Sheikh Prof. Alhaji Dr. Tragic Mimic

How about these two for comic comparison: Sheik Prof. Alhaji Dr. Yahya Abdul-Aziz Awal Jemus  Junkung Naasiru Deen Jammeh Babili Mansa and Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga?

Babili Mansa, Wa Za Banga – some bathetic end-rimes?

And all that “pleasure”, after a dig at some fictive comic names? Dead wrong!

Rather, it is a living nightmare of comic power plays, bordering on a recurring ancestral curse, plaguing political Africa.

Needless to say, those comic plays have tragic consequences – and it is no comfort that they seem rooted in the African power gene!

Mobutu Sese Seko (1930-1997), was the Zairean dictator who roasted his country and seared his people on the cruel altar of un-sated personal greed.  He belonged to the Cold War era.

Though he lived for just 67 years (he ruled Zaire, now Democratic Republic of Congo, for 32 of those years), he was a millennial contagion.

DR Congo still wilts from that contagion, passing, as power toy, from “Papa Doc” Laurent Kabila (1997-2001) to “Baby Doc” Joseph Kabila (2001 till date, even if his legal term has expired).

Mobutu is dead. But Mobutu’s power spirit is alive and well.  Long live the Mobutu pestilence!

Born simply Joseph-Desire Mobutu, at the zenith of his power lunacy, Mobutu had flared into Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga!

His Cold War era tragic co-comics included Jean Bedel Bokassa (Central African Republic, who, at the nadir of his power debauchery, renamed CAR Central African Empire, and crowned himself “emperor”); and Alhaji (Dr.) Idi Amin Dada, Conqueror of the British Empire (CBE), the  Ugandan power psychopath and savage.

You would have thought all that tragic comedy had been interred with the Cold War (1947-1991), with its insane capitalist-communist ideological posturing, until Jammeh, the Gambian tragic mimic, bobbed up.

Like Mobutu, he happened on the scene, as a pathetic soldier.

The scrawny, dark-goggled Lt. Yahya Jammeh, when he ousted the long ruling President Dauda Jawara in 1994, was the perfect portrait of the angry and hungry African soldier – angry at his parlous state but hungry for insane political power.

By 1996, the scrawny soldier, of two years ago, had begun his pseudo-democratic rebranding.  As he rebranded on the “democratic front”, so did he rebrand on the wardrobe flank.

His Spartan military fatigue gave way to over-sized white agbada, complete with a bogus “tesbir” (the Muslim chaplet) and a comic sword.

The Babili Mansa (Mandika for “Bridge Builder” or “Conqueror of the River”, whichever one you find more exotic!) must project his pristine Africanness, with his devout Islamic faith!

A power dummy never got more effectively sold!  Jammeh, the hungry soldier of 1994, had become Jammeh the Munificent in 2017; so cocky he could first concede an election with consummate grace, then change his mind at the ease with which you bat an eyelid, and finally tempt ultimate disgrace by essaying the election’s outright annulment, ala Nigeria’s Ibrahim Babangida of 1993!

Despite his puny country, and even punier defence forces, he was deluded enough to think there won’t be consequences!  All thanks to ECOWAS, the African Union (AU) and the United Nations, however, he got rudely woken from his costly reverie!

By the evening of January 20, His Excellency, Sheik Prof. Alhaji Dr. Yahya Abdul-Aziz Awal Jemus Junkung Naasiru Deen Jammeh Babili Mansa had joined Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga, in the African hall of power infamy, where they both nestle (Mobutu dead, Jammeh alive) in the dustbin of history!

It’s unclear, though, how long Jammeh would survive his arid post-power years.  It took Mobutu only three months to expire, though he was 67 and had a running battle with prostate cancer.

Jammeh is 51, rippling with robust health.  He might yet endure decades of exile, languishing in his self-imposed wilderness!

Neither is it clear how much, after 22 years in power, of the Jammeh contagion is left in the Gambian body politics.

But before anyone gets drunk on anti-Jammeh triumphalism, and in the chest-thumping swagger of the moment, forgets the flow of history, let it be made clear: Jammeh’s electoral crime is no worse than Gen. Babangida’s, against the 12 June 1993 presidential mandate of Basorun Moshood Abiola (God bless his soul!).

The ECOWAS that now flexed fearsome muscles, and barked bone-chilling orders at poor, deluded Jammeh, was as gentle as a lamb.

Even at a stage, when Babangida had long been consumed by his own plot, and Sani Abacha was ogling self-transmutation to “elected president” to sustain the criminal annulment, Bill Clinton, the US president and leader of the so-called free world, thought aloud that might not be a bad idea!

So, what has changed now?  Was it a function of no precedence (as indeed, the Jammeh peaceful ouster is yet another one, after the Laurent Gbagbo misadventure in Cote d’Ivoire)?  Or Nigeria was just a misbehaving giant, not ECOWAS, not AU, not UN could touch?

Still, Jammeh’s resolute ouster, to press the inviolability of democratic mandates, cannot be a bad thing, despite Nigeria’s criminal behaviour of 1993.

But whoever is involved in this laudable Gambia intervention should have the presence of mind to know they just doomed any power looney that might want to play the Jammeh card in the future.  Better to buy into a noble convention than fret at the fate of putative power rogues!

Nevertheless, history has a way of pulling a fast one, with the most dramatic of ironies!

Exactly the same day, almost to the hour, one comic was being prised off the tiny Gambia, another comic was being installed over the mighty United States.

Between Yahya Jammeh and Donald Trump, there is little to choose, if the subject is democratic ideals.  The one refused to concede an election in which he had been thoroughly licked.  The other thundered he wouldn’t accept any result that didn’t declare him winner!

So, despite Uncle Sam’s much-vaunted power and glory, Americans’ bragging right as leaders of the “free world”,  The Gambia as a laggard among countries on the globe and Gambians as (un?)willing victims of Jammeh’s power megalomania, Trump and Jammeh are pretty much democracy heretics.

The big difference is Trump won his bluff; and Jammeh lost his.

But that is just as well, and it might be cold comfort.  But it appears Africa just lost its monopoly of churning out power clowns – and new US President Trump is glittering evidence!





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