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The Making of an African Military Dictator

April 11, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 84

In the early days of the coup that brought General Haroun Al Mahmud to power in the Mountain Capital the Press of the World camped on State House lawns day and night, day after day. Their gear hung from every tree. Their goings-on created a stir. It was a carnival such as the city and the country had not seen.

The Strongman reveled in the media blitz. He paused for photos, granted interviews, he signed autographs. Overnight he had become a household name across the breadth and length of the World. He gave press conferences and now and then lavish luncheons and banquets at State House. In his eyes everything he did confirmed his was a great man.

One fine evening he ordered a barbecue and invited the Press of the World to eat, drink, dance and be merry. He said to them I want you to eat completely the whole barbecue. The wily journalists knew exactly what they wanted and they knew their man. They encouraged the Great Man's every fancy and idiosyncrasy, and busily made footage. A media hungry world waited.

In Lagos Nigeria a mother returning home after a punishing day at the city market, hearing sounds of BBC and CNN broadcasts, doubles up despite her fatigue. What has Al Haroun done again today? Has he killed another Archbishop? Folks like her were insatiable and they were legion. There was blood and there was fun.

At the court of General Haroun Al Mahmud at the Grand Imperial, that was the official name of the Presidential Palace, there was never a dull moment. A marriage bid today for the hand of the gorgeous daughter of one of Europe's ruling family. The next day battle plans in all earnest against one of the neighboring states; to teach them a lesson they will never forget and procure a corridor to the sea for his landlocked nation.

Now and then a mocking cable to Washington to the most powerful man in the World, timed to cause the President maximum discomfort. One fresh morning, there was a gift of a virgin, a young woman kidnapped the other day by State Security, along some village path. Now the General handed her over to his friend and companion the young Scottish doctor, who saved his life from the syphilis bug the General feared had silenced the manhood in him for good.

Now in the cool of the evening, barbecue sizzles, oriental and African aroma, mingle and add color to the night. Wine and conversation flow. The press of the world is in hot pursuit. Now they know their hour has come. They reach for their little packs. Trinkets, perfumes, handguns, electronics; gifts for the General from the labs and workshops of Europe, nothing has changed in Africa. A couple of centuries ago in the days of King Jaja Opobo, the Portuguese bought hundreds of slaves on the West African coast with a handful of cheep beads.

General Haroun Al Mahmud was a natural. Protocol abandoned, legs akimbo the General sprawls on the lawn, bantering and hollering. Soon wine and whisky take their toll. The moment arrives and the past returns. The General found himself back where he once belonged. As though in a dream, he heard a voice.

You and I must make a pack. We must bring salvation back. Where there is love I will be there. I'll reach out my hand to you; I will have faith in all you do. Just call my name and I will be there

It was the King of Pop, but in Michael's amplified voice the General heard instead the voice of his own mother. It brought hot tears streaming down his face. It brought him back to the river's mouth to the warmth and comfort of the old colonial barracks.

Away from power and pomp and intrigues, away from the slaughter of innocent men and women his men carried on a daily basis on his behalf, away from the haunting cries of the dying and the dead that haunt African men of power even today. The music made of General a free man again, truly saved by the music. Years ago his own dear mother writhed in agony on the dirt floor of their simple hut and bestowed upon him that silent night that precious gift only mothers could give.

After all these years, now here he was where it all began. Here where as a young man he and his buddies marched happily to the drill of the Scotsman's hoarse voice, Commander Neil Graham. Now in his mind's eyes the Union Jack flutters again, triumphant again in the cool African breeze as he and his buddies march proudly in tune with the crazed hollering of the Scotsman. He loved that voice and he longed to be crowned King of the Scots, just like Mary Queen of Scots, the woman he knew they murdered out of jealousy.

Eyes right! Halt! As one body with a thousand pairs of boots the men come to a thunderous stop and for a moment nothing moves, till the Scotsman's hoarse voice range out again. Present your arms! And so rifles click! As one body a thousand shinny rifles thrust forward. The band strikes God Save the Queen. With a jerk the General returned to the world where mortals live. Suddenly he was fully awake; back in the Country whose President he had just shot. To his amazement he found himself surrounded by the Press of the World fighting for a shot at his silly moon face.

The last quarter of the twentieth century saw in Africa the rise to power of some of the most vicious military regimes the world had known. Often they rose in the murky shadows of the old Cold War, with the tacit support of World Powers. Here is a true story from those years told by one who lived those days. John Otim is a poet, writer and journalisthttp://EzineArticles.com/?expert=John Otim

Source: EzineArticles
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