The Apotheos-ification of Nigerian Leaders and Political Elites

by Akintokunbo A Adejumo

Apotheosis (from Greek, apotheoun “to deify”; in Latin deificatio “making divine”; also called divinization and deification) is the glorification of a subject to divine level. The term has meanings in theology, where it refers to a belief, and in art, where it refers to a genre (Wikipaedia).

In theology, the term apotheosis refers to the idea that an individual has been raised to godlike stature. In art, the term refers to the treatment of any subject (a figure, group, locale, motif, convention or melody) in a particularly grand or exalted manner.

A cult of personality arises when an individual uses mass media, propaganda, or other methods, to create an idealized, heroic, and, at times god-like public image, often through unquestioning flattery and praise. A cult of personality is similar to hero worship, except that it is established by mass media and propaganda.

Throughout history, monarchs and heads of state were almost always held in enormous reverence. Through the principle of the divine right of kings, for example, rulers were said to hold office by the will of God. Imperial China, ancient Egypt, Japan, Britain, the royals, the Inca, the Aztecs, Tibet, Thailand, and the Roman Empire are especially noted for redefining monarchs as god-kings. In pre-colonial Africa and Nigeria, the same applies with most of the monarchs, e.g. in Yoruba land, the Alaafin of Oyo and the Ooni of Ife used to be deified until somehow, they lost their reverence.

The spread of democratic and secular ideas in Europe and North America in the 18th and 19th centuries made it increasingly difficult for monarchs to preserve this aura. However, the subsequent development of photography, sound recording, film, and mass production, as well as public education and techniques used in commercial advertising, enabled political leaders to project a positive image like never before. It was from these circumstances in the 20th century that the best-known personality cults arose. Often these cults are a form of political religion (Wikipaedia)

Service is the best reason for being a leader. There are many examples of true service; Jesus Christ is one of them. A true leader asks people to follow his/her example. This is what has made democracy work and sustainable in Western democracies and societies – leaders serve and ask their people to follow, and the people follow.

I really do not have a problem with leaders who are performing or are seen to be performing their duties and responsibilities, if ONLY selflessly. (This is very rare anyway) Once in a while we see such leaders, but usually and mostly in the horizon.

My problem is Praise-singing and Hero-worshipping of our leaders (ironically, these people are not even anywhere near being heroes, not to talk of worthy of praise), and that’s the reason we are having problems with them and they take advantage of us. I never indulge in such trivial pursuits. I am not a sycophant. Most of the time, I don’t see what these leaders are doing that is unexpected or extraordinary. After all, look around you; the country is still as backward as ever, despite very strong infrastructural and civil legacies left by the colonialists, so what are they really doing?

Recently one Governor described his own people (we, Nigerians) as TIMID. It was then I saw the irony and the insult, albeit true. It is because we are timid, or they feel we are timid, that the corrupt, evil and clueless political elite take undue advantage of us, stealing, looting, raping, killing and generally mismanaging our resources, our common wealth. They bank and rely on the fact that they are lording it over a very TIMID people. That is what they have been relying on and banking on for the past 5 decades, with a toxic combination of intimidation, divide and rule, outright dishonesty, deceit and mediocrity.

When would we, as a people, realise that in a democracy, those elected into political positions as well as civil servants, are expected and must do what we elected or appointed them to do and are paid to do and that they are NOT doing us any favour whatsoever by building roads, bridges, hospitals, schools or providing employment? This is their damned job! And after all, the money they are using to execute all these projects are not theirs but ours. Or have you ever heard of a Nigerian politician using his/her own money to build roads or even to contest elections? It is our money they waste to sponsor the weddings of their children, and in a recent instance, the wedding in Dubai of a famous singer.

When you hear or read of our devious and callous political leaders, saying they are empowering people by distributing bicycles, generators, bags of rice, umbrellas, sewing machines and 10 thousand Naira to the people of their constituencies, accompanied by loud media coverage, and projecting to the people as if they are spending their own personal wealth (the hypocrisy of it!), then you know we are indeed in trouble. It is not their money; and they can do much better than this, can’t they?; the money is the Constituency Project allowances they are supposed to use in the first place but which most of them convert to their own use.

THIS IS WHAT THEY ARE BEING PAID TO DO! We can only recognise and commend them for doing their job if they are actually doing it selflessly, but NOT praise them to high heavens as if they are the Messiah, demi-gods or Super-humans.

Please don’t get me wrong. I am only against apotheosis, praise-singing and hero-worshipping. I will recognise, commend, celebrate, reward honour and sing to high heavens any good work that is being done selflessly, sincerely, timely, considerately, compassionately, holistically and appropriately by any leader in my country.

We are getting a very raw deal from these people we now regard as demi-gods and untouchables by law. But we are more powerful than them. We can vote them out. We should vote them out. We must not allow then to sniff or get anywhere near the seats of power. We must not allow them to rig elections or manipulate votes and voting equipment. We must not allow them to intimidate us.

Nigerians and Africans should stop treating politicians as gods; treat them as a normal people on the street. As a matter of fact, our politicians should be treated with some measure of disdain and perhaps, held in contempt, because politics is not a career, it is a symbiotic way of life, in any society – they depend on the society to thrive and the society expects something in return for sucking us for their livelihood. We pay their salaries and they are supposed to look after and deliver our expectations. So don’t treat them like gods.

Some of us treat our Nigerian Legis-looters, Execu-thieves, Poli-trickcians, Sin-ators, like God’s gift to the world; these are the cronies, boot-lickers, political jobbers, impostors, mediocre whose only way of survival is cuddling up to anybody in power. This ilk of people do not have any capacity or intelligence to making a living, so they infect and infest the politician, who is him/herself ready to be infected and infested. It is mutually convenient and beneficial to both parties.

On a recent lecture I delivered in Lagos on a similar topic, the reactions that arose are in bold, in response to my position:

• Nigerians should treat their political leaders as a normal people on the street: Impossible! Every time there’s a politicians coming to certain place, there is always a big community event to welcomed or celebrate them. See the convoys and the jamboree of hangers-on that follow them.

• We pay their salaries and they are supposed to look after and deliver our expectations: They will only look after their lackeys, their flatterers and those who aid them in their misrule and lootings.

• They control the media, what do you expect?

• So don’t treat them like gods – It is a cultural thing, Africans hold people with

age, wealth, authority and power in awe so much, they regard those who hold such as almost gods, and when regarded as such, these irresponsible parasites will do anything and everything possible to stay in power, and that includes killing.

I agree 100% with this last bit. It is a cultural malaise. This is why a lot is amiss with our combination of leadership, democracy and system of governance, and should be changed. A very good instance is the appointment of people into positions such as Ministers, Commissioners, Special Advisers and Assistants, Board Members, etc. These sets of people fail miserably in the performance of what are expected of them as public servants, not only because they are mostly pedestrian and quacks anyway, but because they do not owe their allegiance, appointments or responsibilities to the service of the people, but to their Almighty Leaders (President, Governors, etc) who appointed them.

The result is that when a Cabinet re-shuffle is imminent; these lackeys start panicking and start running around like headless chicken, scared and lobbying to stay in their jobs. When they do not perform, they will not resign. That is the affairs of state in Nigeria; no moral will to admit mistakes, non-performance and inefficiency, hence the massive level of corruption that has brought the country almost on its knees while saner and more sincere minds look on helplessly whilst middling and men and women of low intelligence take over running – ruining- the lives of 150 million people.

We should learn from the Japanese:

The Best Leader

The best leaders, the people do not notice.
The next best, the people honour and praise.
The next, the people fear;
And the next, the people hate.

If you have no faith,
People will have no faith in you,
And you must resort to oaths (lies).

When the best leader’s work is done
The people say: “We did it ourselves!

It’s actually from the Chinese poet Lao Tzu, but this is what Japanese people think of Politicians.

I can’t stand sycophancy and obsequiousness. I can’t stand timidity and reticence either.

You may also like

Leave a Comment