If Ershad lives for another hundred years. . .
Hussein Muhammad Ershad recently told his party men that he would live another hundred years if they were to put him back in power. One can't take his words at face value since emotional exuberance has clearly overtaken ordinary common sense. It may be humanly possible to make the first century, but hitting the second at 86 is wishful thinking. If anything, his words reeked of desperate ambition. The lust for power inhabits Ershad's heart like spirits in a haunted house.
Curiously, the one-time ruler still believes that the people of this country can't wait to see him ruling again. It's perhaps not our place in life to ask what has given him that idea. Then again, nothing is impossible in the scheme of life. Anything can happen anytime, and it can happen anywhere.
The issue isn't that Ershad wants power again. But why does he want it though? It's silly that those who have tasted power feel the compulsion to regain it. The same compulsion also brings food lovers to the same restaurants and holidaymakers to the same destinations.
For Ershad, that compulsion has turned into an obsession. It has remained forever rankling in his heart and mind that some twenty-five years ago he was ousted from power by a mass uprising. Ever since then, he has been looking for some kind of a compensation for that embarrassment. Ever since then, he has been a legend in his own mind, a phenomenon waiting to happen.
Some people never give up and it works for them. Robert the Bruce, a king of Scotland, learned his tenacity from a spider. Defeated by the English, he sought refuge in a small dark cave where he watched a spider trying to make a web. The spider would fall and then climb slowly back up to try again until it managed to stick a strand of silk to the cave wall and began to weave a web. The king was inspired by this experience and went on to defeat the English at the Battle of Bannockburn.
All these years, Ershad has repeatedly disclosed his desire to grab power for one last time. But he never told us what he is going to do if it ever happens in his wildest imagination. How is he going to do things differently? How is he going to turn this country around? To this day, he hasn't done anything to convince anybody how he is going to be a better choice.
So far, we have heard nothing from him except for the occasional outbursts that accounted for no more than belching and burping after heavy meals. We know Ershad sounds uncomfortable and unhappy in his shoes. It's sad that instead of learning from the spider, he has become a spider caught in its own web. And he has aggravated his own condition, because many of his past indiscretions come back to haunt him.
While going to power is the prime motivation in politics, a good politician seeks power to change the country. A bad one does the opposite. He doesn't hesitate to change the country to seek power. Ershad has been comparable to a chameleon that changes colours to match its surroundings.
The failure of this yesteryear autocrat lies in the vicious circle he has made of himself. He craves for power because he can't have it, and he can't have power because he craves for it so much. John Keats explains this dilemma in his poem On Fame. He writes "Fame, like a wayward girl, will still be coy/To those who woo her with too slavish knees/But makes surrender to some thoughtless boy/And dotes the more upon a heart at ease."
It's a pity that Ershad's heart hasn't been at ease for all these years, and his mind is still hooked on power. True, politics is a means to that end but there is an end to every end. Since he was forced to abdicate in 1990, Ershad has shuffled between his many contradictions. His has been the unending saga of a wandering madman frantically seeking the touchstone.
By all means, one can live for hundreds of years if one finds one's place in history. Maybe, Ershad was allegorical when addressing his party members. Maybe, he was referring to his place in history, instead of actually breathing and kicking for hundred more years.
Politicians spend a lifetime going where Ershad started politics, and he has enjoyed power for many long years. Unfortunately, his mind still roams the blind alleys of power instead of the highways of politics. As of now, he will be remembered for his addiction to power, unless he wishes to change and concentrate on useful politics. History repeats itself if people choose not to learn from their follies.
The writer is Editor of the weekly First News and an opinion writer for The Daily Star.
Email: [email protected].