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Politics of sycophancy in Nigeria

By Itaobong Offiong Etim

Sycophancy is a way of winning or currying favour from powerful and influential people through flattery and praise singing. This cringing subservient attitude is described by many as fawning obsequiousness, which is meant to divert attention from the pulse of the people. Usually, a larger- than-life picture is created around these leaders, giving them a false impression of indispensability and infallibility. Even a sincere mistake such leaders make would be laundered to appear as the best decision ever taken by any man. In the process, such leaders are led to make very unpopular decisions which usually lead to their downfall. Sycophants are always driven by greed and selfishness; they are never patriotic,  although they want to be seen as such.

They are driven by convulsive rapaciousness and are egocentric boot-lickers who hide under the cloak of patriotism and nationalism to pursue a purely self-serving agenda. They are ubiquitous and Nigeria is not in short supply of such chameleons. Unfortunately, successive leaders in Nigeria always fall victim to these too familiar tricks. Leaders who believe every positive thing they hear about themselves would soon realize how their gullibility would soon lead to avoidable failures.

Take for instance in 1998, when every sane person was tired of Gen. Sani Abacha’s regime, some other Nigerians decided to organize a five million man match for him to transmute from a military head of state to civilian. Some also threatened to commit suicide if he failed to oblige their request. The craze to support extension of his power was pervasive and knew no bound as both the young and the old were falling over themselves in this frenzy. Even the five political parties of that time adopted him as their sole candidate. Was the late General such a good man to have enjoyed such massive support?  No, it was the work of sycophants, otherwise, why was there such massive celebration across the nation when the news of his death broke out?

Again, towards the end of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration before 2007, a third term was mooted and pursued for the extension of his tenure beyond the two terms allowed by the constitution under the guise of a constitutional amendment.

Also, the last administration of the then President Goodluck Jonathan was not spared the  antics of these hypocrites. For instance, groups were hurriedly formed to persuade him to re-contest that election, even though he had earlier intended to serve only one term in office, prior to  the 2011 general election. The most vociferous voice in those days was from Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN). This group purportedly claimed to have collected up to 17 million signatures across the country in support of the president’s second term bid.

The outcome of that election in 2015 once again showed the deceitfulness of sycophancy. GEJ in that election was about five million votes short of the number who signed to vote for him even before campaigns actually started. This development threw many people into confusion as they wondered what happened that, with the billions of naira allegedly sunk into that election, instead of the number increasing, it reduced. Judging from the shortness of the time those signatures were purportedly collected, it was clear to discerning minds that the exercise was a farce and the brandished figure was fictitious.

With all those endorsements and orchestrated praise singing, why did the then incumbent president lose in that election? That means what they told him was not  reality. These people are insincere; they were only interested in their pockets. Recent revelations from the former NSA, Sambo Dasuki, showed who got what from the money meant to procure arms for the military.  The immediate past administration should provide a cautionary example of the extent sycophants could go to milk their bosses. Unfortunately, leaders are often blinded by those who massage their egos and fan their hubris. The recent wild jubilation in Zimbabwe when the news of Mugabe is resignation resigned from the position he held for 37 years broke, is instructive. The the same people who once celebrated him.

Therefore, the recent warning by Senator Shehu Sani of  Southern Kaduna to President Buhari to be wary of sycophants around him is apt and pertinent as groups have started to endorse him for a second term in 2019. Though, the constitution makes provision for a second term for first term presidents and governors alike, but they must be sure that they are convinced they are ready for such projects. He, should, therefore objectively and carefully consider such promptings.

When people find themselves in  power, they seem to become alienated from the larger society. If leaders should, once in the while, leave their comfort zone that separates them from reality to hear from the people directly, then they would have first hand information that would expose the deceit, hypocrisy and insinceritiy of those around them.

Leaders should not allow themselves to be cajoled to accept the assessment of their performance by  those around them; else they would make decisions predicated on false assumptions and precarious premises. Some leaders, upon leaving power regret some decisions they took while in office, others doubt if they actually took such actions.

Any leader who wants to leave power satisfied should be independent minded and should endeavour to set a timeline for the completion of all his projects within the tenure of his office. Problems always arise when a leader makes plans beyond his first term in office, where he does not get the second term, depression and a sense of unfulfillment would set in.       

Etim writes from Lagos





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