Nigerians leaders on the average suffer from what I call the ‘big man syndrome’. This disease is characterized by a compulsively flamboyant lifestyle, crass materialism, primitive acquisitive tendencies, moral laxity and serial unproductiveness. The disease can also be found in all sectors of the Nigerian society- politics, religion, business and academia. The big man is a person who has acquired wealth, fame or influence, most likely through perfidy and flaunts same in the face of society. He is the toast of the unscrupulous and sycophantic praise singers.

The big man syndrome has been with us since independence, manifested in such figures as Festus Okotie-Eboh, whose cloth trailed yards behind him and was carried by a servant. Our consciousness has thus been inundated with this peculiar kind of madness, which has been carried to even more absurd heights by the current crop of leaders.

The big man is above the laws of the land. He can do whatever he likes, however he likes and whenever he likes. Impunity is his middle name and since he moves around with police escort, there’s no one to call him to order. He is no respecter of persons or laws; indeed he is above such mundane things. He is the ultimate swaggerlicious individual.

The Nigerian big man is as unproductive as they come. He neither has factories nor industries but is richer than Midas. His mainstay is the oil wealth of the Delta, which has been appropriated for his personal use. He adds no value to the nation, does not pay taxes, generates little employment but is still respected and adored at every turn.

The Nigerian big man is as mendacious as they come. No matter how highly placed he is, you cannot trust his utterances, for he frequently says one thing and does another. It doesn’t matter whether he’s a politician, clergy or businessman, you believe him at your own peril. He is the king of double-speak and actually thinks you are daft for listening to him at all.

It is typical of our nature and a manifestation of the disease that executive office holders (president, governors, and chairmen) cannot go anywhere without a retinue of aides, gun toting security and siren blaring convoys, which not only terrorise other road users but invariably cause accidents. Whenever they come visiting, the city is shut down so that the lords of the manor can move around unhindered.

We also build palatial palaces and name them villas and government houses. Such edifices are more to satisfy the ego and create exclusivity than anything else. Nigerians thus have no access to such places, even though they are built from the public treasury. So what goes on there remains a big mystery and everyone is left to his own guess, as well as dreams of reaching there one day.

We have come to revere instead of revile such personalities, because they are seen as decision makers in our warped socio-economic system. It is therefore no wonder that every Nigerian wants to be a big man. This has given rise to all manner of vices like corruption, fraud, embezzlement, kidnapping and even terrorism. No one wants to be on the receiving end in an unjust and unequal system with no social safety nets. The moderate lifestyle has been eroded and our society has gone to the dogs.


Piece written by Oke Okpomo  Follow him on twitter@kpomskerio

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