Hero Worshippers In Nigeria: Revisiting The “Sword Of Damocles”

lecture on orji Igbo


“Take away the wicked from the presence of the king and his throne will be established in righteousness. Do not put yourself forward in the kings presence or stand in the place of the great. For it is better to be told, “come up here”, than to be put lower in the presence of a noble”.

Proverbs 25:5-7

Dionysius is the Greek God of wine and fertility. There is a festival in honour of Dionysius periodically celebrated in many parts of ancient Greece. Both tragedy and comedy arose in Athens as part of the cult of Dionysius and were always regarded not as mere entertainment but as religious ceremonies in his honour. The rites were emotional as it concerned Dionysius as the god of ecstasy.

Damocles was a courtier of Dionysius of the 5th century B.C.

Dionysius invited him to a feast and seated him under a sword suspended by a hair. Damocles has excessively praised the tyrants lot and Dionysius meant him to see how precarious it was.

The mundane application of this incident is with us today and will continue to hunt the Nigerian political setting of the future as old habits die hard. Can our present day leaders ever have a rethink and wonder how and why they have become God sent and amiable leaders overnight even for these whom they defeated in elections inspite of public cosmetic acceptability. The Greeks should be feared even when they offer gifts, so goes the saying.

Be it known that behind the good tidings and feelings of security and complacency which are the trappings of an exhalted public position lurks danger which should not be taken for granted, because praise singing and Hero worship elevates the human psyche and beclouds caution.

The Nigerian constitution has provided immunity for a certain category of public office holder though. This is an ill wind as those who temporarily enjoy the immunity want it to be everlasting hence they strategise and prolong their stay perpetually. Some have tended to transform the immunity into behavioral impunity. This is because of the protection of the immunity and the unfortunate resilience of their cowed down followers. This is noteworthy. Those enjoying the immunity have failed to realize that it is not meant to cover up evil but instituted to seal off those covered by the immunity from being distracted from the onerous responsibility of a high public office while they are still on seat.

Mans betrayed of trust has been amplified in bold relief in the “sword of Damocles”.

We have watched with delight and trepidation, the rise and fall of rulers who were blinded by power and never believed they could leave public office any day.

We have equally seen leaders whose activities were hailed as God sent and who realized rather lately that their aides and anchormen who would deny them at the slightest misfortune were simply around as long as the crumbs and fat meant of slavery fell from the masters table. They are always in their element. Here the “sword of Damocles” comes to life.

Who are these Damocles of present day Nigeria other than the “professional jobbers” of any government in power (AGIP).

They have raised praise singing to the status of a religion. Confront any of them anywhere, any time and be startled to hear that the important personality whose function or reception they help to organize may not be personally known to them. They are forever around to “show face”, shake hands and exchange pleasantries.

They are prepared to catalogue events and activities they have gate crashed into and participated uninvited in support of Hon Chief His or Her Excellency this or that political project and whom they claim to know up to their bed rooms so as to attract credence.

They are prepared to accept one bizarre and awe inspiring title or the other aimed at ego laundering so as to be recognised and respected.

The Nigerian political elites are experts in this orgy or Hero worship.

They can embrace the Yoruba and Muslim costume and culture overnight to attract doubtful credence, in the name of party loyalty.

These are the so called epicurean men behind the scene, known for consumption of good food and wine and organizing of good parties for enjoyment.

They may always be seen in entourages as personal assistants and power brokers.

Trust Nigerians for their propensity in reaping where they did not sow in order to get what they want.

I sympathise with those Nigerians who pray for the continuity of the spoils of office and those who have refused to realise that it is retrogressive to overstay in any assignment whether permanent or transitional. They are potential victims of overindulgence. There is therefore an overriding need to give a chance to new hands instead of recycling the old brooms who may be there to make subversive subterranean moves at destabilization within the polity.

“We cannot use yesterdays tools for todays assignment and hope to be in business tomorrow” Prof. Babs Fafunwa.

It is obvious that some Nigerian leaders and their praise singer are partners in crime hence the pot is not ready to call the kettle black.

The “sword of Damocles” has continued to over dramatise itself in the Nigerian situation. Our leaders should be wary of their so called assistants who may be giving deceptive reports of the situation on ground to have their daily bread. Our leaders should descend to the level of the led to know where their problems lie. The common people should be listened to if the government is to test the popularity of its programmes and activities.

Funds should not be wasted to settle people who claim to have political structures for sale and nothing tangible to offer society.

These professional courtiers akin to Damocles of present day Nigeria belong to a class of their own, an amalgam of literate and illiterate citizens who have dented the image of their mesmerised masters now under the search light of restitution. When shall we realise that power is transient. The leader today may be a follower tomorrow. This is the hard truth leaders should know.

It is therefore unfortunate for any leader not to discern readily the facts from figures, constructive criticism from personal attacks, objective citizens from praise singers.

“It is necessary therefore to entrench into our legal system an accountability procedure which demands that an outgoing leader and his aids render account of their stewardship to the new leaders and to make offence committed while in office not subject to statute of limitations when out of office”.

Odumegwu Ojukwu

Probing and punishing corruption will sanitise the system and clip the tentacles of absolute power so that leaders who value their name for good more than material wealth will lead by personal example. From the foregoing over 50% of Nigerians should be in jail for a change to curb corruption which will make no meaning without visible restitution.

The joy and pain of leadership are two sides of the same coin. To balance the political equation between the two issues in any system is an attribute of humility and foresight. It is only in realising that the only thing permanent in life is change that our leaders should softpedal  when unleashing torture on their subjects. What a lesson from Dionysius and Damocles.

The philosophy of political followership in Africa has become trivialised such that our leaders are seduced and tyrants made out of them by Hero worshippers who are devils incarnate.

The examples of these are with us such as President Joseph Mobutu of Congo who became “Mobutu Sesse Seko”, an appellation that depicts the strength and invincibility of the roaring lion of the equatorial Congo basin in his Republic of Congo. He never believed he could be deposed. We may not easily forget Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, founder of the state of Ghana, who was known as the “Osajiefo” that will never die. But what has happened to him in the hands of his subordinates. What about Idi Amin of Uganda – the Big Daddy of unprecedented vulgarity who could brazenly demonstrate African depravity and cannibalism and who was eulogized mockingly as the conqueror of the British Empire. He has left the scene with ignoming Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Zik of Africa, the Ogbuefi Nnanyelugo and Owelle of Onitsha known to be beyond human destruction, though luck was always on his side during the military take overs. Let us not forget easily Chief Obafemi Awolowo “Baba” known as the master planner of free education. He was revered as an avatar who could worship in any temple on the world. His aura lives on.

Emperor Haile Sellesie of Ethiopia was known as the Lion of the Tribe of Juda, the only man on earth that had direct blood relationship with Jesus Christ. When he fell from power he was treated as the “Lamb of Juda” by his subjects. That most African followers are sycophants who applaud executive vulgarity, prostrate before mediocrity and defend the indefensible is akin to Democles is not in doubt.

Our current leaders should not shy away from popular demand by citizens that corruption in the society should be curbed by starting from the top and that probing without physical restitution is useless and not corrective.

They should not be regarded as accomplishes covering up clear and evident shady deals of their predecessors in a “scratch by back and I scratch your back” business as usual affair.

But this has been in vogue over the years that one may be justified in calling it condition par excellence in contemporarily African society. This is antidotal to the eternal lessons from Dionysius and Damocles.

“Our leaders should encourage a new order where one shining act of bold selfless leadership at the top such as an unambiguous refusal to be corrupt or tolerate corruption at the fountain of authority will radiate powerful sensation of well being and pride through every nerve and artery of National life” Monsgr L.C. Nwigwe. Nigerians are looking forward to this.

It is pertinent to learn that leadership is so dicey an affair that uncertainty is its greatest enemy. We must realise that “At best, man is the noblest of all animals. Separated from law and justice he is worst” Aristotle.

Sir Andrew I. Ajaero

Public Affairs Commentator/Analyst

Onicha Nweorie Ezinihitte

E-mail: andrewajaero@yahoo.com

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