Africa: When a dog is about to die, it no longer perceives the smell of poop.

There is an adage amongst the Igbo ethnic group of the South East of Nigeria, which says: 

Onwu na egbu nwa nkita anaghi ekwe ya nuu isi nsi.

Translated: When a dog is about to die, it no longer perceives the smell of shit. Explained further literally, often when caution is disregarded, one is exposed to irrational actions, unguarded statements which could lead to untold danger, destruction or ultimate end.

This proverb throws light on one of the causes of human miseries and destructive conditions, as well as revealing the issue of power and access.

Unfortunately, human beings hardly learn from history; otherwise, why would history keep on repeating itself? You may as well ask, why do bad leaders repeat the same mistakes their predecessors made, which led to the latter’s sad ends? Are African masses too blind to learn a bitter lesson from the past? Why would the masses effectively mortgage their future and that of their generations, in the hands of shrewd, selfish leaders by electing the corrupt leaders to power as well as keeping them for long in office despite, displaying clear leadership deficiencies? Is it a surprise that many drug carriers are still being apprehended every day at various airports around the world, despite being aware of the consequences of their action, including the death penalty? We have seen leaders and powerful individuals giving a deaf ear to the same problems that contributed to the fall of other leaders, and still follow the same dangerous path their predecessors took. Generally, those who have refused to learn from history often trust more in their invincibility, ability to outsmart their opponents. Others prefer to trust their brutal power more than common reasoning. In most cases, people who fall under this group often forget that no power lasts forever. Yes, few remember the brevity of power – and life. Ironically, the more powerful we are, the more vulnerable we become, simply because when a dog is about dying, it no longer perceives the smell of shit.   

Once upon a time, there was a ruthless crafty leader in Sudan, who ruled the oil-rich country for 30 years with an iron fist. As one of the African’s longest-serving leaders, President Omar Hassan al-Bashir had brutally crushed rebellions and attempted coups, survived many years of strangling U.S. sanctions and international isolation as well as (so far ) escaped the dangling sword of the International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest, following his alleged genocide and war crimes in Darfur. Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s manipulating and controlling skill definitely, helped him to outsmart rival Islamist and military factions in Sudan. But the same skill equally, ironically, led to al-Bashir’s isolation from his powerful allies in the Middle East, especially, the oil-rich the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. The one thing the leaders of these three countries share in common is the distaste for the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic organisation, which the leaders have not only labelled as dangerous but they strongly fear the group are equally bent on overthrowing their various governments. On the other hand, the Brotherhood says it is a peaceful political organisation. It was Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s reluctance to curtail the power of the Islamic group that would eventually lead to the fall of his 30-year military rule. Even though the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia had pumped billions of dollars into Sudan to buy favour and loyalty, there is a time for everything. Unfortunately, not even Sudan’s contribution of about 14,000 military troops to help Saudi Arabia and UAE’s infamous war in Yemen, which has caused enormous tragedies and humanitarian catastrophe and has been widely condemned, could reverse the inevitable doom awaiting al-Bashir’s. The rest is history.

Today, the once feared and fearless President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has become a prisoner in the same prison, he had once kept those who opposed his ferocious regime. A prisoner of his perceived power, political skill, strength and invincibility. Interestingly, the same trusted allies who sustained al-Bashir’s bloody regime were behind his fall. While President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s feared spymaster, Salah Gosh assured him that the mass protests staged next to his official residence against his regime posed no threat to his rule, the same Gosh would later make a deal with senior army officers and other security leaders, as well as oppositions to bring an end to the al-Bashir’s brutal regime. Nor did Dubai and Riyadh try to intervene to save their friend when it was obvious his days were numbered. Definitely, Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s refusal to listen to good advice, or see the handwriting on the wall, led to his nemesis.

How much have other African leaders learned from Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s predicament? Nothing lasts forever. Nothing is invincible. No condition is permanent. More than anything, there comes a judgment day – no matter how long it times. If we knew all these, why would we not utilise every single opportunity to put a smile on the faces of others as well as create a positive legacy? Why can’t we learn from the past, from history to avoid making the same mistakes others have made in the past? For sure, power corrupts, intoxicate and blinds the weak, who believes they are indeed strong. Definitely, while we fail in life to make good use of our common sense, we effectively, degrade ourselves to the level of animals. But our actions equally come with repercussion.

We make choices in life; whatever those choices are, they come with consequences. The one thing is sure: When a dog is about to die, it no longer perceives the smell of shit. Nor do dictators around the world.