Thursday, September 8, 2011

I prefer surgery to soothing syrups

When many a man receives their piece of bad news from a doctor, telling them how their only hope at survival is a session under the surgeon’s knife, they will shy away with their tail between their legs. They will suddenly jump into overdrive, with their now autopilot-running brains, seeking alternatives, anything but suffer the surgeon’s knife. I know one such man. It almost cost him his life.

It’s one of the biggest paradoxes that I have seen this year – that when Libyans are firing bullets in the air, caught up in ecstasy of celebrating the demise of a ruthless dictator, Sub-Saharan Africans instead tore up their invitation to the party, crying foul that Western powers were once again colonising Africa. Many talked of how the West was here to rob Libya of its oil, how Libyans were one of the most prosperous countries on the continent and  needed no revolutionalising, and so on, and so on, and so on – almost makes you dizzy.

The prophets of doom have been quick to throw their weight behind the criticism, stating that this is the end of any kind of prosperity for the country. They’ve prophesied turmoil, civil strife, economic breakdown, name it, after Gadaffi’s fall. They sound sadistic.

Well, here is what I think. Libya is probably the biggest example we will ever need to confirm that mankind’s most treasured commodity is freedom. You can take all your money away, all your houses, all your cars, all your gold, oil, and prosperity, but leave me with freedom. Because with freedom, all the rest can fall perfectly in place like a jigsaw.

The Sub-Saharan Africans raising hell about Libya will forget that Tunisia and Egypt also had some of the highest GDP rates in Africa (Egypt - $188b and Tunisia $39b). Tunisia’s GDP per capita was $3,792, Egypt’s was $2,270 while Libya’s was the highest at $9,714. These countries were rich, and their people reasonably rich too. Uganda’s GDP per capita is $490. (And at the current dollar crisis, god only knows how far below that amount it has fallen.)

So, you ask yourself, why did the people in Libya, despite all this wealth dripping off their bodies like sweat, have any appetite for a revolution, let alone a full blown civil war? And I know what you are going to say over there – that this was NATO’s war, that Libyans did not themselves pick up arms to overthrow their ruler. Well, I will leave your conscience to deal with you on that glaring act of self deceit.

Gadaffi suffered the same plight as Ben Ali and Mubarak did – he allowed his citizens to grow rich, but denied them key freedoms. Any attempts at getting such freedoms were met by the cold, circular business end of a Kalashnikov. There was no way Libyans would ever get the chance to choose who they wanted to lead them as long as Gadaffi still ruled. Gadaffi was a cancer. He had to go. Libya needed that he went.

And we all know about cancers – you need to nip them in the bud. A simple surgery, cutting out an infant tumour, could save you a life of misery and add another 20 years to your scale. But, you could choose to do it the Ugandan way, swallow panadols and drink anti-biotic syrups, in the face of a growing cancer.

Nearly all Ugandans will agree that there is something fundamentally wrong with their country and its leadership. And now, with high inflation figures that are directly related to a certain spending season not long ago, they know, just like one commentator put it, the dog that ran into the central bank and robbed their dollars. But the thought most Ugandans can least entertain, is that of doing something about their leadership. “That could cause chaos,” they reason.

Well, the Libyans prefer surgery. And, having known that Gadaffi’s presence is a step in the wrong direction for every passing day, chose to go to the operating theatre and cut out the tumour. Ugandans, and most Sub-Saharan Africans for that matter, are busy drinking syrups.

Trying to get the issue of slow recovery after a revolution and using it against the cause of the revolution is so short sighted. We all know that things will get worse before they get better in Libya. But that they will get better is a fact you cannot deny. That is exactly what surgery is all about. Right after the tumour has been cut out, there is the list of stitches, scars and wounds that the patient has to deal with. Those take time to heal, but they eventually heal. And after they have healed, the body takes on a fast ride of growth, because the tumour, the cancerous cells that were killing the body, are now gone.

So, Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy are going to take oil. So what? Good things come at a price and I thus see no reason why the US should not have a 10 per cent or whatever per cent in discounts on Libyan oil. The difference here is that the oil contracts being discussed with the West are completely in the open. The West is interested and has made no secret about it. Libyans will know just how much they taking and will either agree or not.

And then again, if the new leadership in Libya fails to be even half as transparent about it, they risk the possibility of becoming a cancer themselves, and, like Gadaffi, we all know what Libyans of today can do to cancers. The leadership is only too aware of this to do otherwise.

And that is why unlike many Sub-Saharan Africans, who are either consciously or unconsciously, yielding to the innate trait of forever exalting societal big men as if they are gods, I choose to see Gadaffi as the cancer he was, and not the defender of Africa that many say he is. And because he was a cancer, I believe the surgery for him was proper in the circumstances. I choose to conclude that it is better, even healthier, to deal with cancerous cells once and for all, instead of taking soothing pills, hoping that one day, the heavens will smile upon us, and take the cancer away, painlessly. 

That Libyan session of surgery, also says a lot about what Sub-Saharan Africa is, as compared to its neighbours up North. 

1 comment:

  1. Please Sub-saharan Africa is made up of over 40 countries. And these countries are not monolithic. So please be specific of whom you are complaining about. I suspect you are Ugandan. And as such you would make much more sense if you complained about things Ugandan. People in Botswana, Namibia and Zambia dont have the same problems as you. As are people in Ghana. Sub saharan Africa is not a country!