Muammar Gaddafi is gone – well, nearly. He is still kicking and screaming, but gone he is. Will he be missed? Of course, he will, but only for a while before a similar fellow replaces him. You see the tragi-comedy of some of our politics needs a clown or villain (preferably a combination of both) to keep the show on the road.
This is how he will be missed. For 42 years Gaddafi’s eccentricities have become a fixture on the world stage. They could be annoying, but also amusing, even profitable.
Take, for instance, his huge entourages and the all-female body guards that had become all too familiar on his foreign visits. They would sweep into town and literally take it over. For the duration they were in town, they became a useful distraction from the otherwise dull daily routine of survival. Occasionally his security fought with that of the host country to the amusement of the local people. It was always thought that he and his entourage left huge sums of money behind.
Speaking of which cash, Gaddafi is reputed to have liberally splashed so much of it around to buy influence or to cause mischief. Many will miss his largesse – some sorely.
Lovers of fashion will surely miss Gaddafi’s flamboyant and colourful robes and matching caps. They offered a break from the dark and grey business suits of Africa’s most powerful men. The only woman among them is, of course, distinguished by her equally colourful and elegant robes.
Admittedly some of Gaddafi’s brown robes were rather dull. They looked more like bark cloth and, when he wore them and met his visitors in his famous Bedouin tent, reminded one of a witchdoctor in a dark, grass-thatched hut mumbling some unintelligible things to patients seeking supernatural intervention. Bark cloth has a darker connection – in some traditions it is a burial cloth.
The robes are gone. The tent is gone. Fashion designers and makers of luxury products for the Gaddafi clan have lost some of their richest customers and must be counting their losses – before another clan comes up with its own design orders.
Among those who will miss him most must be African Chiefs. These are a relic from the past, kept conveniently by African leaders for a variety of selfish reasons and only brought out at national celebrations to lend colour and pomp to the event. Of late he had taken them under his wing as part of his design to be Africa’s supreme chief. They, too, must be mourning the largesse that will no longer be coming their way.
I dare say, even the West, which has pounded him out of Libya and may be out of existence all together, will miss hm. They love an adversary like Gaddafi. He gives them the excuse to win allies and protégés, and test their weapons and military strategies in a real war situation. The show of force is also a reminder to some upstart rulers that only a few bulls still rule the kraal.
The rest of us who love braggadocio, bluster and extravagant speech will mourn their loss – until another master at hyperbole of all sorts comes along. He ranted against rats who have now routed him. In this he has been in illustrious company whom he might soon rejoin.
Remember one Saddam Hussein and his talk of the mother of all wars that never was? Or Idi Amin who claimed he feared no one but God and to prove his claim drove through the streets of Kampala at the height of Uganda’s war with Tanzania and then quietly slipped out of the capital?
The media will, above all else, feel Gaddafi’s loss deeply. They love someone who will give them a good story any time of day. And Gaddafi always obliged. The feeling of loss will not be for long, though. If they cannot find a quick replacement, the media will create one. You can count on that because there must always be a story to tell.
The free show from Libya is coming to an end. In Gaddafi’s place might come some serious, nondescript, boring nation builders with no entertainment value. But who cares whether the petro-dollars will be used to build Libya and not to fund insurgents, fuel subversion or serve one man’s whimsical needs if the result is only boring TV and commentators and experts frantically searching for fresh areas of “study”?
And will other African presidents have time to work for their people now that they do not have to watch their backs all the time? And what shall we do with all those spies we have trained to ensure the security of presidential backs? I am not certain they can be retooled to do other national service duties. I suppose for this we will need experts from (probably new) allies and friends.
Shall we miss the Brother Leader? Yes, of course, in different ways and for different reasons, and the world will be duller for his departure.