MY SMALL VOICE
By Hakeem Babalola
Brother Leader Gaddafi. That is how I heard Libyans calling him – throughout my three days in Tripoli for a Historical African Migrants Conference in Europe which took place in Tripoli on January 15. I was impressed to see an African leader being genuinely loved by his people despite the fact that I was detained for 9 hours at the airport even though I was officially invited.
But the first shock of my admiration came barely a month after my visit, as protests rock Gaddafi’s administration calling for his resignation. Gaddafi came to power on September 1, 1969 through a revolution by overthrowing King Idris 1, a pro-Western monarch, in a bloodless coup d’état.
Since then the man has been able to project himself as a passionate social reformer and Libyans as equal partner in making Libya a system of its own. Gaddafi has managed to demonstrate that, for a leader to be taken seriously he must lead by example. He has gradually convinced the sceptic that every country, and in deed Africa can be great – greater than any nation on this planet.
His passion for the unity of Africa has earned him many enemies among other African leaders who often suspect his motive for the establishment of a United State of Africa. He was instrumental for the revival of OAU (Organisation of African Unity) by changing it to AU (African Union)… He can as well be described as inconsistent. For example, he often talks about African Union but last year he was reported to have called for the break up of Nigeria.
Gaddafi is outspoken – an outspoken critic of oppression; of colonial knavery; of Western and Arab slave exploitation. He recently apologised for Arab slavery in Africa. The west, especially America had once punished him and his people for his outspokenness.
In the 80’s
America under the guise of UN imposed sanctions on Libya in 1992 because of the Lockerbie bombing which killed 270 people in total on December 21 1988. The sanction was eventually lifted in September 2003. Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi who was jailed in 2001 for the crime was also released on August 201 2009 on health ground.
Earlier on April 15, 1986, the United States had bombed Libya, saying it was in response to the Berlin discotheque bombing. There were casualties and losses from both sides. Ronald Reagan, the 40th president of America described Gaddafi as a mad dog. Most people probably believed Mr. Reagan then because whatever came out of the White House was the holy truth. But now, we know something about propaganda, hypocrisy, double standard and what have you of America’s hegemony.
Who can you honestly call a mad dog knowing now what you did not know then? Your guess is as good as mine. Which country has elements of terrorism in its system? Your guess is as good as mine.
“The U.S must not reward those who join the war on terrorism because fighting that evil is not a service for the U.S. It is an act that serves one’s own interests. Who of us likes terrorism? Who of us would wish to live, or see his children and his country live, in a world where terrorism has free reign? Terrorism is a horrendous scourge.”
For reminder, I recently visited Libya for a three-day conference. Although the time I used in Libya is too short for a proper assessment of the country, I utilised the opportunity to get whatever I could in order to be able to extract some facts.
The situation in Libya has taught me that the vision and sincerity of a government/leader is much more valuable than the system of government. I do not know under what system to categorise Libya. You can say it’s a police state and you may be right; you can call it socialism and, or welfare state and you may be right; you can even say it is capitalism; even monarchy and so on and so forth.
What I found out during my three-day-stay in Tripoli is this: Almost every Libyan has roof over their head. Life expectancy is said to be over 70. Per capital income is about 12,000 dollars. It seems the rich and the “poor” eat the same kind of food. And there’s almost no beggar and homeless in Tripoli.
So seen the protest on cable TVs against Gadadafi’s government came to me as a shock. Although 40 years is too long for one man to preside the affairs of a country, I had relied so much on the notion that many Libyans are satisfied with the system. Oh, I had relied so much on the information I got from some foreigners in Libya as well as some citizens interviewed. Most of them spoke well of him and often described him as Brother Leader.
My wife was equally shocked seeing the protest on TV. She had believed me when I fondly told her about one African leader that seems genuine about the welfare of his people. Perhaps because she had never heard me fondly talking of African leaders; she became interested in Gaddafi until the protest against the Brother Leader.
“My dear husband,” she said in disbelieve. “You must have been given wrong information about Gaddafi and Libya”.
Hum, I am confused as well as disturbed. I had intended to proclaim to the world that Gaddafi is one African leader to be celebrated. I had wanted to say that he is one African leader with genuine love for his people. It was indeed the reason I was infatuated with his system/style.
I was wondering what other delegates might be thinking now, especially those professors, kings, human rights activists, parliamentarians, youth organisations who had poured encomium on Brother Gaddafi. They called him kings of kings. They named him the true son of Africa. They also referred to him as the only African leader who is not a racketeer. They say his example is rare and that he is the symbol of truth. He was decorated with gifts and symbols…..
I had the opportunity to visit the remains of Gaddafi’s house which was bombed by Goliath America. It has since become a museum. I was marvelled at the modesty of this leader. The furniture and other household equipment are simple. The man, it seems to me, practices what he preaches. This perhaps is his weapon – of governance.
In those days, the West tried different means including propaganda to nail Gaddafi. They labelled him dictator; they called him murderer and all sorts of cruel names – mainly to destroy a young man who would become a respected figure among his people and among those who could think and see beyond the surface. He survived to liberate Libyans. He lives by example – of how Libyans should be proud of themselves; how they should fight against any kind of oppression.
I rather prefer a Gaddafi’s “dictatorship” which has elevated his people to a Mubarak or a Ben Ali or an Obasanjo’s democracy (some call it demo-crazy) which has impoverished their people. The choice is yours: A benevolent dictator or a malevolent democrat? As far as I am concerned, Gaddafi has given dictatorship a good name. Good name? I hope I am correct despite the ongoing intense protest against Gaddafi’s system.
“Democracy is popular rule not popular expression.”
Consider this inscription boldly written in Arabic and English at Tripoli airport: YOU ARE NOT A WAGE WORKER; YOU ARE A PARTNER. The truth in that phrase radiates across Tripoli where Libyans are genuinely proud of themselves, their country and their brother leader.
One can say he is a pan-Africanist to the core. Gaddafi admires and respects people like Kwame Nkrumah, Patricia Lumumba and others whom he passionately believes had stood for dignity and against oppression.
Gaddafi’s address to the delegates
I must confess that, like many other delegate, I was somehow in a trance listening to this man’s speech. Could Gaddafi have hypnotized us? It seems, judging from the fact that Libyans are now protesting the resignation of Mr. Gaddafi a month after I had allowed myself to be convinced that Gaddafi’s Libya is in a system of its own. That Gaddafi is a genuine leader with the interest of his people at heart.
“It is my duty and role towards the sons of Africa and I am a soldier for Africa. I am here for you and I will work for you and therefore I will not abandon you and will follow your conditions. By the will of God, I will assign teams to search, inspect and meet African in Europe and to check their situations.
“The west is destroying Africa. By what right should they interfere in our affair? Africans are created by God. Imagine most African countries are named after English and French officers: Cameroon, Rhodesia.
“Now they are interfering in Cote d’ Ivoire. Are we miners, are we children so that they can be our parents? We have never interfered in their elections and why are they interfering in ours? They are enslaving us as a people and we reject this. It is colonialism b y proxy. They transported us to the US and UK and now they want to reject us. Our presence in Europe should be respected. You have me but it is up to you…..”
Therefore out of all the protests, uprising, or revolution sweeping across the Arab region; it is only that of Libya that actually confuses and holds me breathless. I had thought Libyans are so fond of Gaddafi and Libya that any kind of uprising or protest will only happen after his death. In fact my only worry had been the vacuum his long reign will have caused.
But then, if the report by AP credited to Mr. Gaddafi’s son warning the protesters that the government would “fight until the last man, the last woman, the last bullet was true; I have no choice other than to let my admiration diminish – for Mr. Gaddafi who has since blamed Osama Bin Laden for trying to create Islamic Emirate in Libya
Oh, my impression had been that Brother Leader Gaddafi had managed to create a river in the desert. Or is the current protest in Libya a path to paving way for the influence of the west in a country that detests foreign occupation and oppression in whatever form? Libyans oppositions should think and think to make sure they do not fall into the trap of colonialism by proxy.
Libyans should also understand the fact that capitalism does not necessarily mean happiness. They should know that all those benefit, subsidy, welfare being enjoyed under Gaddafi’s now hated system, may disappear under IMF/Capitalism induced government. They should be cautious of any western inspired opposition who may eventually become the stooge of the brutal colonialists. Definitely, it will soon be clear to us as it is now clear to us the origin of international propaganda, terrorism, shock doctrine and all that is befuddling our senses.
As for Libyans, well, if a woman does not try another man besides her husband, she may never know the better man, according to my people. Most importantly and even ironically, is the fact that the happening in Libya may be more than what you think. Who is behind it? And who is behind the uprising in the Middle East?