Narcissism, Marxism and Nigeria’s Political Elites
By: Idumange John
In Nigeria, every one with a reflective thinking would be dissatisfied with the
vagaries and vicissitudes of life. Many have come to feel that the present
state of the world is not what it ought to be; more are distressed by the
growing incidences of crime in the streets, violence by juvenile delinquency,
poverty, misery, and by the pressure towards political conformity; most are
perturbed by these unfortunate developments, as they threaten the very fabric
of the stability, security, and survival of society. These events have assumed
the dimension of hurricanes and no nation is spared.
The term narcissism originated from a Greek mythology. The story is centered on a very handsome young man called
Narcissist, who was so attractive that all the girls fell in love with him.
Because of his charm and affection he became proud and arrogant. Today, the
term belongs to the world of psychology and was first introduced by Sigmund
Freud. Freud used it to describe the earliest stage of childhood where the
infant has no sense of reality beyond his or her existence. In his book
“Culture of Narcissism” Christopher Larch describes the narcissist personality
as often very charming but devalues others and is not curious about their
impoverished personality. Narcissists are self-loving hence they are imbued
with manipulative, exploitative attitudes in their relations with people.
Narcissism dovetails into what Apostle Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:1-2 . Paul said
“In the last days men will be lovers of self, which literally means loving
themselves at the expense of others. They are characterized by arrogance, which
often interferes with the attainment of the status and recognition that they
poignantly desire. Narcissists lack the self-control necessary to lead to the
attainment of their goals. Their love of self often leads to egocentrism.
Narcissism derives from an attempt to maintain unrealistically high levels of self-esteem.
It is a psychological state rooted in extremely low self-esteem. Usually,
narcissists are people who come from very humble backgrounds, therefore they
use all resources at their disposal to ensure that the express love for
themselves. We can understand why gays are ordained priests in yonder land and
pastors of religion have converted their cathedrals into pool staking joints.
The love of money has increased while the love of God is waxing cold.
For the past two centuries or so, narcissistic leaders and blood thirsty tyrants had appeared and disappeared. A great many of
such leaders adhere to the fundamentals of the Machiavellian principle of
"end justifying the means". Napoleon Bonaparte dreamt about building
an empire sprawling from Lombardy, Brussels, Madrid to the Siberia, the cold
heartland of the defunct Soviet Union. Adolf Hitler mesmerized the Germans with
the master race hypothesis and made even German toddlers believe that
Germanizing the whole of Europe would give the Aryans ample opportunity to
civilize other folks along the lines of the Third Reich. Hitler had the
ambition of "Nazifying" Europe and to use the Africans as
drawers of water and hewers of wood. That was a tall order. Others narcissists
who have sojourned the political landscape of their nations include Pinochet,
Pol Pot, Mussolini, Brotz Tito, Abacha, Mobutu, Idi Amin, and the offal that is
Mugabe and their apologists traversed the earth, and at every turn, polluted
their fellow humankind with poisonous ideologies and dangerous leadership
styles well orchestrated to debase humanity’s ideological wavelength.
In the 1970’s through the 80’s the doctrine of socialism as encapsulated in
Marxism-Leninism was preached in the temples of Nigeria’s Ivory towers. At that
time the hallmark of intellectual radicalism was whether a lecturer understood
the nexus between the goings-on in the society and Marx’s dialectical
materialism especially the historical epoch’s that emerged as a result of
production relations of society. While there was a reservoir of Marxist
intellectuals in the first generation universities, a few others dotted all the
faculties of Social Sciences and Humanities in other institutions of higher
learning. Nigeria-Soviet relations also flourished beyond the confines of
education and even permeated the cultural dimensions. The Eskor Toyos, Edwin
Madunagus, Babatopes, Anikpos and other renowned scholars angrily preached
Marxism to students in the temples of the ivory towers any time there was an
opportunity so to do.
The addresses of statesmen were not complete without a condemnation of class
interest and the rich-poor gap. Convocation lectures, inaugural lectures and
other intellectual discourses were incomplete without a blend of Marxist
analysis. Academic Staff Unions were vibrant because the leaders did not create
any opportunity to be swayed by politicians or settled with “Ghana Must Go”, as
such unedifying practices were anathema to pristine Marxism-Leninism, which
deprecates oppression, abhors injustice and hated marginalization of any kind.
When Academic Unions embarked on strike, all members of the academic community
were clear as to the purposes and objectives of such industrial actions.
Collective contracts were either honoured or the industrial action persisted.
This is no longer the case because politics has made a wild incursion into the
In his magnum
opus, Das Kapital, Karl Marx affirmed that dialectical materialism is a
study of the “laws of motion”, a living science and a dynamic enterprise that
establishes a correlation between the various historical epochs and the modes
of wealth creation and exploitation. Yet some bourgeois scholars are mean
enough to call Marx a prophet rather than a social scientist. They tend to
reduce the intellectual sophistry of Marxism to some mysterious “revelations”
of a prophet weeping in the wilderness of despair. A great many of them even
tried to equate him with the pastors of the charismatic, Pentecostal Christian
variety who preach piety as a pre-condition for salvation. For Marx, a good
society is one that is free from class interest and exploitation.
Today, all over the world, Marx’s theory of increasing misery and the polarity of
society as defined by wealth and poverty is the unblemished truth. Capitalism
in its most sophisticated from is decaying because it violates the law of value
and plunges humanity into a blind alley. That is why even America now defines
capitalism with a liberal language such as economic stimulus programs, social
welfare packages and so on. It has been realized that individualistic
capitalism of Calvinistic production has thrown society into a putrescent
crisis. That is why the need to fix the economy has dominated the Presidential
campaigns in the United States.
The capitalist West equipped with its voracious appetite for primitive accumulation
and the insatiable desire to condemn Marxism, even condescended to the bizarre
extent of sponsoring scholars who employed mean tricks to misrepresent Marxism
as a religious system that does not believe in God. However, the truth is that Marx was
vehemently opposed to turning anything into a religion or even a dogma, and it
is the knack for religious leaders to exploit that made him to criticize
organized religion as the opium of the people. Those who have actually read
Marx will reckon that he envisaged a secular, commodious society devoid of the
exploitative super structure and its attendant substructures. Most scholars
still hold the view that the introduction of “perestroika and glasnost”
marked the dogmatic atrophy of socialism; the reality is that the collapse of
socialism in the defunct Soviet Union only bleached off the essentially Russian
features of the system. Socialism can only be said to have failed if
exploitation of man by man does not exist.
Today, the Nigerian higher educational system is under-developed. Over the years
funding has not kept pace with the exponential expansion of the system.
Inadequate funding has resulted in the acute shortage of all educational
inputs. A more acute dimension of under funding is the underdevelopment of
research. Applied research is the only tool that can enable Nigeria to grapple
with the emerging knowledge economy and the neo-liberal modes of wealth
creation. The under funding of research in universities automatically
undermines development and innovation.
Therefore scholars who are enthusiastic about research and development
have the natural tendency to migrate to other lands where political leaders
understand the nexus between research and development. This tendency has
culminated in “brain-drain” and there is no sign that the syndrome will abate
in the foreseeable future.
Even students who travel abroad on study scholarship find it most convenient to
remain there as immigrants or illegal aliens rather than come back to face the
tedious working conditions in Nigeria. The syndrome has assumed a more
frightening dimension within the academia where university lecturers transfer
their services to oil companies, banking institutions and other more lucrative
jobs. Some of them have been forced out of the Ivory Tower to become importers.
The same group of self serving politicians destroys the tertiary educational system
and sends their children abroad to attend some of the well equipped
universities where high academic standards are maintained. The trick has been
for the elite class to maintain the status quo by giving their children better
education and prepare them for better positions in industry, banking,
manufacturing and other departments of the corporate world. Thus politicians
deliberately under-fund higher education, bastardize standards in order to
create welcome excuses for patronizing institutions abroad.
Nigeria is a bourgeois democracy, where those who control the levers of power
automatically control the mode of production and ensure its supremacy. The
bourgeois therefore make laws to ensure and guarantee their perpetual
dominance. The primary role of the State then is to disguise the law of the
strong as a law purporting to guarantee the good of all. In Nigeria today, the
law enforcement agencies such as the Police and the army are in the hands of
the bourgeois class and they are in the forefront of repression and cohesion.
They also appropriate the commonwealth also engages in large scale bribery and
corruption, and this is very conspicuous in all spheres of the nation’s life.
The under-funding of bodies statutorily established to development the
crisis-prone Niger Delta also portrays Nigerian leaders as narcissistic.
The economic team has for the past five years been pushing for bourgeois reforms
which are essentially designed to widen the gap between the rich and the poor.
The economic team has been mouthing that Nigeria will join the big league of
the first 20th most industrialized economies come 2020. Vision 2020
is a strange postulation for a country wrestling to provide basic
infrastructure such as electricity and health infrastructure. In fact the
technocrats propagating such heresies are either Eurocentric capitalist
apologists or bourgeois pretenders who have failed to tell Nigerians that
economics is an organic discipline, not a phenomenon that is susceptible to
some metaphysical manipulations. On the surface the argument in favour of
privatization is to make such corporations work. But the real intention of the
capitalist is to use privatization as a trick to buy-up these corporations to
establish cruel monopoly, muzzle competition and engage in profiteering to the
sorrow of the masses.
With the adoption of market capitalism in education the same class of super-rich
politicians owns the private universities and charge exorbitant fees which
deliberately alienate children from low socio-economic class. The private
universities in Nigeria operate on Pay-As-You-Go basis as the basic criterion
for admission into those schools is the financial capacity of students.
It is true therefore that the so called educational reforms are not designed to
ameliorate the poor plight of the entire system but to cater for class
interest. This was evident in the Obasanjo administration when all the “Unity
Schools” were almost sold out to the higher bidders without regard to the fact
that education is supposed to be a public or merit good which consumption
cannot be determined by the market forces. Ex-president Obasanjo exploited the
educational reforms to establish Bells University of technology, which no doubt
will be transformed into massive money spinning business enterprise like the
The political class has deliberately bastardized the mainstream of public education
because it serves its class interest of selling ignorance or at best low
quality education to the masses and at the same time exploiting the opportunity
to buy up the all important education sector. Teachers in Nigerian Universities
are grossly under rewarded and anytime matters of teacher welfare is discussed
the same political class with constitute ineffective committees to scuttle
deliberations. Rather than advise government to improve on the funding profile
of universities and motivate the manpower to superior productivity behaviour,
the political class is dilly-dallying with the welfare of academic staff. When
the academic community makes very moderate demand, they are subjected to public
debates and endless controversies. For example it is trite argument that
workers can exercise their freedom of association and embark on industrial
actions within the limits of the labour laws of the country. Thus the
reinstatement of the 49 lecturers does not require the rule of law, as it can
be executed by mere executive fiat.
One of the tools employed by capitalists is to paralyze public institutions and
create the impression that the institutions are not workable so that
individuals can buy-up these corporations. This is what the capitalist class
led by Obasanjo tried to accomplish when the administration tried to privatize
all Nigeria’s national assets including the refineries and other choice assets.
But up till now the National Assembly has not concluded investigations on the
privatization of these assets and the $16 billion wasted on power supply.
Our leaders seem to have been stupefied by the ideologies that are only workable in
the West. These ideologies and programmes are used to benchmark our
development. For example it is ridiculous for Nigerian leaders to talk of
meeting the Millennium Development Goals when we cannot provide uninterrupted
power supply. Only the leaders are convinced that by the year 2020, Nigeria’s
will rank among the 20 greatest economies in the world. But the ordinary
Nigerian knows that borehole water is hawked in the streets of major towns and
cities either in sachets or jerry cans; kill and go generators have become a
permanent source of power supply while some faceless Nigerians can import
polluted fuel is into the country to damage vehicles and such brazen acts of
economic sabotage are not investigated.
The National Assembly is not exempted from this conspiracy. While law-makers at the
national level devote much time and resources to discuss their welfare, they
have not given even a scant attention to the higher education sector. The
higher institutions have a responsibility for the production of high caliber
manpower, and this is the most vital missing link in our development efforts.
Federal law makers can compel government to declare emergency in many sectors
such as power supply, education and health and put things right, but they are
watching the system die slowly like a man dying under euthanasia.
Forty-eight years after independence, Nigeria is still in dire need of genuine leadership.
As a nation, we have had mediocre leaders and poorly trained managers at the
saddle who wear the garb of reform to cover-up their mediocrity. We are blessed
with huge resources in oil and gas but we are running a generator economy- a
confirmation of Marxist theory of increasing misery. In our land everyone can
steer and tinker with the ship but it takes a leader to read the compass,
control the rudders and chart the course. Nigeria needs visionary leadership
that can exercise huge discretion in taking pragmatic steps to move the nation
forward. So far the actions of the Yar’Adua administration are too slow in
efforts at re-positioning the polity and fixing the economy. Emphasis on the
rule of law alone cannot save the nation from the stagnation and mediocrity
foisted on the masses by the past dictators.
Narcissism in Nigeria is very conspicuous among the political elites and this permeates
all gradations of the political system it is this narcissistic that has given
rise to political “godfatherism” and what for lack of a better
euphemism may be regarded as “garrison politics. Every page of
history attests to the fact that no human society has ever been freed of
corruption, and injustices. But while perfect human order is impossible, there
are times and seasons when a tolerable justice hallowed by traditions and
supplemented by personal discipline and goodness gives society a long period of
stability. No teacher taught democracy to Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson,
and Andrew Jackson, but today America has bequeathed to mankind a riveting
model of democracy devoid of pre-bendalism, ethnicity and self-aggrandizement.
Some past American Presidents were also obsessed with narcissism. It is an avowed foreign
policy aim of America to strengthen the regimes of dictators such as Samoza of
Nicaragua, Batista of Cuba, Ian Trujillo of the Dominican Republic, Suharto of
Indonesia and Pinochet of Chile. The U.S deployed huge resources, intelligence
information and strategic support to ensure that the dictators are made pillars
of the ‘free world’. Saddam Hussein the late tyrant in Iraq was propped up in
power by the U.S. when they saw him as a man capable of checkmating Iraq and
guaranteeing the free flow of oil. It was America who supplied anthrax and
other poisonous biological weapons to liquidate the Kurdish rebels. At that
time Saddam was an ally to the United States. The same country turned out to
demonize him when he refused to do their bidding.
The economy is comatose, and no sector can be said to be developed. Even the oil sector is not under the control
of indigenous entrepreneurs. The petroleum economy relies heavily on expatriate
manpower. With the impending deregulation, it will be doom for the suffocating
working class. The nation’s over-reliance on crude oil has put agricultural
development in a backseat. Today, Nigeria runs a risky, mono-product economy,
and no modernizing nation runs that risky adventure. The Nigerian economy needs
a surgical operation and only the infusion of technocrats can recapture the
sundry missed opportunities and regain momentum. The political system is crying
for a revolution- root and branch. If the present generation of narcissistic, Machiavellian
politicians must bequeath a legacy of peace, stability and prosperity to
posterity, then a revolution is looming, and this will come sooner than later.
It should be pioneered by the Diaspora intelligentsia.
Idumange John, is a University Lecturer and Activist