignorant brothers-in-law and a horde of cronies, all of who played on his gigantic conceit for personal gains. It is said that Gayoom would gaze at the night sky and quote the distances between the earth and the moon and the stars, which enormously impressed his barely-literate audience. Gayoom's love for trivia-dropping now mostly manifests itself in the Heyyambo riddles, an avenue for the fast-deteriorating dictator to still feel he has something of an intellect.
Although Gayoom was initially all praise for his predecessor who, in fact, helped him get the top job, he soon started using the nation's resources in an attempt to lower the status of a man he obviously felt inferior to. Using people who would do anything for money and power, Gayoom launched a massive campaign to undermine people's admiration for Nasir. Stories of the ex-president's supposed pilfering of the nation's wealth, manufactured with the help of Gogo Latheef, co-founder of the MDP, who is said to have got a resort for his trouble, resulted in a threat of lawsuit by Nasir's lawyers.
Gayoom's government was forced to stop the circulation of stories about Nasir's thefts, so it commissioned cheap cartoons, mostly drawn by Chiliya Moosa Manik, and low-grade music albums to spout abuse on the former president. Abbas Ibrahim was instrumental in the production of this cheap culture for Gayoom, and it's no coincidence that no significant cultural creation has emerged during Gayoom's dictatorship.
Gayoom also commissioned songs, articles, and books praising himself, to cover his increasingly apparent lack of vision and innovation. The president's office would fund government schools like CHSE to send congratulatory cards to Gayoom. It is said he even wrote a few songs himself.
Nasir has survived despite Gayoom's many attempts to character-assassinate him. Look at Nasir's photo and you can understand why he is regarded as an enigmatic leader, a man of integrity, and the person who laid the foundation for the wealth Gayoom and his cronies are today pocketing for themselves. Look at Gayoom's photo and you see a practically decomposing dictator struggling to still be valid in a country and a world that can't wait to see the back of him.
Gayoom may have succeeded in demolishing Velaanaage, Ibrahim Nasir's property in the centre of Male, but he will always pale in comparison to the his predecessor.