So I woke up this morning to news that Gaddaffi has been found dead. Thus the story of the end of dictators repeats itself, from Alexander the Great, to Julius Caesar, to Napoleon, Hitler, Saddam Hussein and now Gaddaffi. Death is a hell of a thing, it is often the great equaliser. As someone who has never been to Libya and probably doesnt understand what went on, I can only speculate. However, Gaddaffi when alive and in power seemed larger than life. This man made some of the most controversial statements ever, He once called for Nigeria to be broken up. He was known as a sponsor of terrorism and iron fist leader. The man would come to a state visit to Nigeria and come with really beautiful looking female guards, set up his own tent and refuse to stay at our hotel in Abuja and wear killer aviators. He might have been a murderer and dictator but at some point the man was a revolutionary who toppled a puppet monarchy. Anyway enough of my babbles, I started this post because I wanted to share what I wrote about Gaddaffi for a class I took in 2008. You see once upon a time apart from being an Engineer, I had a enough courses to be a minor in Middle East and North African Politics and Culture. So here are some excerpts from that paper.
“What is leadership? Is leadership the subjugation of people to the will of an individual or is it the determination and execution of the will of the people by an entity or political body? In truth, Leadership is an ambiguous term. In my opinion, Leadership is a quality that an individual possesses which enables the said individual to influence the affairs of other people and coordinate these affairs to achieve a certain goal or goals. The process by which this individual comes into possession of the influence over other people and how the individual maintains this influence are some of the things that differentiate the different types of leadership.
According to Max Weber, there are three different types of leadership. There is the traditional, charismatic and modern bureaucratic. The traditional form of leadership is one in which the basis of the leadership might not necessarily be by merit but is based on historical forces and practice of succession that have been predetermined. The source of legitimacy of such a form of leadership varies from religious and mythological tradition to use symbolism held in esteem by subjects. The Charismatic form of leadership also could have a legitimacy built upon myth. In the case of this type of leadership, the myth is not built around tradition but around the personality of the leader. Charismatic leaders are intense leaders who possess an extraordinary personality that is often highlighted by the way they come to power. They tend to appear in times of crisis in which previous leadership has failed and are expected to propel the society to new and improved levels of development. The third type of leadership also bases its legitimacy on a promise of performance over a short time as well as legal authority that could be of the democratic or dictatorial nature. These are leaders that are concerned with improving society by proper management.”
“Muammar Qadhafi is an ideal choice for a Charismatic leader because of his complex personality and his ability to adapt his leadership. This has ensured his stay in power. Muammar Qadhafi was born in 1942 in the desert region of Sirta in Libya. It is important that I state that as far as charismatic leaders go, most of them come to power from obscurity or poverty and are sometimes products of poor upbringing. This factor helps to endear them to the masses initially by providing the masses with a sense of psychological connection on the level of their suffering and condition. Qadhafi was educated in Libya and eventually joined the military. Muammar Qadhafi was highly influenced by the workings of Nasser who was another charismatic leader. He took power in a coup in 1969 and rules Libya till this day.
The coup that led to the rise of Qadhafi to power is very important because as a charismatic leader, one of the characteristics is that they appear and take over from a previous leadership that has failed to deliver and challenge this previous leadership. In the case of Qadhafi, the previous leadership was a traditional leadership in the form of a monarchy. This monarchy was the Sanusi Monarchy. The failure of the Sanusi Monarchy to wield power and loyalty from all parts of the country as well as problems associated with the distribution of the then newly found oil wealth resulted in the resentment of the Libyan people and the success of the subsequent coup in 1969. The legitimacy of the Qadhafi regime at the time was the inefficiency and corruption of the monarchy. The coup was meant to usher in a form of socialism that emulated that of Nasser, but ended up as an authoritarian regime with Qadhafi at its head.
In providing himself with legitimacy and to ensure he had sole power, Qadhafi abolished the Libyan Arab Socialist Union that had formed after the coup. This body as well as the group of people he committed the coup with were people he was accountable to. Charismatic leaders have a personal vision for leadership and see interference with their plans be it through a process of accountability as inappropriate. This makes them similar to traditional leaders in that reforms are only implemented when it is in line with their personal vision. The same goes for Muammar Qadhafi who encouraged the people to take over the industries and form people’s congresses to make public policies. This enabled to topple the opposition and establish a system of People’s congresses with him in control. Charismatic leaders strive to achieve personal goals even if their goal is simply power.
Qadhafi addresses himself as the ‘leader of the revolution’. He wrote the ‘Green Book’ and claims that the country is run based on it. It was first written in 1975 and calls for a direct democracy in which the people rule themselves in a direct democracy with institutions such as political parties. The concept of direct democracy as espoused in the book can be seen as a form of legitimizing the banning of political parties and institutions that would have formed opposition to his rule. In looking at this, I see a picture of Qadhafi as a leader who manipulates the psyche of his people through such publications that give a sense of legitimacy to the leadership. This is in line with my earlier observation that Charismatic leaders have a psychological connection to the people even if it is one of manipulation. This manipulation is manifested in the method of rule. Qadhafi places his tribe members in positions of power. This is very similar to the traditional leadership model. He also uses the military as a form of coercion but does not provide the bureaucratic structure that would enable a military upheaval. Qadhafi has provided funding for several militant Islamic groups and this has in many ways as well as through brute oppression has ensured legitimacy and silenced Islamist opposition.
In terms of policies, Qadhafi has used the oil wealth of the nation to not only enrich himself but has also undertaken projects in infrastructure and provided a welfare state over the years that caters to the education of its populace and provides basic amenities. This is also a form of legitimacy and is provides some support from the people due to the performance of the regime on welfare. Qadhafi previously had adopted an anti western policy and was active in sponsoring terrorist activities as evidenced by the Lockerbie plane bombing. The regime has also come under fire for human rights abuses such as the public hangings of the 70s and 80s. Charismatic leadership eventually tries to survive and resorts to quelling opposition as can be seen with other charismatic leaders such as Hitler of Germany.
The effects of the policies of Muammar Qadhafi has on the one hand seen Libya rise as one of the more developed countries on the continent of Africa. He has managed to create a welfare state using the oil wealth and the average Libyan has higher living standards than their counterparts in the developing world. The politics of survival of Qadhafi has left many of the opposition dead and many escape the country. The sponsoring of terrorist activities initially won Qadhafi many friends in the Islamic extremist community. It also resulted in embargos, sanctions and attacks on Libya. In 1986, the US bombed Benghali and Tripoli, the two major cities and commercial hubs of the country. This coupled with the sanctions slowed the economic growth of Libya turning it into a pariah state shunned by the west and its allies. However, this does not mean that other countries did not do business with Libya. Recently, Muammar Qadhafi has reconciled with the west and paid the families of victims of the Lockerbie plane bombing. This has brought him and Libya back into the spotlight and the international community. It is my opinion that this was a move of survival by a charismatic leader who has shown over time his propensity to do whatever it takes to survive, Qadhafi only made up with the west when it became a possibility that he could be toppled from power just as another charismatic leader Saddam Hussein was toppled from power. In some ways the charismatic leadership of Qadhafi is similar to traditional leadership in that both are in the business of political survival either by coercion or by reform.”
Homeboy should have taken the reform route, That being said, this should a lesson and warning to all dictators especially in Africa and especially those masquerading as democrats in Nigeria. One day, the people will have enough and will come crying for your blood. And when you are no more, the streets will be full of dancing and wine shall pour.
Long Post I know but you made it to the end. In fiction the video below is how you end an oppressive regime.