Bad Governance: Sycophancy As One of Nigeria’s Many Diseases
By Abimbola Lagunju
Sycophancy is a major hindrance to good governance in Nigeria. It is a disease of epidemic proportions afflicting Nigerians in all spheres of our existence as a nation. It traverses all social classes in the country. Sycophancy is not hero worship. We have no true living heroes in the system of governance of this country. And sycophants have no heroes or principles they subscribe to or defend; they are just fawners who seek personal gain through creating an ego mountain from a small anthill of insignificance of their targets. A simple chain of hierarchy in any Nigerian public institution has been turned by sycophants at all levels of the chain into a praise and worship cult of the head of the institution
Armed with a false giant ego, the targets of sycophants believe they are really larger than life. They come to see themselves as the Alpha and Omega of their establishment. And they act the big man too! Convinced of their invincibility and believing in their own sycophantic prowess and their ability to grease the palms of politicians charged with oversight, these tin-gods commit crimes of fraud, harassment, recruitment malfeasance, outright stealing of public funds and many other crimes of bad governance. . The Nigerian followership through sycophancy induces bad governance and turns the people’s employees into primitive overlords.
Civil servants, who by their own appellation are servants of the people, assume the attitude of haughty benefactors to their employers – the people. Heads of military and paramilitary services as well as Director-Generals of government agencies are treated like tin-gods by their subordinates. And they act the roles too. They forget the statutory limits of their powers as heads of government institutions and assume new ones dictated by their many sycophants. And more often than not, they carry their egos beyond the confines of their establishment into the public space and expect adulations from the public. They react violently to any challenge to their ego and hapless civilians who cross their ways bear the brunt of their fury.
Elected politicians are prime targets of sycophants at all levels. These temporary employees of the people get so carried away with their induced overrated self-worth that they believe they have the power of life and death over their constituents. Our politicians wear their egos like clothes; any legitimate challenge or demand by a frustrated electorate is perceived and reacted to as a demeaning attempt from an inconsequential person. They unleash their fawning aides on the poor constituent.
And the places of worship? The sycophancy that trails the leaders of places of worship in Nigeria has made some GO’s and Bishops see themselves as gods. They get adulations from the lower clergy and the worshippers climb over the each other to fawn the loudest. The pronouncements of some are in utter divergence from the Holy Books. They, as the new gods, write their own version of the scriptures and impose inconsiderate levies to milk the poor dry. They are also sycophants too; they cannot speak the truth to power, rather they hobnob with them and pat each other’s backs.
But for sycophancy-induced ego-ride, how could a civil servant have accepted that his shoes be cleaned in public by another civil servant? What else would explain the attitude of a high officer of the Nigerian Navy who unleashed violence on a harmless woman in the streets of Lagos? What could have driven a governor to talk down to the Civil Servants in his State? Or worse still, what could have possessed the wife of a sitting governor that caused a clergyman to be sacked because she was not considered first by virtue of her position to get God’s blessings through anointing? How could one explain the pronouncement of Bishop Oyedepo in the build-up to the last elections that the gates of hell were open to those who would not vote for Jonathan? These are examples that have been in the press, but there are many others that go unreported every day.
The probability that you, the reader of this article are a sycophant is very high. You are either a sycophant to a politician, your pastor, your boss at work or even to God. You mouth-worship somebody; you fill their ego-bag with your hot air so much that they feel and begin to believe that they are God’s deputy. That is the way the Nigerian environment has reengineered your genes. It is called epigenetics – a science that studies how your environment affects your genes to enhance your survival. In other words, you are a direct product of your environment.
How did this scourge land in our midst? Is it imported or of local manufacture? Did our diverse cultures in any way contribute to its emergence in our modern system of governance? How do we undo this malicious gene that has rendered good governance almost impossible in our country?