The popular Latin adage, Quo deos vult perdere, prius dementat Ã¢â‚¬â€œ He whom the gods want to destroy, they first make mad, comes handy in the events that have recently taken place in Libya. Since September 1, 1969, when Muammar Gaddafi seized power through a bloodless coup at the age of 27, displacing the then King Idris who went to Turkey for a medical treatment, he had had the country tightly held in between his laps. Like any new military leaders, Gaddafi disparaged the immediate past administration, promising hope to the Libyans. They hailed him then. But events turned sour as Gaddafi strayed.
In fairness to him, it was said that Gaddafi began well. But in the throes of his reign, he became drunk with power and this drunkenness later transformed into madness. Thus, I was not surprised when Bala Dan Abu described Gaddafi as The Mad Man in Libya in his column in Newswatch Magazine, August 8, 2011. This madness reached a point when Libya became just GaddafiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s family property. His children who knew no suffering, having been born to the Head of state of an oil rich country with an abysmal depth of wealth at their disposal, could not understand why their beloved father should be asked to quit the leadership of Libya to which they had been taught they were heirs. They could not hear the cries of the suffering masses because the circumstances of their birth insulated them from such Ã¢â‚¬ËœnoiseÃ¢â‚¬â„¢.
The Libyans had enough of GaddafiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s idiocy long ago and were simmering under his tight cork over the country, awaiting explosion. Everybody feared his seeming invincible viciousness. However, the successful revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt which saw their sit-tight leaders packing made the Libyans realize the possibility of deposition of tyrants. They also realized that despots like Gaddafi are not spirits but mere mortals and that nobody can stop a popular revolution except God Himself. With these impetuses, they demanded the exit of Gaddafi from his long held power. In February, they hit the ground in protest, the first of its kind in GaddafiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Libya.
Like a fool, Gaddafi could not brook the Libyan protestersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ effrontery. He embarked on the use of excessive force and unleashed untold carnage on the armless protesters which included aerial bombardment. What later metamorphosed into a six-month civil war began as a result of the Libyan rebelsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ efforts to defend themselves from GaddafiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s ruthlessness. They organized themselves into a rag-tag army, ill equipped and with little or no training in the modern conventional warfare. In fact, they were more of young volunteers who put their lives on edge to end GaddafiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s stranglehold on Libya. Gaddafi refused all local and international entreaties to stop using force on the revolutionaries who had vowed to resist his attacks with even bare hands. He also refused dialogue.
Even when the NATO member countries hearkened to the cries of the Libyan masses to enforce no-fly zones to protect the innocent civilians being murdered by Gaddafi, he still held on. The rebels took their lives in their hands and held on too, pushing towards the capital, Tripoli. Gaddafi was offered the option of surrendering and remaining in Libya unharmed. He refused that. All he wanted was to remain the maximum ruler. Even when the members of his cabinet began to desert him to join the opposition, he could not read the handwriting on the wall. As the war raged, the rebels became more confident and determined. In a night, Gaddafi lost a son and three grandchildren. At this point, any sane person would have surrendered power. That was not for Gaddafi. Like the biblical Pharaoh, God hardened his heart so that he would bring himself to an end. In his delirium, he regarded the rebels and the NATO as a huge joke.
I have found one common trait of cowardice in all the tyrants, from Idi Amin Dada of Uganda, Mobutu Sese Seko of Congo, Ben Ali of Tunisia, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Laurent Gbagbo of Ivory Coast, Saddam Hussein of Iraq and then Muammar Gaddafi of Libya. This element of cowardice crystallizes in great fear which the despots often try to mask with some show of power. They fear everything; the loss of power, wealth, family and most importantly, the loss of their own lives. That is why for them to protect their lives, they are ready to sacrifice the lives of millions. Saddam Hussein was said to have paid as much as $50, 000 into the would-be suicide bombersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ accounts as an inducement for that purpose. Yet, Hussein was captured like a chicken in a bunker where he ran to save his life. Laurent Gbagbo was caught in an underground enjoying with his young wife as the war he caused in his country, Ivory Coast as a result of his refusal to relinquish power raged. Gaddafi who had encouraged others to fight and die in order to save him and his family went into hiding in spite of his boasts to fight to the end and die a martyr. Instead of reeling out taped messages urging his supporters to fight on, one would have expected him to come out and lead the fight he caused. He rather looked on helplessly as his empire collapsed over his head.
At the beginning of the month of Ramadan, the Libyan freedom fighters swore to put an end to GaddafiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s regime before the end of the month. More determined than they were at the beginning of the war, they fought on and on the 20th of August, they entered Tripoli. With the defection of members of GaddafiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s cabinet and the surrender of the Libyan armyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s special units especially the presidential guard to the opposition, their sweep through the capital was swift. With this, it became clearer that GaddafiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s regime would be referred to in the past tense soonest. But like a drunk swirling and swooning in a dream world, Gaddafi refused to acknowledge this fact. He rather called on his people to rise and defend Tripoli. But that was an empty call. Nobody responded. He was rather despised. The wild joy the rebelsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ successes generated even in Tripoli showed that many of those who stood on GaddafiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s side might have been forced to take that position. The major battle now will be the rebelsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ final attempt to take the presidential palace which is guarded by the few and scattered forces still loyal to Gaddafi with their last strength. It is just a matter of time for the rebels to take full control of Tripoli, thus finally bringing Gaddafi and his inglorious regime to an end. What an end for the Ã¢â‚¬Ëœchampion of AfricaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢.
GaddafiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s fall will be a lesson for other leaders molded in his image. No good leader should take his subjects for granted the way Gaddafi did. There is a limit of endurance beyond which people cannot be stretched or else they explode no matter how subservient they may be. Such explosions are not just dangerous but unquenchable. The revolution in North Africa is not the first of its kind. In the 50Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s and 60Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s, it came in the form of coup dÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ÃƒÂ©tat which deposed some leaders across Africa. Nigeria had its own share on January 15, 1966 and its echoes led to a civil war the following year. Nobody knows where the present wind of revolution will end. The bottom line is peopleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s frustration with oppressive and repressive regimes across the world and the courage to say that enough is enough. We hope that NATO will move to Syria as soon as they are through with Libya to cure Bashar al-Assad of his madness too.
In Nigeria today, we wail under a multiplicity of problems capable of turning the masses against the government in the Libyan style. It took an unnecessarily long period of time for the leadership of the country to assent to the minimum wage of mere N18, 000 for workers, an amount that cannot buy our political leadersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ mistressesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ undies. This is in contrast to the huge sums looted from the treasury by the political appointees and legislators as salaries and allowances. I fear that if our leaders donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t learn to treat human beings as human beings, the fate of the mad man in Libya will also befall them. Like Gaddafi, they will be thrown down too.