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Remembering prisoner 2019, Umar al-Bashir of Sudan

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A year and four months ago, the former President of Sudan, Umar al-Bashir was removed from office. His removal from office did not come as a surprise.

In fact, for men and women of discernment, hardly is there an event in our world today that should occasion our wonderment and amazement. This is because not a single day passes us by except that we are confronted with the uncanny, the unfamiliar, the unhomely. These are times when, unlike before, infants open their eyes wild at birth, children grow grey hair in their teens and develop hypertension before they reach puberty. These are times when youths copulate with goats in order to become rich quick, when women sell their chastity and dignity as car launderers in the city and men sacrifice their mothers to appease gods of opulence and wealth.

Thus when President Al-Bashir was removed from office in a popular uprising against perfidy, corruption, oppression and inhumanity, I considered the event as a categorical imperative. This is because several efforts had been made in the past to put an end to his suzerainty all to no avail. But each time the Sudanese cried for help and rescue from the strangle-hold of a dictator who had ruled and riled his compatriots with heartlessness and recklessness, I knew that Umar al-Bashir would not leave the Presidential palace until his place and space in the prison had been completed.

And thus it came to happen that he eventually left office. Or rather, he was forced out of his. He left office the same way he got into office- by force. It had been written that he would be given drinks of ignominy and dishonour the type he gave his critics some of whom he sent to the same prison to which he had since become an inmate.

I do not consider the above event extremely uncanny particularly when I remember that there are over one hundred former presidents across the world who had ‘retired’ from the palace to prison. He is presently there in prison-former President of France. She is there in prison- former president of Indonesia. He is presently there in prison-former president of Pakistan, Nawal Sharif.

However, I was surprised by one event and one event only – the discovery of a large sum of money totalling more than one hundred and thirty million dollars in his home after his removal from office. When the latter news broke, I could not believe my hears. I could not but wonder for whom did Umar al-Bashir keeping the huge sum of money. I could not but wonder what purpose he wanted to put the money into. I could not but wonder whether former President Umar al-Bashir was in another world two years ago when huge sums of money were discovered in the palatial mansion of the former Prime Minister of Malaysia, Najib Tun Razak. I could not but wonder what former President Umar al-Bashir wanted to do with that huge sum of money particularly at a time when ordinary Sudanese could not afford to buy ordinary loaves of bread anymore to keep body and soul together. I could not but wonder whether former president Umar al-Bashir actually thought he had become invincible and that Kobar high-security prison in Khartoum were meant not for people like him.

Now in the midst of these unbelievable events, I could not but remember that before his removal from office on the 11th of April 2019, Umar al-Bashir had ruled Sudan longer than any other leader since the country gained independence in 1956. He had become the longest-ruling president of the Arab League, as well as the longest Arab leader apart from the three emirs of the United Arab Emirate and Sultan Qaboos of Oman. Former president Umar al-Bashir had become like Fir῾awn in ancient Egypt. After having spent so many years on the throne, Fir῾awn began to see himself as God, the Almighty. He began to see himself as the fountain from which river Nile flowed.

Now he is all alone in his ‘room’ in the Kobar prison. The former president of the Republic of Sudan has now changed status. He is now in Kobar Prison, probably registered as Prisoner Number 2019. There in the prison, he would have appreciated how it felt when the mass of Sudanese citizens was bewailing acute lack of bread and water. There in the courts, the former president, is now answering for sundry crimes that he committed or were committed on his behalf by those powerful Sudanese who stood behind the powerful, the President, to pulverize the fortune and future of the Sudanese nation.

While I was pondering the above, a more atrocious event took place closer home. We were reminded by the Boko Haram that it is not yet uhuru in northeast Nigeria. We were remined that nesting under the canopy of Islam are elements who constantly profess their affiliation with Islam but from whom the religion has no link.

Oladosu is a Professor of Middle Eastern, North African and Cultural Studies, and Dean, Faculty of Arts, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria.


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