Solo, Central Java. From organizing Indonesia’s first hosting of the Asian Games in the post-Sukarno era to saving the national football from FIFA’s sanctions, Erick Thohir has been trusted by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to solve tricky issues that matter to national pride.
He has never failed to deliver so far.
And now, the president turns to him again for a job only the most trusted person will get the assignment -- organizing the wedding of Jokowi’s youngest son Kaesang Pangarep.
“We share the same characteristics of leadership, namely work,” Erick told BTV’s Fristian Griec during a recent interview in the Central Java town of Solo.
The State-Owned Enterprise minister described Jokowi as a perfectionist leader who demands the highest standards from his men and won’t hesitate to check everything himself to make sure the job is done.
Nonetheless, both men have come from sharply different backgrounds.
Jokowi is a career politician of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) who rose through the ranks from a mayor of Solo to becoming the governor of Jakarta and was elected twice for president.
He has barely traveled abroad before becoming the head of state.
Erick, nine years younger than Jokowi, is an American-educated businessman who earned international fame when he bought Italian top football club Inter Milan.
“I learn a lot from him because he’s a very wise man,” Erick said of Jokowi.
“Not only am I much younger, but I also came from the private sector and earned my degree from a foreign country so sometimes I become too aggressive,” the 52-year-old added.
The president, on the other hand, is capable of making sensible decisions for the benefit of the broader population.
“I learn a lot from him about making a policy everybody can celebrate,” Erick said.
Jokowi’s attention to details amazes Erick, who recalled that during back-and-forth flights between Bali and Solo last month the president found time to check the airport and taste the meals for international guests ahead of the G20 Summit and a visit by the United Arab Emirates royal members to his hometown of Solo.
“A good leader must pay attention to details. He cannot just make a policy without knowing the impacts,” Erick said.
His close relationship with the president and proven ability to get the trickiest tasks done have boosted Erick’s popularity as a potential candidate for the 2024 presidential election – at least as a running mate.
Polls indicate that he is a strong candidate to become the vice president paired with any nominee for the president.
But Erick said he is not interested in discussing the possible result of the election, calling it “God’s secret”, and will focus on his current job.