LIBYA AND GHADAFI'S INTRASIGENCE
Hurricane Change Africa, currently docked in Libya, has thrown the country's strongman, Col. Muammar Ghadafi, into a fit of tongues. Amid reports that over 2,000 protesters have been allegedly crushed to death by official instruments of coercion for daring to ask Gadhafi to quit after 42 years of rule, the dictator, in a live broadcast, accused the protesters of being under the influence of a cocktail of drugs fed by 'traitors and cowards' bent on humiliating and rubbishing Libya as a nation of chaos.
Rather than take flight into exile like his fellow dictatorial strongmen in Tunisia and Egypt, President Ghadafi warned he would rather die in office as a martyr. But, the protesters remain unimpressed. They insist that President Ghadafi, who had cowed them like weather-beaten chickens for long, is power drunk.
The rebellion in Libya appears to be fueled by factors different from that of Tunisia and Egypt. In the other two countries, the common denominator was high unemployment, ultra-high food prices and sickening public sector corruption.
But the seed of rebellion in Libya is of a different species. Ghadafi has muzzled opposition, killed democracy and desecrated the Constitution. He has denied the people the God-given right to choose who should rule over them. Appointing himself leader for life, he defied the global calls to democratize and allow the people free choice of leaders. Eventually, the people rose as one man to say enough is enough! Desperate Ghadafi is at the precipice, and about plunging Libya into an avoidable civil war, as a part of the country is warming up for secession. Does this 'do or die' resolve to cling to power till death show his genuine love for his country as he has repeatedly professed? Doubtful!
It is sad that Africa is still riddled with selfish and pretentious rulers who corrupt the electoral system, using sundry plots and tricks. Once in power, they systemically muzzle opposition through the stick and carrot. The pliable and greedy members of the opposition are won over through dispensation of sumptuous official largesse. The rebels get clubbed to death or hounded into exile. Gradually, the deceitful proposition of bogus 'unity government' swallows the remnants of the opposition. When all opposition is stifled, the country arrives at the terminus of a one-party state in which the scheming dictator rules for life. Nigeria, many times, had approached that cul-de-sac before making a U-turn.
However, Ghadafi is credited with using the oil wealth of the nation to improve the welfare of the population, unlike in Nigeria, where oil wealth is a cause for regret. In Libya, undergraduates get their houses built by government ahead of their graduation; and jobs are available. Some household conveniences are given free or highly subsidized for affordability. Other social conveniences are easily available at affordable rates. Libya has a small population. It is the third African largest producer of crude oil, which is why global crude oil prices have climbed to $108 per barrel, the highest in two and a half years.
Ghadafi started well, and initially did well for his people but he should embrace the wisdom to end well by wisely stepping down as demanded. His recourse to unconscionable unleashing of violence on his people, which has led to the death of about 2,000 protesters and the resignation of some of his key aides, is unfortunate. It cannot help his cause. The era of family ruling dynasties in Africa is being swept out by hurricane of change. Let the embattled Libyan warlord and other sit-tight rulers across the world see the rainbow of change on the horizon and bow to their people's demands for self-determination.