I learnt quite early in life that it is good to commend somebody if he achieves a rare feat or if he or she attains success in an enterprise or venture. It is for this reason I cherish any system that rewards people for their accomplishments. But what happens when such commendation is taken to another level – the level of praise-singing – to curry favour?
This is the aspect that bothers me. Sycophancy, praise-singing and hagiography appear to have been institutionalized in our present-day Nigeria. Is it not preposterous to see able-bodied people, including the old, singing and dancing in praise of somebody who has only succeeded in impoverishing his people in the name of leadership? But it happens with an embarrassing frequency in Nigeria; and nobody cares to shout out against it.
How many Nigerians have paused to ponder the endemic waves of sycophancy sweeping across our political space, even to the point of threatening our current democracy? Indeed only a few concerned Nigerians have openly condemned this sickening development that is gradually, but steadily, getting ensconced in the psyche of some people – consciously or un-consciously – and making them lose their sense of honour and integrity, provided they attain their egotist goals. Despotism and sycophancy in leadership share some strange semblance and similarities. Despotism flourishe on sadism and the propagation of one’s overweening egotist tendencies, which are usually products of a self-indulging love of oneself above others, while sycophancy evolves from flattery enmeshed in servility.
Also, both draw from a deceitful and chameleonic undercurrent of self-fullness to further a particular agenda. Those, who engage in sycophancy, do so out of share expediency, which in the end benefits them In the past 1000 years, several despots had arisen who left in their wake despoliation, desolation, destruction, deaths, and other forms of crudity. Top of the pack were Tamerlane, Ivan the Terrible, Maxmillien Robespierre, Josef Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Mao Zedong, Francois Duvalier, Nicole Ceausescu, Idi Amin and Pol Pot. These men exhibited morbid penchant and uncontrollable appetite for praise singing and power. With both indulgences in quantum they turned into despots (or is it monsters?) It is necessary to comment briefly o the tenures of these notorious despots to drive home the evil of despotism.
Tamer-lane was a Turkik Mongol. He engaged in ruthless savagery – at recurring frequencies –massacring an entire population plus over 80,000 residents of Delhi, India. He left annihilation wherever he went and built towers with human skulls. Ivan the Terrible, as the name portrays, was the first Czar of Russia and mounted the saddle in 1547. The early part of his reign was devoted to the expansion of Russia. But this later gave way to a more ruthless and vicious Ivan.
His sudden change in temperament was attributed to psychiatric instability. Ivan was notoriously linked to killing his son and heir, including some of his several wives out of anger. Maxmillien Robespierre of France presided over a reign of terror and the dark side of the French Revolution that buried the democratic ideals and ethos and instituted in their place tyranny and highhandedness that sent many innocent citizens to their early graves through the guillotine. Over 40,000 were killed in the process with about 300,000 others imprisoned without legal trial or representation.
Next was Josef Stalin who was leader of the Soviets from 1929-1953. He promoted, with some megalomania and repressiveness, his own version of Communism, which entrenched fascism and absoluteness in administration and caused the death of more than 20 million people through the excruciating life in labour camps, summary executions and starvation. The emergence of Adolf Hitler was greeted by mixed feeling. A product of seizure of power in Germany, Hitler earned a reputation as a ‘most chilling tyrant’. His ultimate aim was to bring the entire world under German control, and this led to resistance from several countries, including Britain. His involvement in the genocide that left over 6 million Jews dead still evokes a deep feeling of hate and loathsomeness from the relations of the victims.
Many Gypsies, Slavs, homosexuals and communists were known to have been executed by Hitler to satisfy his thirst for blood and power. Interestingly, he died in hazy circumstances. Some reports said he committed suicide. Mao Zedong (Chairman Mao Tse-tung) as maximum leader of China undertook several experiments that spelt doom and catastrophe for his country. His penchant for intolerance for dissent and opposition was remarkable. The Great Leap Forward economic plan was an abysmal failure. All that it left in its trail was famine, blood-bath that extinguished between 23 million and 30 million lives.
Several thousands of suspected class enemies were also felled. Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier’s tenure brought untold hardship and a harvest of deaths to the people of Haiti. Over 60,000 of them were brutalized and killed in the many cases of abuse and brutality that was like a signature tune in the political life of Haiti at the time. Nicole Ceausescu earned a place in the Hall of Infamy, going by the terror he un-leashed on the people of Romania. He introduced neo-Stalinist Police State that had zero tolerance for opposition and dissent. He squandered billions of dollars of state fund in meeting his endless, self-glorifying indulgences. Human rights abuse under his tenure ranked highest in the Eastern bloc.
The end of Nicole was tragic – what a way for a despot to die for his many sins against humanity! As you read this piece, charlatans, hagiographers and boot-lickers have taken over the political arena, taunting their gimmicks and seeking who to recruit. Like vampires their sense of reasoning is beclouded by greed and convulsive impetuousness. All they are interested in achieving is relevance, even if this is done at the expense of our fledgling democracy.
They were visible on the political landscape in 1998 when they set up over 500 pro Abacha groups to “force” him to shade his military toga and assume the leader-ship of the country as a civilian president. The campaign reached a feverish pitch when a 5 million-man march was staged in Abuja – drawing the young, the old, the cripple, the blind, and all manner of persons.
Almost 99.9% of the campaigners could not adduce any clear-cut reason for trying to draft him into the race. To show their deceitfulness they flaunted all kind of imaginary propositions. While some of leadership, sycophancy and despotism of them even vowed to commit suicide, some others threatened to go on exile if he refused to declare his interest publicly to run. As weird and obnoxious as some of these declarations were some gullible persons believed them. To compensate them for their foolhardiness they were offered huge monetary rewards with a promise of juicy government contracts, which was the major reason for their involvement in the first place. The same scenario played itself out in 2007 when the same discredited and shameless persons lined up behind the tenure elongation agenda of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
The irony of it all is that a majority of those on the same mission in the present dispensation were the same people that goaded Abacha to contest as a civilian President and Obasanjo to go for a third term. You may wonder why I refer to these campaigners as vampires. What difference does it make if I call them vampires, considering the deviousness and ruthlessness they bring into their tricks? As vampires suck their victim’s blood until he dies so also do political sycophants milk their victims until they fall into self-destruct. How do despots emerge? They are usually produced by a self-serving and hagiographic clique that is bent, even at the detriment of the nation, to mortgage decency and candour to achieve its egocentric agenda. They are ready partners to leaders that want to perpetuate themselves in power or promote their egoistic and fatalistic designs. It is true that these maximum leaders would not have got away with the atrocities associated with their regimes if a few disgruntled elements had not pandered willingly to their promptings and cravings. After all, it takes two to tango.
This explains why the British say: ”One swallow does not make a summer.” The Nigerian Pidgin version of this idiom, “A tree does not make a forest”, paints a better picture of the analogy I try to draw. The renowned British author, statesman and poet, Edmund Burke, got it right when he said that all it took for evil to thrive was for good men to do nothing. Yes, how many good men and women can we find in our nation today that will measure up to Burke’s postulation? He spoke in an era when those who were expected to speak up against the evils in the society rather chose to be numbered among the perpetrators of these evils. Almost all of us are gradually been turned into cacophonic praise-singers, boisterous cymbalists and salacious charlatans – who believe that the future of our nation lies in the hand of a mortal, without sparing any thought for all the sermonizing about the transience of life.
It is nauseating to see supposedly responsible, respectable men and women, including the vulnerable youths and venerable prelates, engaging in this national charade. They walk about with an offensive, putrefying trademark, “Politics for money”. Ask them what their ideology is and you will be stunned by their lack of analytical depth and easy-virtuousness. They ply their trade with the ultimate target of fleecing their victims. These victims normally end up tragically and ignominiously. Their place in history is permanently obliterated by infamy, while they languish in the cold bowels of the earth with a grimace of dishonour in their miserable, grotesque faces. History has never recorded where a des-pot has been accorded a place of honour in the hall of fame. Idi Amin died in exile. King Saul killed himself.
King Nebuchadnezzar was turned into a strange beast. Adolf Hitler died unsung. In fact, the list is endless. When these men found their way into power little did they know what fate held in store for them. They trod the power firmaments like colossuses, while extinguishing, with uncanny brutality, any opposing voice. Having examined the lives of these men above, it is easy to see a common denominator arrogance. Their reasoning was interfaced with a demonic mindset that they were larger than life, but forgot that the line between life and death is thin. Saul, for instance, was afflicted by psychiatry unstableness that tormented him continually. God used this ailment to unsettle him in order to fulfill his plan to make David King of Israel. All the plots by Saul to kill David were thwarted by God. I wonder who could have believed that Hitler would ever be subdued by any human force. He held the world by the jugular and built a formidable army with which he carried out his numerous belligerent exploits across the globe.
But God pulled him down the day his cup was full. This became a lesson for mankind. Corrupt and self-seeking politicians in Nigeria are emboldened by the allies they find in a few equally conscienceless Nigerians who serve as malleable tools in their evil hands. They swindle them with their salacious promises and bogus offer for government patronage. In their stupidity and greed the sycophants are subdued by what they hear, not what they see or get. Sycophancy among our present crop of politicians is chilling and disturbing. Almost every normal Nigerian is involved in one form of sycophancy or another to the detriment of our democracy. It is like wool has been pulled over our eyes.
The non-performance by our leaders is a product of sycophancy. So, leaders pay to be told what they want to hear. They loathe the truth and see anybody who tells them the truth as an enemy. For how long shall we live in this deceit? Even our children have overtaken us in this shameful and demeaning enterprise. They have formed vanguards to further the self-promoting agendas of some leaders. As 2015 approaches menacingly, the sycophants have devised new means to promote their business. It is now like a rat race – each group striving to undo the other in the quest for recognition. They evasively pander to the bidding of the paymasters without any consideration for the rest of us.
As it is in Anambra, so it is in Yobe. It has become a national malaise. The danger we must appreciate is this: like cancer, sycophancy is eating up the soul and conscience of the nation. It is also turning some people into despots and tin gods. These over-bloated leaders now see themselves as above the law and above man. But have they pondered their last day – how grievous it will be? No matter how powerful and wealthy and influential one is he will die some day. And on that day, God will ask him to account for his stewardship. I wish to admonish our youth to backslide a little in their involvement in sycophancy. As leaders of tomorrow, the future lies squarely in your hands. It is either you sacrifice today to ensure a rosy and stable future or, like Esau, sell your birthright for a pot of portage and gnash your teeth in regret later.