Of Power and Illusions of Omnipotence

by Onyemaechi Ogbunwezeh
power illusion

1. A Brief History of an Illusion!

The life of man has repeatedly proved that illusions are seductive. Mankind has constantly being swayed and crippled into idiocy, by waves of illusions, entertained as reality, by a cross section of her members. Time was when some sections of the human family were marked out as inferior due to their physiological differences. Time was when some members of the human family were barbecued out of existence as heretics for holding a divergent opinion, from that held by the powerful or the majority. The illusions still persist today in some quarters, though in polite proportions; that certain races, and sexes of men are congenitally stupid, and bereft of any semblance of humanity. This empowers and enables a consideration of these human persons as of inferior quality, and hence deserving of every kind of mistreatment. This dangerous pseudo-science, philosophy and mindset, which have essayed to licence impunity in history, as well as its terrible effects, are all testaments to the dangers of canonizing illusions as reality in any epistemic system.

In politics, leaders and politicians in history have always been seduced by the illusion of omnipotence. Many of them have done a very good job of eating this forbidden apple, thereby falling to the fatal fraudulence of diseased illusions, which dresses them in the borrowed robes of perceived divinity. From whence, they start perceiving themselves as all-powerful. Lord Acton had this in mind, when he uttered those famous words: Absolute power corrupts absolutely. This equally may have informed Montesquieu’s insistence on the separation of power as the only cure to the madness of unrestricted power.

The facts of metaphysics remains that omnipotence is never an attribute of finitude. So, when finitude puts on this robe, it is empowers itself to be audacious in its celebration of impunity. It stands a greater chance of creating the headquarters of hell on earth. Any voyage into the history of illusions such as this, rewards our enterprise with an infinite litany of the human propensity to invent, contrive and call malevolence into being.

History has seen men like Nero, Caligula, and Diocletian seducing themselves into historical opprobrium, by their voracious consumption of the sycophantic ego-massage; convoked by knaves of their imperial courts, and actively peddled to create illusions of omnipotence, in their broken egos. Their unrestrained consultation of this perversity spun a corrosive web of intrigue, brutality, and debauchery as dark halo forever hovering over their inglorious memories. That many Christian martyrs, as well as Roman gladiators and other colonized subjects, who dared protest their oppression, ended up as lunch or supper for hungry imperial beasts, remains a footnote to the crude and perverse achievements of god-complex. Julius Caesar was racing to usurp absolute power in the Rome of his time. He in fact had to die, when Brutus and co., felt he had overstayed his existential welcome by bestriding the empire like a colossus; through whose legs they would be compelled to pass to their insignificant graves. Many of the medieval monarchs of Europe clad themselves in the spurious claim of being kings and queens by divine right. Theirs no doubt was simply a heavy moat built around their aristocratic usurpation of power, as well as a secure consolidation of their privilege as heads and barons of the feudalistic enterprise that comfortably immunizes them from needs, and confers Olympian-like privileges on them, while excluding majority of the people, who are eternally locked up in social immobility, as serfs and peasants. In the conceptual scheme of the feudalistic establishment, the serfs and peasants represent a slave pool of never-to-be remunerated labour, supposedly sent by an elitist providence, to attend to the notorious unpredictability of their debauched caprice. Here, the serf is ordained unto eternal subservience, while the barons, lords and nobles are created to bask in gluttonous buffoonery. Religion was at a point equally employed in perpetrating this worldview. This synthesized the background against, which Karl Marx rose to label religion opium of the masses.

In France under the Bourbon monarchy-Louis XI; in Victorian and Elizabethan England-Bloody Queen Mary; in medieval Italy-the Borgias and Medicis; in the medieval Christian church-Pope Alexander VII, in Russia-the Tsarist monarchy of the Romanovs- all arose as footnotes to the sprawling monstrosity that was the feudal establishment. Serfs were properties of the Lords. Their lives and those of their posterity, was ordained in slavish service to feudal illusions of power, privilege and omnipotence. The medieval Christian church with its dalliance with secular power matrixes, which sprouted a succession of debauched clerics and popes, was not spared this contamination. Pope Alexander VII became all that a man of God can never be. He wore the majesty of a celestial king, but manifested all the characters of an infernal one. It was under the grips of pious neurotics like this, that Galileo was condemned. This free reign of politicized neurosis witnessed the promulgation of the Inquisition, and medieval witch hunts. Millions of lives were barbecued out of existence; burnt at stake, for crimes as trivial as holding a different opinion, or the unproved suspicion of being a witch or a heretic. The world lost the genius of many like Joan´ d Arc to impious illusions such as these.

Adolf Hitler summarized bestiality, the day his megalomanic vision, dressed him with the imperial grandeur of omnipotence. Josef Stalin advertised primeval brutality, when his manic illusions of power coagulated into a religion. With communism as a religious creed, Stalin saw himself as one of the gods of this unholy pantheon. In Africa we have Mobutu Sesse Seko, Ibrahim Babangida, Sanni Abacha, Kamuzu Banda, Jean Bedel Bokassa, Samuel Doe and Charles Taylor, Robert Mugabe, etc.

2. The Metaphysics of an Illusion

God-complex is a perverted extrapolation of a psychosocial imbalance. It is a metaphysic in which one creates an illusion about himself, and his role in society. Here, one elevates primeval egotism to the ontological level, seeing himself as a god to be served and worshipped by all other realities, which are only vassals, crafted to pander to his whims. This illusion is a grandiose emptiness, which attends the mind, as it gradually saunters into the provinces of self-destruction and insanity. This illusion of omnipotence licenses impunity. This is because absolute power is naturally designed to corrupt absolutely.

God-complex is a psychosocial disease. It is not a pleasant disease like romance or love, which mesmerizes one into stating stuffs like “I love Laura” or that “I love my wife”. It is not comparable to the zeal of an apostle. It is not the kind of sacred madness, which attends one in the thraldom of romantic euphoria; or which could lend one unto composing psalms and canticles to his Juliet or Romeo. This kind of an obscene obsession, catapults one into a kaleidoscopic universe of mirages, where his ego is omni-dimensionally reflected as the single existent picture in this cubic universe. God-complex is a solipsistic black hole, impervious to light from other intelligent human universes or constellations, and dangerously intolerant of dissimilar opinions, which basically challenges its conceit. This is why it assumes a fatal dimension for the social enterprise, when this kind of madness comes upon power, and its exercise, in any kind of socio-political power-matrix, equation or configuration.

Any man who infects himself, or allows himself to be infected with a god-complex, is really a positive risk to his society. Jesus the Christ, who was God, knew this. He was omnipotent in his nature. But when he came into the universe of our materiality, he hid the refulgence of that attribute, and became one like us in all things. He never advertised his equality with God, as a thing to be grasped (Phil 2:6-11). So when the tempter rolled out the red carpet of glory to tempt him into staking a pompous and idolatrous claim to omnipotence, which was by nature his. He preferred to empty himself, taking the most insignificant of places, the form of a slave: a servant.

To this end, he taught for all times that leadership is about service. Not about self-interest and self-aggrandizement. He taught an eternal lesson in responsible leadership, as well as the emptiness of a bloated conception of one’s ego. To this end, when a man clothes himself with the arrogance of omnipotence, he in Aristotelian terms, crowns himself a beast or a god, because omnipotence never resides in the society of men. He either dwells with the gods, or he ambles with the insane. He either sits in the Olympian heights, or in the pits of bestiality. He either dines with the gods, or he hunts with the dogs. No man can coronate himself a god without unholy consequences. That is a lesson, which humanity unfortunately has failed to learn.

3. Dimensions of the Temptation

The temptation to omnipotence cuts across all facets of the human enterprise: social, institutional, philosophico-ideological, economic, cultural, religious and political. For instance, pantheons and citadels of capitalism, like the Wall Street, nourish and drive an economic metaphysic that mimics all the attributes of omnipotence. This capitalistic metaphysic absolutizes, and throws up factors like market, purchasing power and wealth as the all-powerful prism, to which all reality must conform. Here profit becomes the measure of all human tendencies. The destructive fallouts of this metaphysic is written boldly in the lives and faces of millions of impoverished, oppressed, and exploited peoples of Africa, Latin America and Asia.

This metaphysic dethrones the place of man as the measure of meaning and significance, as was advocated by Protagoras of Abdera circa 450BC. Criminal empires like the one bestrode by Al Capone in the 1920s Chicago, are equally petty tyrannies as well as illusory enclaves of omnipotence. This accounts for the impunity with which their crimes and deviance were committed and celebrated. Vito and Michael Corleone’s comportment in Mario Puzo’s Godfather, literarily portrayed the dimensions and audacity of this illusion. Patriarchies that view the feminine dimension of human experience, as a slave crafted to serve the egomanic needs and defray the phallic and sexual insecurities of the masculine, is equally a petty tyranny conjugated into the domestic society. Extreme feminism, which totalizes and jettisons every masculine reality as an execrable existential fiction, is equally a reactionary tyranny of misconception, which attempts to romanticize a reaction, or rashly politicize an illusion

Aristotle knew that omnipotence resident save in god is a misnomer and a fearful, vicious assumption to entertain and behold. He knew that this kind of euphoric illusion has a great capacity to defeat logic and pervert the rational calculus that governs ethical considerations. To that end, he laid it down for all ages, that man who is a political animal, must exist in the society of men, or he becomes either a god or a beast. And once he lives in the society of men, virtue which lies in the middle, must always be his guide-“In medio virtut stat”- But omnipotence inclines supremely to the extreme of the epistemic spectrum. It canonizes itself as the one and the only option, that should be slavishly subscribed to, by all and sundry; quite oblivious of the differences or ontological divergences, which remain a fundamental fact of existence and human experience.

Subscription to ideological or epistemic omnipotence, then dethrones the multitude of individual ratiocinative economies, peculiarities and aptitudes; replacing it with forced harmonization, imposed homogeneity, and detailed regulations from above. It banishes the pluralism of propensities; the freedom of different attitudes; the creative multiplicity of conflicting ideas; the innovative plethora of opposing affinities, which all unites to add colour, flavour, glamour, variety and richness to the human experience and heritage. It creates an artificial correspondence of all realities in its horizon, which signals a metaphysical as well as existential dearth of innovation. Instead of soft-pedalling on its bid to translate its illusions into concrete realities, omnipotence ends up creating historical infamies and abominations, like the Slave trade, Auschwitz, Warsaw Ghetto, Liddice, Minsk, Treblinka, Bergen Belsen, Sorbibor, Rwanda, and so on. It is only the seduction to omnipotence that could fabricate death factories that was the Nazi Holocaust and Cremation camps, Stalin’s gulags, Pol Pots killing fields, Chinese labour camps, Rwandan genocide fields, and so on.

Whenever god-complex announces it presence in a political leader, or man of power, the society may carelessly be incinerated in the megalomanic conflagrations of a mad leader. This is why the German people were led into historical disrepute by the excesses of a tyrant. The world must forever remember that Hitler’s neurotic illusions desired the Poles as slaves and forced labourers; preferred the Jews dead and extinct; and wanted Africa as a zoological garden. Save for the fact that the bogus desires of god-complex is never attainable, Hitler would have been master of the universe.

4. Justifying the Historical voyage

We may be tempted to cast aside as historical footnotes, the issue of men ho saw themselves as gods, and who pursuant to that vision, wrecked havoc on human history. But today when fundamentalists of every shade and persuasion, armed with a fanatical blueprint crammed with illogics, zealotry and prejudice multiply in the arena of local and global politics, our antenna becomes inundated with concern. This is angst that justifies our anxiety over the rise and flourishing of people like Osama Bin Laden, Al Zarqawi, and other fanatics of their ilk. This equally attenuates our fears over constructs of oppression and kleptocracy, like the ones created and presided over by many African governments. That equally gives basis to our discomfort over racial and tribal exterminations as we are today witnessing in Darfur Sudan, Bunia and Ituri in the Congo. This is on the political level.

Since form according to Mendelssohn, follows function, thought ontologically follows action. Historical occurrence equally justifies and gives concreteness to our fears over the tyranny of ideologies, like racism, neo-liberal capitalism, etc all of which rise up as scaffolds that underwrite the devaluation of the human person. False philosophies, which gradually creeps to overwhelm modern existence, with their false versions and visions of man, which underlies certain modern manifestations of impunity, rightly identified by Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, as the dictatorship of relativism, equally gives us cause for concern.

All these issues from the fact that ideologies and philosophies like Hegelian anthropology were the basis upon which the devaluation of the African was based. Hegel told the world that the Blackman had no soul and therefore cannot reason or philosophize. This was stretched to its logical conclusion in the slave trade. The logical fallout of this philosophy then goes thus: Since the Blackman has no soul, he is not human. He is equal to every other article of commerce, because they all lacked souls. He therefore could be bought and sold, without qualms of conscience. Hitler’s eugenic practices were equally predicated on the supremacist philosophies resident in modern German idealism. This is why epistemic authorities that canvass discriminatory or absolutizing philosophies are dangerous to say the least. Illusions of omnipotence are equally the reason why so many African political scoundrels feel that they have a monopoly on power and wisdom, as to keep on perpetrating their regimes of political puerility and thieving conglomerates all over Africa

Back to the bigger picture, our over all concerns may be dismissed as alarmist or an allergic reaction to progress. But the fact that today very much after the questionable, quasi-Hegelian prognosis of the end of history by Francis Fukuyama, at Communism’s extravagant collapse in Europe; we are now in the grip of a new epistemic and geopolitical behemoth, that imitates and actively mimics all the absoluteness of all ideological and geopolitical tyrannies of history. According to Eric Hobsbawn “what we have today is a superpower unrealistically aspiring to a permanent world supremacy for which there is no historical precedent, nor probability, given the limitations of its own resources-especially as today all state power is weakened by the impact of non-state economic agents in a global economy beyond the control of any state, and given the visible tendency of the global centre of gravity to shift from the North Atlantic to the zone of south and east Asia Ironically too, this geopolitical superpower seems to be the driver of the epistemic tyranny, where absolute relativism spawns and holds sway.

Our concerns would have been greatly diluted, if the geopolitical were the only dimension to it. We would not have given a hoot. But underlying this rampaging advance of naked power is the subtle rise of a new omnipotence; namely relativism and its attendant social dislocations on the ethical comportment of men of power everywhere, most especially in Africa. This piece would radically stretch beyond its intentions, were we to explore this issue in great detail. But suffice it to note that Hobsbawm’s observations are rightly underscored by the contemporary tyranny of liberal capitalism that drives globalization, which we have essayed to identify in some other forum.

5. Political Conjugations of Illusion

As living being spin offspring, so does ideas and realities. For instance, Platonic Idealism provided the remote humus, upon which Hegelian Idealism sprouted. Hegel’s philosophical misadventures in arrant supremacist philosophy, gave Europe the ideological license to justify the enslavement and plunder of Africa. It was likewise, the basis that supported Western imperialism and consequently racism. Europe, according to Hegel, has evolved to a level of unity with the absolute spirit. And this arrival confers on them the “sacred” duty, mandate and mission of “civilizing” other “savage” races, which in this philosophy are still wallowing in the provinces of primeval savagery. The fundamental poverty of this philosophy is attested to by the fact that those presumed by this thought-scheme to be civilized, have broken unknown frontiers in savagery, brutality, perfidy and unbelievable wickedness, as to deluge history with sickening chapters of incredibility. The medieval witch hunting, the slave trade, the Nazi Holocaust, the Irish religious Fratricidal war, the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic decimation, are all eternal refutation of this sordid philosophy.

In modern times, the jury is out that men scarcely learn from history, and with apologies to George Santayana, they are condemned to repeat it. This explains why men relish repeating history’s mistakes and errors. In contemporary politics, these illusions of omnipotence assisted the rise and fall of many scoundrels whose legendary rascality has continued to reverberate in time. Why for instance, despite the historical opprobrium attending the memories of men like Caligula, Nero, Hitler, Idi Amin Dada, etc, are modern politicians still conducting themselves like drunken gods in an amphitheatre of impunity?

For example, George W. Bush and Tony Blair, in the build up to the Iraqi invasion, conducted themselves like people in the grip of god-complex. Before ordering the armada that boxed Sadaam Hussein into a rat hole, they and their horde of jingoistic supporters, war vultures and profiteers circulating around Washington and Downing Street advertised a crapulent arrogance, which has been the exclusive province of vicious gods and goddesses of ancient mythology. For these war profiteers, there was only one good. And they were on its side. Every other person outside this perimeter belongs to the axis of evil. One is then pressed, groping for explanations and amazed by the fluidity of these guys in manufacturing and conscripting an ideological synergy that apes fundamentalist Abrahamic theology , to their cause. One is beaten hollow to witness the effrontery with which evidence is shamelessly invented and deployed to support their redefinition of a threat, as the heat shifted from Osama bin Laden who attacked America, to Sadaam Hussein; an innocent bad guy, who never attacked America. So when Bush and his associates drank deeply from these ideological wellsprings, it became siesta time for moderation. Fanaticism was enabled and lavishly consulted. War against Iraq against all good sense, became inevitable.

Sadaam Hussein himself was no better. He was a tyrant’s tyrant. He remains a “primus inter pares” among political “atrocities“ He convulsively spanned Iraq like a brutal demi-god. He gassed opposition to submission; ruthlessly decapitated enemies and eviscerated dissent. His ruthlessness was legendary. His excesses recognized no bounds. His name injected fear and inspired trepidation in his enemies. He had no opponents. None existed. He killed those who were not fast enough to flee into exile, or who were stupid enough to underestimate the bloodthirstiness of a deranged tyrant. His enemies were never dignified with tombstones. They simply disappeared never to be seen again. Those who survived were on some death row, wasting away as they awaited the end of their personal histories, courtesy of Sadaam’s henchmen. Many who lived through the hell that was Sadaam’s gulags, inherited eternal scars to their bodies and souls. Survivors wished for death that would have been a reprieve. But many were denied such common exits. That the illusions of omnipotence is a madness could be seen in the fact that after being fished out of a rat hole, Sadaam’s illusions have not left him. He still sees himself as the president of Iraq.

These may be recent examples. The not-too-distant past reveals political vampires like Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, Augusto Pinochet in Chile, Fidel Castro in Cuba, who is still a presidential terrorist against his own people.

6. Tin gods in African Leadership Corridor

Africa has not been spared the reign of scoundrels. Here, history is almost suffused with political accidents, whose rascality knew no descriptions. This continent houses a litany of political Liliputs, who believed they were gods. And who consequent upon that illusion wrote themselves into eternal disrepute, that no amount of logical detergent or historical revisionism would ever renovate their dilapidated memories. At some point, Africa’s political echelons read like who is who is graft, kleptomania and sordid thievery.

Idi Amin Dada turned Uganda into an abattoir. Bitten by the omnipotence bug, Amin went on a rampage celebrating his madness. This guy made an extraordinary effort to assume, represent and advertise primitive buffoonery. He was a mentally deranged nincompoop, at the clutches of a syphilitic neurosis. The head this mobile stupidity carried on his shoulders, was simply an ornamental artifice, probably not designed for thinking. The only beings that would ever miss this guy were the crocodiles of the River Nile, which enjoyed a marathon meal off human flesh, courtesy of Amin. Amin’s brutality serviced the hunger of these beasts with the innocent bodies of his fellow countrymen. He killed for fun, with a brutal relish unparalleled since the imperial debaucheries of ancient Rome. The Nile drank pints of human blood, as Uganda saw red at the hands of an eminent fool

Jean Bedel Bokassa was a political idiot. He was an eminent knave, whose rascality borders on senility. He conducted himself like a moron in power. His only achievement in office was the wastage of his country’s resources aping the monarchical monstrosities that were neither progressive nor relevant. His political stupidity confounds all expectations. He excelled in doing prodigious mischief to his country. Central African Republic basks today in opulent poverty, thanks to this buffoon. His squander-mania overwhelmed all shame, being among the first to publish his ostentatious self-deification. In fact, words cannot find fit expression to stigmatize such stupidities.

Mobutu Sesse Seko was an extraordinary thief. He remains a class act in negatives. Every expedition to find an exonerative outlet for his crass thievery runs into insurmountable difficulties. No logic can ever rehabilitate or rescue his congenital roguery. This guy nursed a hyper-galloping acquisitive tendency that is primitive, brutal and deadly. He hunted opposition like a cheetah hunts for prey. He joyfully preyed on his people like only a sadist would, with the brutal relish reserved for cannibals. He succeeded in wrecking his country for good measure, abandoning it as a hopeless basket case of wasted opportunities, pain, poverty and conflict. That the Congo is embroiled in a vortex of instability today is all thanks to him. Mobutu remains an eternal embarrassment to good sense. Sitting astride one of the most endowed lands on earth, this imbecile made sure that his country would know nothing, but poverty, conflict and war in decades to come. Mobutu was a tragedy and a vulgar insult to ethics and accountability in governance.

Nigeria bred a prodigious wrecker in Ibrahim Babangida. IBB was a liar of first eminence. He shamelessly consulted Machiavellian manipulative somersaults as his policy of governance. On another occasion, while x-raying the achievements of this political mistake, we submitted that “Babangida`s achievement while in power is a litany of negatives. Under his watch, corruption was liberalized in governance. Lies was elevated to the fine art of statecraft. His most trusted Lieutenant Abacha perfected butchering of opposition, which he commenced. Under him, the Nigerian economy was a haemorrhaging patient, which was bled dry by IBB and his cronies. Nigerians suffered unprecedented hardship while he created a lot of directorates to settle his otherwise, would be opponents. His government became a government of settlement, where under shady names, national and public utilities and concerns were auctioned off to his empire under the ruse of privatization. IBB bought supporters to his rape of Nigeria with fat paychecks. Under him Defence and Police budgets enjoyed precedence over education, health care and Agriculture, as to intimidate his opponents or those who may consider mounting an opposition to his abuse of Nigeria” After raping Nigeria for good measure, Babangida repositioned the country for further pillage by his partner in crime, Sanni Abacha.

Sanni Abacha of desecrated memory was a stupendous crook. Nigeria is yet to recover from his arrant consultation of plunder, as he stole Nigeria into poverty. He debauched our moral and social structures. His greed knew no bounds. Abacha was simply a commander in thief. Many believe that he should be having a well deserve unrest in hell.

Other examples of political idiots who have refused to learn from history litter Africa. We have Robert Mugabe cling to power as if it is his birthright, despite running his country aground in the sandbanks of oppression. We have Obasanjo ambling aimlessly like a visionless and rudderless boat in Nigeria, and so on.

7. Irresponsible Leadership and Africa’s Predicament

African leadership and political corridor hosts the most irresponsible forces and factors ever to inhabit one firmament. In fact, there exists no ethically sensitive, politically knowledgeable and responsible government in almost all of sub-Saharan Africa. In Nigeria today for instance, the man in the street holds these truths to be self-evident: that in Nigeria, politicians are thieves and thieves have become politicians. It is a very painful conclusion to draw. But when the premises advanced by contemporary experience and facts on the ground gives no other navigable option, then we must bow to the conclusions of factual syllogism.

This stance may be a very sweeping generalization, which the canons of logic discountenance under normal circumstances: but the Nigerian circumstance is not normal. It is not normal when a 44-year-old man still crawls on his buttocks. Crawling is one of the earliest developmental challenges that toddlers grapple with, reconcile and move on to other stages of development, when all that attends their physical development converge in healthy synchronicity. Nigeria has never had a good visionary leader in the class of Nelson Mandela, Julius Nyerere, Gandhi, William Jefferson Clinton, Mustafa Kemal Atarturk, and so on. All we have had are sycophants and pirates like Ibrahim Babangida, Shagari, Gowon, Abacha and Balewa. All these men were visionary toddlers compared to these greats who etched their names on marble on their people’s heart.

Worse than being politically myopic, some of them arose to transform themselves into political abominations. This class in the Nigerian political concourse is most notorious occupied by our elites who are rent-seekers and parasites very busy destroying the commonweal. Some of them who destroyed Nigeria under their watches are essaying to come back to power. We have essayed to unveil the depth of the mire that Nigeria will sink into if men like Babangida and other buccaneers of his ilk are allowed to hijack power again in Nigeria. Our choice and resolute stand in this regard is informed by our ethical convictions. We must honour the fundamental and ontological difference between right and wrong. We owe it to posterity. We owe it to our common humanity. That, we must discharge. Thieves should never be allowed to hijack power again in Africa. We have a moral responsibility to create a better future for our children, and those coming after us. It will be the height of irresponsibility to sit by and watch this future thrown to embezzling dogs that parade themselves as Messiahs. What then would we tell history? We are here today as Nigerians and Africans, like Achebe wrote, because this is where providence in its infinite wisdom chose to plant us. What answers would we take back then to providence, if we standby and watch evil enthroned once more in our land. It is all about ethics. Politics should be about ethics, because man who is the subject of ethics is the same person that was classified by Aristotle as a political animal. And he chose the most essential arena to do this, his Nichomanichean Ethics. This is not accidental. Politics must be married and cannot be divorced from ethics. The day this is successfully done is the day we should bid the human civilization a very sad farewell.

Attempts were made in history to divorce ethics from politics. 6 million cremated Jews, over 20 million Russians that perished under Stalinist social engineering regimen, over 1 million Cambodian that perished at Pol Pot’s insanity, all remain everlasting reminders to this attempted divorce.

Africa is in such a sorry state today many thanks to irresponsible, corrupt and visionless leadership. All Africa has succeeded in cultivating today is simply a class of rogues, retired thieves, and elitist parasites, that mirror the decadence of modern African society. Across Africa, political idiots and thugs parade themselves as leaders only to end up embezzling the posterity of their various countries for the cheap, ephemeral porridge of self-aggrandizement. This accounts for the fact that all these leaders, bandits and former warlords care about is to cling tenaciously to power for its own sake, without any vision for their people. Developing their countries for them remains an irrelevant task that should not compete for attention with the slender time span they have for stealing their countries blind.

In as much as there are rising tides of hope across the continent, we must not fail to point out the fact, that the structures and characters that sabotaged Africa are still alive and well across the various African countries and geopolities. To that end, African democracies have continued to remain a smokescreen or masquerades, hiding autocratic despotisms, that trample upon human rights, rig elections and serve a narrow self-perpetuating agenda of a few elitist rent-seekers. What Mugabe is doing in Zimbabwe is simply a caricature of democracy. In Nigeria, Obasanjo is yet to shed his tyrannical tendencies. His party, the ruling PDP has succeeded in converting Nigeria into a one party State. Opposition is systematically disembowelled. Corruption continues as the president tries the small fries and frets before the corruption sharks.

In the realms of god-complex, Obasanjo perfectly manifested his god-complex a few months ago. This guy came to Berlin, Germany, touting a blueprint that seemed innocent at face value, but hides a major psychopathology of African tyrants. He told the world that he is being pressured by a faceless, cabal to run for a third term in office. Scarcely had he made the announcement did some rented cheerleaders take up the refrain in Nigeria. One Ambassador Greg Mbadiwe, who represents only his pockets, rose to give the world a rehash of the wooden apologetics made by Daniel Kanu for Abacha, during the self-perpetuation madness of the late tyrant. This time, Mbadiwe was hawking the same impious cant for his master Obasanjo.

At that instance, the puzzle pieces started falling into place. The hidden agenda started materializing from the misty background of speculations. Obasanjo was testing the waters. The fact as to who was driving this wagon of self-perpetuation in office, which has been an inglorious hallmark and a major pathology of African leaders, was never in doubt. Aso Rock is on the driver’s seat. At this realization, a lot of bad memories popped up on our consideration, as to partly inspire this piece. The issues with the benefit of insight simply remain painful. Lets recount a little.

In 1993, as Babangida perfected his plans to scuttle the Transition program, which was steaming ahead on full throttle, he needed a Judas to betray the political class and their aspirations to civilian rule. He equally needed an undertaker to scuttle and bury that program, which would ensure his smooth transition into a civilian president. Humphrey Nwosu, the National Electoral Commission (NEC) chairman, was like Caesar’s wife, above board. He was incorruptible. As he could not be purchased, IBB kept searching for a corrupt soul mate. He found a devil’s advocate in Arthur Francis Nzeribe, who has remained a byword for unprincipled politicking in Nigeria. Nzeribe under the auspices of a phoney Association for Better Nigeria-ABN, was hired to beg IBB to succeed himself. He went to a kangaroo court peopled by IBB’s men, to challenge the Transition process, which has been steaming since 1986. The phoney and trumped up charges for that occasion were supplied by Babangida government. Like all kangaroo judicial contraptions, the court gave judgement with an alacrity that blinded justice and insulted equity. In that court, equity, which never aids the indolent, rose not only to canonize indolence, but also to disgrace equity itself. How could a court in 1993, grant the prayers of a man who watched the transition since 1986, without bringing objections to it, till it neared its finishing stages? All in all, that was all IBB needed to annul the elections and derail the transition that gulped over 40 Billion naira of Nigerian People’s money. Save for the vociferous and acrimonious outcry from a cross section of Nigerians and international observers, IBB could have smoothly transited from a military thief to a civilian one. He was forced out by the pressure and threats of social implosion. But he crafted an exit strategy that ensured no instantaneous repercussions on him and on his loot. He left his former Rottweiler, Sanni Abacha unleashed in a new Interim administration, with the strategic portfolio of the Defence Ministry, to remind anyone stupid enough to ask for IBB’s head, that the dog still have some teeth. IBB stole away with his impunity.

Abacha’s perversions are general knowledge. He perfected his own plans to get away with his colossal thievery. He plotted his self-succession in office, with the crude finesse of an unintelligent thief. At Abacha’s feet, morals and integrity sank to their lowest ebb in the Nigerian public space. Abacha’s inglorious hatchet men included depraved traditional rulers, compromised clerics, businessmen, politicians, opinion leaders, Babalawos, false prophets, and other supposed custodians of culture, truth and tradition. In fact, one traditional ruler from the south East succumbed and died in an Abuja Hotel room, as he sold his soul to the devil that was Abacha. He went to Abuja to lie to Abacha, that he is the best thing to happen to Nigeria, when he knew the truth that Abacha was the worst tragedy ever to befall Nigeria. At the head of the infernal liars, perched one misguided youth, Daniel Kanu. Kanu floated a rental agency that targeted renting one million debauched youths to go “beg” Abacha to transform himself and his thieving conglomerate from a military one to a civilian one. Kanu’s was an organizational success. The massive poverty and unemployment in the land helped his ship of deception to sail. With YEAA-Youths Earnestly Ask for Abacha, Daniel Kanu manipulated his way into infamy. He told Nigerians that the Abacha plague was the very best thing for Nigeria. Sane men were brutalized into silence. Vehement ones met the business ends of Abacha’s guns for hire. Debauchery reigned in the land. At the height of Abacha’s indiscretions, Nigeria turned to importing every shade of goods and services, even prostitutes. Had Abacha not expired atop imported prostitutes, Daniel Kanu and his rented drummers would have drummed him into self-succession.

Today, Mbadiwe sounds like Daniel Kanu and his Debauched Youths that earnestly asked for Abacha. The blueprint has always been the same. It starts with the president pretending that he is being pressurized to stay on, even when his incompetence and underachievement are glaring markers. And when in fact no one, save his hired cheerleaders and his conceits, want him to stay on, and multiply his bad policies and consolidate his incompetence.

Against this historical backdrop, one wonders then, what Obasanjo hopes to achieve that he has failed to achieve, in his nearly a decade in office. This president has failed to develop a credible educational policy for Nigeria. All he has been able to achieve was to found a private University, while abandoning government owned ones as they desiccate. Today he randomly abused his position of responsibility by extorting money from government contractors to build a presidential library for himself, while still in office. He wants to blow his trumpets himself while in office, because he is afraid that his underachievement will essay to deny him a place of honour in our memories once he leaves office.

This is just a simple peep into what African leadership consists of us, despite the democratic pretences of recent times. The conclusion cannot be faulted that the over all content of political vision in most Africa countries is tailored along primitive Machiavellian lines. In this conceptual construct, power is primitively sought for its own sake, not for the sake of serving the common good. It is sought most times, for the infantile self-aggrandizement of a local bully who is fighting a losing battle with his irrelevance and egomania. This could explain why in many African geopolities today, there exists a deliberate policy to destroy education and consign the people into a leadership orchestrated ignorance and disempowerment. This is attested to by the fact that there exists no coherent educational policy, to liberate the people from their primordial fears and conceptual slaveries. This has time again proved to be a deliberate Machiavellian contrivance aimed at imprisoning the people in credulity, as to render them manipulable to the dangerous farts of tyrannical governments and buffoonish politicians. Since education liberates people from credulity, the men of power are afraid that once these people are freed from their fears, it would signal the end to their reign of impunity, which will implode under the weight of informed opposition, that is naturally generated by an enlightened environment.

This equally explains why they keep on maintaining these supermarkets of illusions, where they hawk dummies that must be mandatorily purchased by the people for want of alternatives. Little wonder then, that no rational attempt is ever implemented to emplace structures that would facilitate, promote, and sustain accountability at all levels. This equally unveils why potentials are not cultivated or encouraged, as progress from the followership side of the political equation, would essay to underscore and advertise the incompetence of irresponsible governments. To effectively give rein to their neurotic god-complex, many African leaders go out of their way to gag the press like the military did in Nigeria. They torpedo and destroy the backbone of credible opposition, like Obasanjo and his PDP have succeeded in doing at all levels of the Nigerian politics today, and like Mugabe has succeeded in doing in Zimbabwe. They disembowel the academia, like IBB did to the Academic Staff Union of the Nigerian Universities, which stood as a resolute opposition against his excesses. They eviscerate civil society organization, and labour unions with a carrot and stick approach. They equally imprison, exile or assassinate those loud enough to question the government’s misgovernment of their various countries. Most of these tendencies are still overabundant in many African countries today including Nigeria. Last time, Obasanjo’s government was on legislative and judicial war path to outlaw the Nigerian Labour Congress, which has stood between him and his desire to pauperize the common man into irredeemable poverty through his Petroleum deregulation policies and other economic stupidities.

8. Antidote to the Poisons of Omnipotence

Governance should be for service. It is not an essential arena for the advertisement of lordship over others. This is where the role of a servant as was exemplified by Christ assumes a critical social significance. Unregulated power in its very nature is apt to corrupt whoever exercises it. And accountability in leadership can only be sustained if the right structures of checks are emplaced.

The human nature is too weak to withstand the temptation of omnipotence, when it comes upon unregulated power. The temptation to omnipotence is too dangerous to entertain. The society must be on its guard to forestall this. This is because omnipotence forecloses multiplicity and variety, both of ideas, views and opinions. It translates to ontologic, hermeneutic, and epistemic absolutism. This means that only this Leviathan possesses the fullness of truth; the only access to truth, and the only valid interpretation of what truth means or implies in all given situations. Any attempt therefore to assume a status of omnipotence, both in thought and action is a tendency to tyranny, as well as a false metaphysic, which is bound to incinerate opposing men and opposing ideas. Even the thought of it fabricates a neurotic furnace of intolerance for contrary opinions. It breeds dogmatism and bigotry.

Against the backdrop of this metaphysic, democracy rises as the only credible antidote to the poisons of omnipotence. This democracy in our view must not degenerate into a tyranny of the majority, or the despotism of a popularly elected aristocracy, where the interests of the minority are of no consequence. In the democracy we advocate, there must exist equality of opportunities for all and sundry as was advocated by John Rawls. This is the only type of government that to a great extent assures us, that naked power is not concentrated in the hands of an individual or a cabal.

In Africa, our democracy must shed its pretences, which hides a pathology of despotism. African leader’s tendency to bridle opposition must be checked by the establishment of the right structures of accountability. We call for an independent judiciary and Legislature, which in most of Africa have remained rubber stamps and diseased vestiges of the ruling governments. The International Community must through some peer review mechanism, help the African people in this regard, if we are to set Africa on the path to development.

For our democracy to shed its pretences, and sustain a vibrant dynamic, which would uphold democratic principles, Africa must groom an enlightened followership. Without this, African leaders will always fall for the temptation to omnipotence. Without an enlightened followership, there would be no credible critical mass of opposition to challenge the excesses of an incompetent government. In fact, “a responsible leadership can be nourished and sustained only by an enlightened and responsible followership, which will constitute an effective check on its exercise and excesses. This holds true because an enlightened followership would be vigilant on things that concern their welfare. This eternal vigilance, which is the price of liberty, is the basis for an effective foreclosure of despotism, abuse of office and trust, rise of tyranny and kleptocratic governance, et cetera. Whenever this maid of eternal vigilance goes to sleep, or is non existent, tyranny and irresponsible governance is allowed to germinate and flower; like it has done in Africa today and in many other lands, where the sun of vigilance was allowed to dim, either by the consolidated ignorance of the people, like in pre-colonial Africa; mass delusion and mesmerism of the people, like in Hitler’s Nazi Germany, fear and collective emasculation of the people, like in Stalinist Russia, Nigeria under Abacha, and Zaire under Mobutu Sesse Seko. There can be no responsible governance in Africa, save for among other things, the checks and balances of an enlightened society, which only obtains in an educated modern political set up. This enlightenment is a buffer, which enables the society to engulf and jettison any scheme whether conceptual or actual, which threatens its collective existence or welfare.” “It is our contention here that this postural apathy, consolidated ignorance of our people and its inadvertent offspring which is irresponsible and kleptocratic governance, can only be cured by a massive, qualitative and functional education of our people. This is the capstone for the enthronement and survival of a sustainable development and responsible governance in Africa. James Madison’s hallowed words are instructive in this direction. He told Americans and anyone who cares to listen, that: “knowledge must forever govern ignorance, and those who wish to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power that knowledge gives” I am of the opinion that the rudderless and irresponsible leadership plaguing Africa today can only be checked by a well informed, educated, enlightened and courageous followership that can never be hoodwinked, bribed, intimidated, mesmerised or coerced into mortgaging their welfare and future, or abandoning its concerns and fortunes in the hands of a few, elitist, unscrupulous charlatans, in the corridors of power, who would corner the common weal, and preside over it as a consortium of thieves would; a huge distribution agency to boot. And the only structure ontologically endowed to effect this kind of multi-dimensional awakening in all the strata of human society is Education” .

N/B. I wrote this around 2005 for Globalpolitician, an American News journal, which seems to have disappeared. I am posting, since one student said he couldn’t find it online.

You may also like

Leave a Comment