As we count the remaining part of the Year 2003 in hours, minutes and seconds, I feel compelled to share this end of year thought with readers around the world. Those who argue that the World would never be the same again following the horrors of 9/11 in the Year 2001, cannot be more correct. That tragedy was an important watershed in world history, and more so for the shining City on the Hill, and the leader of the Free World.
I first heard the tragic news on the same day on my sick bed at the Obafemi Awolowo Teaching Hospital at Ile-Ife, Nigeria, where I was hospitalized, following an excruciating pain to my left foot that started like a child play while I was home on vacation in Nigeria, trying to reclaim a new residential Building I was putting up in Akure my home town. I am using the word “reclaim” here, because the caretaker I had specifically hired to help me keep eyes on the building materials, and to always tidy up the close to one acre compound, was on the verge of dispossessing me of the whole house plus the Guest Chalet where I had allowed him a room he could live in, free of charge, as a reward for his caretaker responsibilities. He had thought that those of us who live and work in America that many in our country could kill today to get into because the streets and turnpikes of our home away from home, is paved with gold and silver, and that some of us could care less about whatever investments we could show in Nigeria as our gain from God’s own country
I got information in New York the caretaker had rented out the whole premises and had collected rents, for two or more years, without my permission or knowledge, and was looking for ways and means to permanently convert the premises to his own in perpetuity. For the information of those who don’t know, corruption has reached such alarming proportions in our country that a Deed of Conveyance can easily be switched if the criminal is willing to settle the people in charge. As if that was not enough, the same caretaker was sending me parcels of voodoo/juju in America that was supposed to make me blind or to make me lose interest in ever returning home again, so he could continue to collect the rents indefinitely. I am sharing this story, because I know there may well be people going through the same ordeal, and such Nigerians could learn something from me.
I deliberately traveled home at the time I did, to prove to myself and to the caretaker, that his juju or whatever potions he was sending me across the oceans could do me nothing. I safely arrived home, and took immediate steps, including permissible brigandage of sorts to evict him and his tenants out of my Building with immediate effect, as I was not interested in any Court action or to endlessly continue to bribe the Police to get them to do their job. A few weeks after the eviction by force, I started feeling a little pain or aches on my left foot that I thought would go away after using some analgesics I had brought with me from the United States, as I knew that buying medications in Nigeria was as good as committing suicide by attrition. But the pain persisted and it eventually landed me in the Teaching Hospital at Ife, for four months.
I was receiving treatment in that Hospital on September Eleven when I got the News the Twin Towers had been hit by terrorists and that America was in a war with an adversary whose face or address she did not know. I could not believe my ears until I saw the pictures on Television. I said, right there and then, the World would never be the same again. If America the Super Power, and the Land of the Pilgrim fathers, the Land of the Brave, and God’s own country on Earth could be hit like that, without the Intelligence people getting any hint, no other country on Earth is safe. Just like a proud and great Nation like America could be brought down to her knees by an itinerant recluse and loner like Osama Bin Laden, so could all heartless Despots and Dictators around the World, who always forget that absolute power belongs to God and God alone. There is no human being created by God that God cannot summarily deal with. It does not matter who you are. If you think you are more powerful than God, you are deceiving yourself, because that power can be taken away from you as easily as you acquire it.
So it is important for all Nations and for all of us human beings to fully appreciate that, and to never allow transient power to get into our heads regardless of human temptation. I am sharing my experience in Nigeria, and the collective pains we have all endured, and are still feeling for all those who had lost their precious lives in the prestigious Twin Towers. We are all very vulnerable as human beings and as Nations regardless of any power or technological superiority we may have. As powerful as the United States of America is, in the whole world today, she could easily go down in psychological defeat, if it becomes too arrogant, and if it refuses to learn from the experience of older Civilizations and Empires.
Where for God’s sake is the Great Roman and the Great Greek Empires of old? How about the Egyptian Empire, the great Chinese and Japanese Empires and the last British Empire on which they say the Sun never set? They have all become history today, because Empires rise and fall, and the only constant in Nature or indeed in Life, is Change. Let those who believe they are strong and invincible today be very careful, lest they fall. The Wisdom of Ages as reflected in the Bible has continued to stand the test of time. It is nice to have a power like the lion, what is not so nice, is for any nation or any man or woman to try to use that power like the lion. You run a great risk any time you do that, and you could easily fall just like Saddam, Noriega, and so many other Dictators have found out. That is why I think the Clinton Doctrine which had sought to build World consensus rather than flaunting American Power around the world, is much more preferable to the Bush Doctrine which clearly says you are either with us or against us, and that we would clearly get you before you get us, just like the lion King often dominates its victim and surrounding, and couldn’t care less, how its preys feel. That approach may be acceptable or tolerable in the animal kingdom. It is totally dangerous and unacceptable in a world where the strong and the weak nations have to coexist side by side under the time honored principle of sovereignty.
Nearly a year ago I wrote an article published in the Nigeriaworld titled “Saddam is delusional to think he can take on America and the whole World two times in a row, and to come out victorious.” I predicted then he would not only have his country destroyed and humiliated, I said he would simply be picked up like Noriega of Panama and be made to spend the rest of his life at a Maximum Security Prison out there in Marion, Illinois, and that would be it. I also believed at the time that if he was not picked up like a rat, that he could die fighting like a hero in a hail of bullets and go down with some of his myth and reputation still intact. Since I was not hundred percent sure how he would exactly end up, I also predicted there is a chance from what we knew about some other Dictators, like him, that he might actually be a chicken at heart who would rather push others to die for him like he did to his two sons Qusay and Udeh, while he has found some surreptitious ways to save his own life, because he has gotten so much used to the good things in his prestigious Palaces all over Iraq, that he would melt, if he was denied a little bit of all those creature comforts, for any prolonged length of time.
As we now do the post mortem of his capture or surrender, I can confidently say that most or all of those premonitions have all come to pass. His two prominent sons having died fighting, have, somehow, managed to prove they are even more heroic than their spider man father whose first word on emerging from his spider hole, was to tell the valiant American Forces. “I am Saddam Hussein, the President of the Republic of Iraq. It would have been most honorable if he had stopped there, but he did not. He had, humiliatingly, added the “Coup de grace” when he uttered the statement “I want to negotiate” Negotiate for what? Not even Slobodan at the peak of his desperation ever made such a blunder. I am aware that his daughter had argued that his father must have been drugged to make that kind of statement. Excuse me. If he was truly drugged and his spider hole sprayed with some chemicals, how come he still knew he was Saddam Hussein and the President of Iraq. The drug speculation would have been more believable if he had emerged from that miserable hole to introduce himself as Slobodan or Adolf Hitler, or the President of Nicaragua. I would have believed that charge if Saddam had called himself Sani Abacha or Idi Amin or Mobutu Sese Seko. All he had wanted was another chance to prove he was the legendary cat with nine lives. Period. He was sick and tired of running from pillar to post, and he needed a good bath, and a clean shave, all of which he got within a few hours of his capture.
The coward had all the chances in the world to negotiate in 1991 before the Gulf War had begun, and when the Holy Father, the one and only John Paul, the Second had offered him a perfect excuse or alibi, when he had personally sent emissaries to him at the height of his power to ask him to negotiate and save his country from total destruction and humiliation. He could easily have ended the War, right there and then, by putting President Bush Senior on the defensive by saying he was deferring to the Pope, a man who was respected all over the world. Instead he called the War the mother of all Battles, but took a retreat as soon he faced the onslaught of the American Forces who simply buried alive, most of his soldiers in the holes they have already dug for themselves in anticipation of attack. American had gone to the Desert of Sands with huge armored cars equipped with huge Sand sweepers that simply buried most of his soldiers alive even before the first salvos were fired, and before the War reporters and correspondents could ever verify how many soldiers were in those trenches. If President Bush the First had not been magnanimous enough, to simply stop the War at that point, Saddam would have been captured longest time, because the man was never as ready and as strong as his propaganda machine was telling the world. The guy was a nuisance to tell you the truth. Pulling out a long sword out of the sheath to impress his band of naive Generals should have been seen for what it was. It was nothing but a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, but signifying nothing just like Noriega did before him.
Saddam had simply acted like “Shigidi” god in Yoruba Mythology who had foolishly ordered his devotees to put him in the rain, so he could exercise his real power. In a feat of empty arrogance “Shigidi” like Saddam, had forgotten he was made of ordinary mud which had simply dissolved after a few drops of rain. We just saw Saddam melt away, when he came face-to-face with the awesome power of the only Super power in the World on both occasions. The outcome of the showdown with Iraq had never been in doubt, and I said so in my first article on Saddam, and the whole world had said so loud and clear. But Saddam was just too power-drunk and insane to read between the lines, to the detriment of a proud people, the relics of the Great Persian and Babylonian Empire built around the great Rivers Tigris and Euphrates.
I have been to Iraq in my travels around the World. Baghdad is by any stretch of the imagination a great Capital among Capitals in that Region. The Iraq people were educated and proud people who deserve respect for their long history of survival and culture I was devastated to see Baghdad destroyed and humiliated, because of the maniacal arrogance and stupidity of a fickle-minded, Lilliputian General who had thought he was wiser than all the 24 million citizens of Iraq. I used to think he would at least have read the lives and times of some other dictators like him, around the world, and learn some useful lessons from them. But he evidently had not. What positive outcome does he expect to come out of his refusal to bite the bullet, and take himself out in much the same way like his twin brother Adolf Hitler had done. He only owed the Americans one single bullet to the head for all his atrocities, if he was a hero to the people he had managed to deceive for so long. He still foolishly believed that he could get some reprieve from all Americans for the pains he had caused our Nation both in human life and in cash and kind. When he was a free man, several statements he might not have made were credited to him by President Bush, as a reason for going to War, now that he is now in the beck and call of the allied forces, it is a matter of time before we are told he has now confessed to having a Weapon of mass Destruction, and where such weapons could be found in the Desert of Iraq. Such a make believe statement from Saddam can no longer be ruled out, as the Election fever begins to gather momentum in our country, and President Bush begins to find ways and means to look good and to sustain the opinion polls that would of necessity carry him to a landslide in 2004, unless some imponderable now occurs to tilt the balance in favor of the Democrats. The George Bush Junior that I profiled in my last article carried by major African Websites, would not but take full advantage of that development as a smart politician that he has become. You watch.
Here today, and gone with the wind tomorrow, could be one of the ways to describe the life and times of dictators and despots around the world. This article would just briefly revisit the lives of a few of them I know a little bit about. They all range from Adolf Hitler who in his madness had callously and mindlessly murdered more than six million Jews by simply putting them in the gas chambers, all in effort to prove a point, that his own race was superior to any other in the whole world. He had become so power-drunk that he took on the whole world in the Second World War, with America as the lightening rod. America had helped Europe to put Hitler in his place for ever and ever. He, too, had fallen from grace to grass, and from Palace to a bunker hole where he probably took his own life like a hero, and made sure that the Allied Forces never set eyes on his body till tomorrow. Nobody knew where Hitler had died or was buried. Hitler had kept everyone guessing till tomorrow, thus keeping alive some of his notorious myth as a War hero to some, and clearly a villain to much of the free world to this day.
How about our own Idi Amin Dada the buffoon comedian Conqueror of the British Empire who had ruled Uganda like his own private Estate, killing the likes of Archbishop Luwum of Entebbe, and sending many of his perceived enemies into their death before the great Nwalimu, Julius Nyerere of blessed memory had led a coalition of East African leaders to take him out. Idi Amin had recently died in exile at 80 in Saudi Arabia the only country that was willing to grant him asylum. His life was a great tragedy as he had totally destroyed Uganda. He was taught a lesson of a life time by the Israeli military forces when he chose to lead the first terrorist attack on the State of Israel by taking some Israeli hostages. Under cover of darkness the Israel Air Force and paratroopers had flown down to Entebbe and took away all the hostages with the exception of the leader who had voluntarily chosen to die like a true hero, so to speak, while the ovation was loudest. The majesty and the superiority of the Israeli Forces was demonstrated to the whole world when the valiant Army of sons of David still managed to return back to Jerusalem, Jericho and Tel Aviv with the body of their fallen hero, to be buried with full military honors by a grateful nation, in the land of his birth.
The paper tiger General in Saddam should have learnt some lessons from that. I doff my hat to the Israelis for their indomitable spirit and will power. One of the reasons I later, in my life, from 1991 to 1993, became a proud alumnus of the Yeshiva Jewish University of New York, was to find out more about the Jews as a people, and to drink from their fountain of knowledge, and to get to know about what makes them tick as the Elect of God, the chosen people. I was not disappointed. I graduated out of the University with a Master’s In Clinical Psychology in May 1993, and I strongly believe that part of the Jewish creativity, resourcefulness, and Chutzpah have clearly robbed off on me in a way I cannot even begin to describe here.
Talking about Despots falling from grace to grass brings back to memory the activities of Dictators like Citoyen Citoyen Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Waza Banga. I am not going to bug you with the meaning of the longest name in the Guinness Book of Records. I am only going to tell you about his odyssey from grace to grass when he allowed himself to become the first traitor to the African cause, and Pan Africanism when he willingly betrayed the Great Patrice Lumumba the first leader and Prime Minister of the Republic of the Congo. Patrice Lumumba had lost his life while Uncle Tom, Joseph Mobutu had risen from just the rank of Staff Sergeant in the Congolese Colonial Army to the rank of a full General and President of the Republic for more than 30 years. He was ruthless, and he had plundered the Nation and his limitless resources, becoming the richest man in the World. He had built in his own village in Gbadolite in the outskirts of Kinshasa a Taj-Mahal of a Palace built with gold and marble from wall to wall including the fence in a desert of want and deprivation. He had become so callous and insensitive to his peoples’ welfare that he saw himself as Louis the X1V of France who got so power-drunk at a point that he made his famous statement “Etat c’est moi” “I am the State and the State is me.” Mobutu had seen himself as the State for much of his 30 years in office as the maximum ruler of the Republic of Zaire before God took him out. He had died a miserable medical wreck and fugitive as well as a victim of Prostate Cancer at the Kingdom of Morocco, a few years ago, totally despised and hated by the great majority of his people.
How about Slobodan Milosovich of Yugoslavia and later of Bosnia Herzegovina fame. He too had risen from grace to grass. He had inherited Yugoslavia from the great Josep Tito, but the whole country had crumbled under his leadership as he started ethnic cleansing which had sought to wipe out Albanians and Kosovans and from the surface of the earth just to keep himself in power by all means. He is today a prisoner in his own country standing trial for genocide at the International Court of Justice in the Hague. He might end up committing suicide like his own father had done, if he is not being carefully watched and monitored. He would probably end up in much the say way like Saddam, getting hanged or facing the firing Squad at some future date without any doubt.
I guess you could say the same thing of Ferdinand Marcos of Philippines, and our ex maximum ruler in Nigeria, General Sani Abacha who along with Ibrahim Babangida had used their power and position to plunder our country, and to reduce a land flowing with milk and honey, to a land of penury all within a period of thirteen years, eight years for IBB and five years for Abacha. The wealth of the two Generals combined, is greater than the Gross National Product of the entire country put together. And yet Ibrahim Babangida is getting ready again to get back to power in Nigeria for another eight years again to complete the Job he had started.
I want to end this piece by quoting from a Latin adage we used to read about from the Roman mythology in “Latin for Today” when we were in Secondary School in Nigeria in the late 50s and early 60s. The adage has said “the gods will first have to make mad, those they plan to destroy.” Many of these leaders I have profiled in this article have all fallen from grace to grass, and from their stupendous and many Palaces to the Spider hole and ultimate end in total disgrace and amazing and indescribable humiliation that the world would never forget.
Never you say you want to be like any man when all you have seen is his beginning. How many of us can now pray to be like Saddam Hussein climbing out of that spider hole, and with an American military doctor checking him out for lice, and other diseases he might have picked up while running from pillar to post to escape justice. How are the mighty falling?
See you next Year, and Happy New Year to everybody.