MOAMMAR GADHAFI'S ODYSSEY - A DRAMATIC AND DISHONOURABLE DEMISE OF A DESPOT!
“The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, and so that the living may know that the Most High is Sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of men. “This is the dream that I, King Nebuchadnezzar, had. Now, Beltshazzar, tell me what it means, for none of the wise men in my kingdom can interpret it for me. But you can, because the spirit of the holy gods is in you” (Daniel 4:17-18).
This past week, the inhabitants of this wicked and wounded world once again witnessed the dramatic and dishonorable death of world’s longest reigning and brutal dictator, Colonel Moammar Gaddafi ignominiously shot to death by those he called rats and rebels of Western influence. He was captured in a sewage drainage tunnel in his hometown, Sirte, Libya. Colonel Gaddafi was pulled out from the sewage tunnel and in an effort to transport the lion of Libya, who was wounded by a NATO air strike, an angry young 21-year old rebel, shot him on the head. Colonel Moammar Gaddafi died instantly in a public square in his hometown, Sirte. His body was laid in meat storage along side with one of his sons, Moutassim, who was also killed in the crossfire after the capture.
Gaddafi’s dishonorable end is just a replay of the demise of another tyrant and brutal dictator, Saddam Hussein of Iraq, who was captured in an 8 by 6 feet rat hole near a dilapidated farmhouse in his hometown, Tikrit in December 2003. Even though, Saddam Hussein was not killed instantly by the young U.S. soldiers who captured him, he was tried by Iraqi people and ultimately condemned to death. Saddam Hussein’s odyssey and dramatic end was much more honorable than that of Col. Moammar Gaddafi. That year, I penned a piece entitled: “Saddam Hussein’s Odyssey – From Poverty to Palace to Pit and to Prison,” and showed how he ended like his idol, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, an ancient Kingdom of Iraq. In this piece, I am reproducing most of my writing then, because history has repeated itself once again.
World history is replete of these kinds of shameful and dishonorable end of most nations’ tyrants and dictators – for instance, Hitler of Germany, asked one of his aides to shoot him in his hideout. Mussolini, the Italian brutal leader, committed suicide with one of his mistresses also in his hideout. Ugandan dictator, Idi Amin, begged the whole nation to lend him a liver in order to stay alive and no single Ugandan citizen came to his rescue. In fact the entire nation was thrown into joyous celebration the day he died. General Sani Abacha, Nigeria’s brutal dictator died during a sexual intercourse with foreign women. The Babylonian strong man, King Nebuchadnezzar, ate grass and animal waste to stay alive during his seven year ordeal with wild beasts.
But, let’s return for a second to Moammar Gaddafi dishonorable demise. The international human rights organization has asked the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) government to provide evidence how Colonel Gaddafi was killed. Some African nations have condemned the shameful manner in which Colonel Moammar Gaddafi was killed and cautioned that Libya’s reconstruction process could be undermined by civil war. One of his surviving sons, Saif al-Islam, has vowed to continue the resistance to liberate Libya from the so-called rats and Western sponsored rebels. He said on Syrian TV, "We continue our resistance. I'm in Libya, alive, free and intend to go to the very end and exact revenge," "I say go to hell, you rats and NATO behind you. This is our country, we live in it, and we die in it and we are continuing the struggle." Yet reports indicate that Saif-al-Islam, the apparent heir to the throne and successor, is on the run either to Niger Republic, Syria or Algeria. His other brother, Saadi Gaddafi, is under house arrest in Nigeria – whatever that means. Meanwhile, the rest of late Gaddafi’s family including his wife daughter and one other son are currently living in exile in Algeria.
Despite the shock and sadness being expressed by some nations and Gaddafi’s loyalists, the National Transitional Council (NTC) has declared the country liberated from Gaddafi’s oppressive regime and has begun transition to democracy. The NTC government has also buried Moammar Gaddafi and his son Moutassim, at a secret desert location last Tuesday October 24, 2011 – about five days after his death, which is a contravention of Islamic burial rites. Muslims are buried within 24 hours upon dying.
Many Iraqis, who had suffered the forty-two years of oppressive, repressive, and brutal regime of late Gaddafi, are extremely over joyous. For Ali Azzarog, a 47 year old Engineer, “It was good riddance.”Throw him in a hole, in the sea, in garbage. No matter. He is lower than a donkey or a dog and only foreigners say they care about how we killed him. And they are lying," he said. Mohammed al-Sharif, a 22-year-old aspiring writer, said, "Let the dust of the desert sweep over the hole where he was buried ... Then the name 'Muammar' can be forgotten and our children will never know of this time." Mlegta said, "Throw him (Col. Gaddafi) in a hole.”
There is no doubt that the former strongman of Libya was deeply hated by his country people. And that’s why they treated him like an animal. However, the questions that those who still feel shocked and saddened by his bloody and dishonorable death must answer are these: First, why didn’t Col. Moammar Gaddafi relinquish power when his people overwhelmingly rejected his after long 42-year repressive and oppressive reign? Second, why didn’t he seek political asylum during the eight-month civil disobedience, rather than respond with such violent attack against his people killing thousands? Third, why did Moammar Gaddafi end up hiding in a sewage tunnel where the NTC rebel’s soldiers captured him? Fourth, why didn’t he react since he had a golden pistol on him? Fifth, how did such a strong man and symbol of power, influence, authority and riches finished up in a sewage hole where he shared abode with human waste, rats, spiders and ants? Sixth, how did a man who had according to some sources appropriated nearly one Trillion US dollars end up in a sewage drainage tunnel in his home, Sirte, from where he was captured?
The answers to those questions will inevitably lead to the wise teachings of King Solomon, the son of David, King in Jerusalem, when he wrote, “Meaningless! Meaningless! Says the Teacher, Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless – wisdom is meaningless, pleasures are meaningless, advancement is meaningless, riches are meaningless – Now all has been heard: here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandment for this is the whole duty of man, for God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil – Ecclesiastes 1-12. King David wrote, “For the kingdom is the Lord’s and He is governor among the nations (Psalm 22:28). God is interested in the political, economic, and social and leadership challenges of every nation, tribe, tongue, kindred and people, and when those in authority become so tyrant and dictatorial, God uses the lowly means most times to bring shame to the wise and powerful according to world standards.
Most world leaders, especially African political leaders do not understand what leadership is all about. They do not understand the divine and sacredness of leadership. Most of them do not know that power is given by people and can be taken away people, power is a gift and it is given primarily in three ways: (1) by God, (2) by people, and (3) by circumstances. The African tyrants and dictators, refuse to learn that no matter how powerful and connected a leader may be – he or she stands to loose power and authority by those three ways as well. Leaders ought to be servant – literally slaves to the people they serve. Jesus Christ, the greatest leader of all times, made this statement to his followers, "Whoever wants to become great among must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom"(Matthew 20: 26-28). The word slave literally means servant both in Greek and Aramaic languages. Most African leaders do not have a clue what leadership is all about. Most of them do not even possess the essential qualities to be a leader. They lack character, courage, compassion, charisma, integrity, and trust. And worst of all, they are greedy, corrupt and foolish.
The answers and the truth of what transpired in the life of Moammar Gaddafi this past week can only be found in the pages of the Holy Scriptures. As a passionate student of leadership, I searched through the history books and ancient writings, to look for any similarity among the kings and rulers of the ancient world - including Charlemagne, Charles V, Louis XIV, Napoleon, Adolph Hitler, Mussolini, Idi Amin, Sani Abacha, etc, to compare with the dramatic demise of Moammar Gaddafi. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon the Great and Saddam Hussein of Iraq fit the comparison. The book of Daniel presents an astonishing similarity and peculiarity with Moammar Gadhafi, which is a replay of the dramatic capture of Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, in December 2003, as well as others in history – including Adolph Hitler, Mussolini, Idi Amin, etc. History has an unusual and funny way of repeating itself. It may not happen exactly, but it always re-occurs with much similarity without mistake.
The book of Daniel, which bears the name of its author as well as the chief character simply means, "God is (my) Judge." Prophet Daniel records a detailed account of the reign of King Nebuchadnezzer of Babylon who was the most powerful and longest reigning Babylonian kings from 625 - 539 BC. Like King Nebuchadnezzar, Moammar Gadhafi was the longest ruling leader of Libya. He ruled the Libyans for 42years from July 1979 to April 2011. Under King Nebuchadnezzar's rule, he consolidated the empire and brought Babylonia to the summit of influence, power and prosperity. Moammar Gadhafi also consolidated power, when he seized control of Libya in September, 1969 in a bloodless coup just at only 27 years old to become Libya’s military leader. He also enjoyed years of dazzling power, influence and economic progress. Even though he was not a pedantic military president, he used very well his country's oil wealth. Moammar Gaddafi indulged in many social, educational and economic reforms that raised the nation's literacy rate from 30% to 70% and made Libya to become the undisputable educated nation in Africa and most Arabic nations.
King Nebuchadnezzer made wars against the Assyrians, Egyptians, and Syrians. He captured Palestine and Jerusalem in 605 B.C. and brought Daniel and other Hebrew leaders including the popular ones namely: Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego as captives to Babylonia. King Nebuchadnezzar ruled with power and authority. He had prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and other provincial officials who carried his brutal orders without question. He abused power and did whatever he wanted. He was cruel and irrational to his people and followers. He dishonored God and made an image of himself with gold, ninety feet high and nine feet wide, and set it up on the plain of Dura in the Province of Babylon for people to worship.
Like King Nebuchdanezzar, Col. Gaddafi also engaged in military campaign against other foreign nations. In 1972, three years after seizing control of Libya in a bloodless coup, Col. Gaddafi, formed an ‘Islamic Legion’ comprised of mercenaries from sub-Saharan Africa. Under his direction it went on to commit terrorism and atrocities in Chad. Moammar Gaddafi was also involved in terrorism acts in Europe. In 1984, his agents fired on a demonstration outside the Libyan People’s Bureau in London, killing WPC Yvonne Fletcher. He also funded the hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro in 1985. In 1986, after a terrorist bomb killed two US servicemen at a disco in Berlin, the U.S president then, President Reagan ordered the airstrikes against Tripoli and Benghazi. Two years later, the Libyan regime orchestrated the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland that killed all the passengers abode. The following year, he sponsored the downing of a French passenger Jet in Africa, as well as the 1986 bombing of a German disco club frequented by U.S. servicemen, killing three people. The United Nations (U.N.) and United States imposed sanctions on Libya. Also in 1989, Col. Gaddafi orchestrated the bombing of a UTA flight over Niger.
King Nebuchadnezzar also carried out extensive building programs in the capital of Babylon. His engineering accomplishments included ziggurat, two defense walls, the gateway of Ishtar, new canals, many shrines and new temples dedicated to Bel-Marduk and other deities. Many of his architectural accomplishments were so impressive that they are today listed among the seven-wonders of the world. Like King Nebuchadnezzar, Moammar Gadhafi also used architecture to awe and intimidates his people and neighbors. When Moammar Gadhafi came to power in Libya, he conceived a grandiose scheme to rebuild Libya. Moammar Gaddafi expressed his vaunting ambition in architecture and building programs like King Nebuchadnezzar II.
While King Nebuchadnezzar was at the zenith of his power and influence, filled with pride, arrogance and dishonor to God, the Bible states that the words were still in his lips when a voice came from heaven, "This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you, You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals: you will eat grass like cattle. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes' (Daniel 4:31-32). It was Daniel who interpreted the kings' dream because all the wise men, magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, diviners and astrologers of the Babylonian empire were unable to interpret it. Daniel advised King Nebuchadnezzar to use his positional power in the service of others through acts of kindness rather than torture, murder and war but the King refused to follow Daniel's wise counsel. When King Nebuchadnezzar forgot God and ruled the people with iron hand, arrogance and pride, God intervened and struck him with insanity as punishment for his pride and arrogance. God showed him that He (God) is the real source of all power, both in heaven and on earth. He lost the empire and everything and lived like an animal feeding on grass for seven years until he acknowledged God and was restored.
Also while Moammar Gadhafi was at the zenith of his power and influence, he forgot that God is the one who has placed him in the position of authority, rather he pursued self-centered dreams and desires. He called himself, ‘King of Kings.” He pursued programs of mass destruction and acquired weapons of warfare and missiles to destroy his opponents and humanity. Col. Gaddafi was also a cruel dictator who gassed, murdered and killed those who opposed his regime. He tortured Libyan people, exiled or killed those who opposed him. He also reduced the one million Libyan Christians by using torture and dangerous weapons. He carried out ethnic cleansing, imprisoning or killing those who opposed him. The killings, disappearances and torture of his opponents continued into the 1990s. In 1996, 1,200 prisoners at the Abu Salim jail in Tripoli were massacred. He also appropriated Libya’s oil money to the tune of nearly one trillion US dollars, impoverishing Libyan people and caused the death of thousands of Libyans.
In 2000’s driven by his quest for power and economic dominance of the Mediterranean, he made friends with late Saddam Hussein, Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmedinajad, and other world tyrants. He supported and funded Al-Queada leader, late Osama bin Laden, including the dastardly bombing of the World Trade Center in New York. After the dramatic demise of Saddam Hussein, he tried to make amends and friends with the U.S. again, but it didn’t work. Some evidence even suggests Gaddafi’s connection to the UN-building car suicide bomb blast in Abuja – by Nigeria’s Boko Haram Islamic terrorist group, that killed scores of people and wounded hundreds recently. In 2009, Col. Gaddafi, even called on Nigerian leaders to divide Nigeria along religious lines rather than the continued bloodshed between Muslims and Christians in the Northern region. His call was a courageous one, even though it fell on deaf ears. The Senate President, Senator David Mark had a beef with him and called Colonel Gaddafi a “mad man”.
Well, finally, God has intervened through the courage and determination of Libyan people – the NTC, and NATO, to mete judgment and punishment upon Moammar Gaddafi. When the U.S. NATO led military campaign began last March, I knew that Moammar Gadhafi’s end was near. So last week Thursday October 20, 2011, the entire world was stunned and shocked when NTC spokesperson announced Thursday morning at a news conference from Tripoli, saying that, " Moammar Gaddafi is dead,” I stayed up all day glued to the television watching the images of a man who was a few months ago, a symbol of power, strength, influence and riches but now reduced to a bloody, disheveled, unkempt and haggard dead animal.
Moammar Gadhafi was captured in sewage drainage system in his hometown, Sirte, where he was hiding out from NTC and NATO fighters. It was exhilarating news. It was refreshing because today, our universe is less at threat with the demise of another cosmic dictator and tyrant. But it was also unimaginable that the Libyan leader, the lion, King of Kings and brutal dictator like him would be killed in a public square without mercy, like a thief rather than keep him alive to try him in the courts of law for his inhumane atrocities and oppressive regime. Even more intriguing was the fact that he was found hiding in a sewage system full of human waste, germs, rats, ants, roaches and spiders, a man who until few months lived in a lavishly decorated presidential palace and entertained himself with whatever he wanted from any where in the world. Seldom has any leader, who possessed such power and influence, fallen so low. Adolph Hitler, Idi Amin, Sani Abacha, and even Saddam Hussein, as well as King Nebuchadnezzar were much better in the manner they died than Col. Gaddafi.
What really captivated my attention and interest was the images of a man who was until nine months ago was a symbol of power and strength but now helpless and unable to react when those he bragged that he would defeat captured him. This is a man who brandished his strength by shooting his rifles to the Americans from his presidential palaces. He burned American flags wherever he found them and said hell to Americans on public televisions. At one occasion, he demonstrated his gold gun. He called the rebels rats and bragged that he would liberate Libya from the rats and rebels of Western imperialism and influence. This is a man who committed many atrocities during his lifetime. He killed lots of innocent people because of greed and quest for power. He gassed his people and killed thousands of those who opposed his regime. But when the young NTC rebels and rats showed up in his new sewage drainage bunker, he could not react; rather he threw up his hands in the air and begged them not to shoot him. He was incoherent and slurped with blood all over of his face. In the grisly crossfire, an angry NTC youth shot hell out of him to end the odyssey and saga of a man that majority of Libyans hate his guts.
It is absolutely disappointing that a man who bragged at distance and consolidated power in which millions of people foolishly followed him thinking that he was a brave man. But his recent ordeal and the manner in which he was captured surely demonstrated he was a coward – and most dictators are cowards. It was absolutely unthinkable that Col. Gaddafi would not even put up a fight. If I were Col. Gaddafi, I would have absolutely shot a bullet and put up some fight in my new sewage drainage bunker. To prove the bravery that he showed to world for many years, he would have at least shot himself pretending to commit suicide before those young brave NTC rebels and rats pulled him out from the stinking drainage tunnel. The way and manner in which Gaddafi was captured proved once again that most tyrants, dictators and despots are coward and delusional leaders. All the atrocities that he committed were a denial of his cowardice and delusion. No brave leader would surrender in such a fashion after all the pride, arrogance, boasting and bragging.
For King Nebuchadnezzar, at the end of seven years, God restored him to the power of the kingdom. The lesson was costly but Nebuchadnezzar never forgot the truth that the most high alone does as he please. Moammar Gaddafi was thrown into the hands of mere mortals, who showed no mercy at all. There is no doubt in my mind that God has done this through NATO – the French, British, and Americans. God always has a way to mete His justice and punishment to any leader who misuses the sacred trust and stewardship of leadership.
What lesson can those still ruling as dictators around the world today learn from the shameful and dishonorable manner in which the strong man of Libya was shot to death without mercy in a public spare. Any leader who does not learn from past failures would not lead effectively for very long time. Obviously Moammar Gaddafi did not learn from past failures of leaders including from his friend, Saddam Hussein and his idol, King Nebuchadnezzar II. For those still in power even under the disguise of democratic government should beware. The NATO led forces may not come against you but God Almighty will. The Sovereign ruler of this earth has a humorous way of meting His justice and punishment. The image of the great Nebuchadnezzar eating grass like a cow or the tyrant dictator Saddam Hussein sharing an 8 feet by 6 feet room with rats, roaches and spider or Moammar Gaddafi hiding like a rat in a sewage drainage tunnel should be a vision every tyrant leader fixes firmly in his or her mind.
God never bestows positional and personal power as an end in itself, but always as a trust to be exercised with stewardship for the benefit of others. Leaders who misuse his trust by squandering it on extending their own egos through oppressing and manipulating others will ultimately give an account to the One who gave them their power in the first place. The Bible and especially the book of Daniel underscores the temporary nature of earthly kingdoms in contrast to the everlasting kingdom that will be ushered in by "one like a son of man" who receives authority, glory and sovereign power" (Daniel 7: 13-14) from the ancient of days. God has authority over nature and nations; He changes times and seasons: He sets up kings and deposes them; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning (Daniel 2:21). The affairs of people and nations may appear to be independent of God's divine control, but regardless of how people rebel against the plan and purposes of God, "the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone He wishes" (Daniel 4: 17,25,32). God's power and influence are absolute. He is not a cosmic tyrant like many of our leaders today. He always uses His authority for the greatest benefit of His creation and His people.
I cannot conclude this article without touching briefly on a biblical story that has reverse similarity with Moammar Gaddafi’s odyssey. Joseph, the son of Jacob went from being born in a wealthy family to the pit and then sold to the Ishmaelites. The Ishmaelites sold him into slavery to Egypt. In Egypt, he will serve in Potiphar's house and because he refused to sin against God, Potiphar's wife accused of attempted rape against her. Joseph was thrown into prison. While in prison, Joseph still trusted God for his dreams and desires. Through divine circumstances and favor with God, Joseph became the prime minister of Egypt. The biblical story of Joseph has much similarity even though in reverse order with Moammar Gaddafi’s odyssey. For Muammar Gaddafi, he went from peasantry to palace, from palace to a drainage tunnel and from there to his untimely death. I was not alive during the odyssey of Joseph. Sometimes, it is hard to believe these kinds stories – it sounds like a fairy tale. But thank God, I am alive to witness the odyssey of Saddam Hussein and that of Muammar Gaddafi, and that’s why I am writing this piece and digitizing it for my children and their children to read many years from now.
In conclusion, Daniel advised King Nebuchadnezzar to use his positional power in the service of others through acts of kindness but the King refused to follow Daniel's wise counsel. A year later, he lost everything and lived like an animal for seven years. Even though God restored him after seven years, he never forgot the truth that the Most High alone does as he pleases. Moammar Gaddafi also refused to adhere to United Nations call for disarmament and stop his terrorist activities and oppression of his people. The greed and quest for power has brought him and his family so lowly in history. All those who lead must be prepared to suffer the inevitable consequences when they fail to give credit to God for positional or personal power. When leaders give in to temptation thinking that they have earned it on their own, they must be prepared to receive the justice of God Almighty. A word is enough for the wise and wise leaders work to integrate their plans and activities with the plans and activities of the Sovereign Ruler of this universe. I hope that surviving Gaddafi’s family and other world dictators, despots, and tyrants learn some lessons from the disgraceful end of Colonel Moammar Gaddafi.
Dr. C. K. Ekeke is a theologian, author, consultant and leadership scholar. He is the president of Leadership Wisdom Institute.