Wednesday, 26 October 2011 01:31

Gaddafi As Metaphor

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Muammar Muammad Abu Minyar al-Gadaffi. That’s his name. Variously nicknamed ‘Brother Leader’, ‘Guard of the Revolution’, ‘King of the kings of Africa’, and ‘the rogue school bully’ among others, Gaddafi was until August 2011 Libya’s leader. A notorious dictator, any hope of reclaiming the seat he’s occupied since 1969 came to a sad end on October 20, 2011 when he was captured and killed by rebels loyal to the National Transition Council.

For more than four decades, Libya under Gaddafi was the epicenter of tyranny and oppression. He was god unto himself and those who attempted to question his authority paid dearly for it. Like Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi was once the apple of America’s eyes. The longest Arab leader, he supported causes as his conscience dictated without minding whose ox was gored. He supported the liberation cause of African National Congress, ANC, during the dark days of apartheid and he was big brother to Idi Amin Dada and Yoweri Museveni. He took on Chad and his presence was felt throughout Sudan and Somalia, all for the wrong reasons. He masterminded the Lockerbie bombing and he never disowned a terrorist organization like the Irish Republican Army, IRA. Interestingly, Hussein and Gaddafi ended up being victims of the same powers that created them.

Needless to repeat here that Gaddafi ended badly and died disgracefully. But he started well. How he suddenly metamorphosed into a first-rate tyrant is an assignment for students of history and power. In practical terms, Libya under Gaddafi has over the years recorded fantastic growth. For instance, before the insurrection, her Gross Domestic Product, GDP was estimated at 10.6% and was 55th on the Human Development Index. Militarily, Libya was not doing badly as it was 59th in world ranking while Nigeria, her giant sister, was nowhere among the first fifty.

Gaddafi is no doubt a metaphor for leadership all over the world. While his fall surely calls for sober reflections on the part of fellow dictators who undermine trust with impunity and erode confidence without recourse to morality, the Libyan experience also points to the fact that good governance transcends mere provision of basic amenities; and that responsibility, proper democracy, equal opportunity and a suitable system of governance are as important as food for the stomach.

From Laos (Choummaly Sayasone, since 1975); to Yemen (Ali Abdullah Saleh, since 1978); and from Bahrain (Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, since 1999), to Syria (Bashar al-Assad, since 2000), holders of power have willfully turned good governance into an anathema.

But the Gaddafi in Africa is worse. We have Equatorial Guinea (Teodoro Nguema, since 1979) and Burkina Faso (Blaise Compaore, since 1987) on our hands and Robert Mugabe (since 1980) is still threatening fire and brimstone if Zimbabwe is his personal property. In the Congo Democratic Republic, a Kabila was killed for another Kabila to assume power. Paul Biya (Cameroon, since 1982), King Mswati III (Swaziland, since 1986); Museveni (Uganda, since 1986); Omar al-Bashir; (Sudan, since 1989); Paul Kagame (Rwanda, since 1994) and Yahya Jammeh (Gambia, since 1994) are still thundering while Abdelaziz Bouteflika (Algeria, since 1999) still behaves as if he is destined to rule for life.

Regrettably, Nigeria is not immune from this cancerous predilection and maniacal manipulation. Only God has been faithful to us. Once, it manifested in Yakubu Gowon’s remorseless contradiction of his earlier promise to re-democratize the country after the civil war. Later, it was Ibrahim Babangida’s ‘banning, un-banning and re-banning’ abracadabra. We have experienced Sani Abacha’s ‘five fingers of a leprous hand’ transmutation chess game and only God saved us from Olusegun Obasanjo’s ‘Third Term’ tragedy. As if we are always fated to repeat the past, Goodluck Jonathan has started insulting our collective intelligence with one hollow ‘six-year single term’ jargon. 

Nigeria is one big enterprise. No doubt about that. Unfortunately, however, the enterprise is now failing and falling. No thanks to the hurtful foundation and excruciating poverty that have odourized our continued existence. Nonetheless, Nigeria is currently in a state of hypochondria, groaning under a sieged government and an ‘e go better’ governed. Empirical indices portend grave dangers ahead unless concrete steps are taken in the right direction to address the many ills bedeviling dear fatherland. Unlike Gaddafi’s Libya where people had jobs and enough to eat, official figures place Nigeria’s unemployment rate at 19.7 percent. Only God knows its status in practical terms.

Our Gaddafi revolves around mutual suspicion, a collapsing economy, religious aggressiveness, ethnic animosity, patent falsehood, obtuse laxity, hegemonic policies and other chauvinistic braggadocio which undeniably are palpable symptoms of a falling enterprise. After all, nothing kills easily and faster than ignorance. Under the watchful eyes of the president, corruption has attained an unthinkable altitude while criminality has assumed a new and more ferocious dimension. Even the people’s trust in the judiciary, globally referred to as the bastion of hope for the common man, has waned.

I have over the years watched in utter amusement people insisting that we go back to the basics without treating us to the nature of the blanket that will shield us from its basic coldness. While the situation on ground calls for no lamentations, the sad truth is that we deceive ourselves a lot in this country. In a polluted polity with a dysfunctional arrangement such as ours, even as our scruples conflict, we still delight in talking glowingly about value reorientation without realizing that an empty stomach is not only the devil’s workshop but is also one that is amenable to violence even at the slightest provocation. Here, we appreciate the incompetent and compensate the pedestrian.

If Gaddafi’s nemesis arose solely as a result of overstaying his welcome in office, then United Nation’s roles as global watchdog call for a review. In any case, what are the roles of the United Nations in the peace or instability that has become the lot of our world and at what point exactly must the UN come to the aid of troubled climes? Why is it that whenever the West sneezes, Africa catches cold? Indeed, why should African leaders become pawns in the hands of Western civilization?

In terms of crudity, what differentiates a Muammar Gaddafi from an al-Assad but why was Gaddafi NATOed while al-Assad continues to be tolerated? Why was Russia allowed to wage war against Georgia while Iraq’s aggression against Kuwait was met with military action? In terms of succession miasma, what is the difference between America’s George Bush and Malawi’s Bingu wa Mutharika? Beyond the reason of vested interests or hidden intents, why has the West been out-Africanning Africans in finding solutions even to Africa’s problems of smaller magnitude? On a serious note, why are African states unable to resist the American and European intimidation by utilizing the collective power of the African Union in resolving crises among member states? 

The search for good governance in a troubled entity like Nigeria brings to the fore another topical issue in our political history. If one may ask: what is progressivism and who is a progressive? What are the parameters for measuring progressivism and when is one said to be of a progressive leaning? What is commitment and how is it measured? Is progressivism merely the art of butterflying from one party to another in search of political nectar? Indeed, how do we recognize these saints called progressives among Nigeria’s savage tagged reactionaries? Wait a minute: why is the progressive camp with each passing day losing its best hands to the other side? These questions have become necessary in the hope that they would provoke the needed reactions which will in the end help find answers to posers that currently befuddle our minds.

Winston Churchill has warned us never to “believe any war will be smooth and easy; or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter.” According to him, “once the signal is given, the statesman is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseen and uncontrollable events … weak, incompetent or arrogant commanders, untrustworthy allies, hostile neutrals, malignant fortune, ugly surprise, awful miscalculations … all take their seats at the Council board on the morrow of a declaration of war.” So, Gaddafi’s dishonourable end is a lesson for leaders who throw into the dustbin the nuts and bolts of being a hero.

Gaddafi is gone, be it for good or for the converse. He failed to heed the fundamental lessons embedded in fighting and running away for the all-time reason of living to fight another day. He missed his mark badly and lost woefully. Now, he is no more, either to tell his own side of the story or even account for his misdeeds. But Gaddafi can resurrect again. In other words, we need not deceive ourselves that the death of Gaddafi will bring an end to dictatorship, either in Libya or elsewhere in the world.

Basically, as President Jonathan and his ‘Transformation’ team are now bent on chastising Nigerians with socio-economic scorpions and other what ought nots, it will do their time some modicum of good if Arab revolt is critically reviewed with a view to learning some salient lessons. In my own view, rather than add to our yoke, events in, especially, the Middle East should spur the president into helping the already fractured microcosm avoid an unwanted cataclysm that is already nearing us by the eyelids. Now is the apposite time to stop behaving like a captured president and steer the ship of the Nigerian state as if he has at least a fair understanding of the project he is struggling to superintend. Until we succeed in bringing about a new, corporate Nigeria where the worth of “new political thinking and new political values” is no longer underrated, Arab Spring may be nearer to us than we have ever imagined.

May God save us from ourselves!  

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Abiodun Komolafe

Michael abiodun KOMOLAFE is a native of Ijebu-Jesa, Headquarters of Oriade Local Government Area in Osun State.
He attended St. Matthew's Primary School, Ijebu-Jesa; and Ijebu-Jesa Grammar School, Ijebu-Jesa. He then proceeded to University of Ilorin from where he graduated with Bachelor of Science, B.Sc. (Hons), degree in Statistics in 1997; and, in 2003, he bagged a Master of Business Administration, MBA, postgraduate degree from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria. Komolafe is also an Associate Member of the Nigerian Institute of Management (Chattered), AMNIM.
He was at one point or the other Editor-In-Chief, National Association of Statistics Students, NASSEB, University of Ilorin Chapter; Editor-In-Chief, Faculty of Science Students Association, FOSSA, University of Ilorin Chapter; Editor-In-Chief, Student Union Government, University of Ilorin; and Editor-In-Chief, Association of Master's Degree in Business Administration Students, AMBAS, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife Chapter.
Apart from his work experience which cuts across the divide of Charity (or Non-Governmental), public and private sectors, Komolafe has since 1997 been a regular contributor to national and international dailies and newsmagazines on issues of national and international importance.