Demonizing Sycophancy

The most daunting task a person of influence, leader or boss has to contend with is to balance its act between a sycophant and a critic. In a community where honesty, as a value, is at the bottom rung of the ladder, or put in another way - at lower hierarchical value - the task becomes even herculean. There is no gain saying that each of these opposing characters (sycophant and critic) has a role to play in the leader's court at the pinnacle of power. Only those who have occupied the positions of leadership (presidents et al) will appreciate the importance of these two court jesters.

The rest of us may abhor the role of the sycophant, the boss, however, appreciates the efforts of the court flatterer in the constant struggles between "us and them." The peoples' hero, the critic, has its drawback also - he, or she is the last person a boss want to see or confer. It appears the two court characters hold out their magic mirrors in front of the leader to look at itself; the image projected in each of these manipulative mirrors has a profound effect on the leader. We all know the joy of looking into the mirror and seeing a beautiful image of ourselves. That, deservedly, is what the sycophant projects into its magic mirror.

On the other hand, nobody or leader wants to look into a mirror that projects demonic, weak, slothful, uncaring, unpopular, ineffective, unintelligent, and etc of one's image. This kind of personality is what the critic's unwarranted, unkind, magic mirror often projects. The revulsion at looking at such image, however, precludes frankness or slander - it does not matter to a vain leader. It takes a lot of courage to want to look into such mirror time and again. Subsequently, the critic is kept at a distance, or if serious, he or she is marked for elimination. Who would blame the leader? For the sanity of the leader, the critic is thrown out of sight and sound - usually jailed or killed or exiled.

One other fact is that loneliness is a regular occurrence at the pinnacle of power or leadership. The indifference of the larger society to the agony at the helm of authority also fuels the engine of sycophancy. However, a leader should avoid calamity that usually hovers over the cliff of power; he, or she should look into the two mirrors of both the sycophant and the critic in order to a have a balanced image of self. The boss should not allow the sycophant's advice to have sway and dominate his or her senses. On the other hand, the leader should realize that the image the critic projects in its mirror of the leader, no matter how ugly, often in the long run,  prevents the master from falling from favor.

Often times the sycophant conjures up an image of absolute power for his or her prey (the boss). There is no limit to a desperate sycophant's antics or manipulations. Recently, an openly-declared sycophant flashed his magic mirror at the Nigeria's First lady to affect her senses. The image was that of a female Jesus Christ. We all rushed to admonished the professional sycophant; the media, particularly the Internet, was virile. The First Lady, in her solo moments, would have naturally contemplated - which is human. One only hopes she balanced her time in front of the mirror of the critics, as well.

In our attempt by the rest of us to try to demonize sycophancy, we often ignore what the sycophants go through also in their solo moments. It should be very agonizing; it could even be worse for those that alternate holding the two different mirrors for different bosses. These are professional sycophant today and critic tomorrow. They must be having a tough time in their solo moments, which is when they are alone in their own world. It is often said that the most painful infliction on oneself is to act below one's personal standard. That in itself is enough pain.

The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and their spokesperson, my good friend, Lai Mohammed has constituted being the major critic of President Jonathan of Nigeria. Their role, by default, lessens the gravity of the pains many Nigerians are experiencing. Jonathan must be thanking his stars; their opposition somewhat delays, or prevents spontaneous reactions of the people. Let's face it, most of what the ACN makes "noise" about, to paraphrase the president's party, are known and felt by the majority of the people. Highlighting the deficiencies in government by the oppositions helps avert spontaneity of the peoples' reaction; people feel content that other people pick up the fight on their behalf.

A frightening supposition is if the opposition, for one reason or another, stops to criticize the presidency and his government. People in the streets, the way feel, could boil into an inferno within weeks. The danger of the spontaneity of the rage of the people only could be best imagined. A foreign friend says it is the seeding of a revolution. A protest outside the aegis of organized platform is always difficult to put down, and if care is not taken, it could  assume a life of its own. It is in the interest of everybody, therefore, for the oppositions in Nigeria to keep making noise. That way, everybody goes home "suffering and smiling."

Back to reality! It will be nice if the president and the first lady find time, often, to look into the critic's magic mirror; then summon the courage to repair the image they see. President Jonathan still has time - I think - to confront the image of him the magic mirror of the critics projects. To feed one's ego from the sycophant's menu may taste delicious, but in the end it easily runs the stomach - dysentery of the senses. The critic's menu, on the other hand, is usually populated with bile products. Our leaders should be big enough to accept the fact that as undesirable as the bile may seem, we will all be jaundiced without its usefulness; our eyes will turn yellow when the body lacks the services of the green-blue stuff.

I was only thinking!

Samuel Akinyele Caulcrick

Lagos.