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Date Published: 01/18/10

Narcissism and Poverty: Triggers of Terrorism In Nigeria 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. Now, the ivory tower has fallen and no one has nurtured the Nehemiah Complex to rebuild the fallen walls. 

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 20 th 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 ala deregulation of the Petroleum sector 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 mindless profiteering to the sorrow of the masses.  

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 Ottah Farm. 

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-nine 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. 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.

I predict that more youths in Nigeria may be tempted to go into terrorism because of the narcissism and corrupt tendencies of their leaders. Already, the nation is tensed up because the army of unemployed graduated is  gathering. Official corruption is the worst form of human rights abuse because it  engenders mismanagement of resources, which results in under-development, poverty and chaos in the polity. Under the military, the freedom of expression and the press is repressed  because a free press exposes the evils of primitive accumulation and its attendant negative effects on the society. Corruption is said to have rendered our social infrastructure inefficient and has contributed to the prevailing problem of unemployment.

The corruption in the banking sector has precipitated mass unemployment, while lack of power supply has nullified the potency of graduates to set up Micro and small scale businesses. The affluence of the political class certainly heighten robbery, criminality and make Nigerian youths vulnerable to Al Qaeda recrument. The so called rebranding exercise is a hoax since it will not put bread on the tables of the masses. As poverty increases so will the misery index and misery, fear and frustration are direct correlates with crime including suicide bombing. This will be more so as the rich-poor gap widens.

A Sicilian mafia Cesare Terranova predicted that a mafia class emerges when there is oppression, arrogance, greed, self-enrichment, power and hegemony of the ruling class. This was corroborated by Salvatore Lopicollo who held the ten commandments until he was arrested. The militancy in the Niger Delta was heightened by the emergence of an oil mafia class. Nigeria as it is presently is in a state of quandary. Since the nation was not lucky enough to be brought about by the likes of Otto Von Bismarck of Prussia, Giuseppe Mazzini, Garibaldi or Victorio Emmanuelle of Italy but by a British merchant and his girl friend, is Nigeria a counterfeit nation with a fake National Anthem and a Green White Green flag? These symbols of national unity have been replaced by greed, avarice and self aggrandizement. Can any Nigerian confidently boast of these symbols abroad.  

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 and to prevent Nigerian Children from being recruited into fundamentalist groups, then ONLY A REVOLUTION MAY COME TO THE RESCUE. 

Idumange John (MNIM, CBA), Is a University Lecturer and Activist 

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