“Never wrestle with pigs. You both get dirty and the pig likes it.” - George Bernard Shaw
The psychology of power is a big issue in human affairs. Like Thomas Jefferson said, “When a man assumes a public trust, he should consider himself as public property.” In the last one week, the public space has been bursting with the intrigues of power, with the first family taking the centre stage and a onetime special adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on media, Reuben Abati opening a can of worms on what he called Aso Rock’s spirituality. Abati painted a grotesque picture of how the nation’s seat of power was conceived and constructed to consume its occupants, describing it as an axis evil.
Abati was so bewitched he advised the Nigerian government to abandon the Villa and turn it into a spiritual home. Abati in this bizarre and esoteric article titled ‘Rituals, blood and death: The spiritual side of Aso Villa’, said recent happenings in the presidency calls for urgent spiritual cleansing.
There are some insights and fetishisms many have brought to bear, which needed placing in some perspectives. Speculations were even rife that the President was set to divorce his pretty wife for her fortuitous interview in BBC, considered so embarrassing that one Islamic cleric even called for her arrest on account of sabotage.
Nigeria’s first lady Aisha Buhari said she may not back husband President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election in the 2019 elections if things remain the same, questioning the extent of control her husband has over his government.
Contrary to many claims, Aisha Buhari is not necessarily campaigning against the husband. Yet, I also do not believe she was voicing the same frustration most Nigerians have voiced since the return of Buhari. She is calling for change, yes, but change of a different hue; change of power structure, not the real deal promised by the husband while campaigning for power.
Her angst is therefore not a crusade to make Nigerian masses any better but a proxy war because the initial appointments of the President were incestuous enough and obviously took the First Lady’s interests into consideration. Beneficiaries of the majority of the initial 40 key appointments or so by Mr. President were connected to him either by consanguinity or by marriage. One wonders which appointments the First lady was referring to, since power has to be exercised essentially by those either elected or appointed to so do. Those who exercise power in other forms do so inferentially and cannot directly constitute a cabal that will force the President’s hands.
The power structure in Nigeria is suffering a different kind of dilemma. Its legitimacy does not derive or flow from the people, since the recruitment of leaders does not usually flow from the people but from concentric circles of conspiracies. The conspirators hold power for as long as they can while the others fight to dislodge and replace them with themselves. In proper democracies, elections serve as a channels of change. In the others, including ours, there are other forms of change including coups of all kinds, since those who make peaceful change impossible, make violent change inevitable (apologies J. F. Kennedy).
The President had taken what many see as his pound of flesh twice equally in the foreign media. When asked by DW’s Phil Gayle, “Recently your wife criticized your choices for top jobs, and you responded by saying “I don’t know which party my wife belongs to, but she belongs to my kitchen and my living room and the other room.” What did you mean by that, sir?”; the President’s response, summarized, stated his wife’s main responsibility was taking care of him and their home, thus drawing the flak of the international media, which saw his rebuttal as sexist and chauvinistic.
Many will never understand Buhari or Aisha’s outburst unless they have a better understanding of the psychology of power. Power can have a corrupting effect. Power gives people confidence to indulge in their base urges. It makes the wielder less empathetic, more likely to see his own success in a positive light and harshly condemn failures in others.
Power corrupts, but it corrupts more of those who think they deserve it. Buhari believes he does not only deserve to be the President of Nigeria but believes also that he is the best thing to happen to Nigeria. Power easily corrupts leaders with such messianic mentality.
It is therefore so strange that many Nigerians who craved for Buhari as the ‘iron man’ now want him to become a melted wax. Psychologists, no matter their theoretical orientations, do not expect radical changes in behaviour in adult life. And the older we get the more crystalized our behaviours become. And so has it been with President Buhari.
About a year ago, at his maiden media chat, he had complained that the method of fighting corruption under the military radically differed from what is prescribed under democracy. He explained that when he was military head of state, all he needed do was presume those involved guilty and order their indefinite detention until they prove their innocence. But in a democracy presumption of innocence is fundamental. He said so then and still voiced the same concern only days ago in faraway Germany.
The President is therefore seriously frustrated, torn between his desire to be a democrat and his true nature, which brooks no opposition or separation of powers.
The President has also bemoaned the nation’s judiciary, describing them as corrupt and a clog in the wheel of fighting corruption. The seething fight with the legislature is not abating either. Desirous of his military approach, he and his team have gone ahead to launch a series of ill-advised hijack operations in the National Assembly. For this reason, the Senate President has been standing trial for assets declaration for a year and more recently, the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, has also been dragged in. But realizing how flawed the processes were, the Federal Government quickly withdrew the forgery case against the Senate President and the deputy but with hints that they were not giving up on the case.
Then, it is followed by sting operation on seven judges that never was. The Directorate of State Service, which launched the ill-fated operation in Abuja and Port Harcourt, simply bungled it. Yes, as themselves rightly noted, what they needed do was launch a sting operation. But a sting operation is much than recovering of presumable evidence but truly catching the person in the act. To achieve this, law officers or investigative journalists need to plant the evidence by themselves so that it would be undeniable. But here, the DSS only stormed the houses of the accused judges and presumed that the money found in their houses could stand as evidence.
As long as the judges could establish they could earn such amounts legitimately, the body of evidence against them will fall to pieces and some of them are already claiming the money came from accumulated estacodes and sales of rice. If it was a sting operation and the money is marked, as usual, such claim could hardly arise. So, the operation was a wasted stunt and has only succeeded in warning off corrupt judges to hide their loots more properly and to be more discrete while collecting more.
So, without a shred of doubt, what is going on is all about power play and nothing else. The complaint of Aisha Buhari is her fear that the husband may be losing grip, not concern for the beleaguered masses. What Reuben Abati saw in the villa were devils alright: Nigerians who desperately wanted to cling to power. They could do anything to remain with their principal, including human sacrifice. One like that is indeed a devil. If it wasn’t so, why didn’t he resign?
The pursuit for dominance is the primary propellant of political struggle, always has been, always will be. To that end Nigerian rulers have always built up illusions which conceal the true nature of the game, using massive propaganda and lies such as effortlessly told by Lai Mohammed.
I dare President Buhari to sack Aisha and prove me wrong.